Code of conduct


Creative HQ is dedicated to creating quality events and programmes within safe and respectful environments for all attendees and participants to share knowledge and express thoughts and opinions.

We ask all attendees of events and participants within programmes to act in a manner that is respectful of people in a public environment, be it gender, age, sexual orientation, disability, race or religion.

We will not tolerate harassment of any participants, attendees, CHQ staff and contractors, MCs, speakers or anyone else involved in any form. Nor will we tolerate any behaviour that would lead to anyone being made to feel unsafe, insecure, judged, frightened and unwelcome – you are to conduct yourself as you would in any professional setting. Any person who is seen to be violating the Code of Conduct will be expelled from the event or programme.

What good behaviour looks like

Everyone’s wellbeing is paramount. Your interactions with the startup ecosystem should be positive and supportive and this should extend to your relationships with all programme participants and providers (the founder, the programme managers, partners, coaches, mentors, advisors and investors). 

Below are some examples of what good behaviour looks like:


  • Programme providers should genuinely want to see the participants do well and actively look for the potential in their idea or problem to solve.
  • No one has to change who they are as a person to get where they want to go.
  • Professionalism should be present in every engagement e.g. using positions of power or authority to impact an entrepreneurship journey will not be tolerated.
  • All programme providers should advise and challenge the participants in a manner that demonstrates respect for people.
  • Treat each other as you would like to be treated – which may be different to how you have been treated in the past.

Tikanga Māori

Tikanga Māori is a set of binding principles, beliefs and traditions practised collectively by Māori whānau, hapū and iwi since time immemorial. The word tika means ‘correct’, ‘just’, ‘decent’ and ‘honourable’ in te reo Māori, and so tikanga is considered ideologically as the right way to do things. This accordingly guides and constrains all aspects of Te Ao Māori and Māori life, including social relationships and ceremonies, moral behaviour, economic activity and so on.

  • Programmes which promote the application and exploration of mātauranga Māori should prioritise a tikanga Māori approach by providers,investors and mentors.
  • You are not expected to fill the role of a cultural capability builder for mentors, investors or programme providers.
  • You should never have to accept terms or conditions of investment which compromise the integrity of tikanga Māori.

As tangata whenua, Māori are the kaitiaki, or custodians, of mātauranga Māori.

The interconnected nature of kaitiakitanga and whakapapa means Māori have the right to protect and secure the integrity of tikanga and mātauranga.


  • Your world views and perspectives are acknowledged and respected.
  • Your cultural realities and contexts are considered holistically as part of who you are.
  • The process to engage in a programme is fair and considerate to your needs.


  • Startup terminology is explained clearly and you are empowered to ask questions.
  • Intentions and expectations are clearly communicated to you, with no hidden agendas.
  • We do not gatekeep relationships with investors and mentors that programme participants have built through their networking or other connections.
  • Our programmes may match programme participants with mentors, advisors and investors and these should be a good fit for them. It is okay to ask about the logic behind these matches.
  • Programme participants  are given an opportunity to provide feedback at the end of the programme and feel safe doing so through mechanisms such as anonymity and clarity of process.
  • Conditions of advice or investment are clearly communicated and are explained in ways which are easily understood.
  • Everyone should feel comfortable to be open and honest about team dynamics and progress.
  • Everyone should feel comfortable to be open about statistics and metrics when communicating with stakeholders.


  • Investors are responsible for their own due diligence process. They are aware investing in an early stage startup is risky. If they are new, they are to seek advice from investment advisors.
  • Programme participants are responsible for their own due diligence on investors and are empowered to seek independent advice to ensure they make the best decision for their business.
  • It is part of each of our programme’s duty of care to ensure everyone feels safe with the ecosystem partners we introduce them to, such as investors and mentors. If anyone experiences any issues, we will support them and take appropriate action in consultation with them.


  • Programme participants are empowered to decide whether to pitch for investment or wait. If investment isn’t the right decision for them at the end of a programme, this decision is respected.
  • Failure can go hand-in-hand with the entrepreneurial journey. This is when the ecosystem supports people. It can be a really difficult decision to pivot, exit or shutdown a startup. This is when the ecosystem should rally around the person.
  • Programme participants should feel safe to communicate major changes to their startup, including shutting it down or pivoting.
  • There is no pressure to work with a particular investor if the programme participants believe it is not a good fit.

