metropol » Ministry of Awesome

Tag: Ministry of Awesome

The Influencers: Marian Johnson

Ministry of Awesome Chief Awesome Officer

In case readers aren’t aware, Ministry of Awesome enables and supports high growth entrepreneurship and innovation in Christchurch and, increasingly, across New Zealand.

Why is this important? Because our city, our country and the world are undergoing a massive period of transition, stemming from the rapid uptake of technology, globalisation and the urgent requirement to live, work and produce sustainably.

With this rapid change comes incredible opportunity to disrupt and innovate. Enter the startup.

The biggest challenge Ministry of Awesome and other startup hubs in New Zealand have had is accessing a talent pipeline of potential startup founders. COVID has changed that with a national talent pipeline of more than 260,000 capable Kiwis suddenly unemployed, grounded from OEs, and newly returned.

Imagine if each of them became founders of high growth startups with global ambition? Our startup and innovation ecosystem would explode and future New Zealand would be assured of its world-first innovations and high value jobs.

We know that startup life is not for everyone. Many of us Kiwis are entrepreneurs but only a fraction of us are startup founders.

The difference between a small business and a startup is that the latter generally has an innovation at its heart and an ambition for rapid global growth.

While small businesses contribute some 30 percent of New Zealand’s GDP, it is startups that will have a more permanent impact on the future economic landscape of our country.

Yes, COVID has thrown us a lemon but there’s no time like the present to make startup lemonade.


The Influencers: Marian Johnson


Ministry of Awesome Chief Awesome Officer

What a weird month April 2020 was. By the time you read this, we are hopefully emerged from our respective bubbles.

It’s hard to think of any event as universal as this experience and there won’t be a single Kiwi amongst us who hasn’t been affected in one way or another.

Yes – economic predictions are for stormy weather ahead but there are also some incredible opportunities peeking out from behind those clouds.

Firstly, anyone at any organisation that has managed to successfully work through April now knows that remote working is entirely possible and, for many, might even be more desirable.

Think of how that realisation – once the penny has fully dropped – could redefine our workforce, our property market, our reliance on fossil fuel, our energy consumption and more.

Secondly, think of how technology and innovation enabled us.

Telehealth, tracer apps, Zoom, instant messaging, video workouts, Google Drive, Microsoft Teams.

Technology and innovation will also enable our recovery.

Tech is now New Zealand’s second largest export and this is only poised to grow with a renewed appetite for innovation across every sector.

Lastly, think of the impact April’s personal musings will have on our desire to change up our lives.

Many will not return to the status quo either because it no longer exists or because the status quo no longer feels like the right fit.

Whether it’s a career change, pursuing your dream startup, or renouncing rampant consumerism, change can be good for any and all of us.


Marian Johnson

The Influencers: Marian Johnson

One of the best parts of my job is getting to meet talented entrepreneurs and helping them succeed. And that’s exactly what the whole team got to do last week at the Pressure Cooker final of FoodStarter 2019 – a national competition looking for the most innovative food and beverage startups in New Zealand.


Ministry of Awesome Chief Awesome Officer

There were five talented startups who made the cut on Wednesday night from a total of 121 entries from all over New Zealand. The judging panel got to taste some seriously delicious vegan Kiwi Dip, the creamiest sheep’s milk yoghurt, flavourful vegan pastrami, dainty pre-biotic pudding, and the most amazing vegan sausage we have ever had the good fortune to experience. And – you guessed it – the winner was Ananda Simply Wholefoods with their spicy vegan sausage that was simply outstanding.

Locally sourced, plant-based, dairy and gluten free was definitely the theme of this year’s competition, nicely summed up by one of the competitors, Paul Seymour, whose presentation began with the statement ‘Veganism is the greatest social revolution in the history of the world!”

Ananda now goes on to win the $75,000 FoodStarter business incubation package whose main prize is the holy grail for most food startups – full distribution of their product across the Foodstuffs South Island retail network, courtesy of New World. They’ll also get a full brand review from Strategy Advertising, everything they need to scale to retail production from FoodSouth, and business mentorship and commercialisation how-to from our team at Ministry of Awesome.







Marian Johnson: The Influencers

If the theme of the last few months has been startup and innovation funding, then the theme of the last few weeks has been Celebration, with a capital “C”.


Ministry of Awesome Chief Awesome Officer

This month the business community is celebrating twice, with two phenomenal black tie events: the Westpac Champion Awards and the Deloitte Fast 50 Awards. Both awards show a nominee list replete with companies using innovation as a clear differentiator in their competitive sector.

At the Westpac Champion Awards, 15 fantastic organisations won for their category with three of those winners clearly targeting a global market with ‘born in Canterbury’ entrepreneurship and innovation.

Supreme Award winners Ethique – a zero waste beauty brand – and Taska Prosthetics – creators of the world’s first waterproof prosthetic hand, are targeting the lucrative US market.

Meanwhile, Medsaland have already had some success there; it has just opened up new markets in the US and the UK. Medsalv, the winner of the Businesses for Good category, has only recently emerged from the UC’s Summer Startup programme with their business that drives environmental sustainability in healthcare through recycling single-use medical equipment.

