Lightning Lab boot camp for bright ideas

20:53, Sep 18 2012
MAKING CONNECTIONS: Lightning Lab mentors Alan Hucks from Creative HQ, left, Hyperstart's Dave Moskovitz and Stefan Korn.
MAKING CONNECTIONS: Lightning Lab mentors Alan Hucks from Creative HQ, left, Hyperstart's Dave Moskovitz and Stefan Korn.

Promising Kiwi companies have the chance to go through a new three-month startup boot camp with investment and mentoring to help them get off the ground.

Lightning Lab is a digital accelerator doling out up to $180,000 in seed funding and support in an intensive incubation programme, founded by Wellington's Creative HQ with the support of the Business, Innovation and Employment Ministry.

Applications open today for startup teams to go through the 12-week pilot programme culminating in a demonstration day where they will pitch their business plans for investment.

The programme will fund 10 teams of up to three people with $6000 a person in return for 10 per cent of the equity in the venture.

During the programme, the companies chosen will prepare for investors, build prototype products and validate their markets.

Creative HQ chief executive Steve O'Connor said Lightning Lab would be part of a global network based on a United States accelerator model of mentoring promising entrepreneurs.


It will be the only New Zealand accelerator in a network of 57.

“Importantly, this is investor-led so the teams that are chosen to go into it will receive an amount of money. One of the challenges we've always tried to solve in Creative HQ is that they don't have that initial capital so they're always bootstrapping,” O'Connor said.

“There are often three people involved in a startup with two in fulltime jobs supporting the other one working on it. Then all three will get together and work between 7pm to midnight and that's the way it works, but with all those bootstrapping approaches, there is not enough energy and focus going into the company. With this opportunity, they will be unencumbered for 12 whole weeks.”

In the first month in Lightning Lab, they will focus on the direction of their company with feedback from investors and the market itself. In the second phase, they will work on creating a prototype product complete with the minimum viable features to win its first customers. Finally, they will be prepared for seeking capital by pitching to investors on Demo Day.

Creative HQ had been looking to pull together a seed fund for about 1 years before setting up this model, which will have 100 mentors supporting the young companies.

Some big names in the business world have already signed on as mentors including web content optimisation software company Aptimize founder Ed Robinson, whose software is used by Google, Microsoft and Disney.

Red Rocks Advertising founder Laura Humphreys, who sold her business to multinational Ogilvy Group is also in, along with professional early-stage investor Dave Moskovitz who backed local success stories ShowGizmo and 8interactive.

“Lightning Lab creates both an injection of capital so they can pay rent, eat, live and focus in an unencumbered way in a tangible pressure zone with access to incredible national and international mentors in a structured way.

"With Demo Day at the end, the businesses are all on the same journey,” O'Connor said, adding that the 12-week acceleration period would be intense.

“There are a lot of good ideas out there, but the team that can execute them well will win out.”