It’s here – R9 Accelerator DEMO DAY!!! 14 weeks, 10 teams, countless guests and speakers… Game faces people! #AcceleratorLife
Lab Tech Life
I don’t want to ruin the illusion, but there were definitely times on DD that it felt like we were an iceberg. i.e. over 70% of what we were doing was unseen, and all of the guests just saw the polished piece floating above the water…
I think that’s how events are meant to be though!
I spent the morning co-ordinating the print elements, including helping (hold the ladder) while the 8 metre banner was put up outside the venue!
My job on Demo Day had changed earlier in the week… Initially I had been on presentation-duty, where I would be responsible for changing the slides behind the interim speakers, while one team member would be responsible for their team slides. Streamliner, the AV company, was comfortable doing this element though (and meant they were always overseeing their tech still – bonus).
So for me, I was on mic’ duty! New skill acquired! …As the pitcher for each team came off the stage, I removed their country-man microphone and handed it to a runner to take to the tech backstage, who was mic’ing people up.
We had the awesome Anna Guenther, Chief Bubble-blower at PledgeMe (who spoke with the teams a few weeks before) running the show as our MC. And I think that thanks to her prompts at the beginning of the event, along with a great show from the teams, #R9Accelerator managed to trend #1 on Twitter in New Zealand!!!
The auditorium was filled with around 300 guests to hear the seven teams pitch. With members from both the public and private sectors, the pressure was on – especially with some of our esteemed guests taking to the stage, such as Minister…
All of the teams did an amazing job, and it was a real testament to the hard work they’ve put in over the past 14 weeks!
Check out the post-event video with ringing endorsements below.
Anna Guenther, doing an awesome job as MC
Minister Craig Foss addressing the attendees
Grand finale for a full R9 cohort photo!
And if you want to check out how the teams did for yourselves, I’ve created a subsection for each team below.
Lab Tech Life
This week again, I tried to catch up with the teams as much as possible to help shape their decks…
All of the teams were also having meetings with their ‘owners’ i.e. the people who had suggested the opportunities they have been working on.
One of last year’s alumni, John from Nexus Marketplace, came in to talk to the teams about the potential of how his product could help their solutions plug in to government. John has been working on API’s (application programming interfaces) – which means he knows how a lot of the teams’ solutions could integrate with existing softwares.
In our cohort-wide pitching session early in the week, we switched it up a bit.
This time, it was in a ‘Dragon’s Den’ format, so there were a combination of public and private sector experts, some CE’s in their own right, who sat and listened to the pitches, before asking the probing questions…
Personally, I think this worked really well for the teams. Teams got (a bit more) used to answering questions about their solution, as they will have to do on Demo Day. It also means that – for this session at least – they have a little bit of time to take on board the comments and amend their pitches and presentations… for my Friday-deadline!
After a gruelling (3-hour) meeting later in the week, we had sign-off for (most) of our Demo Day materials… so then I spent a fair amount of time this week co-ordinating down at the printers!
At the end of the week, I ran through the set-up for all of our slides in the ‘MASTER’ deck with Mike from Streamliner. This was so they could take them all and get set up on their equipment. All of this in preparation to do a full run through, with the teams and audio, on the morning of Demo Day.
Last year’s alumnus, John from Nexus Marketplace, came in to talk to the teams about APIs
Sign-off received, so off to the printers I go…
This was a first chance for the teams to see where they would be pitching, as we took a cohort-wide field-trip down to the Embassy Theatre in Wellington.
Anyone not from Wellington may also know the name, because it happens to be the theatre that all of the premieres for Lord of the Rings were held at!
Tour of Embassy theatre – Outside, what will be a networking area, the view for the speakers, and the stage
Final Cohort meeting
As it was the last Friday before the final pitches, we had our final cohort meeting :’o(
The final cohort meeting celebrated the achievements of the teams so far, and served as a time for encouragement and advice… This included the now renowned guidance from Shawn:
“We love you… but don’t f*** it up”
Then in the afternoon, all teams were challenged to have their full 5-minute pitch presentation, with slides down to a T.
This was also an opportunity for the teams’ chosen introducer to come into the space, introduce the team as they will on Demo Day, and listen to them pitch.
