The App Store is not an option: Inside New Zealand’s first hardware development accelerator

As Lightning Lab Manufacturing, a three-month, hardware-focused boot-camp for start-ups, approaches the mid-point in its programme, we take a look at the diverse cohort of early-stage ventures looking to turn their ideas into innovative hardware.

At this stage of the programme, the ventures are all in the process of gaining certainty about who their customers are and what they want from their products. This process is, of course, common to all accelerators, however most accelerators have a focus on software start-ups. The Lightning Lab Manufacturing teams also have to work on how they’ll finish the development of their product, how it will be made, packaged, shipped and sold. The App Store is not an option!

“The ventures in this programme are not only developing some extremely exciting hardware, but are factoring in critical things like the environment, humanity, sustainability, and ‘softer’ elements that have been squeezed out during the last 200 years of industrial development,” says mentor and Crisp Start co-founder Nick Gerritsen.

“The future is running at us with increasing velocity, and you’re either in our out. Rather than a negative this provides amazing opportunities for the future and a chance for us to re-factor in what’s deeply important.”

“Being from a product design background, Lightning Lab Manufacturing reminds me of all the things I love about innovative product design and R&D,” says Jesse Keith, mentor and national network manager, design and manufacturing at Callaghan Innovation.

Here’s an introduction to the teams, and a sneak preview of their products:


Image: Organic Dynamic

Organic Dynamic

Organic Dynamic is Jack Candlish and Claudia Pommer. They are successful industrial designers and avid surfers who believe that surfboards should be as environmentally authentic as the sport. Commonly, surfboards are made from toxic materials which are hazardous to the shaper and the environment, have a short life expectancy as a surfboard, and then last forever in landfill. By mashing up digital manufacturing techniques with some design secrets from the days when aircraft were made of wood, Organic Dynamic can make a wooden surfboard that is only a few hundred grams heavier than a top end foam board. The boards are stronger and more durable than a typical foam board, and with materials sourced from sustainably managed forests, they leave only a tiny footprint on the environment.

Image: Ebee

Ebee

Ebee is developing beehive hardware that will provide an alternative to the plastic components that are currently gaining popularity in the market. Co-founder Jessica Rolingson-Purchase is an award winning industrial designer and beekeeper who believes that hive hardware should be ecologically sound, as well as resilient, easy to use and cost-effective. Her co-founders, Rob Smith and Olly Townend, bring further design, marketing and commercialisation experience to the challenge. The natural materials they are developing for the frames combine the quality of wood with the strength and ease of plastic, features that are critical for the manuka honey industry. At the same time they avoid the environmental issues that arise when plastic frames need to be disposed of – a common occurrence as beekeepers fight an increasing threat from disease.

Image: Dogmatek

Dogmatek

Electronics and audio engineer Tim Prebble and band manager Matt McLeod make up team  Dogmatek. Modern music exists in a heavily digitised environment, but many musicians still want the lush sound that can only come from analog equipment. Dogmatek’s effects pedals give the guitarist a pure analog signal path, but with digital controls that provide the convenience and functionality that they’ve come to expect. Their innovative ‘hybrid’ designs appeal to professional and enthusiast alike and with links into the Black Seeds and Phoenix Foundation through their band manager and Dogmatek co-founder Matt, the ventures artistic pedigree is second to none.

Image: Kine6

Kine6

Kine6 founders Sean Snyders and Richard Nimmo take motion capture technology developed for the giants of the film industry (Weta Digital) and adapt it to solve the problems of small film-makers. The technical challenges that camera operators face around holding focus through a complex shot can lead to multiple takes or, failing that, artistic compromises. The Kine6 focus system gives film-makers perfect focus every time, with the benefit of increased speed and a reduced number of takes. This cost and competitive edge goes hand-in-hand with the capability to control complex transitions in focus with utter reliability – expanding the artistic options for both camera operator and director.

Image: The Misprint Co

The Misprint Co

The Misprint Co. discovered that the paper recycling industry was missing a very important trick. Much of the paper that goes to recycling from universities and corporations has little or no actual printing on it. Graphic designers Jenny Buckler, Priscilla Loong and Kareena Harris started collecting and repurposing this paper waste, turning it into notebooks and notepads with a funky design edge. By giving these pieces of paper a second life before they eventually go to be recycled, vast amounts of water and energy are saved. They are also finding that many firms are very enthusiastic about having their non-confidential waste paper repurposed as notebooks and then re-used internally in a thoughtful way that demonstrates their commitment to sustainable business.

Image: Precision Platforms

Precision Platforms

Precision Platforms’ founders are avid long-range target and sports shooters who struggled for years to find a stock that would fit them. Bringing a raft of digital manufacturing and composites technologies into play to address the problem, they have developed a customisable and adaptable aftermarket solution for the amateur who is seeking Olympic levels of precision, but without the eye-watering cost of a full competition stock. Founders Clive Judd, Chris Dye, and Rocky Dew are all former NZ Defence Force soldiers and keen hunters, who are building on their network within the sports shooting and hunting communities to develop a game-changing product.

Bpod

After an extremely stressful situation which arose from trying to feed his baby on a train, Bpod founder Lawrence Bass decided the only way forward was to develop his own range of smart baby products. Those products provide a solution that gives parents more freedom over when and where baby feeds and utilises proprietary algorithms to make feeding time easier, safer and even adaptable to baby’s needs. As well as being a father, Lawrence is a serial entrepreneur with a background in film and TV as well as online production experience.

“It's awesome to be part of the community that has come together around Lightning Lab Manufacturing,” says programme director Shawn O’Keefe. “A community built on passion, shared resources and a desire to transform the world around us. I feel like a proud parent to these seven start-ups.”

“We are opening a whole new door for the New Zealand start-up community and investors,” says Keith, “so it’s even more critical that we help these early stage businesses get off ground. Callaghan Innovation feels proud to be able to help these ventures access our large network of mentors and advisors from New Zealand and around the globe.”

Located in the Hutt CBD, the Lightning Lab Manufacturing boot-camp closes on November 19th with a demo-day event that will showcase the ventures in front of a crowd of investors.