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Staff profile: VentureLab Manager Dana McKenzie

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VentureLab is the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship’s incubator programme, open by invitation only to winners of the Velocity 100K challenge competition. Over the course of six months, VentureLab participants have access to a wealth of resources including a board of advisors, a $10,000 stipend per team, access to further funds and university resources, dedicated desk space within the University’s innovation hub Unleash Space and mentorship. One of those mentors is VentureLab Manager Dana McKenzie.

Dana is an experienced entrepreneur, advisor and member of the innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem. For over 20 years Dana’s career has taken her from her native Romania to America, Switzerland, France and New Zealand. Her specialty is working at the intersection of technology and science. Learning what it takes to successfully take innovation to the world, in different markets, helps Dana have a pragmatic assessing and guiding approach to the start-ups that attempt the same with limited financial resources. In New Zealand since 2014, Dana has made several investments via the Ice Angels and served on their Board as ViceChair and is currently the Lead Investor and Chair for Dexibit. Dana holds an MSc in Computer Science from University of Colorado in Boulder and an MBA from IMD in Lausanne, Switzerland.

What made you decide to get involved with VentureLab?

I had been involved as a Judge in the Velocity $100K competition for a couple years beforehand and I had enjoyed the calibre of the participants. In addition, the passion and dedication that the team from the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship had poured into the journey for these finalists prior to the awards evening was inspiring. 

Tell us about the support students receive at VentureLab. What does it involve?

VentureLab was imagined and is structured to provide the momentum and framework for the Velocity finalists post the euphoria of winning the awards. It is meant to cover high-level elements of a start-up journey, adapted to the specifics of each venture.  As such, the teams learn about the legal aspects of setting up a company, equity structure and vesting for the team, governance and advisory boards. Next, we cover (and adapt the theory for each case) capital strategy, the actors in the New Zealand space and their specific industry interest, with valuation considerations for each round to be planned, the IP landscape and impact for the financing rounds, regulatory environment, channels to market, sales and marketing strategies and supply chain overall implications.

What traits have you seen in the VentureLab participants? Why do you think they have had the success they have had to get this far?

They all have a higher purpose and a vision for the venture they are working on. This ranges from a breakthrough technology, novel product, solution to a problem that others have given up on solving, ability to translate the complex into the meaningful. They remain curious and brave about tackling the additional learning that is necessary in folding in so that idea or product or technology can be a viable business. They remain inquisitive and resilient, even if some areas might appear as black boxes at first.

What do you think people would be most surprised to learn about in regards to the process for aspiring entrepreneurs?

How quickly the unknown gets demystified when reaching out to people who have walked on that path before. And how much more unknown is still there with each new finding.

What advice do you wish you had received when you were a student in regards to building a career or starting a venture?

Trust my intuition and surround myself with subject matter experts in the domains that I had no knowledge in. Keep asking questions and keep setting the bar higher.

 

Staff profile: VentureLab Manager Dana McKenzie
Staff profile: VentureLab Manager Dana McKenzie

social media

VentureLab is the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship’s incubator programme, open by invitation only to winners of the Velocity 100K challenge competition. Over the course of six months, VentureLab participants have access to a wealth of resources including a board of advisors, a $10,000 stipend per team, access to further funds and university resources, dedicated desk space within the University’s innovation hub Unleash Space and mentorship. One of those mentors is VentureLab Manager Dana McKenzie.

Dana is an experienced entrepreneur, advisor and member of the innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem. For over 20 years Dana’s career has taken her from her native Romania to America, Switzerland, France and New Zealand. Her specialty is working at the intersection of technology and science. Learning what it takes to successfully take innovation to the world, in different markets, helps Dana have a pragmatic assessing and guiding approach to the start-ups that attempt the same with limited financial resources. In New Zealand since 2014, Dana has made several investments via the Ice Angels and served on their Board as ViceChair and is currently the Lead Investor and Chair for Dexibit. Dana holds an MSc in Computer Science from University of Colorado in Boulder and an MBA from IMD in Lausanne, Switzerland.

What made you decide to get involved with VentureLab?

I had been involved as a Judge in the Velocity $100K competition for a couple years beforehand and I had enjoyed the calibre of the participants. In addition, the passion and dedication that the team from the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship had poured into the journey for these finalists prior to the awards evening was inspiring. 

Tell us about the support students receive at VentureLab. What does it involve?

VentureLab was imagined and is structured to provide the momentum and framework for the Velocity finalists post the euphoria of winning the awards. It is meant to cover high-level elements of a start-up journey, adapted to the specifics of each venture. As such, the teams learn about the legal aspects of setting up a company, equity structure and vesting for the team, governance and advisory boards. Next, we cover (and adapt the theory for each case) capital strategy, the actors in the New Zealand space and their specific industry interest, with valuation considerations for each round to be planned, the IP landscape and impact for the financing rounds, regulatory environment, channels to market, sales and marketing strategies and supply chain overall implications.

What traits have you seen in the VentureLab participants? Why do you think they have had the success they have had to get this far?

They all have a higher purpose and a vision for the venture they are working on. This ranges from a breakthrough technology, novel product, solution to a problem that others have given up on solving, ability to translate the complex into the meaningful. They remain curious and brave about tackling the additional learning that is necessary in folding in so that idea or product or technology can be a viable business. They remain inquisitive and resilient, even if some areas might appear as black boxes at first.

What do you think people would be most surprised to learn about in regards to the process for aspiring entrepreneurs?

How quickly the unknown gets demystified when reaching out to people who have walked on that path before. And how much more unknown is still there with each new finding.

What advice do you wish you had received when you were a student in regards to building a career or starting a venture?

Trust my intuition and surround myself with subject matter experts in the domains that I had no knowledge in. Keep asking questions and keep setting the bar higher.

 


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