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Bridging the gap between concept and business reality

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We are delighted to have Ken Erskine join the University of Auckland Business School’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship for the next twelve months as Associate Director of Unleash Space.

Earlier this year, Ken held the role of VentureLab manager with the Centre as we launched an incubator pilot aimed at supporting emerging ventures bridge the gap between venture concept and business reality.

“We were very keen to have Ken join us as VentureLab Manager. Ken has extensive knowledge in how to grow a business from the seed of an idea to become a significant and successful global company. He has helped hundreds of kiwi businesses do exactly that,” says Wendy Kerr, Director of the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

“His extensive international business experience, as well as his leadership and investment experience were a real asset to the VentureLab incubator programme and the teams who were part of the pilot.”

No stranger to designing and running programmes, Ken has an outstanding reputation for his work at The Icehouse as director for startups responsible for its Incubator and ICE Angels investor group. In 2010, Forbes named The Icehouse as one of the world’s top ten technology incubators changing the world.

Ken was a natural fit for designing and running the programme of support for the five Velocity $100k Challenge winning teams from 2017 who participated in VentureLab. This was a six-month support programme, which included a series of education sessions from industry leaders and a plan for each individual team

“With VentureLab, we wanted to give each team the support they need to succeed with the next stage of their venture. This needed to be bespoke. Ken worked with each team so they could identify what assistance, support and resources were going to best help them reach their goals,” Wendy says.

The VentureLab aims to help teams move forward by providing funding and expertise to assist them to develop and progress toward becoming effective, valuable, sustainable businesses. This can be as basic as having experienced support to help avoid the most common mistakes made by early stage ventures through to providing connections to specific expertise and networks. Teams received a stipend to help with resourcing and allocating time to focus on their ventures.

“I was pleased with how the pilot went,” Ken says. “Feedback from the teams proved they realised significant value from their participation. Of course the type of value derived by each of the teams was different as each had very different challenges and opportunities. Having completed the VentureLab programme, each team now has a clear set of goals and a plan to move forward. This was the goal of the programme.”

“Highlights for me from VentureLab was seeing real progress from a business perspective but also on a personal level seeing the development of the founders within the teams.”

Ken is an active angel investor and has personally invested in over 50 kiwi startups. He says he has the battle scars that come with the ups and downs of the industry.

“The key is being able to bridge the gap between what you understand your customers’ needs are and delivering that product or service to them. True validation only happens when you are able to deliver to and charge for your product or service. To be an established startup you need to have a business with customers, not just an idea.”

Looking to the future and his role as Associate Director of Unleash Space, Ken says: “I’m really looking forward to supporting and enabling the team to make the most of the Space and what it can offer the University community. The Unleash Space is a significant investment for the University of Auckland Business School and it’s great to see such enthusiasm and early adoption from the students and staff.

“I’m also working on developing the V2.0 VentureLab programme and really looking forward to working with this year’s Velocity $100k Challenge winners. There is an amazing pool of talent amongst the winners and I hope VentureLab can benefit them by supporting their next steps.

“Outside of the University I’ll also be working on launching Matū – an early stage investment fund focused on supporting science based startups.”

We look forward to bringing you news of VentureLab V2.0 and follow up stories from the 2018 VentureLab teams as their ventures progress.

Ken Erskine
Ken Erskine

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We are delighted to have Ken Erskine join the University of Auckland Business School’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship for the next twelve months as Associate Director of Unleash Space.

Earlier this year, Ken held the role of VentureLab manager with the Centre as we launched an incubator pilot aimed at supporting emerging ventures bridge the gap between venture concept and business reality.

“We were very keen to have Ken join us as VentureLab Manager. Ken has extensive knowledge in how to grow a business from the seed of an idea to become a significant and successful global company. He has helped hundreds of kiwi businesses do exactly that,” says Wendy Kerr, Director of the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

“His extensive international business experience, as well as his leadership and investment experience were a real asset to the VentureLab incubator programme and the teams who were part of the pilot.”

No stranger to designing and running programmes, Ken has an outstanding reputation for his work at The Icehouse as director for startups responsible for its Incubator and ICE Angels investor group. In 2010, Forbes named The Icehouse as one of the world’s top ten technology incubators changing the world.

Ken was a natural fit for designing and running the programme of support for the five Velocity $100k Challenge winning teams from 2017 who participated in VentureLab. This was a six-month support programme, which included a series of education sessions from industry leaders and a plan for each individual team

“With VentureLab, we wanted to give each team the support they need to succeed with the next stage of their venture. This needed to be bespoke. Ken worked with each team so they could identify what assistance, support and resources were going to best help them reach their goals,” Wendy says.

The VentureLab aims to help teams move forward by providing funding and expertise to assist them to develop and progress toward becoming effective, valuable, sustainable businesses. This can be as basic as having experienced support to help avoid the most common mistakes made by early stage ventures through to providing connections to specific expertise and networks. Teams received a stipend to help with resourcing and allocating time to focus on their ventures.

“I was pleased with how the pilot went,” Ken says. “Feedback from the teams proved they realised significant value from their participation. Of course the type of value derived by each of the teams was different as each had very different challenges and opportunities. Having completed the VentureLab programme, each team now has a clear set of goals and a plan to move forward. This was the goal of the programme.”

“Highlights for me from VentureLab was seeing real progress from a business perspective but also on a personal level seeing the development of the founders within the teams.”

Ken is an active angel investor and has personally invested in over 50 kiwi startups. He says he has the battle scars that come with the ups and downs of the industry.

“The key is being able to bridge the gap between what you understand your customers’ needs are and delivering that product or service to them. True validation only happens when you are able to deliver to and charge for your product or service. To be an established startup you need to have a business with customers, not just an idea.”

Looking to the future and his role as Associate Director of Unleash Space, Ken says: “I’m really looking forward to supporting and enabling the team to make the most of the Space and what it can offer the University community. The Unleash Space is a significant investment for the University of Auckland Business School and it’s great to see such enthusiasm and early adoption from the students and staff.

“I’m also working on developing the V2.0 VentureLab programme and really looking forward to working with this year’s Velocity $100k Challenge winners. There is an amazing pool of talent amongst the winners and I hope VentureLab can benefit them by supporting their next steps.

“Outside of the University I’ll also be working on launching Matū – an early stage investment fund focused on supporting science based startups.”

We look forward to bringing you news of VentureLab V2.0 and follow up stories from the 2018 VentureLab teams as their ventures progress.


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