Posts Tagged ‘Canterbury’

Finger Pickin’ Good

Friday, April 22nd, 2022

Joining a band can be a lot like doing a startup company. So there must be a little bit of bluegrass moonshine in the blood of banjo picking, guitar strumming Sean Whitaker who has played a part in developing a number of homegrown food and beverage brands in recent years. Now he’s advising companies within the ThincLab-Food South programme.

Sean has a diverse business background including running his own project management consultancy and providing leadership and tertiary training for project management practitioners. Having completed post-graduate degrees at both Lincoln University and University of Canterbury, Sean gained a wealth of experience delivering or advising on projects for major corporates as well as government sectors across New Zealand and Australia. At one point he was even involved in a collaboration with NASA.

Whitaker’s part-time role at ThincLab involves advising company founders on business growth and capital raising strategies. He’s been keeping busy with a range of companies from a truffle farm through to a vegan food manufacturer, with a particular focus on scaling for global growth. An appreciation for cultivating a global outlook was ingrained in Sean from an early age in fact, having grown up in a military family with postings within the multi-ethnic commercial hub nations of  Malaysia and Singapore.

When asked about how we can boost business across the region Sean points out that, “Canterbury is under appreciated as a home for great start-ups”. He’s a big believer in training and mentoring for early stage founders, including encouraging young entrepreneurs from secondary schools and university. Something that aligns well with the ThincLab Canterbury ethos. “Entrepreneurialism needs to be framed as a legitimate career and not just something that people fall into accidentally”, he says. He also thinks it’s time to rebrand the city of Christchurch from Garden City to the City of Innovation. Perhaps we could even do both?

Are you a founder of a growth stage business with global ambitions? ThincLab Canterbury is supported by ChristchurchNZ to provide free advisory to eligible companies on strategy, capital-raising and international growth. Contact ThincLab for more information.


ThincLab: A University Based Incubator Creating Unique Value

Monday, September 13th, 2021

ThincLab is Canterbury’s dedicated Founder Incubator supporting growth stage businesses with global ambitions. ThincLab sits alongside the University of Canterbury Centre for Entrepreneurship (UCE) within the UC Business School. Located on Level 6 of the wonderful Rehua Building on the UC campus, ThincLab is the only Founder Incubator located within a New Zealand university setting. ThincLab is uniquely positioned to provide capability building for founders and their teams, connection to industry experts and agencies and international pathways to growth and investment.

New firms face many challenges due to a lack of networks, resources, knowledge and experience. Consequently these companies face a higher risk of failure than more established firms. Business incubators are designed to help young companies to improve survival rates, maximise growth potential and gain new knowledge. In the case of university based incubators, companies in the programme receive the additional benefits of knowledge spillovers from intellectual property derived from academic research plus ready access to a stream of graduate talent.

Founder Incubators are specially selected business support providers co-funded by Callaghan Innovation, a publicly funded agency that provides research and development services and is involved in cultivating New Zealand’s innovation ecosystem. Founder Incubators welcome applications from any growth stage business within their region. Because of the support from economic development agency ChristchurchNZ, there is a particular focus on assisting high potential companies from within Christchurch. ThincLab also works with ventures emerging out of the University of Canterbury or from the Crown Research Institutes near the city that align with the regional Supernodes Strategy.

Kea Aerospace is a fine example of a company that has leveraged access to capital and talent through its involvement with ThincLab. Company co-founder Mark Rocket was one of the original founders of Rocket Lab, but started his own aerospace venture in 2020 with the help of Dr Philipp Sueltrop who had recently completed his PhD in Electrical & Electronic Engineering through the University of Canterbury School of Engineering. The company is developing a very high altitude unmanned vehicle for acquiring high resolution photographic images. Known as the Kea Atmos, the aircraft can fly for months at a time powered by solar energy.

Luke Campbell and Lucy Turner were still studying at the University of Canterbury when they entered the UCE Summer Startup Programme with their telecommunications startup VXT. Coaching support from ThincLab Growth Programme advisors assisted the company to raise a $600,000 seed funding round. Then the company began acquiring enterprise customers and building a young team of recent UC graduates to assist with developing the business further. VXT was subsequently accepted into Startmate, the pipeline accelerator for Australasian venture capital firm Blackbird Ventures.

Case studies such as these illustrate how a university based incubator such as ThincLab is strongly positioned to bring a unique and powerful range of resources and knowledge to bear for participant companies.

You can find out all about our people, our mission and the programmes we offer on the new ThincLab Canterbury website.