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 Christchurch NZ 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 forMinistry 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

Sarah is the MoA community builder starting with our in-person startup hub and encompassing our entire virtual community of more than 4500 startup founders, operators, investors, and supporters. She's also our event manager running multiple yearly events targeted at the startup founders and innovators of New Zealand. She is excited to be working in an innovative environment amongst people who are striving to develop positive new ways of doing business which is forward-thinking, sustainable, ethical and that will ultimately help shape and change the world.

Sarah Blair

Community & Events Manager

Jagdev is our Operations Manager. Prior to joining MoA, he ran operations and project management for multimillion-dollar projects at ABB, Schneider, and Connetics. He is passionate about the city and wants to help it flourish through its innovation ecosystem. Jagdev is a graduate of the University of Canterbury, holding a Bachelor of Science (majoring in Physics) and a Master of Business Administration.

Jagdev Sidhu

Operations Manager

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

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

Kaila is the co-founder and trustee of Ministry of Awesome, is the Curator of TEDxChristchurch, NZ Ambassador to Singularity University and the founder and director of New Zealand social media consultancy Missing Link. She is also a PMP® certified Project Manager, Chairman of the Board of the New York-based Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts, Deputy Chair of CORE Education Ltd, and a member of the Advisory Board for the Christchurch Transitional Architecture Trust.

Kaila Colbin

Co-Founder & Trustee

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


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