Week Eleven at the R9 Accelerator… Anna Guenther from PledgeMe, Immunity to Change, more Ministers visit and Demo Day prep… #AcceleratorLife
Lab Tech Life
As per the previous week or so, I have been working on the print collateral for Demo Day…
I’ve been collating all of the information for our Demo Day booklet.
This is the programme guide for the audience, with the order of pitches and information about the teams and their proposals. Thankfully, I’m not in this alone, and the HitSquad has been on the case. Together, we’ve been writing, or suggesting starting points for the R9 team tag lines, blurbs, collecting their logos and company contact information…
As you saw the other week, we also enlisted the help of awesome resident-photographer Ashley, from Creative HQ, to take updated team photos… Once we have all of these elements, the actual design of the booklet is headed over to local design agency Strategy.
I have been putting together some of the designs for on-the-day items, so the templates for digital elements – as well as the plan of print collateral at the venue.
For all of us, the past week(s) and the upcoming ones are all about pitching…
Listening to the teams pitch, suggesting edits, cuts etc to get their presentations down to 5 minutes… suggestions on what elements should be shown on their slides.
For me, I’ve been setting up ‘one-on-one’ pitch sessions with all of the pitching teams. By one-on-one, I really mean HitSquad and team sessions… In these, we’ve been running through the pitches with a timer. My aim is to provide suggestions and feedback for the visual aspects and how they relate to what is being said.
Crowd-funding – with Anna Guenther, from PledgeMe
Between all of these meetings, more with early adopters and stakeholders, the teams are pretty busy…
Thanks to our cohort-wide trip at Chapman Tripp a few weeks ago, some of the teams will be weighing up what type of business they think will best suit their products; whether their solutions would suit being government-owned, a private company or a public-private partnership. While most of the teams are getting their business proposals written up, they’re looking at what sales models would work best…
And they were given another option to consider, in a session from Anna Guenther, CEO/Chief Bubble Blower at PledgeMe.
Just in case you’ve not come across crowdfunding before, here’s a quick run-down of it. As the name suggests, crowdfunding is a way for lots of people to fund a project. The aim is to meet the target amount with lots of smaller investments.
PledgeMe is New Zealand’s top crowdfunding platform, and has so far helped raise funds for over 1,000 Kiwi-based projects.
Sorry, no pictures – I was paying full attention to what was being said!
It was déjà-vu, as we were again visited by Ministers…
This time Minister English and Minister Joyce came in to hear teams pitch, find out more about their opportunities and solutions – and about the programme as a general.
The pitching teams did great, and all the teams had a chance to talk with the Ministers, who seemed interested in the programme.
I think some of the government employees suffered minor heart-attacks, as both Ministers decided to step onto the office hover boards!
Immunity to Change – with Geoff Harrison and Michael Berger
Later in the week there was also a really interesting session called ‘Immunity to Change’.
Run by Geoff Harrison and Michael Berger from Cultivating Leadership, the workshop is based on the book of the same name by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey. The Immunity to Change workshops were developed to help participants identify the reasons why they may find change and coping with change difficult.
This is obviously not something that start-ups or large organisations – whether founder, director or employee – want to struggle with so really interesting to learn more.
The aim is to confront the personal fears, or beliefs, developed consciously or subconsciously over our lives. The theory is that these fears are what cause the ‘immunity to change’ and hinder individuals in achieving their goals. The workshop was good and run with a small group. As it’s such a personal journey, it was definitely a ‘safe-space’ workshop requiring openness and honesty.
By confronting these beliefs, and digging to the root of where, when and why we started to believe them, we can overcome our thought patterns and fears.
For me, it was really interesting, especially to be able to think and process why I’ve approached certain things and made decisions the way I have.
I would definitely recommend reading a little more into the theories, and if you’re looking at developing a more leadership-based role, it might also be useful!
Week Ten at the R9 Accelerator… rebrand for Quicker Kiwis, presentations from all teams, a Minister visit and Demo Day prep… #AcceleratorLife
Lab Tech Life
Early in the week, I worked on the rebranding for Quicker Kiwis team.
Quicker Kiwis is looking at improving the airport experience, focusing on frequent flyers and the arrivals/Customs processes.
