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Lightning Lab behind the scenes

Lightning Lab behind the scenes

Tui Te Hau | Creative HQ Programme Manager
November 9, 2012

Like the teams we’ll select, Lightning Lab is designed to run lean – there are just two ‘Lightning Lab Staff’, Programme Director Dan Khan and myself – but getting it off the ground has been a team game in the extreme. Wellington business incubator Creative HQ took the lead and all of their crew have had tremendous input, however noone is more responsible for getting Lightning Lab this far than Tui Te Hau, Creative HQ’s Programme Manager.

With Dan on board now and selection looming (get your applications in!) Tui is now taking a step back. In my previous post I said I’d round up another perspective on Lightning Lab from one of the team, so here’s Tui’s – I’m sure you’ll feel enlightened.



Seen the new Richard Gere movie Arbitrage? There’s this scene where Susan Sarandon has carefully placed Zappos boxes in front of her and she makes some witty reference to them as she floats out the door. Later, in the boardroom scene Richard addresses his team and lo and behold Zappos founder Tony Hseih is sitting right there, in the boardroom – as an extra! I had a minor geek moment and furtively looked around for chortles of recognition from my fellow movie goers but alas my mental hi-five went unrequited. Sure it was the Empire in Island Bay, a popular haunt for mums escaping kids like me – but still don’t people realize what a rock star this guy is in the startup world?

I love working in this space and every now and again I am reminded that actually not everyone is as into it as I am. It is always a surprise to me. I think that people who take on the startup challenge are courageous.

What I love about the Lightning Lab is that it’s efficient. Its 12 weeks of intense activity with massive connections to investors and mentors. And then quite simply you’ll know. You won’t be waking up 2 years down the track wondering if you should chuck it in because the business model isn’t quite firing. You would have worked that out months ago. In fact not only will you have worked it out when you were in the Lab you will have pivoted into the right model within days. It’s exciting and it makes a lot of sense to me.

So who am I? I’m the gray cardigan – it’s been my job to pull the Lab together. I got to choose the name and our psychedelic imagery and worked on getting our funding from the Ministry and investors and doing a whole bunch of other stuff to get it off the ground.

The biggest highlight for me on this journey was pitching to Sir Stephen Tindall and his team (in front of one of our other founding investors Phil McCaw).

Not because it was fun, although it was when he said yes – it was because it was one of the most frightening experiences of my life.

I can still see the look on their faces – just who exactly is this generously proportioned Polynesian lady in front of me. But we got it and it felt great. Steve O’Connor, our CEO and I walked out into the Takapuna sunshine to this dive of a café kind of stunned. We had to wait for Phil who was talking other business. We wandered back and our euphoria lasted just as long as that meeting. We were really chuffed with ourselves and what this meant for the Lightning Lab but reality soon set in – it’s one thing to get the money but now we have to deliver.

This start up journey, no matter at what level you are participating is a never ending mountain climb. You get to one point and after a brief respite it’s on to the next.

I’ll still be helping out but the Lab is now safely in the hands of Dan and Sam who I think are perfect to take this baby to the next level.

So, how about it – personally I’d like to feature in the Magic Mike sequel (that’s one for the girls), but what about product placement and an extra spot in the next Bond movie folks! Apply to the Lab – it’s a no brainer.

Those eagle eyed Lab followers will know you can see Tui in action in a vlog we’ve already put out about Lightning Lab and the benefits of being a part of the Global Accelerator Network.


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