NZ’s first female founder accelerator announces the 8 teams to join the 2016 Programme

Lightning Lab XX, New Zealand’s first ever female founder focused business accelerator, has announced the 7 teams that have secured a spot in its 2016 programme.

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Ama Balm, Geo AR Games, Little Yellow Bird, Music Ecademy, NoticeMATCH, PatternSnap and Sipreme will all join the programme on March 8th, International Women’s Day. Each team will receive $20,000 of seed funding while in the programme, as well as over NZ$800,000 worth of perks from partners and sponsors, the opportunity to work full time to accelerate their startup, gain access to a pool of world-class mentorship and ultimately pitch to a packed room of investors at the final ‘Demo Day’ event.

The 7 Lightning Lab XX teams accepted into the programme are:

Ama Balm– an after sun balm for adventurers.  Featured by adventure stores and smothered on the faces of surfers, skiers, runners and yogis throughout NZ and Australia.

Geo AR Games – geospatial augmented reality gaming company that creates motion games that kids can play outside.

Little Yellow Bird – ethically manufactured customisable corporate uniform company. Clothing is sourced and manufactured in India, the factories there offer equal employment opportunities for disadvantaged women and profits are reinvested into community development projects by linking corporates with projects they care about.

Music Ecademy – online music school that teaches music theory and aural skills through a variety of interactive lessons, quizzes, and games. The curriculum is relevant for music schools and teachers in Australia, NZ and UK.

NoticeMATCH – records over 98% of all deaths in NZ daily. It holds the largest record of published death notices in Australasia, and provides world-class death data matching software and identification services for any business type or size – including those in the legal, insurance and banking industries.

PatternSnap – digital library of products for Interior Designers, providing a beautiful tool for searching samples and creating schemes.

Sipreme – science based powdered food that delivers nutrients the body needs for optimum health. Company will be exploring ways to expand outside of convenience food product to other segments (disaster relief, refugee crisis, elderly etc). Shelf life is 2 years.

Programme Director Laura Reitel says the programme will harness Lightning Lab’s tried and tested model of mentor intensive acceleration to combat the unique needs and barriers that female founders face. “The programme is ultimately an experiment in how we can make a solid step towards boosting the ratio of female founded ventures in NZ and further enriching the startup ecosystem.”

Reitel says the quality of Lightning Lab applicants has gone from strength to strength over the years, and Lightning Lab XX has been no exception. “The response we have received nationwide for the XX programme has been overwhelming – our teams are coming from across New Zealand to be part of the programme, and in many ways are more established than the candidates that have entered into Lightning Lab programmes in past years.”

The accelerator has an extensive interview process to determine which startups have the most to gain from the programme, with 115 applicant teams being whittled down to a shortlist of 16 before pitching to an interview panel of founding investors, senior stakeholders, and the Lightning Lab team. With selection criteria of ‘team, team, team, market, product’, the panel are most interested in the teams’ experience, relationship dynamic and ability to execute on ideas, as well as the potential for growth in their respective market. Executive Director of the Angel Association and panel member Suse Reynolds was impressed with the diversity opportunities offered by applicants.

“The quality of some of the teams that pitched for a spot in the programme was impressive – this was the first time a Lightning Lab has been agnostic of any particular industry and as such there was a really diverse pool to choose from. It puts the programme in a great position to accelerate a cohort that are brimming with investment potential at the end of the 3 months, and ultimately strengthen the diversity and productivity of NZ’s startup ecosystem.”

Little Yellow Bird, one of the social enterprise teams accepted into the accelerator, will enter the programme having just won first place at BNZ’s 2016 Startup Alley this month, taking home $20,000 in prize money and a trip to San Francisco later in the year. Little Yellow Bird founder, Samantha Jones, is looking forward to getting stuck in – “I’m excited to be able to put 100% effort into Little Yellow Bird and spend more time getting companies on board and growing the business. Being able to commit all of my time to the startup is definitely a luxury when bootstrapping and Lightning Lab will enable us to knuckle down and produce results.”

PatternSnap founder Virginia Fay is equally excited about the unique opportunities Lightning Lab XX will provide her startup as it launches into its next stage of business development. “We are really looking forward to working alongside the other great teams and female entrepreneurs as a part of the first female founder focused Lightning Lab – definitely feeling honoured to be involved and can’t wait to make the most of the 4 months.”

Lightning Lab XX kicks off in Wellington next month, where teams will spend 4 months working with more than 100 mentors to accelerate their business, including Slingshot co-founder Annette Presley, Webstock co-founder Natasha Lampard, Kiwibank founder Sam Knowles and more. The programme culminates in a final ‘Demo Day’ event, where all 7 teams will pitch to a room of angel investors seeking further funding.

The female focused XX programme will run at the same time as Lightning Lab Auckland’s digital programme, which accepts only software-based startups, but uses the same mentor intensive format culminating in a final Demo Day. This will be the second time Auckland has run the digital programme, after it was launched in Wellington in 2013 and was expanded to both Auckland and Christchurch last year.

Lightning Lab is powered by Creative HQ and Callaghan Innovation, and is a member of the Global Accelerator Network. Lightning Lab’s national foundation partner is Spark and its national partner is Microsoft Ventures. The Lightning Lab XX programme is generously supported by programme sponsors ANZ Bank and Wellington City Council as well as supporting partners, EY and Simmonds Stewart. Reitel says support from these organisations is a core part of what makes the programme so successful – “All of our partners provide their expertise and valuable services to the teams in the programme and help the teams expand and grow through their networks.”

Lightning Lab is run by Creative HQ, a unit of the recently formed Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency (WREDA). The Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency has been formed to combine and amplify the activities of Grow Wellington, Positively Wellington Tourism, Positively Wellington Venues, Creative HQ and the Major Events unit of Wellington City Council. The plan for integrating the team into one unit is currently under development.