Throughout, I was involved in more Demo Day prep, so more meetings, co-ordinating materials with the external agencies as well as putting together templates for some of the event materials.
Midweek, MiBiz hosted their second MeetUp event “Business Owners from Overseas – Wellington”.
This time, the team started with all of the attendees having a chance to voice the problems and successes they have run into while establishing businesses around Wellington. There were some great conversations started around networking events, techniques as well as finding new business opportunities and service providers.
Towards the end of the session, MiBiz took the group through their MVP (Minimal Viable Product) with a short demo – and before the evening was out, they signed up around a dozen new members!
Between all of this, there were inevitably more pitches going on… with another Meet and Experience event and visitors from government agencies, as well as teams doing short pitches to Minister Wagner!
The response was really great from both of these events, which bodes well for Demo Day in a few weeks!
Quicker Kiwis rebrand work
MiBiz MeetUp event #2
Demo Day prep!
Minister Wagner visits the cohort
Cohort-wide pitch practices
At the end of the week, from this point forwards, all of the teams will be pitching twice a week, trying to solidify their 5-minute pitches. At each of these afternoon events, the teams will pitch with slides.
It’s a great opportunity for teams to see where each other are at; and also for other members of the cohort to give feedback on any elements they believe should be added, expanded on or cut.
This being the first of the cohort-wide pitching sessions, most teams pitched with the most basic of slides and were allowed notes for their spoken element. In future though, the teams will be encouraged to switch to prompts only, and then no notes completely – all the while, the presentation decks starting to take shape.
Week Nine at the R9 Accelerator… a hackathon from MiBiz, photoshoots with Ashley, and lots of meetings… #AcceleratorLife
Lab Tech Life
All of the HitSquad were also invited to a presentation from MiBiz on the Tuesday. They had spent Sunday and Monday doing their own personal ‘hackathon’ to see how much further they could crack into their problem area in a shorter sprint-time.
MiBiz made great progress on putting together a brief slide-deck, and reaching more of their audience, with a clearer action plan and goals to reach by the end of the week. I think we were all really pleased to see their progress, and also their initiative for taking this time to set themselves goals and achieve them.
Early in the week, I was also back working alongside Kelly, to review the Employer Accreditation map we’d been collaborating with Traject on. Honestly, this was a really easy section, as Steffan, who was putting it together, has an absolute fountain of knowledge from working at Immigration NZ that he had condensed into sections…
For us, it was just reviewing to make sure that the information was as concise as possible, and easily digestible.
Later in the week, I got a lot busier…
With us now being just under a month away from Demo Day, I have been sitting in on a lot of meetings around it, and the materials that need to be produced for it…
In preparation for the Demo Day materials, we’ve been setting up photoshoots this week.
In part, this is so that we have updated photos of all the teams, and also as an opportunity for the teams to dress up how they want to be seen in those materials.
One of the perks, was that I went along to see the venue, the Embassy Theatre in Wellington CBD.
We met the AV company Streamliner down there, to discuss the options available for the R9 Accelerator Demo Day (as well as the Lightning Lab XX Demo Day). Mike from Streamliner also ran through the potential set up within the venue, and the assets that he and his team would require from us in advance, or that we could set up and provide directly.
Later that same day, I headed across to the Strategy studio. Strategy are a local Wellington design and advertising studio, who will be producing this year’s Demo Day booklet. So we were meeting so that I could make sure all of the elements necessary would be available to them in time (and make a note of any extra elements that might need produced).
MiBiz hackathon presentation
Traject’s work with Immigration NZ – Employer Accreditation map
Walkthrough at the Embassy Theatre… and my quick sketches of set-up
Team photo-shoots, again – thanks and full credit to Ashley Church at Creative HQ (and see more of her work here)
How to Pitch – with Laura
Laura Reitel, the Programme Manager at Lightning Lab XX, held the second ‘How to Pitch’ session over at the XX space.
This session looked at some previous programmes’ pitches, and focused on key elements like what is happening on-screen vs. being said, and how these relate. Mainly there were just some great tips to come out of it…
Week eight was another short week – New Zealand it seems, has a lot of public holidays early in the year!
