Venture Up is a business accelerator that brings together the best young entrepreneurs (16-24) from around the country for an intensive six weeks, to form their ideas into businesses and learn from some of the best in the startup community. This builds up to a final Showcase, where we present our business to mentors, sponsors, investors and friends and family.
The last few weeks of the programme were a mess of emotion surrounding leaving, intense preparation for the showcase and trying to make the most of our time in Wellington. We were building our pitches, and desperately trying to tell our stories in five to six minutes. This was one of my favourite aspects of the programme - seeing my fellow entrepreneurs transform a rough pitch that they had to read straight from their slides to the polished masterpieces they presented at Showcase.
Venture Up was a bubble away from reality for six weeks, where we could be ourselves and let our passion for business loose on Wellington. It was an emotional rollercoaster for all of us, as we formed lifelong relationships and let our perspectives be shaped forever by our experiences. It has been the most intense period of personal development I’ve ever experienced.
Relationships were not only formed between the Venture Up cohort, but between Venture Up’rs and mentors, speakers and advisors. We were lucky enough to be surrounded by some of the most supportive members of the startup business community who want to see us thrive during and after the programme. These people were a defining part of the programme, and it would have been impossible without them. They taught us endless lessons, whether about failure, open questions, lean methodology or resilience.
Near the beginning of the course, I set a goal to have my world perspective changed forever at least once. I never expected it to change quite this much. Lean methodology was a huge topic that we always came back to, and I have adopted it not just in business, but in my life. Lean start-ups use the concept of not investing a whole lot of time and money in something you’re not sure about, and instead, testing the waters by just doing it, failing fast and trying something new, with a very small amount of resources. I’m unsure about my future. I’m only 18, and I only gained the courage to explore the things that made me uncomfortable last year. As a result, I only started finding the things I truly loved last year. I don’t know what path I’m heading down, but I will try the things my heart leads me to without fear of failure, because failure is just one more step towards success. Venture Up hammered this into me.
I’m unsure about my future. I’m only 18, and I only gained the courage to explore the things that made me uncomfortable last year. As a result, I only started finding the things I truly loved last year. I don’t know what path I’m heading down, but I will try the things my heart leads me to without fear of failure, because failure is just one more step towards success.
If you’re reading this because you’re interested in Venture Up in any capacity all I can say is 'get involved and keep your mind open'. I guarantee it will be wholeheartedly worth it.
As I said goodbye, I was obviously upset. Six weeks of forming connections with each other in and out of the programme has assured that we’re held together by strong bonds. However, I’m reassured by the feeling that no matter what city I’m in in New Zealand, there will probably be at least one of the Venture Up Alumni to connect with, and we will be transported back to that perfect bubble we found ourselves in this summer.
To Venture Up, and everyone who helped make it happen, thank you. You’ve successfully disrupted my life. I will be forever thankful, the opportunities I’ve gained and the people I’ve met have redefined my future, and will continue to for a very long time.
Now for the cheesy quote; “Saying goodbye isn’t the hard part, it’s what we leave behind that’s tough.”
I have some special shout outs. To our mentor Matt Innes, who mentored my team Relay, thank you for guiding us through the formation of our venture. To Jessica Venning-Bryan, thank you for being a hilarious human being and making me cry in the middle of Flick (and on the way home) by being an insightful, inspiring woman. To Steph Benseman, our Venture Up sister, thank you for showing us how to own life post-high school. To Nick Churchouse, our Venture Up father, thank you for being responsible for curating a programme that is changing the lives of the youth entrepreneurs of New Zealand. To Lingy Au, our Venture Up brother, thank you for managing to juggle being an organiser of Venture Up while also being a friend. To Oliviah, our Venture Up mother, thank you for dedicating not only your time, but your heart to us 38 misfits and taking us under your wing.
Finally, to my fellow Venture Up’rs. It has been incredible growing with you, and you’ll always have a special place in my heart. I can’t wait to see the amazing things you’ll do, and I am always here if you ever need anything, whether that’s as a business contact, a couch to sleep on or a friend. Go hard.