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Marian Johnson: The Influencers


If the last few months of winter 2019 had a theme for our city’s startup and innovation ecosystem, that theme would be startup funding.

 

Ministry of Awesome Chief Awesome Officer

As you know, our government’s Wellness Budget allocates $300 million to a fund of funds for startup investment managed by NZ Venture Investment Fund. While our local startups have decent access to early seed funding, they’ve not been able to easily access the larger sums required for global growth. This has impacted our speed to market and our ability as a country to be competitive with homegrown innovation. The NZVIF fund of funds is set to change that.

There’s also been plenty of activity from international venture capital groups. Blackbird Ventures have recently announced they are setting up an Auckland office, raising a seed fund dedicated to Kiwi founders, and running their community building Sunrise conference in Auckland in October.

Christchurch has also recently hosted Innovation Bay – an Australian tech investment network – with two events run in the central city. The first event had local startups hearing from a panel of leading Australian VCs. The second was an event where handpicked NZ startups pitched to Australian investors.

An increased level of interest and activity in NZ startups from international investors is encouraging. However, we’re looking forward to seeing our homegrown investor ecosystem catch up quickly so that we can ensure that NZ innovation builds the NZ economy rather than moving overseas to access foreign investment.

 

 

 

 


 

the Ministry of Awesome

An awesome enterprise: Q&A with the Ministry of Awesome’s Chief Awesome Officer Marian Johnson

A social enterprise established in the dark days post-quake to encourage positivity, collaboration, activation and support for a city that was struggling to survive, the Ministry of Awesome is a creative crew making some pretty cool moves.

the Ministry of Awesome

We talk to the organisation’s Chief Awesome Officer, Marian Johnson about the awesome work of this clever collaboration.

You’ve just celebrated six years in business, what is the organisation’s main role?

Ministry of Awesome is the starting point for entrepreneurs, innovators and startups. We deliver the essential ingredients necessary to ensure a thriving and dynamic entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystem.
We offer a Startup Activation Programme for any early stage entrepreneur or startup, which includes capability training, introductions to networks, and 100+ events every year that sustain our city’s influential and supportive innovation community. Last year, we saw more than 1,000 entrepreneurs come through our doors! We also operate AwesomeHQ – an inspiring co-working space at 192 St Asaph Street in the city centre.

How integral is it that we support entrepreneurs and start-ups here in Christchurch?

Entrepreneurs and innovators are key to Christchurch’s successful future as the ‘City of Opportunity’. And, for these change-makers, there is no better place to be than Christchurch whose ambition is to transform into a world leading city in its approach to sustainability, innovation and a collaborative economy.
By delivering the essential ingredients necessary for a flourishing startup and innovation ecosystem, we provide an environment that powers our fellow citizens forward to success. And, by creating this nurturing and dynamic environment, Christchurch will attract regional, national and international talent, all of whom will be part of this great future Christchurch – the City of Opportunity.

How did you first become involved?

I’d heard stories of Ministry of Awesome and had a vague understanding of the positive work it was doing but was light on detail until I was a founding member of Fluent Scientific, a tech startup from the Powerhouse Ventures stable. Ministry of Awesome played a crucial role in our early market validation process by opening up their powerful network, particularly in the area of tertiary education providers.
This early introduction allowed us to run successful pilot programmes that validated our product, customer and market. Without those initial introductions, it would have taken us 12 months or more to open those relationships and get traction. For a startup with a short runway, early and efficient market, customer and product validation are critical.
When the role of Chief Awesome Officer came up, I was already a convert of the organisation and could see the positive impact the organisation was having on the city’s nascent startup scene. I love Christchurch, I love our organisation’s mission, and I couldn’t be more grateful to our community, our supporters, and our trustees for allowing me to lead this mission.

What’s the most fulfilling aspect of what you do?

We are so lucky to see innovation first hand and to meet so many talented individuals every day. If the average citizen of Christchurch could see the innovation and sheer talent in our city, they would be equally inspired and so very excited to live here. We are telling these stories as loudly as we can alongside some incredible organisations like ChristchurchNZ, EPIC, Canterbury Tech, XCHC, The Chamber, Canterbury Angels, ARA, and UC’s Centre for Entrepreneurship.