This long weekend was for ANZAC (the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) in remembrance of their contribution to World War I fighting at Gallipoli…
Basically ANZAC is NZ’s version of England’s Remembrance Day, on November 11th.
If you haven’t already seen my earlier post from while Mum was over, the Wellington Te Papa Tongarewa museum had (and still has) a really great exhibition on Gallipoli. As a reminder, here are some of the photos again – you can check out the full post here.
Typically, as it goes, I wasn’t feeling particularly well over the long weekend, so no big trips anywhere, more just resting up for the coming weeks!
Lab Tech Life
Midweek, I worked on updating some of the teams comms materials:
An update for 2Shakes website (which you can check out here), so that they could incorporate more direct messaging and information around their problem area. They are currently working on tailoring interactions with government, to suit businesses, and at the moment, focusing on the financial and accounting sector.
Some renewed branding for Cohelix, as they were wanting to make sure that the identity reflected their professionalism as well as their personality. They have been working to improve the compliance standards, and how easy it is for businesses to be compliant with government legislations, starting with the hospitality industry and employee on-boarding. Check out more from them on their website.
Constructables also wanted to update their branding, with their new name ‘Co centric’. Co centric are working on making it easier to stay successful within the construction industry, especially for small building companies within their first few years of business. See more from them here.
We also set up for another Meet & Experience, with our visitors from government – and Rob flexed his creative-fruit-carving muscles again.
Cohelix new branding concepts, and final
Co centric concepts
How to Pitch – Case Study with Shawn
Later in the week, Shawn took the entire cohort through the initial do’s and don’t’s of writing a pitch deck, in the first ‘How to Pitch’ session.
At this point, we’re encouraging all of the teams to start putting their pitch presentations together… for us as Lab Techs, we’ve been listening to teams pitch or at least talk about their projects for the past 2 months – and we’re only going to hear more of them.
This means that we’re more familiar with what they’ve been doing than the audience (including other government agencies, and potential investors) at Demo Day will be… But as none of us have been working directly on the problems, we are by no means experts – in this situation, a positive. Each time the teams have pitched over the past few weeks, we have been highlighting areas where too much jargon is used, not enough detail is covered, or just where something is missing – and the teams can now identify some of these areas themselves as they work through the SEQUOIA template.
The teams have all been recommended to use this ‘SEQUOIA’ template as a starting point.
So over the coming weeks, they will be putting together drafts of both their presentation decks, and writing their pitch to match…
The SEQUOIA template was defined by Sequoia Capital, a venture capital based out of California, and put together after research into the most used recommended page categories.
In case there are any budding entrepreneurs reading, the template below covers the 10 categories that should be covered within a company pitch deck, to optimise the company potential – and according to Sequoia Capital, cover a pretty similar format to writing a business plan.
Week Seven at the R9 Accelerator… Events, events, events… MiBiz MeetUp, LL XX vs R9: Round 2 and 7×7 #AcceleratorLife
Lab Tech Life
The HitSquad were in good spirits, as we welcomed back Lingy! (with camo-cast and crutches)
Midweek, one of the teams – MiBiz – hosted a MeetUp event.
MiBiz are working on making it easier for new New Zealanders to start a successful business. You can read more about their work here.
Their MeetUp event “Business Owners from Overseas – Wellington” is so that they can reach and interact with more of their target audience. It’s a great opportunity for local migrant business owners to also meet each other, and find out from others experiences when starting a business in New Zealand.
The event was a success, with some great conversations started, and will be running again on May 10th.
R9 vs Lightning Lab XX: Round 2
This was the second (official) crossover event between the two accelerators, held this time over at the XX space.
As the previous event had given the teams an opportunity to meet, and find out how they were all doing within the programmes, we made this one a little less intimidating…
If any teams wanted to pitch they could… unsurprisingly no one took us up on that.
So instead, the cohorts were mixed and teams formed to play ‘Pitch Suicide’…
The idea of the game is that any or all members of the team will pitch… sounds simple right? The catch is, they have to pitch a presentation that they’ve never seen before!
Check out some of the slides (good finds from Kelly) they were faced with below…
All of the teams did brilliantly – and there were a lot of slick hand-offs as members struggled to keep straight faces!
