5 questions with Startup Weekend mentor Henk Roodt

Henk Roodt is the founder of Stone to Stars, and is fairly involved with Dunedin’s startup scene. He played a substantial part in making the Startup Space happen, along with Kate Turnbull from Audacious, and Henk continues to promote entrepreneurship and innovation in Dunedin. Henk will be mentoring Startup Weekend Dunedin 2015.

1) What is your company and what do you do?

StoneToStars is a consulting R&D and ‘in-house solver’ company.  We are part of a consortium of small companies that can do a lot of things in a very cost-effective and agile manner.  StoneToStars specialises in complex organisation dynamics and business model design, simulation of large systems and training.  We also develop custom apps.

2) What other ventures are you involved with?

The consortium is a new venture, driven by the understanding that small companies lack footprint and credibility in the corporate world.

I am also employed by Wintec in Hamilton to develop new industry research opportunities.

3) What are some of your favourite startups at the moment?

I am very impressed by Timely and Showboat, both from Dunedin.  My focus is really on the raw new companies, the small ones that can fail or succeed.  For me it is about being involved there and perhaps being paid one day!  I also like a new incubator in Cape Town South Africa, called Silicon Cape.  Think we’ll see some cool stuff from there.

4) What is your biggest piece of advice to first time startup founders?

Cashflow – it is everything.  Use networks and finally,  get help and listen to advice. Then do the best you can with what you have.

5) What are you looking forward to at Startup Weekend 2015?

Will we see the new name in social entrepreneurship coming from Dunedin?  And who will leverage Gigatown?

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Connect with Henk on LinkedIn and Twitter

5 questions with Startup Weekend mentor John Enlow


John Enlow is the CTO of AD Instruments, a global leader in creating innovative scientific systems.  John graduated from the University of Otago with a PhD and BSc in Mathematics, which he has used over the last decade to build successful startups and, more recently, run the R&D department at ADI. John will be bringing his invaluable experience to Startup Weekend as a mentor, so we caught up with him to ask him a few questions.

1) What is ADI and what you do at the company?

ADI makes science easier with great data acquisition hardware and software. Our equipment is used in over ten thousand institutions around the world,  mainly in life science teaching and research. As the Chief Technical Officer, I run the R&D part of the company, the best part of which is imagining and creating the future through innovative new products.

2) What startups you have been involved with over the years?

I co-founded a home audio startup and another developing an online mathematics education platform. More recently my focus has been on projects at ADI – one of which is a new cloud-based service that has a lot in common with a startup even though it’s within an established business.

3) What are some of your favourite startups at the moment?

Most of my favourites are related to IT or SaaS, but to name a few:

  • Backyard Brains is doing great things for Neuroscience and in a fun way.
  • Cloud Cannon is a local startup with a nice tool for web designers.
  • TimeBird is just getting started but puts a huge effort into connecting with their users.

4) What is your biggest piece of advice to first time startup founders?

Use the tools (e.g. Lean Canvas, Design Thinking), and embrace the pivot!

5) What are you looking forward to at Startup Weekend 2015?

I’m expecting an intense time full of creativity, frustration and breakthroughs. I’m most looking forward to seeing the teams at the end come away with a huge sense of accomplishment and being inspired to do more.

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Connect with John on LinkedIn.

Timely supports Startup Weekend Dunedin

befunkytimelyshoot2 Startup Weekend is an event that’s supported by event attendees, like yourselves, and sponsors who donate their time and resources to help make Startup Weekend a reality. One of these sponsors is Timely, a Dunedin-based startup that provides booking software to businesses like hair salons, beauty and health clinics, personal trainers, massage therapists, and even dentists and consultants.

Most small businesses that sell services do so in blocks of time. The more efficient they are at managing their time, the better their businesses do. Timely helps them do this by giving them an affordable and cloud-based app that does many of the mundane tasks for them, such as managing their appointment calendar, taking online bookings, and even reminding customers that they have appointments coming up. This allows small business to get more out of their day and run more successful businesses with Timely.

As a company, Timely sets itself apart from the rest in the way that it has developed a strong internal culture. This is due in part to the fact that there is no central office. Employees work from their homes and from cafes – from wherever they choose – and there are no strict clock in and clock out hours. The team is highly motivated because, as a remote startup, everything is results-based, and employees start their day with this approach in mind.

