Who We Are

Our Mission

Ministry of Awesome is the starting point for entrepreneurs, startups, and innovators in Christchurch. We deliver the support, guidance, capability training, and networks entrepreneurs need to succeed.

Entrepreneurs and innovators are key to Christchurch's successful future as the city of opportunity. And, for these change-makers, there is no better place to be than Christchurch, a city whose ambition is to lead in its approach to sustainability, innovation, and a collaborative economy.

Our Story

Ministry of Awesome was founded by the ambitious, forward-thinking team of Kaila Colbin, Sacha McMeeking, Sam Johnson and Vicki Buck with support from Grant Ryan, Jules Cone, Huia Lambie, Kimberley Gilmour, Jackson Rowland and the Rata Foundation (and many more!) as a way to make things happen in post-earthquake Christchurch. At a time when no one was looking, when people had ideas and room to play, we gathered together to activate our networks, break down barriers, cut through the red tape, and enable people to envision our inspiring future city.

7 years on and our city is now taking shape. There is a palpable feeling of transformation in the air and the city buzzes with newly arrived entrepreneurs, visionaries and innovators. Ministry of Awesome is the starting point for all of these change-makers and their early stage high impact, high growth ideas.

In late 2018 we moved to a new home in the new and high-profile Kahakura Building on the Ara Campus - a perfect bridge between students and the wider entrepreneurial community. 

Our Team

Marian Johnson

Marian Johnson is Chief Awesome Officer at Ministry of Awesome. She is an experienced senior executive with 20 years experience developing and executing marketing and business growth strategies for software and edutech startups in NZ as well as with entertainment multinationals Universal Studios and Discovery Networks in the US and Europe.She is passionate about the startup and innovation ecosystem in Canterbury and committed to its ongoing success.

Marian Johnson

Chief Awesome Officer

Pierre Malou

Pierre is Chief Operating Officer at Ministry of Awesome. Born in the South of France, Pierre has spent the last 18 years in Australia where he has developed ventures in biotechnology and big data. More recently he was the CEO of the Business Centre in Newcastle, an organisation supporting startups and the Australian innovation ecosystem. Attracted by New Zealand's strong push towards sustainability, biodiversity and social inclusion, Pierre is now calling Christchurch home.

Pierre Malou

Chief Operating Officer

Jacob Varghese

Jacob manages our incubation and accelerator programs. He was an investment banker before joining MoA and is passionate about entrepreneurship. He loves to work with young entrepreneurs and new businesses, particularly in digital technology, fintech, and transport sectors. He is an Economics graduate with a Post Graduate Diploma in Business.

Jacob Varghese

Startup Incubation Manager

Milena Pascuzzi

Joining us from Argentina, Milena recently landed in Christchurch and has found a new home at MoA. She has a background in event management and is currently involved in a fitness startup; she is passionate about entrepreneurship, community, traveling, and experiencing everything that her new hometown has to offer.

Milena Pascuzzi

Community & Events Manager

Vanessa Ortynsky

Since moving to Christchurch from Toronto, Canada, Vanessa has worked in-house as a digital marketer at creative agencies and as a freelance writer. With a background in publishing, she has now immersed herself in the ever-changing digital landscape and is excited to join the MoA marketing team in the vibrant central city.

Vanessa Ortynsky

Acting Marketing Manager

Tyler Culling

Tyler is currently studying a Bachelor of Applied Management in Entrepreneurship and Innovation through the Ara Institute of Canterbury. An aspiring author and passionate athlete, he aims to utilise his various creative backgrounds to foster better and alternative approaches to problem solving, both in the business world and beyond.

Tyler Culling

Awesome Intern

Lisa Martin

Lisa has recently moved to Christchurch and is very happy to make her first steps in the city alongside MOA. She has a social entrepreneurship background and has had the chance to work in very diverse cultural environments over different continents in Africa, Asia, and Europe. She is passionate about positive impact, people, and travelling. Lisa is excited to meet the creative minds of Christchurch and to discover more about Oceania!

