CIE » About Us

ABOUT US

Our mission is to unleash the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship at the University of Auckland. We do this by providing the knowledge, environment and inspiration to all staff and students through experiential programmes, events and workshops.

Our mission is to unleash the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship at the University of Auckland. We do this by providing the knowledge, environment and inspiration to all staff and students through experiential programmes, events and workshops.


Welcome from Director Wendy Kerr

Whether you have an idea for a venture, research to commercialise, or want to start a business, we have a range of programmes to support you. Based at the University of Auckland Business School, we work closely with the wider business and entrepreneurial communities to enable you to unleash your potential.

Recognised by the MIT Skoltech Initiative as one of the world’s top five emerging leaders in entrepreneurship, the University of Auckland is committed to developing business savvy, entrepreneurial graduates to ensure New Zealand’s longer term economic prosperity.

Our flagship academic programme, the Master of Commercialisation and Entrepreneurship, is designed to provide the core knowledge and skills needed to commercialise and take to market new products, services and processes based on research discoveries, inventions and new ideas.

Velocity, the University of Auckland’s year-long entrepreneurship programme, is student led and proudly supported by the Centre. MIT identified this long established programme as being the “beating heart” of entrepreneurship at the University.

Through outreach events such as the Idea Bootcamp business development programme, we engage our alumni and the wider community to create a space for innovative and entrepreneurial New Zealanders to network and learn.


Our People


Wendy Kerr

Director

An experienced general manager with global experience in technology and media start-ups. Wendy wrote two bestselling books on female-led start-ups and owned a web-based mentoring and training company for new business owners.

Professor Rod McNaughton

Academic Director

Head of the Department of Management and International Business. Rod specialises in international marketing strategy and the rapid entry into overseas markets by knowledge-intensive new ventures.

Trudi Gwillim

Associate Director

An experienced operations manager, Trudi is passionate about establishing standards, developing talent and leading teams. Previous experience includes working for a large corporate travel provider, as well as time abroad leading operational requirements for start-up and entrepreneurial ventures.

Darsel Keane

Associate Director – Unleash Space

The Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship’s first employee to establish and grow the centre. Previously, Darsel worked at EverEdge IP in intellectual property and commercialisation consulting.

Ken Erskine

Associate Director (acting) – Unleash Space

Ken has over 30 year’s business experience. He is accomplished in building high performance teams and networks to achieve business success. After an international career in senior roles in Europe and Australasia he successfully led and grew The Icehouse start-up business for seven years. He is also the Principal Partner at the Matū Investment Fund investing in early stage Science based startups.

Natasha Koekemoer

Peter Rachor

Hynds Entrepreneurial Teaching Fellow

As our Hynds Fellow, Peter focuses on integrating entrepreneurship across curricular courses and programmes throughout the University. With a lifelong passion for innovation and global opportunities, he has co-founded three companies, taught at 3 US academic institutions, developed learning modules for university and community-based entrepreneurship initiatives, and lived on four continents. 

Jenna Ash

Programme Manager

Jenna has a particular interest in building the entrepreneurial mindset and capabilities of New Zealanders. She has a background in consulting and has worked in the non-profit sector delivering programmes to build youth social enterprise and capability in New Zealand.

Judith Marecek

Programme Advisor Velocity

Judith has held a variety of digital and traditional marketing roles in the publishing industry in New Zealand. She has worked in events at the Parliament House of Australia in Canberra and the Irish Management Institute in Dublin.

Sinead Watson

Programme Manager

Sinead is an experienced community builder who is passionate about supporting New Zealand’s tech and innovation sector by curating supportive environments that foster connection, collaboration and growth. Sinead has worked within the co-working and disability sectors, and has a Master of Science in Health Psychology.

Naomi Bradshaw

Business Development Manager

Naomi previously was the Advertising and Promotions Manager for University Marketing, leading implementation of the University’s recruitment and brand campaigns.

Sean Kelly

Technician – Unleash Space

Sean is passionate about cultivating a new technological culture that brings together and encourages entrepreneurs and makers alike. A graduate of International Studies from Deakin University and a former tradesman Sean transitioned to the tech sector in the U.S. by working as a Technologist at the successful and unique technology space, Do Space.

Nancy Jones

Executive Assistant

Nancy has a wealth of experience as an executive assistant in the education field, working with CEOs and Boards in both the education consultancy and independent schools fields. She has a passion for connecting with a diverse range of people and enjoys contributing to the company’s growth and development. She is honoured having worked with a number of industry leaders.

Elizabeth Lee-Finkelstein

Programme Coordinator

Being raised in an entrepreneurial family, Elizabeth has always been curious about new ways of learning and thinking. She is excited to be part of a community that fosters innovative and entrepreneurial mindsets and cannot wait to help others to make an impact!

Noah Gherbremichael

Student and Programme Advisor

Noah is experienced in higher education management and public sector processes/services from his work with university, government agencies and NGO communities. Noah has a passion for social innovation and building impactful solutions to challenges by fostering the spirit of manaakitanga for a more equitable, entrepreneurial and sustainable society.

Cassie Ponton

Events Coordinator- Unleash Space

Cassie has a passion for sustainability and creating positive change. As Unleash Space’s Events Manager, she leads the activation of the Innovation Hub along with the delivery of a variety of programmes. Her experience as a Greenpeace intern sparked the implementation of sustainable waste practices at Unleash Space. She is an avid surfer and holds a Bachelor of International Relations with a focus on global policy and climate change from La Trobe University.

