In the age of the Unicorn, what support are we giving to the foals?

Startups are at the heart of everything we do. Since 2003 we’ve been supporting founders in their entrepreneurial journeys. How can we support you?

Road Guru founder presenting in front of crowd

At Creative HQ, we have been supporting founders for yonks. Nearly 20 years to be exact. Over this time we’ve run a wide range of startup support programmes: from incubators to accelerators and things in between.

We’ve supported all kinds of founders, from different backgrounds, stages, ambitions, industries and team size.

Some founders come with just an idea. Others are further along the journey.

Some are solo-founders and others come with stacked-teams.

Some are looking to create impact by building technology-backed ventures that can scale globally. While others are looking to create a smaller, more local difference.

The common theme? Founders looking to create impact.

At Creative HQ, we are inspired by the founders we support. They challenge us to do better, be better. They keep us on our toes. Because of them, we constantly review the programmes we run and ask ourselves: are we providing real value or just getting in the way? What are the gaps in the NZ startup ecosystem? How can we better serve founders in Wellington and Aotearoa?

Every so often this process of introspection leads us to change things up and try something new. It led us to launch Lightning Lab in 2013, the first startup accelerator in New Zealand. It led us to create the Young Founders Incubator (formerly Venture Up), an initiative to expose our youth to entrepreneurship. It led us to launch the Climate Response Accelerator, a fast-paced programme giving equity-free grants to climate-focused founders. And once again, it’s led us to rejig one of our core offerings, our incubator. 

Because when you ask yourself hard questions, nothing is safe from change.

Tourism Design Accelerator cohort

The Incubator – what’s new?

The Incubator is a six-month online programme for New Zealand-based founders. Here’s what’s different from our current incubation offering:

Hybrid programme: join remotely or take advantage of our offices in the heart of the capital.

Wellington focused: While we know there are fantastic startup founders all around Aotearoa, our focus with the Incubator is on founders and teams based in Te Whanganui-a-Tara, Wellington and the surrounding region.

Cash grant: On entry to the programme, selected teams will receive $5,000 of equity-free funding. It isn’t your house deposit, but hopefully, it removes some of that stress of freelancing on the side for a month or two.

Focus on pre-seed: Our programme sweet spot is supporting you on your way to raising your first big round of investment. So, if you’ve already raised some money, this programme isn’t for you.

And, of course, all the other good stuff: Don’t worry, all the other good things from our programmes are still there: mentors, coaching, perks, access to community and more. 

Why the change?

The startup ecosystem looks different now than it did a few years ago when we first launched Lightning Lab. There are more programmes available, a proliferation of tools and resources, greater access to capital and more stories of founder success in New Zealand. This is awesome. NZ inc is rising and we love it.

So, where do we fit? Where’s the gap?

We know that structured programmes aren’t for everyone, and that’s OK. But we also know that there are many founders who aren’t quite ready for investment yet and who are looking for that space and support to be investment-ready.

We see an opportunity to focus exclusively on the pre-seed space, to help founders get to their first real capital raise. Because Creative HQ is not fund-backed, we see ourselves as a strong upstream partner to all, helping to raise the overall number of investment-ready founders in New Zealand.

Who are we looking for?

Interested in joining the Incubator? Register your interest now and we’ll get in touch when the new round of applications is open.

We are looking for:

  • Idea stage to pre-seed
    You haven’t raised anything yet. We’re talking seed or angel funding. As mentioned above, our sweet spot is to help you get to your first capital raise. While we can’t guarantee a successful capital raise, we will push you to validate your idea so you know whether or not you should keep going, or move on. 
  • From SaaS to biotech and everything in between 
    Whatever industry you’re from, we can support you and your startup. Over the last 17 years, we’ve had alumni from just about every industry imaginable – from gaming to fashion and robotics. 
  • Committed to the cause
    Our preference is for founders who are working full time on their startup. That being said, we understand that being able to work full time on something that isn’t earning you money is a luxury that not everyone can afford. We offer a starter investment grant of $5,000 to help you make that leap. If you’re working a job on the side to support your startup, that’s okay, but we do still expect you to turn up and to be engaged, both with the community and the programming set out for you.

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