Renewable energy storage solutions, a new Saas tool for construction services, an indigenous experience travel enterprise and New Zealand’s first Māori power company, are among the startups set to reveal their progress tonight at the Kōkiri online Showcase.

Taking place virtually, from 7pm Thursday 6 August, the nine Māori-led startups making up the 2020 cohort of the Māori business accelerator programme, Kōkiri, will each give a presentation to introduce their business to fellow Māori entrepreneurs, business leaders and other business founders.

Kōkiri, is an accelerator programme designed to boost the development of Māori startups. The programme – which has been completed virtually this year due to COVID-19 – aims to create an environment which fosters increased business capability to ensure each business leaves the programme market ready.

To date, 19 Māori startups have benefited from the range of support provided throughout the programme, which includes mentoring and business workshops, initial funding, business resources and building connections with potential investors.

Sponsor MYOB has supported the programme since 2018. MYOB New Zealand Country Manager, Ingrid Cronin-Knight, explains that providing support for up-and-coming Māori businesses like those involved in the Kōkiri programme is vital to boosting their success, particularly at a time when support is needed most.

“Aotearoa is well-known for it’s startup culture – and indigenous culture – so it’s been wonderful to see the two come together in this programme, driven by entrepreneurs who are really proud of their cultural heritage and guided by their cultural principles.”

“It’s been fantastic to see them develop a range of incredibly innovative and thoughtful business ideas, most of which have the principles of kaitiakitanga and manaakitanga at their heart. The passion that they bring to their endeavours, plus the unique perspective they’ve applied through these principles to their business, is really something special we should continue to encourage, support and celebrate.”

RH Innovation – an R&D business founded by University of Waikato PhD student, Rahat Hassan, is one of the businesses participating in the Kōkiri programme as a member of the 2020 cohort.

Rahat and his team are currently developing an AI driven soil moisture sensor that can self-calibrate to any soil condition. This helps farmers optimise the timing of their irrigation and manage the application of nitrogen to the soil – a promising solution for water management for New Zealand’s agriculture and horticulture sectors.

RH Innovation

Rahat Hassan and the RH Innovation team are working to help farmers optimise soil nitrogen levels.

According to Rahat, Kōkiri has provided new perspectives and the opportunity to develop the business practice with world-class coaches and advisors who have helped to point them in the right direction.

“Kōkiri has provided us with a lot of business knowledge, which has been really useful for a team of engineers,” says Rahat.

“More recently, we have been working through our problem validation strategy, which has pushed us to find a good product-market fit. We’ve also learned more about some of the large gaps and opportunities in the Agri market, which has helped us to refine our decision making.”

The Kōkiri program has given Rahat the opportunity to create new connections with a focus on networking. He explains that an added bonus of the programme is the ongoing support that is available after the programme ends.

Ingrid Cronin-Knight explains that the business workshops, training, facilities and mentors provided by Kōkiri are geared towards making the startups both market-ready and sustainable.

“As we saw with the 2018 cohort, the participating startups come out of the programme confident and ready for the next step in their journey,” says Ingrid. “I have no doubt that those involved in the 2020 programme like RH Innovation will go on to develop their enterprises into successful and inspiring businesses which will help New Zealand thrive.”

The Kōkiri impact

The Kōkiri accelerator is based on kaupapa Māori values and aims to nuture the social, economic, cultural and environmental impacts of the Māori-led enterprises in the cohort.

For Lee Timutimu, being part of the 2018 Kōkiri programme opened up big opportunities for his business, Arataki Systems – New Zealand’s first proximity-based, cultural content delivery platform. Their application uses GPS, QR, geo-fencing and Bluetooth beacon technology to provide students and tourists with cultural stories and regional history, based on their location.

Lee says his team continues to see value from the time they spent with Kōkiri, an experience he believes provided the foundation for securing a number of high-profile customers, including the Department of Conservation, Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment, Ngāi Tahu Tourism and a number of regional councils.

“Throughout the programme, we were fortunate enough to hear from guest speakers from large Kiwi businesses and that gave us a great opportunity to network, use some of the skills we picked up from programme and build relationships that still stand today.

“We had no expectations going into the programme, other than getting to be around other Māori entrepreneurs, but we gained a lot of confidence to make those deeper industry connections and this has really made a huge difference to the growth and development of our business,” says Lee.

Lee is now passing on his knowledge to a new generation of Māori businesses – he is the entrepreneur in residence at Ahikōmako, where Kōkiri 2020 has been delivered.

For more information about the Kōkiri 2020 Showcase visit Kokiri.nz