The result is a group of people who have a strong work / life balance, as they are able to do things with their families during the day and still be able to build one of the fastest growing startups in New Zealand. You can see this in action every day by following the #timelylife Twitter account.

At Startup Weekend 2015, two people from Timely will be part of the supporting team. Rueben Skipper, a business development manager at Timely, will be helping groups at Startup Weekend overcome any obstacles they might have with his extensive experience in building companies. Ryan Baker, CEO and co-founder of Timely, will be bringing his knowledge of startups, marketing, and business growth to the judging panel at the end of the event.

If you’d like to connect with Ryan and Rueben, come to Startup Weekend 2015. The event starts on March 27th, and ends on March 29th. No experience is required – there are awesome mentors (like Rueben!) who have volunteered their time to help you build your business ideas.

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5 questions with Startup Weekend mentor Rueben Skipper

Rueben Skipper is  Business Development Manager at Timely, a startup in Dunedin that provides a business management solution to booking-based businesses. Rueben will be bringing his experience to Startup Weekend 2015 as a mentor, where he will assist teams in creating scaleable businesses.

1) What you do at Timely?

I’m a Business Development Manager. That means I find ways to connect and educate an ever growing number of people around the world to the benefits of Timely.

2) What other businesses are you involved with?

SwiftSocial is a social media marketing company.  We look after social media for businesses all over New Zealand.

DealFlow is a fitness app for sales.  We are still in closed alpha, which means we have launched the first version of our app and are testing and improving it in house.

I’ve had a lot of unsexy startups i.e. real world businesses and been involved with a few technology startups during my time at Upstart Business Incubator.  There are too many to mention here.

3) What are some of your favourite startups at the moment?

Timely is the hottest startup in NZ right now.  I like watching Xero and Rod Drury from afar.  Pocketsmith is a Dunedin startup gaining traction.  Alibaba has been interesting to watch.  Slack is pretty damn cool.

4) What is your biggest piece of advice to first time startup founders?

Worry less about protecting your idea and more about finding some customers to validate it.

5) What are you looking forward to at Startup Weekend 2015?

I like the energy and enthusiasm.  If we could can it, and sell it, then we’d have the best startup ever.

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Connect with Rueben on LinkedIn and Twitter

6 questions with Startup Weekend mentor George Phillips


George Phillips is the CTO at Cloud Cannon, a startup that began in Dunedin, went through Lightning Lab in Wellington, and is now tackling international markets. George will be mentoring Startup Weekend Dunedin, so we caught up with him to ask him a few questions.

1) In a few sentences, what Cloud Cannon and what you do at the company?

CloudCannon takes any static or jekyll site and makes them updatable for non-technical people. This allows developers to quickly build websites without learning any extra technologies. As a CTO I focus on the improving the product. As a Co-founder I have to dabble in all areas of the company.

2) What has the journey from idea to investor-backed startup been like for you at Cloud Cannon?

It is an incredible feeling to have such great people backing us. Just over a year ago we quit our jobs to focus on CloudCannon full time. Now we are an investor-back startup with 5 employees. The big step for us was going to Lightning Lab and the people that introduced us to. We gained so much confidence when industry leaders took an interest which pushed us to push the product globally. I am still as excited about the company as I was the day we started coding.

3) How has your life changed since founding Cloud Cannon?

Founding a startup is an immense change. Cloud Cannon has taken me around the world and tested me on the highs and lows of the emotional scale. It’s pretty amazing to look back a year and see what has happened, good and bad.

4) What are some of your favourite startups at the moment?

In NZ, all Lightning Lab alumni and Dunedin companies. Docker would be my Worldwide choice as we have recently undertaken a lot of work with containers.

5) What is your biggest piece of advice to first time startup founders?

Pick a market you are passionate about and have experience in. If you are only motivated by money you will not last. Without experience you are going to have to learn about creating a start up and your field. Having both of these things will make things a lot easier.

6) What are you looking forward to Startup Weekend 2015?

I’m looking forward to meeting more Dunedin people interested in entrepreneurship. I hope to see them create some great companies.

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Connect with George on LinkedIn and Twitter

5 questions with Startup Weekend judge Ryan Baker

Ryan Baker is the CEO and co-founder of Timely, one of New Zealand’s fastest growing startups and a sponsor for Startup Weekend Dunedin 2015. Timely has a strong internal culture and has contributed a lot to the Dunedin startup scene, even though it has no central office. Employees work from their homes or at local cafes. We caught up with Ryan Baker, who will be judging Startup Weekend with Pieter Brits, to ask him 5 questions.

