It is not without a certain amount of irony that Lightning Lab’s biggest ever venture pivot turned out to be one of its most encouraging successes and a delight for the original investors who kept the faith. The Mish Guru founders entered Lightning Lab in 2014 and now after a ten year journey including setting up the business in New York, the company has recently been acquired.
Mish Guru is a storytelling application suite for Snapchat and Instagram Stories. It assists brands of all sizes to create and manage engaging Stories content, and track its performance through analytics tools. Mish Guru is used by some of the world’s biggest brands, including Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, and Spotify. But the original business concept was Cavaltech, producing 3D-printed horseshoes specifically made for individual horses. Fun idea, but it never got “traction” – see what I did there?
With reportedly over 750 million monthly active users on SnapChat alone and big brands hungry to get access, it’s little wonder that Mish became an acquisition target. So what’s the Canterbury connection? Thomas Harding, the original founder and CEO is a University of Canterbury engineering graduate, as were two of his founder team mates. Between stints shoveling silt after quakes with the Student Volunteer Army, he also found time to win the Entre Challenge in 2012. The seeds of entrepreneurship were certainly sown during his time at UC.
Incidentally, Mish Guru COO Connor Archbold went on to co-found brand tracking app Tracksuit, which was initially funded by Blackbird Ventures. Good entrepreneurs are rarely satisfied with retirement, so no doubt it won’t be too long before Tom Harding also turns his mind to another project. Despite the sceptics, this story provides actuality to the thesis that ecosystem initiatives, such as the Lightning Lab incubator (and ThincLab), can deliver real and multiplicative economic outcomes. We just need to tell those stories more often.
Paul Spence is an advisor, strategist and content author with ThincLab Canterbury. Supported by ChristchurchNZ, ThincLab provides business growth support and advice to University of Canterbury ventures and high value emerging companies from around the Canterbury region.