The country’s first business accelerator programme for ambitious Māori entrepreneurs was launched with a pōwhiri in Hamilton on Monday.
Callaghan Innovation and Te Wānanga o Aotearoa have teamed up with Creative HQ, Robett Hollis, Crowe Horwath and Ernst & Young Tahi to create Kōkiri, a unique business accelerator dedicated to speeding up the development of fledgling Māori businesses.
Ten promising, young startups from across Aotearoa have been selected to participate in the four-month Kōkiri programme, based at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa’s Mangakōtukutuku campus in Hamilton.
Kōkiri participants will receive education, funding, mentoring, networking opportunities and engagement with leading business figures during the course of the programme, which runs until June.
The teams selected for Kōkiri were chosen by a panel, comprised of the programme partners, through a competitive process in late 2017.
Te Wānanga o Aotearoa Innovation Development Group Director Aisha Ross says prominent business figures will provide intensive mentoring and insights for those participating in Kōkiri.
“The industry figures we are engaging with on this programme have been selected because of their experience in delivering successful and recognised business accelerator programmes,” Aisha says.
“They also have a track record of successfully engaging with Māori participants.”
Aisha says the aims of Kōkiri align with Te Wānanga o Aotearoa’s mission of tauira success.
He says Te Wānanga o Aotearoa is the optimal provider for the programme having already produced hundreds of small business graduates who have established successful businesses.
Government Innovation Agency, Callaghan Innovation, supports a number of accelerator programmes helping startups with the tools, networks, and capabilities they need to turn their idea into a commercial reality.
Startup manager Elena Higgison says Kōkiri provides this but with a unique twist for budding Maori entrepreneurs.
“Lots of people have great ideas, but commercialising those ideas and getting them to market is the difficult part. Kōkiri is unique because it incorporates Māori values and principles into a business accelerator programme.
“Here success is defined more broadly than merely attracting investment or growing a business to a point where it can be sold for a profit. Success can also involve nurturing a sustainable business that brings income into a community or employs local people. We think that’s fantastic.”
Aisha Ross says Kōkiri also recognises that Māori have strong links to place, which may have been a barrier to participation in mainstream accelerators.
“Instead of being based full-time at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, the entrepreneurs can remain in their regions and travel in once a month for intensive on-site sessions. That way they can carry on with their whānau responsibilities and keep their local community connections while on the accelerator.”
Kōkiri is an initiative funded through the Māori Innovation Fund, in support of the Enterprise pou of He kai kei aku ringa, the Crown-Māori economic development strategy.
Photo: Kōkiri 2018 participants and supporters with programme partners (Photo credit Erica Sinclair).
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