1) What is the story of Timely?

In 2003 I co-founded a company called BookIt, an online booking solution used by many of the country’s tourism websites. BookIt was acquired by Trade Me, in 2010. During that experience we saw a  need in the market for cloud booking software for small businesses, as there was no solution that really filled small business’s needs in terms of cost, design, features, and functionality.

In 2012, we launched Timely and in just over two years the company has grown to 26 staff and over 9,000 users in 60 countries.

2) What are some of your favourite startups at the moment?

You mean other than Timely, right? 😉

You have to be impressed with the growth of Slack. Aside from their growth I have a couple of other reasons to dig Slack. For one, we use it within our team and love it. I also have a softspot for these guys because it’s not a novel concept. Like Timely, they’ve taken a problem that’s already solved by software solutions but captured market share from executing the ass out of the next level.

3) Do you think remote working will become the norm?

Remote working will definitely become more prevalent than it is today. It depends a lot on industry of course, as it’d be hard for a builder or an anaesthetist to work from home! But in the tech sector, particularly SaaS with its weightless exports, you’ll see more new businesses going remote from day one. That is an exciting thing for New Zealand owned startups.

4) What is your biggest piece of advice to first time startup founders?

Startup advice is a bit like horoscopes, or fortune cookies. It’s easy to come by and  will all sound right to you at the start. Always remember that the only people you really need to impress are your customers. Put your customer at the center of your startup’s universe. If they are happy, all of your other stakeholders will almost certainly be happy as well.

5) What are you looking forward to at Startup Weekend 2015?

The past Startup Weekends in Dunedin have been awesome. I had a lot of fun as a mentor in 2013. It was cool to see how much the participants learnt and developed in such a short space of time. I’m expecting another level-up this year.

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Connect with Ryan on LinkedIn and Twitter

6 questions with Startup Weekend judge Pieter Brits

Pieter Brits DS13-27

Pieter Brits is a partner at Downie Stewart and one of the judges for Startup Weekend 2015. Throughout the years, Pieter has been involved with several local startups in Dunedin. We caught up with Pieter to ask him six questions about his background.

1) What does Downie Stewart do?

Downie Stewart is one of the first law firms established in Dunedin. We act for some of the brightest local technology companies. We help companies with structures, capital raising, agreements and governance.

2) What do you do at the company on a day to day basis?

I am one of the commercial partners, looking after our business clients.

3) What other business or startups are you involved with at the moment?

I am an active investor in a number of start-ups and a Director of Tracplus  and a Director of a not for profit called Foodshare

I’m passionate about value creation out of Dunedin and am a founding Director and investor in a start-up, executive angel, pre venture fund. It is in the foundation phase and has made its first investment.

4) What are some of your favourite startups at the moment?

Locally, I like HappyMoose.

5) What is your biggest piece of advice to first-time startup founders?

Know your skills and bring on board the skills you do not have.

6) What are you looking forward to at Startup Weekend 2015?

I am looking forward to the ideas and seeing who has what it takes to build successful companies.

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Connect with Pieter Brits on LinkedIn.

5 questions with Startup Weekend Dunedin mentor Geoff Brash


Geoff Brash, the program director for Lightning Lab Christchurch, organiser of Coffee & Jam, and former co-founder and VP of SLI systems is coming to Dunedin to be a mentor for Startup Weekend. Geoff has mentored at and organised several Startup Weekends, and we’re looking forward to getting his input at this year’s event.

1) What is your current company and what do you do?

GBJ Innovation provides support to startup companies. It supports the startup ecosystem, provides direct one-on-one startup support, and operates startup ventures of its own.

2) What startups you have been involved with in the past?

SLI Systems – provides search solutions to ecommerce companies.  I was a co-founder and was involved in technical, finance, and marketing roles. SLI listed on the NZX in 2014.

Rocket Languages – provides online language training courses in more than 12 languages including sign language and english as a second language.

3) What are some of your favourite startups at the moment?

Glass Jar – have to back local Canterbury startups that have come through some of the services we support.

Uber – I first used this service in San Francisco and you have to experience a US taxi to truly understand how transformative Uber is.

4) What is your biggest piece of advice to first time startup?

