Kiwi accelerator Lightning Lab “hardens up” in Wellington

Applications are officially open for Lightning Lab Manufacturing, New Zealand’s first ever product and manufacturing accelerator.

Applications are officially open for Lightning Lab Manufacturing, New Zealand’s first ever product and manufacturing accelerator, which will run out of Hutt City from August to October this year.

Currently known for being one of New Zealand’s premier digital accelerators, Lightning Lab is in its 3rd year, with the last two Labs have resulted in over $4.4 million of total investment in the participating companies.

Creative HQ, the team behind Lightning Lab, is now adapting this acceleration format of intensive mentoring, networking, and business up skilling to make it suitable for physical products and hardware.

Like past Lightning Labs, the three-month programme will conclude with a Demo Day, giving teams the chance to pitch their business to a room of investors and key players in the start-up community.

Supported by Callaghan Innovation, Hutt City Council and Grow Wellington, Lightning Lab Manufacturing aims to give hardware a dose of acceleration mojo that until now has been reserved to digital ventures in New Zealand.

Callaghan Innovation’s Cath Hopkin says that globally, accelerator programmes have proven success in stimulating opportunities for start-ups and entrepreneurs, and is looking forward to see this unique platform of intense support and validation applied to the product and manufacturing sector.

In another first for the programme, Shawn O’Keefe, producer of SXSW Interactive for 14 years, has moved to Wellington to take on the manufacturing accelerator’s Programme Director role.

O’Keefe’s “unparalleled global network” amongst the “bleeding edge” of technologists and thought-leaders means this Lightning Lab will push participants to a whole new level of opportunity and challenge.

O’Keefe says the time is right for a manufacturing accelerator in Wellington.

“3D printing, hardware hacking, biometric sensors, the internet of things - so many new technologies are becoming much more available, particularly in the product and manufacturing space,” O’Keefe says.

“I’m excited to see what happens when we combine these developments with the creativity and spirit of invention so prevalent here in the Wellington region."

Creative HQ’s CEO, Stefan Korn is delighted to have Shawn become part of the Creative HQ family, with “his impressive background with SXSW, extensive network and phenomenal experience in this space, Shawn will be an asset to the Lightning Lab Manufacturing, Creative HQ, and the region.”

The new accelerator will focus on turning prototypes that have been built in a garage into successful businesses.

Design and product development partners are currently being brought on board to assist with production methods at a variety of stages, although ventures already producing in small volumes or with a fully functioning prototype will likely have the most to gain from the accelerator.

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