R9 at 7×7
7×7 is a forum held in Wellington.
The concept is to have 7 speakers, each presenting for 7 minutes on whatever subject they want to concentrate on.
R9 was represented at this event by Connor (presenting) and his cofounder Ashlyn from Traject.
It was another opportunity for Traject to show off their pitching skills, but by tying their work through R9.
Traject’s new business cards – Growing the knowledge economy, as well as growing some awesome flowers, with these seed-paper cards!
The work I do, translating ‘client’ briefs into workable designs – some of the infographics created for the 7×7 presentation from Traject
Week Six at the R9 Accelerator… MVPs, EAAs, IP… so many acronyms to learn… HWP=Halfway point, time for a halfway pint! #AcceleratorLife
Week six means that we’re officially half way through the R9 Accelerator programme…
The focus now is ‘MVP’ iteration. This is when ideas of a solution begin to be created. This second stage is based around the ‘Minimal Viable Product’, producing, testing and then reiterating the ‘solution’.
In a way the name MVP is a misleading, using the word “product” implies some sort of finished piece, when in reality it’s not even a prototype. After reading ‘The Lean Startup’ book by Eric Ries, my interpretation of an MVP is:
A product with the fewest, but most useful and necessary, components built to provide a solution, that can be used to learn more about the user, and develop a better solution in the ‘next stage’.
For the R9 teams, it’s also a really useful tool to find out more about the customer, problem area and solution you can provide for them. The point of their MVPs is to test a hypothesis and ‘validate’ the business.
(As a note) In comparison, a prototype is further down the line from the MVP, and is used to test the technical, mechanical or design aspects of the product.
Although teams at this stage are only creating MVPs, they are looking to gain customer traction – and, more importantly, visible validation in the form of signed contracts…
Contracts in the startup world at this stage (where the products aren’t ‘final’ versions) are known as ‘Early Adopter Agreements’. This means the EAAs can define what the product aims to do for the customer, what the customer will get out of it, but not always the form of the service that will be provided (so that it can change as the product does)…
Lab Tech Life
The week was filled with events and sessions with the teams, so we did a lot of organising and prep!
Rob’s awesome fruit-carving skills made a reappearance to celebrate R9’s interactions with government. Half of the teams pitched during the latest Meet & Experience session, with visitors from government – while the others could take note for next time.
I also worked on more of the branding elements for OneX, including their new business cards.
We had our second One Track Dance Party – hosted by the Cohelix team, spinning us into a ‘Happy’ frenzy…
Rob’s spectacular fruit platters – making another appearance at one of the Meet & Experience events – this time with Feijoas (first time for me to try them too!)
OneX business card development
Our second instalment of the One-Track Dance Party
Info sharing session, with Anske Janssen
7×7 Pitching Challenge
Following on from my post last week, the R9 teams took on Nick Gerritsen’s challenge to pitch for a spot at the 7×7 event…
Nick had challenged to teams to think about the big impact their projects could potentially have… and to propose these opportunities within a 2 minute pitch.
This was chance for all of the teams to pitch in front of each other, the Lab Tech team and Nick himself, before a communal vote was carried out.
The vote reflected the values Nick had spoken of the previous week, as well as:
• Best pitch delivery
• Strongest articulation of solution
• Most transformational concept on a scale of innovation, social responsibility and global perspectives
The teams did great, and the voting was pretty close in the end… but come back for next week’s blog post and review of the 7×7 event to find out who won!
Field trip, to Chapman Tripp
Mid-week the entire cohort was out on a field-trip, to the offices of Wellington-based law-firm Chapman Tripp.
Chapman Tripp is a law firm in New Zealand, working across many different industries, including government relations, corporate and commercial law. The team over at CT will be available for the teams to consult with, as they figure out what legal terms they may need to have in place further down the line.
Josh and Tim took the morning with the cohort to speak about some of the key legalities teams may face over the coming weeks and months, as they decide what business model they plan to use and start signing ‘Early Adopter Agreements’…
CT also provided the teams with information around Intellectual Property rights as a general, so that they can start thinking about whether it is necessary to register patents, consider the copyright status of their work etc.