Invest your limited resources wisely.  I spend most of  my time working with startups on the issue of how to focus their resources in the right way. Try and remember the amount of progress you can make over the weekend and take that into your startup. Build your business not just your product.

5) What are you looking forward to at Startup Weekend Dunedin 2015?

Its been awhile since I was last in Dunedin (Startup Weekend Dunedin, March & September 2013) and I’m looking forward to connecting with the various people and finding out how the ecosystem has developed over the past 18 months.

Dunedin has always provided some of the most memorable Startup Weekend experiences, from great ideas to outstanding founders.

One I remember is Emily Sutton. We also had a large variety of ideas in 2013 from jewellery (Emily’s), to soft drinks, and scientific methodologies.

Often people think startup weekend is all about Apps but this is not true.

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Connect with Geoff Brash on LinkedIn and Twitter

Q + A with the mentors: Matthew Gorman

Matt Gorman.jpg

Matthew Gorman is the CEO of Gallaway Cook Allan, one of the South’s larger law firms, with offices in Dunedin and Otago. Matthew will be bringing his extensive business and legal experience to Startup Weekend 2015 as a mentor.

1. In a few sentences, what do you do?

I manage a law firm. A law firm is a service business like any other and needs managing if it is to remain successful over the long term. It is also a Partnership, which introduces a fascinating dynamic, in some ways perhaps quite similar to a startup.

2. What startup experience do you have?

I have started a business three times in my life, each time in the consultancy sector. On each occasion I was drawn back into employed roles after a period of time. As a Business Coach I have worked with a number of startups in businesses such as Event Management, Performance Sports Clothing and Organic Ice Cream production.

3. What is it about Startup Weekend that you’re looking forward to?

I get a real buzz out of working with people who are starting businesses. I like the energy and the enthusiasm of people involved in startup business and get a kick from helping them make the best of their ideas.

4. What would be the biggest piece of advice you have for startup founders or would be startup founders?

Learn to listen! As a startup you have to get very good at pitching, at persuading, at being an advocate for your ideas and your business. It’s vital not to lose sight of the flip side of that – listening to others, whether they are your partners, employees, customers or competitors.

Connect with Matt on LinkedIn

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Q + A with the mentors: Rebecca Twemlow


Rebecca Twemlow is a successful Dunedin businesswoman who runs Firebrand, an agency known for both its innovative work and support of community projects. Rebecca will be one of the mentors for Startup Weekend 2015, so we caught up with her to ask her a few questions.

1) What is Firebrand and what you do at the company?

Firebrand is a full service web, design and marketing Interactive Agency. We service an International client base with customised solutions from the best little city in the South, Dunedin. Our small but strong team brings together experienced designers, developers and marketing, project, content and SEO experts to help brands connect and engage in a digital world, design websites and apps that drive revenue and connections and build marketing strategies that generate results.

As the Managing Director I am responsible for starting the fires (in 2009 with a couple of others) and continuing to keep the Firebrand flame burning bright today.  I have an unending commitment to exceeding my customers’ expectations and specialise in building teams, solution design, process analytics and executive project management.

In a nut shell, my day mostly consists of meetings, my nights mostly consists of doing work that becomes necessary from those meetings.

2) What startups have you been involved with?

  • Firebrand: co-founder (2009 – current) and now 100% owner.
  • Hail: co-founder (2014 – current) and director.
  • aSaferDrive: (2012 – current) shareholder, director.
  • eComPlus (2013 – current) Advisor and Creative Agency.
  • GetHomeSafe (2012 – current)  Advisor and Creative Agency.

3) What are some of your favourite startups at the moment, both in New Zealand and worldwide

See previous list!

Locally there are so many hot startups right now – so many it is difficult to keep up, but there are a few that I keep a particularly closer eye on for various reasons:  Timely, VEND, Trade Gecko and Cloud Cannon would be the “shortlist”.

4) What is your biggest piece of advice to first time startup founders?

The effort you are going to need to put in is 10x more than you currently expect – you will have no life outside of your startup BUT it is totally worth it!  Be prepared.

5) What are you looking forward to at Startup Weekend 2015?

My expectations are fairly high and consist of meeting great people, hearing great ideas and working together to create greatness!

I am particularly looking forward to being challenged and getting the wheels rolling in my head to provide what support and mentorship I can and no doubt learning things myself.

Connect with Rebecca Twemlow on Twitter and LinkedIn

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