The second glittery business awards show set in Christchurch this month was the Deloitte Fast 50 awards which showcases the 50 top fastest-growing companies in our region. The award celebration was held at the Isaac Theatre Royal and – once again – the nominees feature recent startups and clearly underline the role that innovation is playing in our changing business landscape.







Marian Johnson: The Influencers

July saw an impressive bump of activity in the city’s startup and innovation ecosystem, beginning with a visit from Minister Megan Woods at one of our city’s young tech companies, Orbica (


Ministry of Awesome Chief Awesome Officer

After checking out Orbica’s location-based data platform, Minister Woods took the opportunity to announce an important update to the government’s research and development Tax Incentive scheme.

The update puts early stage startups in a better position by providing for a limited form of refunds in the scheme’s first year as well as providing a wider definition of research and development that ensures its application to tech startups.

Over at the airport, Lightning Lab’s tourism accelerator kicked into full gear with several startup teams from across the country quickly building their sustainable tourism ventures and preparing for the Demo Day on 20 August at the James Hay Theatre.

Another large scale national accelerator programme running from Christchurch is the NZ Aerospace Challenge which is looking for breakthroughs in agritech inspired by aerospace technology and data available from satellites and UAVs. The incubation programme for the semifinalists is running now and we are looking forward to seeing how far they’ve come in a few months’ time.

And – don’t forget to book your tickets now for the upcoming Canterbury Tech Summit. This year’s lineup is awesome with former CEO of Facebook Australia and New Zealand as well as the co-founder of Sharesies and Nigel Latta sharing the mainstage. See you there.





Marian Johnson: The Influencers

In support of our Government’s undertaking to invest two percent of GDP into research and development (R&D) by 2027, some excellent initiatives have emerged.


Ministry of Awesome Chief Awesome Officer

These include: a $300 million ‘fund of funds’ that will help New Zealand start-ups grow and scale; the research and development tax incentive scheme designed to reward innovation; and a $106 million injection into ‘green’ innovation. These changes will help drive an increasingly productive New Zealand economy.

The New Zealand Venture Investment Fund is committed to plenty of ‘fund of funds’ activity in the South Island – a commitment that we are keen to encourage and support through ongoing introduction of potential ventures and ensuring a steady pipeline of new start-ups with strong capability and focus in our city’s ecosystem.

That start-up pipeline is so important for the future of our city. Ministry of Awesome and Young Enterprise Scheme are working hard on that pipeline at a high school level while the University of Canterbury (UC) and Ara are identifying capable future start-up founders and teams through their own entrepreneurship programmes.

We are very excited to be working alongside the Ministry of Primary Industries to identify up and coming high growth ventures through our Startup Activation Sessions at Te Ōhaka in Christchurch and Blinc Innovation at Lincoln.

Check out and for more information on these and future sessions.




Marian Johnson: The Influencers

The last week of May was TechWeek 2019 and what a juggernaut of a week it was!


Ministry of Awesome Chief Awesome Officer

From Monday’s ‘Canterbury Tech’ event showcasing our city’s world class heathtech/medtech sector through to the launch event for Te Ōhaka – Centre for Growth and Innovation, TechWeek 2019 really showed how quickly our tech sector is growing and maturing.

The Te Ōhaka launch was officiated by the Honourable Dr. Megan Woods, Minister of Science and Innovation and we were particularly grateful to be joined by a few distinguished guests from across the ditch and as far away as Silicon Valley.

Te Ōhaka is based on the SETsquared business incubator shared by five universities in Southern England. In 2015, it was ranked as the top university-based business incubator in the world by UBI Global and by 2016, it had assisted over 1,000 startups and directly contributed roughly $11 billion NZD to the UK economy.

Like SETsquared, Te Ōhaka hosts and supports high growth startup companies, promotes intellectual transfer from learning institution to business, and guides tertiary students into successful entrepreneurship. It is based on Ara’s city centre campus and is strengthened by the 17,000 ambitious Ara students who are now poised to be part of this community.

Te Ōhaka is open to anyone working on a high growth business with potential global impact. If this sounds like you, check out the website and find out a little bit more about the community.






A culinary competition: FoodStarter

New Zealand’s most innovative and promising food or beverage product may be quietly lurking in a local farmers’ market now and, thanks to a new competition, this time next year it could be on New World supermarket shelves South Island wide.




The competition is the brainchild of Ministry of Awesome and Foodstuffs South Island who, along with some of the best experts in the business, will select a passionate business owner who has the drive and passion and an innovative, sustainable, on-trend product. The winner receives a package worth more than $95,000, but the biggie is the business acceleration package which includes the chance to set up a Canterbury manufacturing base and guaranteed placement of the winning product in New World supermarkets across the South Island.

Canterbury is a hot-bed of opportunity and business innovation, offering the perfect HQ for a high growth food and beverage entrepreneur’s bold ambitions.
Foodstuffs South Island CEO, Steve Anderson says FoodStarter provides the opportunity for someone to bring an exciting new product to market. “Winning products are not just born from big companies – innovative entrepreneurs and small businesses often disrupt the norm by creating products which have major success.

“What often holds them back is the inability to access the right expertise and inroads into the Foodstuffs co-operative’s distribution channels.” Entries close on 7 October with the search culminating in the Pressure Cooker event – a dragon’s den style selection process where the top five entrants will present to a panel of experts in hope of securing the top prize on October 31.


For more information, visit