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Te Papa’s Mahuki in 2017: Building on success, striving for a brighter future

Eight entrepreneurial teams from Te Papa’s Mahuki technology incubator unveiled their business plans for digital solutions to challenges faced by cultural organisations worldwide at Mahuki’s annual showcase in mid-November. Several of the innovations have already been picked up and are being used by local organisations, including Te Papa. 

Te Papa chief executive Geraint Martin thinks the ideas certainly have potential. “We are always looking for ways to connect more New Zealanders with their taonga and in more meaningful ways,” he says. “Innovative use of technology is one of the ways in which we can do that. The digital solutions presented by the Mahuki teams are impressive and give us and like-minded culture and learning organisations, here and internationally, a range of next-generation user experiences to consider.”

This year’s Mahuki cohort.

Mahuki general manager Tui Te Hau agrees. “All the teams have achieved their goals to date and some have secured early success,” she says. “We’re delighted to announce Te Papa will be engaging the services of Mahuki innovators I Want to Experience who will be providing virtual reality experiences for visitors to Te Papa’s new art gallery Toi Art, which opens in March next year. Through their technology, visitors will be able to visit artist Lisa Walker’s studio and learn directly from Lisa about her creative process.”

And that’s not the only success one of the businesses from the most recent edition of the Mahuki programme has had, she says. “Collaborate have already launched their app and have had 70 organisations signed-up who are looking for volunteers. Student team ScimitAR have created a pilot with Wellington City Libraries and K?piti Coast District Libraries, called Mahi the Moa AR Hunt, and LocalFlair have their first client on board by way of the NZ Cricket Museum who are looking for local creatives to develop quality merchandise for their 150th anniversary.” 

Last year, Te Papa engaged seven business concepts developed at Mahuki for deployment within the museum. Four teams have signed commercial agreements with other organisations.  As of June 2017, two teams have successfully raised investment. One of the teams has attracted international interest, and is looking to grow into the Chinese market.

In 2016, Te Papa invested around $1 million to establish Mahuki. An investment of $740,000 was made for the 2017 programme. This included a $20,000 payment to each team to enable them to solely focus on the programme and ensure diversity of participants.

In June, Callaghan Innovation awarded Mahuki with $250,000 in funding. Mahuki is also supported by Deloitte and Morrison Kent.

Te Papa has an option to exercise equity of 6 percent in the teams in Mahuki. Successful innovations may be taken up by Te Papa and the New Zealand cultural sector, and exported globally.

Mahuki can be translated as “perceptive”, and relates to ideas that spring to the mind, and to the wellspring of inspiration.

Businesses unveiled at Mahuki in 2017


A social enterprise run by four young Wellington women who have designed a platform for matching volunteers skills with opportunities in community and cultural organisations.  By making connection fast and easy the app boosts volunteer engagement, especially amongst millennials. Organisations can tap into this talent by posting opportunities and viewing the profile of interested volunteers; which includes users’ volunteer history and feedback tracked through the app. 

The app empowers communities by making it easier for volunteers to give and grow their skills on projects they care about, and increasing the capacity and capability of organisations. In New Zealand, volunteers outnumber paid staff in both charities and museums. Collaborate streamlines this essential operating function for both, connecting them to the skills and people they need, whilst massively reducing the time and money spent on volunteer sourcing and management. 


This company enables institutions to activate creatives around them through commercial opportunities. The platform streamlines the process for galleries and museums to source work that can:

  • provide commercial benefit,
  • relate to the current exhibitions, and
  • improve standing of the institution

Finding work that fits all three criteria is time intensive and amplified every time the exhibitions change, making working with a diverse range of artists more difficult to sustain. LocalFlair maps out the local creative community and provides access to quality services and skills that creatives offer for the institution’s commercial needs.

I Want To Experience

A company that uses immersive virtual reality to take users into the intimate worlds of explorers, innovators, curators and artists. It enables passionate experts to take viewers behind the scenes, and share their insights and stories. I Want To Experience provides an avenue through which cultural institutions can unlock their human treasures, reach geographically unbound audiences and deepen the learning experience for visitors.

The team have backgrounds in creating content for Hollywood films at Weta Digital.  Now, with the release of consumer-oriented virtual reality technology, the team are positioned to pioneer a new genre of information interchange.

Morph (By ContinUX)

Provides data analytics for the GLAM sector. Like some other data analytics services, Morph provides actionable insights for decision-makers, but its point of difference is the focus on individual visitor behaviour.

Morph gathers data from multiple sources within the institution and online to create a picture of each individual visitor – where they go, what they do, and how they engage. From these multiple visitor interactions, AI tools are used to generate real time visitor insights and predictions. MORPH’s customers can use these insights and predictions to deliver tailored exhibitions, targeted offers, and personalised visitor experiences. 

The ContinUX team have background in software development, UX design and culture and heritage sector expertise.


A team of creatives, educators and game developers who are passionate about making fun, interactive and educational experiences. Through customised augmented reality and gamified experiences, the team aim to enable institutions to expand the demographics of their visitors.

By bridging the gap between the digital natives of newer generations and the content of GLAM sector institutions, these new visitors can immerse themselves in fun and engaging ways. Their vision is to connect the generations of tomorrow with the stories of today.


A family team of three dedicated to two things: simplicity and sharing. They are developing an application that will help artists, private collectors and everyone in between to simply and securely catalogue their collections. Whether it is a piece of art, respected taonga or even a heritage trophy, users can simply catalogue these items and the stories that accompany them.

Tiered access will offer users the option to share their stories with others such as galleries and museums who are hungry to showcase more content to their respective communities. SimplyFi believe that stories hidden are stories lost. Their application will be the digital handshake that connects the citizens of today with generations of tomorrow.

Tide Talk

Run by two Auckland-based women of Pacific heritage, their intuitive, customisable language learning tool will help preserve the languages of Oceania, and endangered languages around the world.

The app uses technology to break down barriers to learning. It features customisable lessons, an immersive environment to grow new language skills and gamified progress, rewarded with gems of cultural knowledge that brings languages to life.

Vaka Interactiv (no “e” at the end)

A Pasifika and M?ori team from Auckland who create impactful communication through technology. With their current focus on the museum sector, they are developing interactive digital portraits that allow museum visitors to engage in conversation with cultural figures. The dialogue with digital portrait characters will enable museum visitors to experience ethnocultural empathy, meaning they will be able to see and understand another culture from that culture’s perspective.

Review overview