A year of stories

Annual report 2020-2021

At Creative HQ, our mission is to help leaders and changemakers learn how to solve problems and make bold ideas take flight.

2020 and the challenges of COVID-19 provided an international problem for leaders and changemakers and showed the world the benefits of thinking creatively.

As an organisation, we were born from a desire to help our clients play on the edge, to create the changes worth making.

We’ve reignited our team by defining the three ways we create impact through innovation at CreativeHQ:


We build capability through our innovation education programmes – whether in a startup, corporate or government setting.


We build confidence in people so that they feel prepared for the changing times that bring opportunity.


We connect our ecosystem, through collaborations, partnerships and events that draw our community closer.

Kia ora koutou,

Unsurprisingly, the presence and impact of COVID-19 dominated FY20/21. Unprecedented restrictions on our social and economic lives have forced huge changes in the way we live, work, travel and communicate. 

Throughout, innovation has emerged as an essential ingredient to rebuilding any modern economy. Successful innovation starts with a vision. It requires resilience, agility and collaboration. And it requires bravery – a leap of faith into a culture of measured experimentation with an open mind to new ways of working and learning.

Our success is measured by the success of those who we work with. And so we can look back on this past year knowing that we have delivered and are on the right path for continued success in the future.

Creative HQ super power: the people

The incredible team at Creative HQ are driven by a passion to help others to innovate. Our people are our special sauce. They have in common a unique ability to connect with individuals and organisations at a very human level through our immersive workshops, sprints, programmes and events. This  not only demystifies innovation but equips our customers with the capability, confidence and connectedness in innovation that they need to be successful.

This financial year we have delivered close to 100 projects. Some for entrepreneurs and innovators already in our ecosystem. Others for leaders and changemakers taking a leap into the world of innovation for the first time.

We’ve helped 42 startups to grow, with a combined $2.43m in investment. We ran an acceleration programme for the heavily impacted Tourism sector and announced a second for Climate Response. This activity sat alongside programmes for independent artists, for youth, and for large organisations seeking to reinvent themselves in the wake of Covid-19. 

With funding available and an increased necessity to innovate at all levels of government, our annual GovTech accelerator took place and concluded with an impressive demo day at Parliament. Being an election year, we hosted New Zealand’s first-ever innovation debate with leaders of the major political parties.  We advanced work on the Innovation Barometer, a tool being developed to measure and build innovation capability within the government. And we guided several government agencies through various large scale programmes of innovation – all with the common goal of creating a more efficient, more inclusive, more citizen-centric public sector. In total, we delivered over $2 million in services to large enterprise organisations.

The past year has seen a need for us to dig deep and innovate ourselves. We’ve adopted a hybrid approach to delivering our services and events, enabling us to pivot from in-person programmes and showcases to virtual versions, and new offerings that combine the two. With increased demand from individuals wanting to demystify innovation, learn new skills and create new pathways for their careers, we rebuilt our innovation education programmes to make them more accessible.  And we’ve embarked on a programme to build a deeper level of cultural competency across our entire organisation so that we are better equipped to support the development of unique entrepreneurship programmes with local mana whenua and beyond. Our events provide an opportunity for leaders and changemakers across our ecosystem to come together, learn and connect. The highlight of our events calendar this year was our annual Mindset of Design festival, which included 42 events across Wellington in 1-week, with over 1,000 participants. Its success has prompted the launch of a bigger and better festival for 2021.

From us with thanks

Our work is only possible because of the generous and continued support that we receive from our stakeholders WellingtonNZ, Wellington City Council and Greater Wellington Regional Council.

So too, from our partners, sponsors and collaborators. This year we would like to extend special thanks to Callaghan Innovation, Chapman Tripp, G2G, NZTE, Tourwriter, Tourism NZ, Christchurch NZ, Spark NZ, Westpac and to the numerous individuals in our ecosystem who donate time to mentor and advise entrepreneurs in our programmes.

After nine years on the Creative HQ Board, Barry Brook stepped down and was replaced as Chairman by existing Board Member Lance Walker. Whilst Barry will be sorely missed, Lance has brought a wealth of knowledge and experience, not only from his time already spent as a Director for Creative HQ but from his previous role as Chief Executive of WellingtonNZ. We were also fortunate to have Diana Siew and Trent Mankelow join the Board of Directors.

The road ahead

A frequent message from those who have trusted us with their innovation journey this year has been one of hope, empowerment and reinvigoration. We are proud to be part of an organisation that inspires bravery in others. That equips others with the confidence, capability and connectedness they need to contribute positively to building bigger, better and more human-centred solutions to the increasingly complex problems facing the world of today.

