In 2016 Creative HQ ran the second GovTech accelerator, R9. This series documents the successes, challenges and progress of the ten teams that took part. 

The R9 Accelerator teams are getting started on their plans to make life easier for government agencies and businesses using them.

Tender Chat | Catherine & Natalie

What you are working on? We’re working on making tendering easier for both business and government. We want to improve how New Zealand government engages with the market and how New Zealand businesses respond to government market engagement.

Favourite thing you’ve learnt this week? We’ve love the type of environment that the R9 accelerator provides, and are embracing the challenge of shaking off our old processes and basically learning how to learn again in this new environment. And we are loving the access to mentor support!

What has been the most challenging thing so far? Two things – the first being finding the best way to harness and utilise the freedom that the R9 Accelerator provides. In government you are across 40 projects at once, and there are many processes to get each project across the line. With the R9 accelerator you are able to focus on one project. You gain access to many different methodologies and you can pick and choose the ones that suit your opportunity best. So making use of having freedom to choose the processes that work best for the idea has been the first challenge to get used to.

The second challenge has been getting used to the prototyping model (ie that the quick and dirty is ok for market validation rather than something polished and perfect).

MiBiz | Amy, Andy, Jonnie

What are you working on? The opportunity of starting businesses in New Zealand as a migrant; we want to help migrant businesses succeed. Our main objectives are: interaction with government made easy, and that more migrant businesses grow, succeed and are profitable through the use of MiBiz.

Favourite thing you’ve learnt this week? The marshmallow, spaghetti and string game run by Velox Innovation. Through this we learnt the importance of focus on designing your business around your customer, rather than the other way around. This activity got us thinking about how quickly can we test our riskiest assumption, and showed us that building things fast rather than going on assumptions allows you to test your MVP (minimum viable product) faster. Basically our key takeaway this week was; put the marshmallow on the spaghetti sooner.

What has been the most challenging thing so far? Knowing where to start. We’re working with massive problems and finding it hard to know how to funnel it down to give our attention to the most important and crucial problems. How do we manage the key relationships with stakeholders and who are the right people to start a conversation with first?

2Shakes | Ata, MikeTwo Shakes

What you are working on? We aim to remove the pain businesses have interacting with government by tailoring the interactions to suit the businesses. We’re leaning towards business having more visibility and control over their government interactions, with initial focus on the farming industry.

Favourite thing you’ve learnt this week? Playing the games that Velox presented, shone a light on how cautious we are and made us realise we need to take more risks and an accelerator programme is a place to work on that. The assumptions we make in business about the customer became apparent through this activity and showed us how rigorous we need to be in testing those assumptions. We were also able to look at how we perform as a team. It made us question what is safe and what is unsafe, what is comfortable and uncomfortable, how do we help each other out of our comfort zones to create a dynamic and efficient team?

What has been the most challenging thing so far? The ambiguity of the process – feeling like we don’t have much time is a bit stressful to start off with and finding our focus. Whilst there is a lot of freedom in the process it’s a double edged sword – how do we know if what we’re doing is the right thing for the business? We came to the conclusion that sometimes you have to take a punt and validate that punt.

Business Buddy | Chris, Jennifer, Preeti, JacquiBusiness Buddy

What you are working on? We want to make the exporting process simpler in New Zealand. We want to enable export to bigger markets and simplify the process by ensuring that exporters are provided with the right info at the start of the process and are put in touch with the right people when things go wrong.

Favourite thing you’ve learnt this week? We learnt so much this week! A few takeaways: Networking is important, the environment atmosphere at Creative HQ plays a key role in the experience of the accelerator. It’s all about creative collaboration and sharing, which comes across in the physical space not only the workshops. The innovation workshops were valuable and provided a good launch pad for startup knowledge. In particular the build, learn, measure and fail fast methods. Don’t wait until the end of the accelerator to get started. The importance of solution orientated thinking when talking to customers. Team bonding is important; looking at strengths and weaknesses, reflecting and calibrating.  

What has been the most challenging thing so far? We are finding it a challenge to get across all the suggested apps and platforms that we aren’t used to using but they are important in order to get connected in the space and with our team. Getting the contracts with R9 sorted because of government specifications, which is an important and necessary part of the process!

CoHelix | Nicole, Dan, Alex

What you are working on? We are working on enabling meaningful interaction between businesses and government in the area of regulation and compliance. We want businesses and government to be best buds, like us 🙂

Favourite thing you’ve learnt this week? We had heaps of validation around the importance of team fit and team culture from the speakers. The team is the most vital part of the 3 months in the accelerator! The panel of R9 Accelerator 1.0 participants suggested having fun instead of being serious, as a key to getting the most out of the programme. And that is something we really resonated with and will be keeping front and centre during the next 12 weeks! We’ve also really appreciated the diversity of talks, the different perspectives offered and the opportunities to build relationships with the other teams.