Lisa Martin

Awesome Intern

Robin Smith

Robin has a background in healthcare, fitness, social entrepreneurship, coaching and mentoring. As a strong believer in holistic success and wellbeing, she has spent the last 8 years coaching and mentoring people to accomplish their goals. She is passionate about empowerment and challenging young people to think outside the box.

Robin Smith

Lab5 Facilitator

Board of Trustees

Lloyd Mander

Lloyd Mander is a successful entrepreneur with extensive experience in leadership and governance. He brings startup experience at all levels, from starting a company to taking it through a high-growth period to negotiating its successful sale. He also has governance experience in the not-for-profit sector, currently serving as an Independent Trustee of Ōtautahi Community Housing Trust, and volunteers with Business Mentors NZ and the Young Enterprise Scheme.

Lloyd Mander

Trustee & Chair

Kaila Colbin

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

Geoff Brash

Geoff is the founder of GBJ Innovation. GBJ is working with various organisations, entrepreneurs, and startup companies to help startups succeed in New Zealand. Prior to GBJ, Geoff was a co-founder of SLI Systems and held positions of CFO, VP of Marketing, and VP of Business Intelligence. Geoff is the Chair of Canterbury Software, a mentor and organiser for Startup Weekend, directed Lightning Lab Christchurch and holds an MBA from Massey University.

Geoff Brash

Trustee

Rachel Triplow

Rachel is passionate about helping people reach their goals. She has more than 15 years experience as an intellectual property lawyer in NZ and the UK, and has learned that innovators are often not aware of the details necessary for running an effective business. Rachel is currently working as General Counsel for intellectual property investment company Powerhouse, and is also founder of aRc intellectual property through which she helps individuals on a case-by-case basis.

Rachel Triplow

Trustee

James Burnes

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

Trustee

Mentors

Geoff Brash

Geoff is the founder of GBJ Innovation. GBJ provides support to startup companies by supporting the startup ecosystem, providing direct one-on-one startup support, and operating startup ventures of its own. Geoff is the Programme Director of the Christchurch Lightning Lab Programme, committee member and former Chair of Canterbury Software, Trustee of Ministry of Awesome, and Board member of Canterbury Angels. Geoff holds an MBA from Massey University.

Geoff Brash

Nick Burns

Nick is a technology company founder who built a multi million dollar international business and successfully exited to a Fortune 10 company 10 years later. Nick has extensive international experience in complex sales and trains and coaches entrepreneurs to achieve sales success.

Nick Burns

Kris Morrison

Kris leads the corporate, technology, and startup advisory team at Parry Field Lawyers. He is an expert in business structuring and IP law.

Kris Morrison

Steven Moe

Steven works with the Corporate and Commercial team at Parry Field Lawyers, he has extensive experience in working with startups.

Steven Moe

Nicola Devine

Nicola is an expert in media and marketing strategy and works with global clientele. She is the founder and Creative Director of Tanker Creative.

Nicola Devine

Kit Hindin

Kit is a serial entrepreneur who has over 20 years of experience in design and creative industry, including 17 years of running a design business and 5 years running and innovating a organic food business.

Kit Hindin

Neville Gollan

Neville is the Customer Manager (Digital) at Callaghan Innovation. He started his career in Information Technology as a system engineer and then sales. Neville has led the ANZ enterprise sales team at Trend Micro Inc and later became a member of the executive team and the company director for Sense of Security Pty Limited. The experience he has gained has emphasised to him the value that a culture of innovation and R&D can provide to an organisation regardless of their size.

Neville Gollan

Krista Pritchard

Krista Pritchard is a Business Coach to SMEs & start-ups and was the Service Lead for Lean Business Analysis at Assurity Consulting Ltd. She brings over 12 years of experience in understanding & communicating need, strategic & benefits analysis, & project leadership. She helps individuals & organisations better understand the value of initiatives so that they can prioritise and act in a way that drives benefit.

Krista Pritchard