Once again, to all our staff, our Board, our stakeholders, sponsors, partners, collaborators, and customers – thank you for the role you play in creating the world-leading innovation hub that is Creative HQ.

Nga mihi nui,

Catherine Jones, CEO of Creative HQ

Lance Walker, Chairman of Creative HQ

Some highlights in numbers




projects to help our clients create transformative work


countries building innovation capability


startups built at Creative HQ


visitors to the Creative HQ website


people reached on social media


stories shared on social media


events, across our community, our programmes and our client work


At Creative HQ, we work to develop our team and our clients’ capability in equal measure, with a focus on skills developed through lived experience rather than solely theoretical knowledge.


revenue from Innovation Services for large enterprise organisations


client workshops and sprints


‘School of Innovation’ workshops


Building a resilient arts community in the coolest little capital

New Zealand’s arts community has been hit hard by COVID-19 highlighting what many artists already knew – the need to find alternative ways to create more secure and sustainable practices.


DJ at PAI launch

Embracing collaboration, to define collaborative design

Te Puni Kōkiri | Ministry of Māori Development was looking to add capability and confidence in design thinking to their kete | basket, by working with Creative HQ to create the booklet “Designing Together: a guide to collaborative design for Te Puni Kōkiri”.



Reducing single-use waste through the circular economy

The recent IPCC report has indicated systemic change is required to make it easier for individuals to change their day-to-day lifestyles in order for us to stop global warming.


Creative HQ’s work with startups, in FY20/21



26 new startups in our programmes

16 startups continuing in our incubation programme


capital raised by startups, FY20/21

Through a combination of angel and capital investment, R&D grants and other government support


(Energy, water, waste)
Tourism technologies
Food & Beverage (FMCG)
Sports technologies


We’re building your place of innovation – a place where people are empowered to be at the heart of their own problem solving, a place where character and commitment combine with lived experience, a place where bravery creates transformation.


GovTech Accelerator projects (2018–present) still active


raised by Tourism Design Accelerator teams to grow their businesses


young founder programmes since Venture Up launched in 2015


Empowering intrapreneurs to create change on projects within government

In its third year, GovTech 2020 saw the value of the network and relationships developed throughout the programme, with new collaborations beyond the scope of the accelerator. The third programme culminated in a showcase to over 250 guests, including Ministers, at a spectacular showcase (MC’d by Robbie Nicol) at Parliament.


Dancers on stage at the NZ Festival for the Arts

Reimagining the New Zealand Festival of the Arts 2022

Large-scale events like New Zealand Festival of the Arts would usually source for their programme 18+ months in advance. However, COVID-19 challenged the producers, Tāwhiri, to rethink the delivery of their next cutting-edge, contemporary arts’ festival to a diverse audience. 


Revitalising New Zealand’s tourism sector


Launched as part of the COVID-19 recovery, the Tourism Design Challenge acted as a feeder for the 2020 Tourism Design Accelerator – a 12-week mentor-driven programme – to support founders in designing solutions to some of the tourism industry’s most pressing challenges.


Four young founders listening to presentation

Empowering New Zealand’s youth to think differently

Since 2015, almost 250 youth (16–24-year-olds) have completed Venture Up, learning essential entrepreneurial leadership skills for their future.


Creative HQ’s work with young founders, since 2015…


young founders, since 2015

51.1% participants identified as female

48.9% participants identified as male

16 startups continuing in our incubation programme

Our alumni have gone on to great things, both in traditional employment and to set up awesome ventures…

Some of our alumni are now in roles at:
ANZ, BNZ, EY, The Co-Operative Bank, The Department of Internal Affairs, Icehouse Ventures, Kiwi Landing Pad, Startup Dunedin, TVNZ, Territory 3, Victoria University of Wellington, Xero, Young Enterprise, and more.

Empowering airports, airlines and ATC to move aircraft without fog interruptions.

Doing milk differently.

Wellington’s largest social media brand & media company for Wellington residents.


Building a world-leading, thriving hub of innovation.
With each new opportunity, we ask: how can our relationships help our clients’ impact grow? Who can we work with to create the best outcomes? How can we build our community and their involvement? How can we deliver the most value, and best experience, for our clients?


minutes spent by our team building community connections at our events


events across our community, our programmes and our client work


attendees across all of our events


Growing a community of creative thinkers

In its third year, Creative HQ’s flagship annual event ‘Mindset of Design’ marked the opportunity to build our ecosystem in the post-COVID-19 era, featuring a new partner The Big Picture, and continued partnership with Hype EntertainmentOut Of Office and Z Energy. The only requirement; a mindset of pushing boundaries, re-thinking definitions and challenging the status-quo; a Mindset of Design.