First Kōkiri entrepreneur programme a major success

By Jessica Tyson

New Zealand's first business accelerator for Māori entrepreneurs, Kōkiri, has proved its success since more than half of the projects on the programme have attracted investment.

Twenty entrepreneurs have been working alongside each other as part of the programme, which is focused on speeding up the development and representation of Māori founders.

Ventures in the programme ranged from the development of medical cannabis by Ruatoria-based Hikurangi Enterprises, as well as MyReo, an app made for millennials learning te reo Māori.

There's also Biome, started by young entrepreneur Logan Williams, which turns didymo into a range of practical materials.

In 2016, the 22-year-old from Christchurch noticed the invasive algae didymo growing in the waters of the Tekapo River, and since then has sought to find a solution.

“Initially it was just about cleaning up our waterways, but then I realised there was a business opportunity beneath the surface,” he says.

“I started experimenting with didymo and, after several years of research and development, found it can be used to create sustainable plastics and fabrics.”

Williams is also known for his Polar Optics invention– contact lenses that help sufferers of photosensitive epilepsy– and was one of the 10 shortlisted nominees for the 2018 Young New Zealander of the Year Award.

Kōkiri programme director Ian Musson says he is “thrilled” with the result following the first year of Kōkiri.

“Māori entrepreneurs have long been looking for ways to create socially sustainable businesses– and Kōkiri has helped them to do exactly that."

Kōkiri is funded through the Māori innovation fund, He kai kei aku ringa, and is run by Te Wānanga o Aotearoa in partnership with Callaghan Innovation and Creative HQ. 

Kōkiri business accelerator – class of 2018

  • Moving Pros (Tauranga, Auckland) A company that makes it easy to compare multiple moving quotes from one place.
  • SeeCom (Hamilton) Prototyping the world’s first digital Interactive Sign Language Game, a virtual game-based experience of learning sign language through means of interaction and movements in front of digital screens.
  • Biome (Christchurch) Turns didymo, the pest algae, into a range of practical materials. These high-quality materials are produced sustainably and strive to improve the New Zealand environment.
  • Origins (Whangarei, Auckland) A cloud-based platform that provides complete visibility of the of the food and authentic products supply chain from supplier to end consumer.
  • Papa Taiao Earthcare (Wellington) Papa Taiao works with rangatahi across Aotearoa and across Iwi to guide them into a life focused on social, ecological, economic and cultural regeneration through enterprise in rural and urban communities.
  • The Realness (Auckland) The new way to find owner-operated providers across multiple sectors without having to rely on review sites, advertising platforms, opinion sites, magazines and mainstream media.
  • Arataki (Tauranga) A mobile app that enables users to receive information about sites of cultural significance using a custom mobile application and proximity technology.
  • MyReo (Huntly) Providing millennials with the digital tools and resources they need to learn, practice and grow in te reo Māori.
  • Hikurangi Enterprises (Ruatoria) Creating sustainable futures for the East Coast of New Zealand through the development of a regional business growth hub to support their mission of a healthy and wealthy whanau and whenua.
  • Akudos (Whangarei, Auckland) Making people feel valued through a cloud-based awards management system designed to streamline the awards process from beginning to end.