Christchurch – a city that has had a pounding over the last decade – seems to be rising like the proverbial phoenix.

Not only has most of the earthquake rubble been replaced by a city centre full of laneways and whimsical charm, the city seems awash with a population hellbent on ambitious innovation resulting in some early stage startup successes such as Partly, Komodo, and Pyper Vision to name a few.

These three startups are all members of the first startup cohort team to enter the central city startup hub, Te Ōhaka – Centre for Growth & Innovation which was established in May 2019 as a partnership between Ara Institute of Canterbury and Ministry of Awesome. Te Ōhaka hosts 23 high growth startups in its first cohort and provides a nest for high growth startups and ambitious students to work together in building New Zealand’s future global success stories.

The team from aero industry startup Pyper Vision.

“We are really proud of what we’ve already achieved with Ara Institute of Canterbury and the success of our student and startup teams at Te Ōhaka. Almost every one these teams has raised significant seed or later stage capital, with just under $4 million attracted already from national and international investors,” says Marian Johnson, Chief Awesome Officer at Ministry of Awesome.

The commercial world has also leaned in to support these early stage startups and innovators. EY and Wynn Williams help lay robust foundations for new startups and provide mentorship and consultancy along their growth journey. Multiple investor groups are also supportive of the Te Ōhaka teams including Canterbury Angels as well as international venture capital investors such as Blackbird Ventures, Hillfarrance Ventures, WNT Ventures, and others.

Marian Johnson Chief of Awesome at Ministry of Awesome.

Already Ara has seen 5 of their students involved in high profile startup success such as with Tom Outram, James McArthur, and Tyler Culling who have worked alongside Pyper Vision – a startup developing a world first fog dispersal technology targeted at the global aviation industry. James and Tom helped Pyper Vision develop the drone’s dispersal system and data platform. Tyler, who completed a Bachelor of Applied Management at Ara, is now Pyper Vision’s project manager.

“It is a privilege for me to be a part of a startup that approaches problem-solving in the way that Pyper Vision does. To be at the forefront of innovation in the aerospace and transportation sector is humbling, considering I was a student less than a year ago. Being a part of this dynamic, fast-moving team and learning along the way is an invaluable opportunity for any graduate”, says Culling.

Pyper has attracted investment and is now going through civil aviation regulatory compliance testing in Australia in preparation for launch.

The next piece of the boomtown puzzle has just been inserted by ChristchurchNZ, Ministry of Awesome, Ara Institute of Canterbury, and the University of Canterbury. This puzzle piece is an ambitious three-year programme that staircases high growth startups through their business journey and includes incubation programmes, innovation challenges, business mentoring, and access to investor and commercial networks.

What do startups think of all this activity? We asked, Chris Bacon, Founder of Komodo, “Being part of a tight community with other talented teams going through the same experience as us has been a fundamental part of our success so far. We get an excellent level of support and we really wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”

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