Geoff Whitcher

Advisor

Founding Director of the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Geoff worked for Unilever and Fletcher Challenge in New Zealand and overseas. Geoff was involved in creating Spark (now Velocity), Chiasma, the Entrepreneurs’ Challenge and The Icehouse.

Wendy Kerr

Director

An experienced general manager with global experience in technology and media start-ups. Wendy wrote two bestselling books on female-led start-ups and owned a web-based mentoring and training company for new business owners.

Professor Rod McNaughton

Academic Director

Head of the Department of Management and International Business. Rod specialises in international marketing strategy and the rapid entry into overseas markets by knowledge-intensive new ventures.

Trudi Gwillim

Associate Director

An experienced operations manager, Trudi is passionate about establishing standards, developing talent and leading teams. Previous experience includes working for a large corporate travel provider, as well as time abroad leading operational requirements for start-up and entrepreneurial ventures.

Ken Erskine

Associate Director (acting) – Unleash Space

Ken has over 30 year’s business experience. He is accomplished in building high performance teams and networks to achieve business success. After an international career in senior roles in Europe and Australasia he successfully led and grew The Icehouse start-up business for seven years. He is also the Principal Partner at the Matū Investment Fund investing in early stage Science based startups.

Natasha Koekemoer

Peter Rachor

Hynds Entrepreneurial Teaching Fellow

As our Hynds Fellow, Peter focuses on integrating entrepreneurship across curricular courses and programmes throughout the University. With a lifelong passion for innovation and global opportunities, he has co-founded three companies, taught at 3 US academic institutions, developed learning modules for university and community-based entrepreneurship initiatives, and lived on four continents. 

Darsel Keane

Associate Director – Unleash Space

The Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship’s first employee to establish and grow the centre. Previously, Darsel worked at EverEdge IP in intellectual property and commercialisation consulting.

Jenna Ash

Programme Manager

Jenna has a particular interest in building the entrepreneurial mindset and capabilities of New Zealanders. She has a background in consulting and has worked in the non-profit sector delivering programmes to build youth social enterprise and capability in New Zealand.

Judith Marecek

Programme Advisor Velocity

Judith has held a variety of digital and traditional marketing roles in the publishing industry in New Zealand. She has worked in events at the Parliament House of Australia in Canberra and the Irish Management Institute in Dublin.

Sinead Watson

Programme Manager

Sinead is an experienced community builder who is passionate about supporting New Zealand’s tech and innovation sector by curating supportive environments that foster connection, collaboration and growth. Sinead has worked within the co-working and disability sectors, and has a Master of Science in Health Psychology.

Naomi Bradshaw

Business Development Manager

Naomi previously was the Advertising and Promotions Manager for University Marketing, leading implementation of the University’s recruitment and brand campaigns.

Sean Kelly

Technician – Unleash Space

Sean is passionate about cultivating a new technological culture that brings together and encourages entrepreneurs and makers alike. A graduate of International Studies from Deakin University and a former tradesman Sean transitioned to the tech sector in the U.S. by working as a Technologist at the successful and unique technology space, Do Space.

Nancy Jones

Executive Assistant

Nancy has a wealth of experience as an executive assistant in the education field, working with CEOs and Boards in both the education consultancy and independent schools fields. She has a passion for connecting with a diverse range of people and enjoys contributing to the company’s growth and development. She is honoured having worked with a number of industry leaders.

Elizabeth Lee-Finkelstein

Programme Coordinator

Being raised in an entrepreneurial family, Elizabeth has always been curious about new ways of learning and thinking. She is excited to be part of a community that fosters innovative and entrepreneurial mindsets and cannot wait to help others to make an impact!

Noah Gherbremichael

Student and Programme Advisor

Noah is experienced in higher education management and public sector processes/services from his work with university, government agencies and NGO communities. Noah has a passion for social innovation and building impactful solutions to challenges by fostering the spirit of manaakitanga for a more equitable, entrepreneurial and sustainable society.

Cassie Ponton

Events Coordinator- Unleash Space

Cassie has a passion for sustainability and creating positive change. As Unleash Space’s Events Manager, she leads the activation of the Innovation Hub along with the delivery of a variety of programmes. Her experience as a Greenpeace intern sparked the implementation of sustainable waste practices at Unleash Space. She is an avid surfer and holds a Bachelor of International Relations with a focus on global policy and climate change from La Trobe University.

Geoff Whitcher

Advisor

Founding Director of the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Geoff worked for Unilever and Fletcher Challenge in New Zealand and overseas. Geoff was involved in creating Spark (now Velocity), Chiasma, the Entrepreneurs’ Challenge and The Icehouse.

Code of Conduct

The collective values of the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship mean that we welcome and are committed to an open exchange of ideas, freedom of thought, expressions and debate. It also means we are dedicated to providing a safe and harassment-free experience for everyone engaging with the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Issues of harassment includes but is not limited to; gender, sexual orientation, ability, appearance, race, age and religion.

If you experience any forms of harassment or feel unsafe during any interactions with the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and its members, representatives or industry partners, please report this as soon as possible to either:

  1. A Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship staff member. In person, or see cie.auckland.ac.nz/contact-us for contact details.
  2. The Proctors office. Email proctor@auckland.ac.nz or phone 027 839 3832.

All allegations will be investigated, and principles of natural justice applied (“the right to be heard” and “no person may judge their own case”).

If you feel we fall short of our values, or fall short of our commitment, don’t be silent. We want and need to hear from you.

EMAIL
CIE@AUCKLAND.AC.NZ

PHONE
09 923 4526

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