The R9 Accelerator kicked off officially March 7th, and Lab Tech life began… #AcceleratorLife

So, properly introducing the teams*, the opportunities they’ll be working on over the next 12 weeks…

*Team names and members available during Week One (developments may happen!)

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ALL team pictures – Thanks and full credit to Ashley Church at Creative HQ (and see more of her work here)
• 2Shakes, Mike and Ata, looking at tailoring business interactions with government to suit the unique business needs.
• Business Buddy, Jacqui, Chris, Jennifer and Preeti, looking at making exporting from New Zealand easier.
• CoHelix (fka DNA), Alex, Dan and Nic, looking at helping businesses be compliant for regulatory agencies.
• Constructables, Jo, Sarah and Tui, looking at keeping construction businesses afloat and successful.
• MiBiz, Jonnie, Amy and Andrew, looking at helping migrant businesses stay in business.
• Quicker Kiwis, Varinder, Ben, Caleb and Tony, looking at streamlining the arrivals process and airport experience for frequent flyers.
• Datacom, James, Sarah and George, looking at giving import businesses access to see their business information with Customs NZ.
• Street Cred, (top to bottom) Steffan, Ashlyn and Connor, looking at helping businesses to hire skilled employees from overseas.
• Tender Chat, Natalie and Catherine, looking at improving the communications and feedback system related to the tendering process.
• Visard, Hao, Tatiana, Yuliya and Pengfei, looking at a mobile guided immigration process.

… and also introducing the R9 Team and lab-techs (now dubbed the R9 “HitSquad”).


Introducing the “HitSquad” (aka Lab Techs)

Boot Camp and the start of Week One was a great opportunity for the other lab techs and I to introduce ourselves (to each other and) to the teams, let them know our ‘areas of expertise’ and what we would be able to help them with…

So, in a bit more detail, the lab tech team consists of:
• Kelly, who is from a Business Operations background, previously working at a startup in San Francisco.
• Rob, who has a background in marketing and 3D/product design, as well as the advantage of going through the most recent Lightning Lab Manufacturing programme in Wellington.
• Rosie, who has been working in Law, and also has experience working alongside government departments from previously covering and reporting on an independent political publication.
• and myself, who most of you know – but for the sake of it – with a background in graphic design both print and digital, marketing, and also experience working on a European political publication.

We also have:
• Hannah, who is the official MBIE* (Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment) representative, with a varied background including Business Analysis.
You can read more from Hannah about the R9 programme on the official blog.
• and Edd, who works as a Comms Advisor at MBIE, so will be helping the teams with their communications plans (especially for stakeholders, dealing with government agencies etc).
*MBIE are the host government agency for the Better for Business programme, supporting the Accelerator.

As I touched on last time:
The six of us will be working, individually and as a team, to support all ten R9 teams, as well as to support the Accelerator team – Shawn, the Programme Manager, and Lingy, the Programme Coordinator.

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Picture – Again, thanks and full credit to Ashley Church at Creative HQ
(Left to right, missing on the day – Rob and Edd) Rosie, Shawn, Lingy, Hannah, Kelly and I

Team Roles

One thing that all of the teams were asked to do during the boot camp sessions, was split themselves off into skills-based categories, under the following:
Hipster – ideas, aesthetics, design, user/customer/brand experience
Hustler – sales, commercial, financial, logistics, business planner/analyst
Hacker – ‘doer’, makes tech/product work for project

There was also one overlying role, which, in all honesty, I think covered everyone within the programme:
Visionary – someone who can see a better way or wants to improve the future (workings of something)

The intention was for the teams to see how evenly the teams were split, and where they might have a missed skill set.

After spending boot camp getting to know the R9 cohort, the other HitSquad members and I still felt it would be useful to sit down with each of the teams individually, get to know their opportunities better and also their team roles, in part so we could see where our skill sets may be beneficial over the programme.

With that in mind, we challenge all of the teams to practice their elevator pitches on us… with one small change…
In case anyone is hearing of an elevator pitch for the first time, the idea is that somebody can pitch an idea in the time that it would take a CEO to take the elevator to their floor…

For us however, we decided to re-brand it…

Introducing with the concept of a ‘Parachute Pitch’*

*Trademark awaiting 😉

“What is a Parachute Pitch?” I hear you ask…

The idea is that you are doing a skydive, and you can only pull the cord once your pitch is done, if you wait too long… ‘Splat!’ (official terminology there…), they opened their parachute too low, and didn’t slow enough before hitting the ground.

So ideally the pitch should be under 30 seconds for a safe landing.

For us, this meant that the teams had to relay their opportunity really concisely and with as much clarity as possible, not focusing on anything other than the big picture – what their problem is, or they are trying to help with.

Then, after the ‘jump’, we had the chance to ask for more details on any aspects.

Personally, I was really impressed with how the teams did… out of 10 teams, I think we only had a couple of casualties from the “Parachute Pitch” (and none fatalities). But more importantly, it helped all of us get a better grasp of what they’re facing over the next 12 weeks.


Lab Tech Life

Before starting the programme, I wasn’t sure how busy I would be at the start – with most people probably thinking of design as the decoration to their project.

Instead though, even before (official) Day 1, I was fielding questions about user journeys and, for some teams, draft branding*.
*obviously keeping in mind, and knowing that many teams may be changing names and directions.

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Pictures:
Draft branding concepts for CoHelix
Initial content for an R9 illustration from Hannah
Around our base at CreativeHQ

Problem Discovery – Dave Moskovitz

All of the teams had come into R9 at different stages of their ‘opportunity’. For many this meant the problem-, rather than solution-, focused approach of the first few weeks would feel like stepping back.

As all of the speakers over the week repeated though, logically, you can’t design a solution if you haven’t spoken to people to find out their problems and pain-points.

“Having no problems is the biggest problem of all”

– Taiichi Ohno

To help the teams with their problem discovery and progress through the programme, they will have access to some great mentors and industry experts.

So, in preparation for this, Dave Moskovitz (who is not only a co-founder and director of StartUp New Zealand, but also an Angel Investor and highly active member of the StartUp scene) came in to talk the teams through what they may want from a mentor.

Dave’s advice stemmed from the prospect that this would be a hugely important decision – these interactions between team and mentor could potentially become a long standing business relationship.

To me, this was the key takeaway: it would be a relationship, therefore a two-way street.

So teams should be keeping in mind not only what they would like from the mentor, but what they can provide for them too…

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Pictures:
Draft branding concepts for CoHelix
Initial content for an R9 illustration from Hannah
Around our base at CreativeHQ