Examples of encouraged behaviours

  • Respecting ALL of your fellow participants and attendees regardless of backgrounds, different experiences and viewpoints
  • Showing a degree of empathy to all participants and attendees
  • Using welcoming and inclusive language
  • Keeping the goal of the programme or event at the forefront of your mind…we are doing this to create positive change
  • Being kind, encouraging, welcoming, supportive, team players and professional.

What unacceptable behaviour looks like

Unacceptable behaviour can come in many different forms. The types of harm we are all looking to avoid and reduce through the Code of Conduct are behaviours which negatively impact those around us in our startup ecosystem.

Some types of behaviour have legal ramifications, such as bullying, harassment, violence and aggression. These types of behaviours are summarised below.

If a suspected criminal act has been committed, the appropriate response is to contact the police.


Bullying is repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards a person or a group which creates a risk to safety and health. ‘Unreasonable behaviour’ means behaviour that a reasonable person, having considered the circumstances, would see as unreasonable; behaviour that is victimising, humiliating, intimidating or threatening.

Comments or actions might include things like:

  • abusive, insulting or offensive language or comments,
  • aggressive and intimidating conduct,
  • belittling or humiliating comments,
  • victimisation,
  • practical jokes or initiation,
  • unjustified criticism or complaints,
  • deliberate exclusion
  • spreading misinformation or malicious rumours.


Sexual, racial or other harassment that is one-off, repeated or continuous. Anyone can be harassed for any reason including gender, age or background. Harassment can create a hostile environment and impact a person’s sense of safety. Harassment can take many forms including threats, abuse, insults and taunts resulting from discrimination.

Physical, verbal or visual conduct (which can be written or spoken) might include things like:

  • material sent by email, SMS or put on a website, blog or on social networking,
  • verbal abuse or derogatory comments,
  • intrusive personal questions,
  • offensive gestures,
  • initiation ceremonies that involve unwelcome and unsafe behaviour.
  • offensive comments or jokes, insults or taunts based on a person’s gender, sexual orientation, race or other characteristic.
  • repeated or inappropriate advances in-person and/or online.
  • sending unwelcome pictures, content and messages of a sexual nature.
  • unwelcome physical contact, including unwanted touching, hugging, cornering or kissing.
  • actual or attempted rape or sexual assault.

Violence & Aggression

Violence and aggression covers a broad range of actions and behaviours that create a risk to safety and health. These are actions or behaviours that may physically or psychologically harm another person. Violence and aggression can harm both the person it is directed at and anyone witnessing it. Physical assault or the threat of physical harm of any form is a criminal act.

A few examples:

  • Abusive behaviour, including psychological, written or verbal assault.
  • Intimidating behaviour that might create a fear of violence, such as stalking or threatening to cause physical harm.
  • Any form of physical assault, which might include things like biting, spitting, scratching, hitting,kicking, punching, pushing, tripping, throwing objects.


The Human Rights Act 1993 protects people in New Zealand from discrimination in a number of areas. Discrimination occurs when a person is treated unfairly, or less favourably, than another person in the same or similar circumstances.

Harassment, bullying or violence could be due to discrimination on the grounds of:

  • age
  • race or ethnicity
  • sexual orientation
  • disability
  • religious or ethical beliefs
  • marital or family status
  • employment status
  • difference of opinion
  • other

Raising concerns

If you are experiencing any unacceptable behaviours or notice anyone else experiencing harassment or are unsure but are concerned, please contact the GM Startups, your programme manager or the GM People.

It is imperative that ‘unwanted behaviours’ are reported early so the organisers can address the matter immediately and take appropriate action.

The events and programme teams will happily help participants to engage local law enforcement or additional support where necessary throughout the duration of the programme or event. All reports of ‘unwanted behaviour’ will be strictly confidential and will remain anonymous, the safety and well-being of our participants, attendees and team are of paramount importance to us and respecting your privacy is vital to us.

If your programme is funded under Callaghan Innovation’s Founder and Startup Support programme participants have access to a confidential and independent service to support them in navigating potentially harmful situations. If you are currently in one of these programmes you would have received more information via email. If you want to access this service you can search your emails for ‘Confidential and independent support service’ or ask your programme manager.

Need to talk?

For immediate and free assistance from a trained counsellor:

Call or text 1737

Call 0800 LIFELINE (0800 543 354),

Text HELP (4357) or

Call Suicide Crisis Helpline 0508 TAUTOKO (0508 828 865)

Check out a list of helplines and other resources available via Mental Health Foundation.


This Code of Conduct is based on Callaghan Innovation’s best practice for Startup service providers: