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The Icehouse to bring startup accelerator to Auckland

29 April 2014

The Icehouse gears up to bring world class startup accelerator, Lightning Lab, to Auckland

International research from Cambridge University suggests that startups participating in accelerator programmes are up to 15% more likely to survive over a five year period and are also more likely to be acquired.

As announced today, New Zealand’s first digital accelerator, Lightning Lab; Auckland’s leading startup incubator, The Icehouse; and economic development agency for Christchurch City Council, Canterbury Development Corporation (CDC); have joined forces with the aim of giving more startups across New Zealand the opportunity to accelerate their startups through seed funding, intensive mentoring and networks.

The decision to bring Lightning Lab to Auckland as well as Christchurch and potential other locations in NZ, comes as a response to the success of the first programme that ran in Wellington last year, and the success of similar accelerator programmes overseas. Lightning Lab 2013 saw four emergent startup companies receive a combined $2.1 million in early stage ‘angel’ funding, after they had completed an intensive 12-week startup programme, which is a 44% funding rate.

Stefan Korn, CEO of Creative HQ – the founders of Lightning Lab - says Lightning Lab has attracted companies from all over New Zealand and internationally, and it is a natural step to align the programme with the resources and networks The Icehouse and CDC bring in their regions. “Lightning Lab is about bringing the best startup teams into one place and building globally focussed companies. By melding the strongest startup support networks across the country, we can do this more effectively and more frequently. It brings a necessary focus to do what we need to do – create more successful digital ventures from New Zealand.”

Ken Erskine, director of startups at The Icehouse believes Auckland to be the ideal second location for a startup Accelerator programme: “We see many very promising tech startups in the ecosystem in Auckland and are very excited to work with some of them. We see this as a great opportunity to help more startups be successful and are very committed to deliver a world class programme.”

Ken refers to the extensive research done by his team to get a better understanding of what makes accelerators successful. “Our findings strongly suggest that for entrepreneurs there are three key things that an accelerator needs to provide: (1) a network of highly experienced and committed mentors and investors; (2) an active alumni network and most importantly; (3) connections to future capital.”

Erskine continues, “Lightning Lab, Creative HQ, The Icehouse and CDC combined have a phenomenal network of mentors, investors and startup entrepreneurs who will come together to ensure the success of the new nationwide accelerator programme. But probably more importantly we have a track-record of giving startups access to funding. Through the accelerator programme selected startups will have access to New Zealand’s leading Angel investment groups, ICE Angels and Angel HQ, as well as linkages to other top-tier investors within other NZ Angel networks and offshore groups.”

Since 2003 ICE Angels have invested over $48m into 54 companies – making it one of the most active networks globally. Furthermore, The Icehouse is a founding partner of the Global from Day One Seed Fund, a $2.2m fund that invests in high potential, seed-stage startups. The fund has invested in eight startups since it was launched in 2012.

Given the importance of follow on funding to the success of an accelerator programme, it is also important to consider the key factors that make an accelerator programme attractive to investors.

“Research indicates that investors are most interested in accelerator programmes with a strong track record and a respected brand” explains Ken Erskine. “Through the partnership of four of the leading brands in the NZ startup ecosystem, all with strong track records in supporting startups, we are confident NZ investors will find the new nationwide accelerator programme extremely attractive.“

The Lightning Lab programme is based on the TechStars Programme - widely considered one of the top accelerator programmes in the world.

“Adopting the internationally and locally tested and proven programme gives us the opportunity to leverage the extensive experience and learnings of other accelerators programmes” Erskine adds, “We are able to take the parts that work best elsewhere, learn from others’ experiences and adapt the model to a NZ context. We believe the combination of an international influenced programme and local mentors, investors and entrepreneurs will give us the best shot at success.”

The current Lightning Lab programme is underway in Wellington and will culminate in Lightning Lab Demo Day on May 28 in Wellington. The national network of Lightning Lab programmes is expected to kick off in 2015, with an accelerator running in Auckland and another in Christchurch later in the year. In 2016, Lightning Lab aims to run in multiple locations simultaneously to provide nationwide coverage of acceleration programmes for ventures.

About Lightning Lab

Lightning Lab is the first digital accelerator programme in New Zealand. Each programme supercharges 10 digital startups within a network of more than 100 mentors and an intensive 12-week pathway to prove, build and launch their businesses into market. The programme puts up to $18,000 of seed investment into teams of startup entrepreneurs and pushes them to make their business idea fly within three months, with support from a set of dedicated support technical and business interns, and mentorship from leading entrepreneurs and business experts from around New Zealand.

Founded by startup incubator Creative HQ, Lightning Lab is open to teams of startup founders across New Zealand and internationally. The 2014 programme is underway, culminating on Lightning Lab Demo Day on May 28 in Wellington.

Lightning Lab is the exclusive New Zealand member of the Global Accelerator Network (GAN), which comprises 51 of the top accelerators globally. Patrick Riley, Executive Director of GAN says, “We know Lightning Lab will be one of the best accelerators in the world. Using a proven model to propel entrepreneurs to success and with connections already made with the country’s top mentors and investors, Kiwis are lucky to have an accelerator of this calibre in their country.”

From 2015 Lightning Lab national acceleration will be run by a partnership between Creative HQ, The Icehouse and Canterbury Development Corporation.

About The Icehouse

The Icehouse is where kiwi businesses grow.

We are focused on supporting owner-managers and entrepreneurs who will shape the future of New Zealand’s economy. Through our nationwide events, workshops and programmes we give startups and SMEs access to expertise, networks and funding they need to succeed and become a businesses of international quality (BIQ).

Since 2001 we have worked with over 4,500 ambitious owner-managers – from startups to small owner-managed businesses to multi-million dollar companies. 76% of the SMEs we work with achieve business growth. The startups we've worked with have collectively created over 900 jobs and generated over $325m in revenue. We are committed to changing the entrepreneurial landscape in New Zealand to create an environment that inspires, supports and celebrates business growth for entrepreneurial Kiwi businesses.

We are owned by a not-for-profit trust and are backed by the financial support and expertise of a committed group of partners that includes: AJ Park, Bank of New Zealand, Craigs Investment Partners, Deloitte Private, Frog Recruitment, Gen-i, HP New Zealand, KPMG, Microsoft New Zealand, New Zealand Trade & Enterprise, Telecom and our founder the University of Auckland Business School.

Business Accelerators: The Evolution of a Rapidly Growing Industry (2013)
Accelerating Success: A Study of Seed Accelerators and Their Defining Characteristics (2012)
The Explosive Growth of Business Accelerators in Los Angeles in 2012
Analysis of Accelerator Companies: An Exploratory Case Study of Their Programs, Processes, and Early Results (2012)


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