A Christchurch startup incubator has teamed up with Australian venture capital company Blackbird Ventures to promote the importance of women startup founders in New Zealand.

The Ministry of Awesome (MOA) is co-hosting the Electrify Aotearoa event in Christchurch with Blackbird on Oct 14, with speakers including Sharesies co-founder Brooke Roberts, My Food Bag co-founder and ex-Telecom chief executive Theresa Gattung, and minister for research, science, and innovation Megan Woods.

MOA chief executive Marian Johnson hopes women at every stage of their career will attend. 

“It is wide open for people who might be considering a future in a startup who might have an idea, all the way through to people who are running a successful startup and are beginning to scale globally,” she told BusinessDesk. 

“The whole point of this, the whole goal is to really shine a light on women-led startups with a view towards creating those role models and that storytelling. This really kind of falls into that whole theme of ‘you cannot be what you cannot see’.”

MOA is expecting more than 350 attendees.

“It's wide open to women founders, but we also expect many men to attend, non-binary to attend. It's really a celebration and a festival, which is essentially around telling those stories, encouraging our women founders to connect, and getting as much support as possible as we can around them.”

As well as speakers there will be masterclasses run by Australian startup accelerator Startmate, NZ Growth Capital Partners, Rob Vickery’s early-stage fund Hillfarrance, NZTE, and ArcAngels, Icehouse Ventures’ fund for female entrepreneurs. 

MOA is a not-for-profit that since May 2019 has run the Te Ōhaka incubator programme with Ara Institute of Canterbury. 

Johnson said Ara brings in work-focused people from its engineering school and tech graduate pool, who MOA then pairs with appropriate startup founders to build fledgling company teams.

There are currently 34 startup founders involved. Incubator graduates include aviation fog company Pyper Vision, auto industry parts marketplace Partly, and school wellbeing platform Komodo. 

“It's not sector specific. It's really just stage specific, and if you've got that global ambition, and you've got that capability, and you've got that point of difference that is an innovation, that is 100% scalable, then you're who we want to be talking to,” Johnson said. 

She said since it began, Te Ōhaka startup members have raised $7.2 million in early capital and added 110 full time jobs to Christchurch, not including people in founding teams

“One of the main barriers to success is the fact that … we've been a bit slow as a country to catch on to what is a high growth startup.

“A lot of organisations, a lot of ventures have kind of been powering forward, I won’t say 100% on their own, but without that great community behind them where it’s just a given that this is just what they're doing: it's okay to fail, it's okay to dream big, and there's all these interested people around them who want to help them along their way.”