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SODA Inc. expands support to startups in the Waikato

SODA Inc. expands support to startups in the Waikato

Hamilton business incubator SODA Inc. has secured three years of funding from crown entity Callaghan Innovation’s Incubator Support Programme, enabling increased support to startups in the Waikato region.

SODA’s Chair Graham Gaylard says the funding is a wonderful indication of the government’s faith in SODA’s ability to deliver scalable start-up businesses that will grow New Zealand’s economy.

“The funding will be put towards SODA’s operational expenses associated with administration, high quality mentors, services to high-growth and early-stage ventures, the development of investor networks, regional collaboration for early-stage company support and initiatives that build the Waikato’s entrepreneurial ecosystem,” Gaylard said.

Group manager grants at Callaghan Innovation, Norman Evans, says that the Incubator Support Programme aims to get more start-ups off the ground, which will in turn “generate employment growth, commercialise intellectual property, and grow emerging sectors”.

“We believe that business incubators are crucial to growing high-growth sectors, as they offer start-ups the support and expertise they need to speed up their path to market,” Evans said.

As a business incubator, SODA runs incubation programmes for startups with the aim of helping them to build a repeatable and scalable business model. SODA has a stringent process to find those with potential for high-growth.

SODA’s business growth manager, Petr Adamek, said it has been a very busy six months with a huge volume of enquiries for SODA’s services and the growth of two major SODA-run events; The Innes48 Business Startup Competition and The Fieldays Innovation Den powered by SODA Inc.

“We are thrilled to say that, this year, we have put over 170 founders, entrepreneurs and business leaders through workshops, have worked in-depth with over 60 startups, and have accepted four startups onto SODA’s incubation programme. Our target at this stage is to work intensively with eight startups per year in our programmes so we are tracking well,” he said.

One of SODA’s incubation successes is FindaTruckLoad, founded and launched by Andrew Bishop and Walter Ormsby at the end of 2011.

FindaTruckLoad graduated from the SODA Boost incubation programme in October 2013. Following 16 months of rapid growth, FindaTruckLoad’s revenue tripled to just over $3 million. The company is continuing to grow rapidly and have now increased to seven staff.

Adamek said the startups that are most successful on SODA’s incubation programme solve real problems that customers have.

“The startups we work with typically have a solution that can be scaled and offered globally; have begun or completed market validation; have a highly motivated founder or a team of founders; are early in their trading or close to revenues;; or are entering a critical phase of development and early stage growth” Adamek said.

Callaghan Innovation’s Incubator Support Programme offers support and funding to two types of business incubators, existing founder focused incubator models such as SODA, and the new technology focused incubators.

SODA currently operates a founder-focused incubator model. This model focuses on supporting the entrepreneur behind the company and was pioneered in New Zealand by Auckland-based incubator ‘The Icehouse’.

SODA’s acting CEO Vanessa Clark said SODA has worked hard over the past five years and have created a clear pathway for entrepreneurs based in-and-around the Waikato to build and scale their businesses.

“We are in the business of supporting people who start and build high-growth early-stage businesses and who have the vision and courage to take an idea and invest into making it a business reality.

People who try and fail and try again are essential for the health of our economy,” Clark said.

Whether these people are recent graduates, scientists, employees or founders of existing businesses, SODA is here to offer them a variety of support services from entry level workshops and events to intensive incubation and growth programmes.

Clark said SODA will continue to build key partnerships with people and organisations in the Waikato, New Zealand and around the world that are on a mission to grow NZ Inc.

“There can be overlap in the innovation support area so understanding how we can work together is key. We are excited to see Callaghan Innovation take a lead and drive this for New Zealand,” Clark said.


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