The University of Auckland’s Venture Lab incubator programme continues to nurture and support aspiring entrepreneurs, as the latest cohort wraps up their six-month experience with great success. Their learnings were shared at a recent showcase event held for the University’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. 

Venture Lab is a programme run at Waipapa Taumata Rau, the University of Auckland. Administered by the Business School’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE), this initiative plays a crucial role in helping the winning teams from CIE’s Velocity $100k Challenge continue to turn their start-up ideas into real-world ventures. 

While the weather outside was cold, the energy in the room for the Venture Lab Showcase 2023 was warm. It was an evening to celebrate the journey and growth of the entrepreneurs and their ventures, as their time in the incubator came to an end. Each team showcased how far they had come and where they are heading during a short presentation. It was also a time to give thanks to all the CIE team and VentureLab managers for their ongoing support of the programme.  

The success of the Venture Lab programme owes much to the dedication and expertise of the Venture Lab managers and entrepreneurial experts Ken Erskine and Duncan Ledwith. Through their vast business knowledge and unwavering support in weekly mentorship meetings, they kept the teams’ morale high and their momentum going. 

Reflecting on the experience, Alexandar Majstorović, CEO at OutThere Astronautics, expressed the team’s appreciation for the weekly mentor meetings, “Having an hour with someone to guide us with their years of experience (as well as a cheery face!) helped to make sure we focused on the most crucial aspects of growing a business. Ken also kept us positive with his funny anecdotes and analogies!” 

Jasmine Gray, Co-founder of Let’s Talk Consent, wholeheartedly agreed that the Venture Lab support received was one of the most valuable parts of the Velocity $100k prize package “I was constantly amazed at the generosity our mentors and the Velocity Team offered in terms of their time, connections, and pastoral support on our ventures.”

The mentor-venture relationship was clearly mutually cherished, as Ken Erskine expressed his joy in another year of guiding young start-ups. He delighted in the diverse range of ventures he had the opportunity to be involved with, from dealing with the lofty heights of outer-space and laser communication with OutThere Astronautics to discussing the very down-to-earth problem of nit eradication with iSpy nit detection kits, and then diving into the technical intricacies of neurosurgery with last year’s Velocity $100k overall winner, Neurofanos. 

A unique and positive aspect of Venture Lab that resonates with teams every year is the collaborative nature of the incubator, where five different start-ups share a common experience. “It can feel quite isolating like you’ve got this great burden that not everyone can understand. So, it was refreshing and inspiring to work alongside other groups that are facing the same struggles, and equally as exciting when they overcame them!” expressed Alexander Majstorović.

For Kate Ricketts, Founder of ISpy, it was the exposure and access to different members of the investment and entrepreneur community during the programme that was hugely advantageous “As a result, we were able to gain access to chemistry labs in the university, which was a huge win!” 

Programmes, such as Venture Lab are critical for helping the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship to achieve its goal of developing a pipeline of innovative and entrepreneurial talent.  CIE Programme Manager, Judith Marecek, describes the Venture Lab as a necessary and important element of the $100k prize package. “The Venture Lab incubator helps to scaffold the ongoing development of the winning $100k Challenge ventures, which in turn leads to an increased focus, perseverance and chance of success.” 

Reflecting on the showcase evening, Venture Lab participant Kate Rickett, described it as “A wonderful wrap-up to a very hard but rewarding six months – to be able to share our progress without the stress of competition made it a real evening of celebration for us, whanau, and friends.”