An ethos of “entrepreneurs everywhere” is driving the Southland Business Accelerator with about 25 startups taking on the 12-week programme to date.

The programme works with startups and entrepreneurs, giving them the tools and resources they need to succeed in Southland’s business climate. It is run by Venture Southland in association with Creative HQ. Creative HQ is funded by Callaghan Innovation.

Southland business accelerator programme manager Stewart Fleming said about 25 startups and entrepreneurs had gone through the pilot programe so far – with another intake to begin in early 2019. The pilot programme runs until June 2019.

Identifying innovative startups and entreprenurs, and the learning about the environment in which they were operating was the initial challenge, Fleming said.

“It’s not just preparing individual startups. It’s also preparing the local innovation ecosystem, and encouraging people to make connections and to grow their ideas.”

Venture Southland accelerator programme manager, Stu Fleming

Southland startups and entrepreneurs were showing themselves to be practical, willing to talk about their ideas, and open to new ideas, he said.

Cohort nights where people got together had been particularly important in creating new connections and activity, Fleming said.

“We’re still really early stage in innovation, startup culture in Southland. People have got good ideas, they just need some guidance in terms of execution.”

The “entrepreneurs are everyhere” ethos was a driving force behind the regional pilot programme, he said.

The accelerator programme is broken down into four, three-week sections – discovery, development, elevation and a pitch to potential investors.

Fleming said there was a lot of support and money for people with innovative ideas to develop and test their business propositions.

“The money is there for investment, but people need to be convinced an idea can be executed in the real world.”

Funding was available in Southland for well developed startups showing competence, reliability and rigour, Fleming said.

Koha Kai project leader Janice Lee said the programme was assisting the organisation to explore options around social enterprise sustainability.

“The programme is a tremendous initiative,” she said.

Venture Southland business services manager Alistair Adam said innovation was a key aspect of the Southland Regional Development Plan and the accelerator programme would be invaluable helping the region grow entreprenuerial activity.