What has been the most challenging thing so far? The most challenging thing thus far has been finding a board for our kanban (to do, doing, done board) oh and resisting having more than two cookies a day – it’s early days!

Visard | Hao, Tatiana, Yuliya, PengfeiVisard

What you are working on? We’re working on making a mobile channel for immigration New Zealand visa applications. In other words ‘pocket immigration’. We want to be the first agency in the world to create a mobile guided immigration process!

Favourite thing you’ve learnt this week? The paper plane contest put on by Boost taught us how important teamwork is to the success of a team. The ‘lessons learned’ discussion by the panel of R9 Accelerator 1.0 participants from the previous year gave us real life examples and tips on how to make the most of the R9 Accelerator experience – how to overcome the confusion and how the worst down moments can turn into the best moments very quickly. This talk was so inspiring!  

The sales workshop with Glenn Andert was really thought provoking. We had to be open to the potential of finding a completely different solution to our problem and learnt about how being open to change is the only way to survive as a startup.

What has been the most challenging thing about the r9 accelerator so far? Consolidating all of the information from mentors and using this information to work on our project. Coming to terms with the more we know the less we know concept and that we may end up with a different outcome than we expect.

The Constructables | Jo, Sarah, Tui
The constructables

What you are working on? We want to help New Zealand owned, small/micro businesses in construction and related trade industries getting set up right from the start. Construction businesses are shown to have a high failure rate after 5 years and we think there is a key in working with the customers to solve this problem.

Favourite thing you’ve learnt this week? We enjoyed the ball challenge delivered by Velox Innovation. It was the turning point where the whole R9 Accelerator group really came together. This challenge displayed the importance of clarity in communication, healthy team interaction and how adventurous we could be as well as how much we could handle as a team.

Another highlight was Nick Churchouse with the lean canvas methodology, he gave us clarity around the lean tools and methods we could implement for ourselves.

What has been the most challenging thing so far?

The most challenging things for us have been; not being immersed in the building industry, juggling our day jobs (as they wrap up) and putting the learnings into practice, navigating through different working styles and utilising a different working style to that of our day jobs. Not knowing who our customer is creates a vagueness when sitting in workshops, feeling the pressure to know the problem but not knowing where to start.

Portalis | Connor, Ashlyn, Stefan

What you are working on? We want to make it easier for any business who need highly skilled employees to get visas/get them into the country, through accredited employer schemes and keep them here.

Favourite thing you’ve learnt this week? How important communication is; communication amongst your team, communication with all the people involved in your business and communication with stakeholders. Learning the process to building a business, with all the relevant time constraints. We loved the customer development session that was all about discovery, validation, creation and building. The learning style of the workshops, and how they have a very hands on, hit the ground running approach, with the vibe to get in and get amongst it.

What has been the most challenging thing so far? Our opportunity is simple and product based. Our biggest challenge has been figuring out to make it more than just a product, making it more a service and coming up with the process, policy and product that supports this. Talking to our agency – and working alongside the solution they see us providing. We want to balance this expectation with our data gathering and market validation process so everybody wins.

Spaceport |  Troy, Sarah, George
Spaceport (datacom)

Explain what you are working on in two sentences? Providing a way for importing businesses to quickly access their important business information/account balances with Customs NZ, anytime, day or night.

Favourite thing you’ve learnt this week? We’ve loved having a high level overview of the startup culture from Velox Innovation. This was a good first look at process, getting a new perspective on agile work and a way to get to know the other teams. Lots of new vocabulary to take on board enjoying this process of learning through the team. We had positive validating feedback at our first client meeting!

What has been the most challenging thing so far? Getting through the R9 Accelerator self assessment questionnaire with all 60 questions answered. We found the questions weren’t yet entirely relevant to the problem we’re solving yet, but may come with time.

Quicker Kiwis | Caleb, Ben, Varinder, Tony, George, GrantQuicker Kiwis

Explain what you are working on in two sentences? We are speeding up the process of getting frequent travellers through the airport faster, whilst successfully managing risk. Were doing this by digitizing the arrival card, speeding up processes around queuing and getting them through customs efficiently.

Favourite thing you’ve learnt this week? We’ve learnt so much in the first week; about the business process, the importance of team bonding, learning tools of the trade and how we’re going to successfully deliver our solution. It’s been cool having time after the sessions to process new information and calibrate, its a bit like walking through a lolly shop before buying the lollies. And we love that a suit and tie are not necessary in the process.

What has been the most challenging thing so far? Most challenging things have been; learning to communicate effectively as a team, developing internal comms skills before looking at external comms, figuring out what exactly were here for; knowing what our overarching goal is, having such a wide range of perspectives and coming up with a clear plan on where we can go as a team, pivoting in the first week, storming and forming, the size of the problem we’re solving and the daunting nature of that. Realising having all men on the team means we are missing a female perspective and that we will need to be conscious of this when working towards our solution.

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