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Graham Smith appointed new CEO of SODA Inc.

Media release
03 April 2014

Graham Smith appointed new CEO of SODA Inc.

Graham Smith has been appointed chief executive of Waikato-based business incubator, SODA Inc.

Mr Smith is an experienced senior executive, director and advisor with a background in technology and economic development. He most recently held the position of chief executive at the Institute of Environmental Science and Research of (ESR).

Mr Smith says he is excited to be leading SODA, an organisation that is “instrumental” in growing and strengthening businesses throughout the Waikato.

“Waikato is one of the economic engines of New Zealand. Its businesses are doing many things well, not only at a regional level, but nationally and internationally.”

“I have worked in various parts of New Zealand and Australia over the past five and half years. The SODA role gives me a wonderful chance to re-engage with the Waikato region again,” he said.

Mr Smith said he is passionate about seeing businesses start-up and grow.

“I have extensive background in this area, having run both small and large organisations in the technology space over many years. I’m also eager to see SODA work alongside more organisations to further its great work.”

Mr Smith replaces Cheryl Reynolds, SODA’s founder and CEO, who resigned from the position late last year to take up the role of chief executive of the Momentum Foundation. Petr Adamek has been acting CEO at SODA for the past three months.

SODA chair John Cook said Mr Smith’s appointment is part of an exciting phase for SODA.

“The ground work has been laid and the organisation is poised to be taken to the next level. Graham’s connections, experience and drive will help achieve this,” he said.

Already SODA is in contact each year with 1500 entrepreneurs and 100 start-up businesses who receive its services, which range from business growth programmes to global network connections.

“Graham, and the dedicated team at SODA, will be leading greater collaboration with other Waikato innovation and start-up initiatives, and looking to secure new funding opportunities for SODA and its clients,” Mr Cook said.

Mr Smith will begin his role with SODA later this month.



Employment history of Graham Smith:

• ESR, Chief Executive, (2011-2014)

• ITEK Pty Ltd, Australia, Chief Executive and Group Managing Director (2008-2011)

• The Katolyst Group, Group Chief Executive (2004-2008)

• AgResearch, Senior Management Team and General Manager, Marketing (2001-2004)

SODA is Waikato’s Entrepreneurship Hub. Each year we receive more than 120 enquiries from startups, and ultimately support 60 of these. On average, we enter up to eight high-growth ventures into SODA’s incubation programme. In addition, more than 1,500 fledgling and established entrepreneurs participate annually in SODA events, we are leading the growth of early stage investment opportunities, and we’ve established a unique 'born global' partnership programme.

SODA was established in 2008 with Wintec and the Hamilton City Council as our founding shareholders and is now an accredited incubator with funding from Callaghan Innovation. We also have six major corporate partners: ASB, Bold Horizon, Cisco, Deloitte, Norris Ward McKinnon, and Ultrafast Fibre. We also have more than 20 collaborative strategic partners and project sponsors.

We take a lead in developing new and innovative business growth-oriented projects, in collaboration with other partners in our region, including the National Agricultural Fieldays, Waikato Innovation Park, NetValue, Gallagher Group, 2degrees, Wintec, and Waikato-Tainui. Examples of projects that have earned SODA respect in the regional community include the Innes48 Hour Business Startup Competition, the Fieldays Innovation Den, the Digital Industry Forum, the Internship Meet & Match, SODA Labs, and the popular SODA Pop Social Club.

Incubation is able to lift startups and early stage businesses to the next level faster and ensure that they arrive there in better shape to grow even bigger. International research shows much better survival rates for businesses that are incubated. In the UK, 75% of businesses are still in business after 5 years compared to a non-incubation survival rate of just 33%. In the USA, 87% of businesses are still in business after 5 years compared to a non-incubation survival rate of just 40%. Importantly for Hamilton, research also shows that most businesses stay in the local area once they leave an incubation centre.

© Scoop Media

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