NZ's Lightning Lab Strikes A Chord
They say lightning never strikes twice. But if New Zealand's first accelerator initiative for digital ventures takes off, it may set the standard for other such programmes to follow in the future. Lightning Lab is the newly hatched brain-child of business incubator Creative HQ and a group of enthusiastic advisors and investors based in New Zealand's capital city of Wellington.
Lightning Lab's bolt from the blue may have come at just the right time for the world's most southern capital. The city has weathered the brunt of government austerity measures of late and the surrounding region experienced one of the lowest economic growth rates in the country last year as corporate firms down-sized or migrated operations north to New Zealand's economic powerhouse Auckland. The creative capital has an ace up its sleave however.
Movie production, animation and software related services continue to confound the pessimists by delivering double digit annual growth. Avatar director James Cameron recently purchased a property a stone's throw from The Hobbit director Peter Jackson's own rural hideaway, as Wellington's movie, gaming and special effects industry cluster continues to churn out successive king hits. The region is now also home to a number of exciting growth phase Internet ventures making headlines on the world stage.
It's a fertile environment in which to launch a digital accelerator, but it may require some inspired tactical networking to fully leverage the locational advantage. The city's own technology based industries, entrepreneurs and academic institutions sometimes appear to struggle to connect even across town and Wellington is about as far as you can physically get from major global financial and consumer markets. That's where economic development agencies and the local city council need to get more aligned and engaged, say local entrepreneurs.
Lightning Lab, which also has co-funding from central government, will focus the region's sharpest angel investor minds on ten promising digital technology ideas, putting teams through a fully facilitated TechStars style paid programme to help budding digital entrepreneurs develop their ideas or fail fast. It's a bold move aimed at filling a gap in New Zealand's entrepreneurial ecosystem as investors grow increasingly hungry for globally scalable, high quality, early stage deal flow.
About the author
Paul Spence is a co-founder of innovative global domain registrar iWantMyName and one of the organizing crew for Startup Weekends in New Zealand. He also edits the New Zealand Startup Digest. You can tweet him @GeniusNet and you can read his blog at http://www.genius.net.nz/.
Paul has previously written in The Accelerator Gazette about the NZ startup scene: http://acceleratorgazette.com/content/migrants-add-fizz-bubbly-nz-capital-start-scene