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.

 BUY YOUR TICKETS: swdunedin.eventbrite.com

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.

BUY YOUR TICKETS: http://swdunedin.eventbrite.com

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.

BUY YOUR STARTUP WEEKEND TICKETS: http://swdunedin.eventbrite.com

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

Buy Startup Weekend tickets

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

Buy tickets to Startup Weekend 2015.

Q + A with the mentors: Lani Evans

Jonny Knopp, Peanut Productions

Lani Evans is one of the mentors for startup weekend. Although her business offers hundreds of startups and small businesses around New Zealand with a free payroll service, it’s Lani’s fondness for kayaking to work that often makes the news. We caught up with Lani to ask her a few questions about startups.

1) Can you tell us a little bit about Thankyou Payroll and what you do at the company?

I am lucky enough to work with an amazing team as the CEO of Thankyou Payroll, a Dunedin-based social enterprise that provides free, cloud based payroll intermediary services to SMEs and charities all around the country. We leverage an IRD subsidy to cover our costs so we can provide our services at no charge to users, and we donate 25 cents per person, per pay (out of our own pockets) to the Thankyou Charitable Trust.

2) Are there any other startups or projects that you’re currently involved in?

I’m also Co-Founder of Room:Maker, a social enterprise focused on  youth development and transitional housing. Room:Maker is designed with three distinct but complementary elements in mind: creating educational opportunities, providing housing for young people and developing a sustainable social enterprise.

And I’m also really interested in how we provide good governance to community organisations. I’ve recently become a board member for Philanthropy New Zealand, a national umbrella organisation that provides practical support, advocacy and thought leadership around grant-making and philanthropy.

3) Over the last few years, what other ventures have you been involved with?

Most of the startup projects I’ve been involved in have been charitable, like the ReGeneration Trust, Langtang Valley Health and 60-Second Civics. Thankyou Payroll is my first business venture, but the commonalities are huge. Charities, social enterprises and business start-ups are all based on the same premise: that there is a problem out there and you have the best solution. They require a good concept, a robust business model and successful execution.

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

So many options… on a global scale I love the Copenhagen Wheel, transforming ordinary bikes into smart electric hybrids and I can’t wait to test out the services provided by EatWith, a meal sharing service, sort of like AirBnb for home-made meals.

Locally we’ve got Chalkle, PledgeMe, LoveNotes, WikiHouse, ReKindle, Arco and Ooooby are all exciting projects in various stages of development and execution.

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

Relax! Not all the time, but definitely sometimes. Self care is a really important part of your long term strategy.

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

Startup weekends are crazy, inspiring, messy fun. I’m looking forward to the ideas, the comraderie, the learning and the general chaos.

Merry Christmas Dunedin

xmas banner 1The #SWDUD team wishes all members of the Dunedin business/tech/startup communities a Merry Christmas and a fantastic start to 2015! The team will be working hard over the break to make sure we hit the ground running when everyones back in the new year.

In the meantime, here are a couple of reads to get you through the holidays.

10 Startups to watch in 2015: http://on.mash.to/1vVD1Cv

5 Tech Startups to Watch: http://bit.ly/1yL0Mnx

Gigatown Dunedin Plan (if your haven’t already, you should)http://bit.ly/1CWP6RF