Lightning Lab to kick off this week

JAZIAL CROSSLEY
Last updated 10:32 20/02/2013
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LIGHTNING LAB: Entrepreneurs are massing for the first event in Wellington.

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Entrepreneur incubation programme Lightning Lab kicks off this week, starting a three month boot camp teaching young companies to get market-ready.

The accelerator called for applicants with bright ideas who had the time to spend twelve weeks in Wellington working exclusively on their project under the guidance of experts and mentors. 

Teams participating will secure up to $18,000 from a $180,000 pool of seed funding available. Lightning Lab, which describes the programme as ‘‘an investment pathway’’, takes an 8 per cent stake in each company formed. 

Throughout the twelve weeks, the start ups will be taught market validation skills and how to develop their idea in to a venture they can pitch to investors in May. 

Lightning Lab programme director Dan Khan said the applicants came from all over the country and a diverse range of businesses were selected. One successful applicant, for the Wellington-based programme, was from Sydney. 

‘‘There is an interesting mix this first time around.’’

All of the ventures were digital concepts for apps, websites or software. One of the businesses accepted in to the programme was working on a mobile app to monitor child safety while another was looking at academic publishing and a third was developing a platform where sports teams could collaborate. 

‘‘It is not like there is a big theme coming around but I think that diversity is one of the strengths, an ability to cross-pollinate and inspire each other. The programme is a bit of a pilot.’’

Lightning Lab was founded by Creative HQ and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment based on the model used in the Global Accelerator Network. 

Mentors advising participants in the programme included kids’ virtual world MiniMonos founder Melissa Clark-Reynolds, professional early stage investor Dave Moskovitz, former Fonterra chief information officer Marcel van den Assum, Powershop chief executive Ari Sargent and Kiwibank founder Sam Knowles. 

Guest speakers visiting Lightning Lab for a day included TechCrunch editor Ryan Lawler, Harvard-educated Victoria Ransom who recently sold her WildFireApp to Google and Wellington entrepreneur Claudia Batten, now based in New York, who founded video game advertising company Massive Incorporated that was later sold to Microsoft. 

Khan said the programme operated at an intense pace.

‘‘We push these guys pretty hard to make their business fly within three months. We aim to squeeze two years’ worth of mentoring in to three months with this support system, it is quite different to anything out there at the moment. There is going to be lots of pressure and lots of excitement.’’

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- The Dominion Post

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