In most cases, a patent won’t be necessary, as they aren’t building something physical, but still really useful knowledge to have when considering what will happen to the projects post-Demo Day…
From a personal view, it was a great session, and I came away with a richer knowledge around Intellectual Property especially – so I think I can speak on behalf of the rest of the R9 team – thank you to Josh and Tim, and to the rest of the team at Chapman Tripp in advance. I’m sure that many of the teams will be approaching CT for advice over the coming weeks.
Week five means that we’re almost half way through the R9 Accelerator programme…
Yet despite this, it has involved a LOT of firsts…
Problem Discovery vs. Success Discovery
All of the R9 teams have spent the last five weeks looking at ‘Problem Discovery’… In each case it has differed, but as a general they’ve been trying to narrow down the problem area, and to dig deep enough to find the real pain points.
Throughout, the teams are gathering data, not only abut the problem area (which as they research can change) but also the customers they’re focused on.
The difference comes when teams switch from looking at the problem, to looking at the potential solutions… Already we have teams who are looking at a different space than when the programme started.
Because the problems of one customer can be hugely different from another, the solutions also need to reflect this… The solution they find which suits both of the problem and customer is the winner – but to get to this point, the teams will change their problem, their customer, their solution… or just change their minds…
In the startup world, this is known as a:
– Ross Geller, Friends
Lab Tech Life
For me, the week included facilitating sessions with some of the teams around rebranding.
One of these was the Business Buddy team, who are working to make exporting easier for businesses in New Zealand. By the end of the session, the team had decided on a new name – oneX – and I had worked up some basic sketches around the values they aim to provide businesses.
Later in the week, I ran a brain-storm session with the Tender Advantage team. They have been considering a name change, due to the value their solution may be able to provide within other industry sectors…
Kicking off the first One-Track Dance Party was Traject…
To liven up the atmosphere, and wake the teams up, we started the mid-week ritual of (now) One-Track Dance Party. Each week, a different team hosts as DJ, with their choice of track to pump out over the speakers and get everybody on their feet and moving about.
The week drew to a close with our first (and last) ‘The Bachelor’-style incarnation of our weekly Cohort meeting…
This essentially turned into a Compliment Circle, with people nominating each other to take a step towards the prize rose, before the challenge to pick it up with the teeth and no-hands was thrown down…
New branding for Business Buddy – now oneX
Brain-storm session with Tender Advantage around renaming
One-Track Dance Party
The Bachelor-style cohort meeting
Do I dare disturb the universe? – Nick Gerritsen
Nick began his talk with a bit about his past life – both as a commercial lawyer and an advisor within NZ Government… and how that has lead him to become a leader in innovation and social enterprise.
With a talk titled ‘Do I dare disturb the universe?’, Nick came, spoke and challenged all of the R9 teams to think not only about the big picture, but the bigger picture:
What impact could their project have on the world ecosystem…? Could their work initiate changed perspectives, making people question morals…?
These were all the sorts of questions that Nick posed to the teams, along with finishing his talk with a challenge:
The following week, all teams would have one opportunity to pitch (for 2 minutes) for a spot at Wellington’s 7×7 event a few weeks later…
Teams would be judged on:
• Best pitch delivery
• Strongest articulation of solution
• Most transformational concept on a scale of innovation, social responsibility and global perspectives
R9 vs Lightning Lab XX: Round 1
This was one of the first (official) crossover events between the two accelerators, and an opportunity for the teams to find out how others were coping with the pace and workload involved.
In preparation for the event, we encouraged the teams to practice their elevator pitches on us – and some even has us pitch their opportunities back to them!
The night went really well – and I think it’s safe to say – we were blown away and really impressed with how all of the teams did with their pitches. There were a lot of laughs after the ‘official’ pitches too, as we divided the entire group into (mixed cohort) teams. They then had 10 minutes to come up with a pitch formed from 5 randomly* chosen words…
*the words were themed, with teams picking 2 technologies, 2 adjectives and 1 audience for their product/services
I think my two favourite pitches were:
• Soilent T-shirts – providing nourishment from clothing, and reducing the amount of materials disposed annually…
• And Real Parenting – the quantum mechanic-drone, which would discipline your children while you did more important things…
(I was laughing too hard to take any photos during the event)