Who We Are
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.
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.
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.
Chief Awesome Officer
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.
Startup Incubation Manager
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.
Tri is our marketing manager with a background in digital marketing, lean startup and product management. In 2017 he co-founded an e-commerce business with his sister and grew that to >$400k NZD annual recurring revenues, all through organic traffic. He also led a crypto company ICO project which raised ~$3M USD; and a back-to-back winner and runner up of Startup Weekend. Tri shares a deep-seated passion for lean startups, especially around the realm of digital marketing and growth hacking.
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.
Sarah joined Ministry of Awesome in June 2020, having previously worked at the Mental
Health Education and Resource Centre. She graduated with a Bachelor of Applied
Management at Ara Institute of Canterbury at the beginning of 2018. 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.
Community and Events Coordinator
Before starting his own cross-border venture building side gig and later running the Creative HQ’s Lightning Lab Tourism Accelerator, Jeffrey was 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. As a veteran in the Taiwan startup scene, Jeffrey has also built his own legal startup and helped grow 2 Korean startups (enterprise SaaS and travel tech respectively). Before that, he also spent 10 years as a legal professional, both law firm and in-house.
Te Ōhaka Incubation Manager
Board of Trustees
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.
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.
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.
Rachel is passionate about helping people reach their goals. She has 20 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 founder of aRc intellectual property which is a boutique law firm helping people get the most out of their clever ideas.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Kris leads the corporate, technology, and startup advisory team at Parry Field Lawyers. He is an expert in business structuring and IP law.
Steven works with the Corporate and Commercial team at Parry Field Lawyers, he has extensive experience in working with startups.
Nicola is an expert in media and marketing strategy and works with global clientele. She is the founder and Creative Director of Tanker Creative.
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.
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.
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.