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Women Founders Lay Down Challenge For New Zealand To Do Business Better

2023 women founder conference, Electrify Aotearoa: Auckland, saw the best and brightest women in business lay down the challenge for New Zealand to do better.

The best and brightest women in Aotearoa business want improvements to the business sector and they’re not going to wait around for someone to fix things..

Organised and presented by Ministry of Awesome and hosted at the SkyCity Theatre, Electrify Aotearoa saw keynotes from a broad selection of Aotearoa’s most electric founders, including Janine Grainger of Easy Crypto , Maru Nihoniho, of Metia Interactive, and Frances Shoemack of Abel along with 20 other inspirational speakers and startup experts conducting masterclasses and panel discussions.

A key challenge for New Zealand business laid down by Electrify Aotearoa was to support and invest capital in as many women-led start-ups as men.

Other panels at the event included, Barriers to investment led by Theresa Gattung, Founder mindset led by Suse Reynolds of Angel Association NZ with Supie’s Sarah Balle and Jessica Manins, Co-Founder at Beyond, as well as masterclasses in brand and go-to-market, suitable for entrepreneurs at all stages of their growth trajectory.

Sold out for its second consecutive year, Electrify Aotearoa again underlined the inportance of building deeper connections among entrepreneurial wahine, to lift each other up and open doors for one another.

Ministry of Awesome CEO, Marian Johnson said the event was a “thunderclap” moment for women in business in Aotearoa to demand and lead the change the country needs.

“To every woman in this room, this is your call to action to believe, to activate, to connect with each other and power up. Every one of our speakers is a trailblazer and an innovator so tell their stories, tell your own, and share that inspiration around,” Johnson said.

“For NZ to be a world leading innovation economy, we need at least 5000 startups building their global ventures from NZ. Right now we have 2400 and the fastest way to get to our goal is to ensure we grow, support, and invest in women startup founders. If we had as many women startup founders as men in this country, we would immediately add another $22b on to our GDP.”*

EasyCrypto CEO and founder, Janine Grainger, reiterated the need to fix the glaring venture capital gap in New Zealand:

“Theresa Gattung personally funded research which found that for 100 startups the NZCGP invested in with taxpayer funds, just seven of those were founded by women but the research also found that startups with at least one female founder outperformed all male founder teams by 63%. We need to all do our part to eradicate venture capital bias and the report highlights that having a female founder is a secret weapon that more companies need to realise and start proactively seeking out these companies and projects - it makes financial sense to do so! “

Abel CEO, Frances Shoemack, underlined the important shift taking place as women strive for parity in business.

"The question I'm repeatedly asked by aspiring women leaders is how I manage the 'juggle'. There's a whole lot tied up in that question! The expectation that the 'juggle' is their responsibility, the fear of letting down family or their team, a creeping in of self doubt and fear of failure. We need to arm our female leaders with permission and a truly global ambition as well as an element of compassion. We only have to look back a few decades to acknowledge what a momentous societal shift this is - of course it's taking time for us all to navigate. "

OpoBio founder Olivia Ogilvie, whose trailblazing company is working on creating lab-grown, sustainable meat products left the following for the audience:

“Don’t just settle for something which isn’t right for you. Find things that interest and excite you, and keep trying new things until you do. And find people who truly inspire you to help you along the way,” Ogilvie said.

Speaking on her experience pitching her startup Mā Innovations founder Aida Rasmussen drew parallels with building a startup and parenting

“There’s some comparisons with parenting and running a startup. As a founder you can’t understand why everyone isn’t fawning over your baby going into these meetings. And for those of us that are doing it right, it’s going to be really really hard. If it’s simple and it’s an absolute breeze, something is going wrong,” said Rasmussen.

Electrify Aotearoa was backed by some of New Zealand’s most important organisations for the startup and innovation ecosystem, including Callaghan Innovation, New Zealand Growth Capital Partners, Auckland Unlimited, and AWS.

Electrify Aotearoa took place on 1 August, 2023 at SkyCity Conference Centre in Auckland. Imagery from the day can be found here.

* $22 billion figure is based on BCG research that showed a 3 to 6% uplift in national GDP when start-up gender parity is achieved. This figure was applied to New Zealand’s GDP of $385b.


About Electrify Aotearoa

Electrify Aotearoa addresses the global, national, regional, and local women founder gap by providing role models and success stories to inspire and activate the wāhine of New Zealand.

Speakers include:

Janine Grainger- CEO and founder at EasyCrypto

Dr. Liz Berryman - CEO & Founder of Chnnl

Maru Nihoniho - Founder and managing director at Metia Interactive

Aida Rasmussen - Founder at Mā Innovations

Laura Bell - CEO and Founder of SafeStack

Frances Shoemack - Founder & CEO at Abel Odor

Dr. Olivia Ogilvie - Co-founder and CEO at Opo Bio

Jenny Douché - Startup & Founder Product Owner at Callaghan Innovation

Stefan Korn - CEO at Callaghan Innovation

Imche Veiga - CEO at Outset Ventures

Theresa Gattung - Chair, Global Women

Dr. Janine Swail - Senior Lecturer in Innovation and Entrepreneurship at University of Auckland

Marian Johnson - CEO at Ministry of Awesome

Tiffany Bloomquist - Country Manager, Commercial Sales, Head of Amazon Web Services (AWS) in New Zealand

Michelle Allbon - Owner/Director at Grounded Advisory Ltd

Tuihana Ohia - Founder at Woo Wellbeing Limited

Jessica Manins - Co-Founder at Beyond

Suse Reynolds - Executive Chair at Angel Association New Zealand

Sarah Balle - Founder of Supie

Electrify Aotearoa partners

Ministry of Awesome

Callaghan Innovation


New Zealand Growth Capital Partners (NZGCP)

Auckland Unlimited

NZ Trade & Enterprise


Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE)

Kiwi Bank


Blackbird Ventures




Punakaiki Fund

EVEN Capital


Go Media



About Ministry for Awesome

Christchurch-based Ministry of Awesome exists to drive startup and innovation growth and success in Aotearoa. The organisation works with ambitious startups to provide incubation, mentorship, and access to the investor networks, commercial partners, and professional services they need to succeed.

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