Entrepreneur Karen Bender could have “hatched” her latest venture anywhere in the world but she chose Wellington’s business incubator Creative HQ over them all.
Canadian-born Karen and her Kiwi business partner Simon are in the throes of producing a garment made of a conductive fabric that has sensing abilities that can read heart and respiration rates.
“It will be able to measure your footfalls and heartbeats without awkward and unsightly wires, straps and hardware,” says Karen.
“I have a million ideas of my own but this was an invention I saw enough potential in that warranted the effort it would take to make it happen,” says the former massage therapist, and performance dancer, singer and actor.
At the time she looked into incubation structures and government support for new companies the world over, before deciding to bring the idea to New Zealand to develop.
“When we put everything together, the support here in New Zealand was the best for science and innovation.”
“Then we narrowed it down to incubators in New Zealand and decided that, as a technology development company that wanted to represent style and design, the perfect home was Creative HQ in Wellington, the innovation community here is incredible.”
So Karen delivered her pitch to Creative HQ, one of a number of nationally-recognised business incubators where bright ideas are turned into commercial realities, and Creative HQ welcomed their company, called Footfalls and Heartbeats, on board.
“We had already done market research, we’d looked into potential channel partners, existing products and had a team around us, essentially Creative HQ came on board as our first investor.”
“We’d done enough to demonstrate the potential in our idea, they obviously thought of it as something worthwhile too.”
Creative HQ business strategist Michael Elwood-Smith says Karen and Simon were invited into the incubator because they were excited by their concept, enthusiasm and the potential global business opportunity.
“Creative HQ is a great starting place for entrepreneurs. We have an extensive support and connection network that Karen is accessing to find people and organisations to help build the business,” says Michael.
“This is particularly valuable for entrepreneurs coming to Wellington from offshore, as they are able to find and access people who can help them much quicker than they could do alone as a newcomer to the region.”
Since joining the incubator Karen has been busy working with scientists, product developers and business people to further develop their idea and has received plenty of support - including financial, critical introductions, expert searches and consultations - along the way.
The way Wellington networks exist across business, lifestyle and local and national government organisations have helped to accelerate progress by catalysing links which in other cities might take months to establish.
“Creative HQ and Grow Wellington (which works to grow the Capital’s economy) have certainly opened a lot of doors for us, but it extends past those boundaries - if there’s anything you need, if you can ask for it concisely somebody will tell you where to get it and what you have to do to get it which is exceptionally helpful.”
“Wellington is like a hub in that respect, I’ve met some amazing people, there’s an incredible international community here, and I’ve been working with some incredibly bright minds – Kiwis and internationals alike. Most importantly, everyone is genuinely interested in collaborating,” says Karen.
“I’m just amazed at how many people have jumped on board from day one, it’s clearly something that is very much emerging, very much happening - the world’s developed population is becoming more active, personalised healthcare is being demanded, a healthcare crunch is imminent, wireless technologies are advancing - there are so many trends indicate that this will be in hot demand relatively soon in the future.”
This story was created with support from Immigration New Zealand. If you are interested in establishing a business in New Zealand, go to http://www.newzealandnow.govt.nz/long-term-business-policy~221.html.