ABOUT US

NAU MAI, HAERE MAI AND WELCOME TO MINISTRY OF AWESOME.

We’re 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 – New Zealand’s newest city where the sheer number of high performing tertiary institutions, crown research institutes, dynamic tech scene, combine to provide fertile ground for high growth startups and entrepreneurs.

We’re 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.

MINISTRY OF AWESOME 1.0

2012: Ministry of Awesome was founded by Kaila Colbin, Sam Johnson, Vicki Buck and Sasha McMeeking. It was an engine for collaboration around imagining and building a vision for Ōtautahi, which at the time was a city of rubble.

MINISTRY OF AWESOME 2.0

  • 2018MOA Began

    a joint venture with Ara Institute of Canterbury
  • 2019Te Ohaka

    MoA and Ara founded Te Ōhaka – Centre for Growth & Innovation
  • 2020ChChNZ

    ChristchurchNZ joined the partnership allowing MoA to launch Founder Catalyst, an early stage startup incubator
  • 2020Partnerships

    MoA began to partner with the likes of Foodstuffs, Ryman Healthcare and Orion Energy to deliver high-growth startup innovation programmes
  • 2020HTK

    MoA formed a partnership with HTK, an organisation growing Maori and Pacifica startup innovation
  • 2022Callaghan

    MoA and HTK partnered with Callaghan Innovation to deliver unique high growth startup capability building, incubation, and acceleration programming across New Zealand
  • 2022Electrify Aotearoa

    An annual women founders conference designed to address the founder and funding gap in NZ
  • 2022Electrify Accelerator

    The startup accelerator for New Zealand’s most ambitious women and non-binary high-growth startup founders
  • 2024Startup Aotearoa

    Startup Aotearoa fuels the entrepreneurial spirit by providing personalised one-to-one support for startup founders.

OUR TEAM

JAMES BURNES

Chief Executive Officer (Interim) | BOOK A MEETING

James is our interim Chief Executive, seconded by the Board of Trustees, to continue Ministry of Awesome's work to connect and build a unified and collaborative startup ecosystem across Aotearoa to support aspiring founders. A trustee since 2019, James has been a strong voice in crafting our strategic vision to build a globally recognized place for founders to thrive. The former co-founder and CEO of Startup Queenstown Lakes, numerous SaaS and services businesses, and an investor, James brings a diverse skillset to our efforts to build an effective environment for founder success.

MARIAN JOHNSON

Chairwoman - Electrify Programmes

Marian leads our Electrify initiative effort to support and affect a positive impact on the under-represented community of women and non-binary founders across New Zealand. She is deeply passionate about connecting, advancing, and advocating for wahine within Aotearoa's high growth startup community and as our former chief executive - driving collaboration between founders, investors, government, talent, and corporates from our Christchurch HQ 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. 

ZACH WARDER-GABALDON

Head of Programmes

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.

BEN ERSKINE

Head of Marketing and Community

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.

SIMON ANDERSON

Head of Partnerships

Ko Tainui tōku waka Ko Tararua tōku maunga Ko Ōhau tōku awa Ko Ngāti Raukawa ki te Tonga tōku iwi Ko Ngati Kikopiri tōku hapū Ko Simon Anderson tōku ingoa Hi. I’m Simon and I’m driven to support Aotearoa’s economy through better enabling our high potential founders and businesses at Ministry of Awesome. I am passionate about equity, economic development, culture and science translation and Deep Tech. As Partnerships Lead look forward to partnering with industry and institutions to support high quality commercialisation. Feel free to reach out to see how Ministry of Awesome can help support you.

JEFFREY LING

Programme Director

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.

TORI BALL

Operations Lead

Tori is the go-to person for keeping things running smoothly at the Ministry of Awesome. With a mix of experience from different industries like corporate, manufacturing, hospitality, and retail, she brings a lot to the table. Tori's all about making sure everyone's supported and empowered, and she's on a mission to create a super-organised and mega-productive work vibe for her team.

ANJALI BUDHIA

Digital Marketing Coordinator

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.

GALENO "G" CHUA

Startup Coach

Mr. G is a Strategist, Coach and Behavioural Change Analyst with over 15 years working experience with companies, NGOs and Governments throughout the Middle East, Asia, Central Europe and now New Zealand focusing on innovation across a range of industries. His award winning approach has helped organisations from the Crusaders, to Axiata to the United Nations improve their business and sustainability journeys.

