Behind the scenes of the R9 Accelerator 2.0

Photo by Creative HQ
Preeti Pillai, who is part of the Business Buddy Team working on simplifying the exporting process in New Zealand, shares her experiences over the first three weeks of the R9 Accelerator.

The R9 Accelerator 2.0 journey began for me when I walked into one of the information sessions hosted by Result 9, Better for Business and CreativeHQ in January. I had worked in that space before and I was keen to help out and be part of the exciting work happening in this area.

So I turned up to the Rev-Up Weekend – an event where teams are formed – as a coach. One thing led to another and before I knew it, I was part of the First Point team working on Opportunity 5 – a single point of contact for enquiries about exporting to China.

Revving-up

The Rev-Up weekend was exhilarating and provided us with the opportunity to take a deeper look into the problem area. We had great support and subject-matter expertise from NZ Customs. One of my team mates Jennifer Monk and I hit it off and decided to apply as a team for this opportunity. Both of us were designers professionally. Jennifer was also quite the 'visionary', and I, the 'hustler', so between the two of us, we had those roles covered well. Now we needed a 'hacker', so we went along to the co-founder dating session and courted a young, vibrant maths wizard. Chris Bryant was keen on taking this opportunity and we were keen on stealing him, and also his team name 'Business Buddy'.

We got accepted into the accelerator! Yuhuuu! Exhilarating! (This is not only going to be my most used expression in this blog, but also in the R9 Accelerator itself). Prior to the Bootcamp, we were fortunate to have secured Jacqui Francis, a very experienced advisor from NZ Customs, as a full time team member. Jacqui would play the role of our domain expert.

And so was born Business Buddy… (background music please). Well, we may soon be changing that name; apparently there is another one around.

Bootcamp

The week long Bootcamp was awesome! No, it was exhilarating! I learnt a lot about innovation and some handy new concepts and methodologies – Agile, Lean, Kanban, and Business Model Canvas. I learnt how to pass around little plastic balls more efficiently each time. Learnt how to best balance a marshmallow on spaghetti sticks and I finally learnt how to create a proper paper plane! We took the time to set up our team email, work tools, social media pages, etc. With each session/challenge, we got to know each other’s personalities a lot better. I even learnt more about myself and my own personality.

Week 1 and 2

In the first couple of days, we were mainly focused on getting ourselves set up and running. We laid out our goals and set up our Kanban board. Over the week, we also started to gather some customer contacts and arrange workshops with NZ Customs, to gain a better understanding of the current offerings and the problem domain. NZ Customs have been very resourceful and have enabled a fast track customer engagement for us. We are now underway talking to exporters and third parties, and are setting up more meetings.

Creative HQ is continuing to deliver training nuggets and keeps us on our toes. We also had the opportunity to pitch to and network with potential mentors and government navigators.

Being part-time meant that I was missing some of the day-time activities and playing catch up after work and on weekends. By the start of the second week, my team mates and I seemed to have established a rhythm and we are now collaborating quite well. Split hours have also meant that we have an excellent coverage of all the hours in a day, as well as coverage across two cities, with Jacqui based in Christchurch sometimes.

There is a huge sense of community and it’s an incredible environment to be a part of. The accelerator so far has provided a huge learning experience, from technical knowledge of business models and sales, to the soft skills of engaging, collaborating and supporting each other to add value.

The R9 Accelerator, a Better for Business initiative delivered by Creative HQ in Wellington, brings together a mix of public and private sector people to work on opportunities to make it easier for businesses to interact with government.