Mahuki, the ‘Innovation Hub’ from Te Papa opened its doors mid-August, and I started work in a place I never imagined… a museum! #MahukiNZ

Been a bit quiet on the blogging side of things, but after a few weeks to recuperate from the past few months’ hard work I’m ready to get back to it!

Since August, I’ve been working full-time at New Zealand’s national museum, Te Papa Tongarewa.
For anybody who knows me, this might come as a bit of a surprise as I’ve never really liked learning about history, but I’m thinking that perhaps this environment, and experience, has been good for me.

Let me explain.

Mahuki | Innovation powered by Te Papa

For the past four months, I have been working as part of the programme support team for Mahuki.

Mahuki is a newly developed programme that runs over four months and encourages creation and innovation within the cultural and heritage sectors. It is an idea incubator for places like Te Papa and many other GLAM sector institutions – that galleries, libraries, archives and museums to you and I – from around the world and how they can better engage with their visitors.

The programme itself is run behind the scenes of Te Papa, giving entrepreneurs the unique opportunity of direct visitor access and market validation literally at their fingertips. This close proximity to the industry also ensures access to market knowledge and expertise, in this case, Te Papa’s collections and passionate staff.

For the first time running this programme, you can’t expect it all to be smooth sailing, and there have definitely been some bumps in the road – not counting isolated-sprinkler malfunctions, earthquakes and tsunami warnings, or flooding…

Month 1 August

With my previous experience at the R9 Accelerator, I started the programme providing coordination support, with the initial setup of communications channels, and group calendars. And later I was focused on the designed materials required during the programme and support for the teams.

Mahuki officially opened its doors 15 August, launching with the traditional Powhiri welcome ceremony, starting on Te Marae and then leading through to the Mahuki ‘Hub’. We welcomed the teams into the space, each of them working on business concepts that aimed to solve an array of challenges the programme had released earlier in the year.

kelceybraine-mahuki-week1Photo – Thanks to Biz Dojo in Wellington who hosted us while we were out of the Mahuki space

The first week of Mahuki was pretty eventful.

In a twist of fate, despite having a completely custom-built space to work out of, we weren’t able to access it for a couple of days after what has now been dubbed ‘Sprinkler-gate’ at Te Papa.
In a way, having less than 24hrs to find alternative working space and communicate it to the teams was a good test of the programme team… succeeding in this we proved to the teams that despite difficult circumstances we were committed to delivering the programme content.

Over the first few weeks, me and the other ‘hubstars’ (as we’ve been dubbed) were able to introduce ourselves to the teams. Our team is made up of:
• Laura, whose background is similar to mine in design, but more focused on the written and content strategy side.
• Fran, from a Digital production side
• Joash, who specialises in Augmented and Virtual Reality content creation
• and me.

The four of us are working, individually and as a team, to support the Mahuki teams as well as to programme team – Emma, the programme coordinator; Nicci, the Activation Manager; Priscilla, in Marketing; Ryan, the innovation analyst; Tim, the Entrepreneur-in-Residence; and Tui, the General Manager of Mahuki.


Photo: Kate Whitley © Te Papa – Mahuki programme and ‘Hubstar’ team

Discovery and Validation

Over the first month, the teams have been encouraged to concentrate on market discovery and idea validation. I found it quite difficult to start, as the programme and the teams have not adopted the lean methodologies I used at R9. I felt it was difficult to get a handle on the ‘problem’ areas they were working in, so understanding and defining the audience was a struggle.

It quickly became apparent to me that many of the teams came into this programme with existing businesses or products, with an aim to learn about and break into the cultural sector.

Introducing the teams who have been working at Mahuki for the past 16 weeks…

Team photos: Mike O’Neill © Te Papa

  • breadcrumb

    Breadcrumb – Lifeng, Anne, Quanbo, Alex and Shengkun

  • craftmapper

    Craftmapper – Chris, Josh and Flinn

  • curio

    Curio – Emily, Robin, Regan, James, Joris, Marc, Sarah, Cristina, Emma and Briar

  • dot-dot

    Dot Dot – Chris, Kate and Jacques

  • excio

    Excio – Ana and Vlad

  • gamelab

    Gamefroot – Dan, Dave, Ben and Stefan

  • indepth

    Indepth – Rowan and Nick

  • koha

    Koha – Kevin, Manu, Christian and Ethan

  • open-window_2

    Open Window – Lochana and Akira

  • point-zero_2

    Point Zero – Chris, Gabi, James and Peter

This first month was packed with speakers, including:

– a Mahuki Mentor Matching event, with over 30 mentors engaging with the teams over 3 hours
– Matt Hunckler and Collider coming to Mahuki to present about pitching
– a national museum think tank afternoon, featuring eight NZ museum personnel (from CEOs to directors, managers to curators)
– and a personal highlight for me, a user experience design session run by the Head of UX at TradeMe, Ruth Brown

Mahuki Mentor Matching event

We were extremely lucky to be joined by Flic (Felicity) Powell, from Re:Edit based down in Christchurch. Flic was up to gain some background insights from the programme, but also was a great help in pulling together content for the Mentor Matching event. This was the first test for us all, pulling together content from the teams on their challenge areas and ideas to produce a short guide booklet for the mentors to use to take notes in.

With over 30 mentors gathered through what sounded like a lot of coffee meetings and (obviously from the number and calibre) amazing work from Tim, the teams were prepped to make connections and ready to pitch.

The evening itself was long and intense for the teams, as they presented their businesses to all of the mentors, and then had a chance to meet with each of them (in pairs) for a 5-minute ‘speed-date’ style discussion.

I think at the end of the evening there were a fair few from teams who were struggling to form complete sentences, and didn’t want to repeat their short pitch for the foreseeable future.
Over the next week or so, Tim had the great task of matching up the mentors’ (from their feedback) with the teams, for what would hopefully be the best fit.


Photo – mid-way through the Mahuki Mentor evening, post-pitching, with all 10 teams speaking and engaging with mentors

UX at Mahuki – Ruth Brown

It was great to be joined by Ruth and her colleagues Ian and Martin from TradeMe (New Zealand’s equivalent to eBay), and what they spoke about really stuck with me, as I think they are things people in almost any industry can use to improve their sector.

So some of the key points I picked up:

  • kelceybraine-ux-purpose

  • kelceybraine-ux-test

  • kelceybraine-ux-audience

  • kelceybraine-ux-bias

I hope that the teams took away as much from this session (and the others) as I did – and ideally, over the next few weeks, the teams make headway to define their problem area in more detail and the relevant customer segment… as well as test their assumptions out on the floor with some unsuspecting Te Papa visitors!