JAMIE CAIRNS

Startup Coach

Jamie loves the cut-and-thrust of early-stage businesses, and is well aware of their pressures and challenges. Having led the growth of Snap from startup to national provider, co-founded data centre “The Colocation Company”, led the public listing of CropLogic and its entry into the US market, and driven TASKA Prosthetics into North America and Europe, Jamie brings a broad range of experience and a desire to help other NZ entrepreneurs on their own journey.

CHRISTELLE BLANCHET-AISSAOUI

Marketing Pro

Christelle has had twenty years of experience in marketing, innovation and technology. As fractional Chief Marketing Officer, she is exposed to a wide range of technology – from sensor technology, data analytics, streaming, AI to blockchain – and she loves it. Throughout her global career, she has led teams in the entertainment and tech industries and founded her own tech startup.

TIM NICHOLS

Marketing Pro

Tim is a experienced tech / SaaS / B2B CMO with more than 25 years' experience taking products to market all over the world. He has lived and worked in the US (2012/13) and marketed techology products all over the world.

JANE SMALLFIELD

Marketing Pro

Jane has been involved in marketing and PR for tech start-ups since the early 2000s. This includes running her own agency, working for government funded industry growth initiatives, as a senior account manager for Swaytech and in global marketing roles including VP Global Marketing for Invenco. Having co-founded Proxi in 2018, she has been working in the business since 2019 as a fractional CMO - but often filling the first marketing role in a start up environment.

DAVID MACKEN

Marketing Pro

Dave is a commercially savvy ‘product guy’ with specialist experience in commercialising and delivering new and unique propositions. His superpower is understanding target audiences and quickly communicating how products solve their problems. He has held senior product and marketing roles in technology businesses. As a facilitator, he can draw on his experience across all marketing disciplines to ensure any team can achieve the right outcome.

TALEI BLOMFIELD

Sales Pro

Talei has over 20 years experience managing sales and customer success. During this time, she has been lucky enough to work in some of Aotearoa's most successful start ups, from Vend to CIN7 to Serato. She has experience from the very early stages through to large exits. During this time shes learnt a lot about what doesn't work as well as what does.

CHARLOTTE REBBECK

Programme Manager

Charlotte is an entrepreneur, having founded Green Monkey, a successful baby food business, building strong connections with retailers. She also co-founded Noopii Eco Luxe Nappies, deepening her passion for sustainability and positive change.

CHRISTINA BALDARELLI

Programme Manager

Christina is a seasoned Product leader, driving global change in high-growth startups. Specializing in enterprise SaaS, B2C/B2B products, she aids startups from pre-seed to Series B, drawing on diverse experience.

BOARD OF TRUSTEES

DALE STEPHENS

Trustee & Chair

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.

 JAMES BURNES

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 is currently service as interim CEO for MoA while trustees search for our next chief executive.

PAUL CLARIDGE

Trustee

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.

JENNI CALLAGHAN

Trustee

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.

Values

The following values are fundamental to how we act, behave, and work. This means we hire and promote people who exemplify them as well as discipline and fire those who do not exhibit them or cannot adopt them. We’ve made them into a mnemonic so that they can be easy to remember: I CARE

Integrity

Our moral compass is always in our sights, our words are honest, and our actions always back them up.  We are principled, fair, kind, and courageous.  We seek to make a positive impact with others and in the world.

Collaboration

While it may be faster and easier to go alone, the power of working together will bring greater success and reward.  Mutual respect, clear and candid communication, empathy, and humility are critical inputs for successful collaboration as a high-performance team.

Accountability

We trust the intent and own the impact of our words and actions, regardless of their outcomes.  We have a strong sense of personal and professional responsibility.   Each member of our team holds themselves and their teammates to the highest standard in this regard.

Respect

We value the talent, skill, and positive attributes of all the people with whom we work.  We understand that diversity of thought and experience is critical for a successful organisation and value our differences as much as we value our similarities.  We support and empower our teammates constantly and - when there are differences - we seek always to provide immediate kind and candid feedback.

Excellence

We have high standards of performance and are constantly raising the bar and evolving as we learn.  We do not let these standards prevent us from experimenting and, at times, failing, but we always possess clarity of thought and a growth mindset. Similarly, we do not let our commitment to high performance affect our abilities to act quickly. We consistently seek personal and professional self-improvement.  As an organisation, our work output is known as the gold standard.

Together, these values represent our company culturing of caring. Caring for each other, caring for our startups, caring for our partners, caring about the work we do for the broader ecosystem. I CARE.