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CreativeHQ’s new matrix for startups

Time is shrinking at CreativeHQ where startups will get a real first taste of what life is like in an incubation universe.

Stefan Korn, CEO at CreativeHQ has new aspirations to transform the incubator into a leaner, faster machine as it seeks to help Kiwi innovators step-up into the commercial world.

The incubator has undergone a strategic review and has rebranded and realigned itself to better serve its customers.

“The public funding landscape has changed. There is clear signal that we have to get smarter, do things faster, and increase the value we add,” he told Idealog.

The disruptions caused by technology has inevitably affected the life of startups as they seek to commercialise ideas, raise funds and reach markets.

“The world has gotten faster. The expectation on start-ups is that they move quicker,” Korn says, adding this will be reflected in the speed and agility of CreativeHq’s incubation programme

While individual modules within CreativeHQ’s incubation programme remain unchanged, there is now a finite time startups can spend on any individual module, Korn says.

Startups also have to meet a number of stage-criteria before they can progress to the next module.

The puts to end the vanilla-flavoured approach to the incubator programme, where there were no timelines and deliverables from the time the startups enter the programme until they end their cycle of incuubation, he says.

CreativeHQ also has aspirations to widen the net it is casting as it reaches out to potential clients. “We want to be broader in our intake, covering high schools, university students, getting to them early.”

It will also expand its reach into large organisations, home to ready talent pools who have the potential to spin off creative ideas that have commercial potential.

He wants CreativeHQ to feel like home to budding entrepreneurs. “We want to be a public space in the true sense of the word. We are Wellington’s start-up base, we want to be that central hub, having an open door policy. In the past, it hasn’t always been the case.”

As with all rebirth, some things just have to be buried. One of the programmes which CreativHQ will no longer run is its involvement in working with research and science projects. “That space, we think, is well covered by research institutions.”

It will stay focused on one of its core programes — Lighting Lab, an accelerator programme, which was set up in 2013 based on the Global Accelerator Network. The programme has a short timeline, putting startups through a three-month hothousing where they have to be out and ready for investment within that timespan.

The programme started out as a pilot but has now become a success story and a business unit within CreativeHQ, Korn says.

During the 2012/2013 year, CreativeHQ worked with 24 ventures in the incubator, nine in the accelerator, while four teams went through its campus boot camp programme. Fifteen went through the Start-up pre-incubation programme. It also worked on 43 science commercialisation project evaluations.

Korn says CreativeHQ’s return on investment shows demonstrable value has been created out of public funding.

CreativeHQ alumni generated a total revenue of $18 million, of which $7.1 million were in export revenues, according to the incubator’s annual report (2012/2013). Collectively, they employ 138.5 full-time employees, up 8% from a year earlier.

Korn says Creative HQ receives about $1 million to $1.5 million in annual funds from the public and regional economic development body Grow Wellington, and reckons the ROI “absolutely stacks”.

New Zealand, however, needs to do better at commercialising innovations, he says.

“Commercialisation is hard to achieve,” Korn notes. This is particularly true of science- and research-based projects that often happen in silos where there isn’t a clear transfer of knowledge between intellectual property creation and commercialisation.

As part of its revamp, CreativeHQ, has streamlined its structure to support its incubation programme; the accelerator; customer engagement; and organisational functions. In December, the incubator moves to its new home, The Hope Gibbons building in Wellington.

Loves peanut sauce, tennis, taichi, stockmarkets, and cool entrepreneurs – not necessarily in that order. In her previous reincarnations, she was an intranet worker bee at Mercer HR Consulting, a Reuters worker ant, and a NZ Herald mule.

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