Shock horror: Newest start-up accelerator eschews software developers; supports people actually making stuff (fluffy bunnies and high-tech hardware)

Start-ups are hard, and start-ups with physical products are even harder. Grow Wellington and Creative HQ aim to share some of their digital mojo for the touch-and-feel crowd.

Start-up accelerators have become choix du jour for early stage companies, where they seek business building tools, connections, and advice for the next step in their growth.

But often the focus has been on the digital development world, as software can be the easiest thing to develop for small teams with limited budgets and manpower.

Creative HQ is seeking to change that, with the launch of a new accelerator programme specifically designed to cater to companies with a physical product, with a combination of seed funding, intensive mentoring, and focused business and product development.

It’s a first for New Zealand, according to Grant Lumsden, the sector development manager for High Value Manufacturing at Grow Wellington, an economic development agency and one of the key partners behind the initiative.

“There have been accelerators [in the past] for digital start-ups,” he says. “But not for hardware [companies].”

Funding is also coming from Callaghan Innovation and the Hutt City Council.

The programme will provide eight start-up companies with intense coaching in business skills. Networking with mentors and manufacturing industry leaders, and connections to the investor community are also provided.

Building on a history of the Hutt Valley being a powerhouse of manufacturing over the last century, with companies such as Fraser engineering and Formway Design currently the pioneering enterprises, Lumsden sees Wellington being a goldmine of opportunity.

Stefan Korn, CEO of Creative HQ, says accelerator programmes are a proven method for giving small companies with great ideas the momentum they need to make the next step in growth.

“But what you hear in Silicon Valley is that ‘hardware is harder’ so companies with a physical product find it even more difficult to start up successfully,” Korn says.

He believes the programme can use the experience they’ve gained from Lightning Lab and adapt it towards the challenges of manufacturing.

Currently scheduled to run from August to October 2015, the programme runs for twelve weeks and is targeted towards start-ups already producing in small numbers, or with a well-developed prototype.

The accelerator will also work with Victoria and Massey Universities, acting as a stepping-stone for student wanting to take their university projects one step further.

Currently, both universities already have their own programmes for students, which when paired with the new accelerator, will see it as “continuous ecosystem” for students to progress towards successful entrepreneurism.

Check out more information here.