About Us

Nau mai, haere mai and welcome to Ministry of Awesome.

We are a force for the high-growth startups and innovators of New Zealand.  We provide startups with the advisory support, mentorship, community, and connections they need to succeed.

Ministry of Awesome is headquartered in Christchurch, Canterbury – New Zealand’s newest city where the sheer number of high performing tertiary institutions, crown research institutes, dynamic tech scene, and quality of life combine to provide fertile ground for high growth startups and entrepreneurs.

We are a team that punch well above our weight thanks to our passion and belief in the incredible people that make up the New Zealand startup and innovation ecosystem.  We believe strongly that the future success of our country relies on these innovators and startup founders whose vision and ambition will change our world for the better.

In late 2018, we began a joint venture with Ara Institute of Canterbury later joined by ChristchurchNZ in August 2020, where together we founded Te Ōhaka – Centre for Growth & Innovation – a city centre high growth startup hub which brings together the tertiary community with innovators, commercial partners, and investors for maximum collaboration, output, and impact.  In January 2022, we began our partnership with HTK, an organisation who grow and accelerate Maori and Pacifica startup and innovation potential.  Most recently, in July 2022, together with HTK, we partnered with Callaghan Innovation to deliver our unique high growth startup capability building, incubation, and acceleration programming across New Zealand.

Our People

We are an international team of diverse backgrounds and experience with a passion for the startup and innovation community uniting us all.

Marian has been leading the Ministry of Awesome team since late 2017 helping to drive a dynamic startup and innovation ecosystem that will power NZ’s future success. Marian is deeply passionate about engineering the serendipity required for a successful Kiwi high growth startup community - driving collaboration between founders, investors, government, talent, and corporates. through MoA and their ChristchurchHQ and startup hub Te Ōhaka. Previous to her role at Ministry of Awesome, Marian spent 15 years developing and executing marketing and business growth strategies for software and tech startups in NZ as well as with Universal Studios and Discovery Networks in the US and Europe.

Marian Johnson

Chief Executive Officer

Zach is our Head of Programmes responsible for developing and managing the impact of our startup and innovation product. After spending two and half decades in the Valley immersed in and surrounded by entrepreneurship and innovation, he is incredibly well equipped to helping Aotearoa's startup sector realise its potential as a unique and powerful incubation nation.

Zach Warder-Gabaldon

Head of Programmes

Jeffrey is Programme Director for Ministry of Awesome's Founder Catalyst incubator programme where he is responsible for delivering our startup incubation programme to ambitious founders in New Zealand. Before joining Ministry of Awesome, Jeffrey was already an active part of the NZ and global startup ecosystem as a global startup advisor. He was also the Programme Director for Creative HQ’s Lightning Lab Tourism Accelerator in Christchurch as well as the VP of Operations at Taiwan Startup Stadium (TSS) where he supported the launch and development of over 130 startups in various verticals and worked with over 400 investors.

Jeffrey Ling

Programme Director

As the Head of Marketing and Community for the Ministry of Awesome, Ben is responsible for overseeing all marketing efforts, including brand management, digital marketing, and social media strategy. Additionally, he is dedicated to building and fostering a vibrant and engaged community around Te Ōhaka, ensuring that all users feel connected.

Ben Erskine

Head of Marketing and Community

Anjali Budhia is Ministry of Awesome's Digital Marketing Coordinator constantly growing our community, storytelling on behalf of our founders, and generally making sure that our entire sector are connected and availing themselves of every opportunity possible.

Anjali Budhia

Digital Marketing Coordinator

Katie is the Executive Assistant at Ministry of Awesome. As well as this she is also helping out the Founder Catalyst residents ensuring that our community is well-stocked and well-served as they grow their ventures together. Katie is a trained accountant and drama activator who has just immigrated with her husband, Keaton, to NZ from Nebraska USA.

Katie Eisenmenger

Executive Assistant

Georgia Lee

Programme Manager, Electrify Accelerator

Board of Trustees

Originally from Christchurch, Dale has over 20 years’ experience in senior leadership roles to CEO level in the business world. He has worked in leadership roles in Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore. He has also had senior leadership roles at government agencies including the Ministry for Māori Development, Ministry for Primary Industries and the Ministry of Fisheries. At New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, Dale is the Director Māori Partnership steering the organisation’s treaty partnership and interaction with Māori export organisations. He has travelled extensively to promote New Zealand businesses including participating in numerous trade delegations to Asia, North America and Europe. Dale holds degrees in policing, business management and Te reo Māori, a Master’s degree in public policy and a Master’s in law.

Dale Stephens

Trustee & Chair

James is a product development consultant with 20 years working product marketing, entrepreneurship, and intrapreneurship. He previously co-founded and was CEO of Startup Queenstown Lakes with a responsibility to build the local community, develop and oversee entrepreneur and investor programmes, and to establish a role for the District In the national startup ecosystem. He’s a mentor and organizer for Startup Weekend, mentor for Te Ōhaka and MoA's Founder Catalyst incubator, and an early stage investor.

James Burnes

Trustee & Interim Head of Marketing and Community

Paul has 30 years of commercial experience across hi-tech companies of varying stages and sizes (start-ups to multi-nationals). Paul is an investor, coach and adviser within the hi-tech ecosystem. Paul has held senior management and executive roles in a range of businesses. He is passionate about helping inspiring Kiwi Tech companies be successful.

Paul Claridge


Claire's passion is in providing opportunities in industry & network development, education and investment, for learners of any age. She has been actively involved in innovative technology commercialisation and investment over her career to date, with a recent shift over the past eight years into governance roles and a range of projects and roles in the New Zealand Maori economy and with youth. Claire is from Te Arawa/Ngati Pikiao and her academic training is a PhD in Molecular Microbiology and an MBA from Otago University (Dunedin, New Zealand).

Dr. Claire McGowan


Jenni is a Chartered Accountant and an Associate Director at EY, specialising in helping privately owned businesses, entities and individuals with their financial, accounting and taxation needs. She is passionate about supporting business growth and seeing entrepreneurs succeed. Jenni comes with over six years of governance experience through her role as a board member for the Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce and has helped to build the professional services partnership between EY and MOA. Jenni has a science and commerce degree and a past career in IT business development through roles held in Wellington, Auckland and London.

Jenni Callaghan


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