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.

We are located 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 our 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.

Our People

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

Marian Johnson 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. Marian believes that increasing participation in NZ’s high growth startups will grow our country’s global relevance and help us attain a sustainable and high value economy. 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 Awesome Officer

Jeffrey Ling is Head of Startups at Ministry of Awesome where he is responsible for designing and delivering our startup incubation programme to anywhere from 20-30 startups over the year. 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

Head of Startups

Jacob is our Head of Innovation and leads our corporate innovation and startup education programmes. He is passionate about delivering innovation programmes that can positively impact NZ's future. Before joining MoA, he was an investment banker and is passionate about entrepreneurship. He loves to work with young entrepreneurs and new businesses and is an Economics graduate with a Post Graduate Diploma in Business.

Jacob Varghese

Head of Innovation

Sarah is in charge of building the MoA community through our startup hub, Te Ōhaka, and through 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 Lead

Jameela is our marketing lead with experience in startup growth marketing, digital marketing, and brand development. She has a Masters Degree in Strategic Communications earned from University of Canterbury and has developed her professional capability at both startups and enterprises in New Zealand and her native Sri Lanka.

Jameela Jamal

Marketing Lead

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

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


Rachel has a passion for helping businesses protect and develop their most important asset - their awesome ideas. She has specialised in intellectual property law for more than 20 years, with roles including: 1) Assistant Commissioner at IPONZ - leading the trade marks examination team and running a project to align practices with IP Australia where possible; 2) General Counsel of an ASX listed New Zealand IP investment and commercialisation company; 3) UK Counsel for an international IT/IP company; and 4) senior solicitor roles in IP law firms in New Zealand and the United Kingdom. During her career, Rachel has become well aware that every single business has IP that they should be using and commercialising. Rachel’s aim is therefore to make IP law accessible to everyone with options for varying levels of skills and budgets.

Rachel Triplow


James is a product development consultant with 20 years working product marketing, entrepreneurship, and intrapreneurship. He leads Startup Queenstown Lakes as Chief Executive, 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, organiser of Tourism Tech Expo and is currently helping develop the South Island-wide startup ecosystem partnership.

James Burnes


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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