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Lightning Lab alumni get $2.2m funding

Five teams that underwent an intensive Lightning Lab acceleration programme earlier this year have secured $2.2 million in seed investment capital.

Ten teams were selected in February for the Lightning Lab programme, funded by Wellington-based incubator Creative HQ , when they were each given $18,000 in exchange for 8% equity.

After months of developing their visions into products, they pitched to a room full of investors on Demo Day on 28 May, which saw five companies secure investment: shared expenses platform Glassjar, research and learning tool provider Twingl, accounting data translator CommonLedger, web design company Cloud Cannon and sports coaching software company Coachseek.

The figure matches the 2013 Demo Day figure, when four companies also raised $2.2 million in seed funding.

Creative HQ CEO Stefan Korn says they couldn’t be happier with the result.

“It’s a true testament to the entrepreneurs who go through the programme and the team of mentors and partners that prepare them for the investment pitches and process,” Korn says.

GlassJar and Twingl have also been taking part in Creative HQ’s incubation programme, which sees them sit down with their investors each week for an advisory board meeting.

Twingl co-founder and CEO Andy Wilkinson says the incubation programme has been “fantastic” for the company.

“The questions they ask you are incredible. They stick in the back of your head as you’re going about your business the following week. Not only do you come up with answers to the questions they’ve assailed you with, they change the way you’re thinking about the business,” Wilkinson says.

Twingl entered the Lightning Lab with a vision to build better tools for learning.

The company secured investment through its product, Trailblazer, a browser plug-in that Wilkinson says is a way to store and send someone everything you know about a topic by making the learning process visible.

The browser plug-in records all of the pages and searches viewed online during the research process, then stitches them together and shows the journey visually like a digital mind map.

Wilkinson says the company needed $90,000 from investors to fund a pilot programme of Trailblazer and they ended up raising $100,000.

The money they’ve raised has gone towards the pilot programme being installed in fifteen schools around New Zealand, with plans to expand to the United States later this year.

Wilkinson says what they’ve taken away from being a part of Lightning Lab is don’t compare yourself to others.

“There’s this temptation to look at other start ups in lab and think they’re doing so well, but that’s a one-way trip to a mental breakdown. What you want to do is compare yourself to where you were two weeks, four weeks, and six months ago. When you do that, you feel amazing.”

This year’s Lightning Lab was held in Wellington, but there are plans for the acceleration programme to travel to Auckland and Christchurch in 2015.

For more information, visit http://lightninglab.co.nz/.

Elly is Idealog's editor and resident dog enthusiast. She enjoys travelling, tea, good books, and writing about exciting ideas and cool entrepreneurs.

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