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Making hope actionable, together!

Last weekend we saw the 6th edition of Startup Weekend Tairāwhiti come to life. This year’s theme, Rise Up, Start Up!, was fully embraced on many levels. Participants pitched ideas they are passionate about, and learned how to make those hopes actionable. Once again, it was an epic weekend of problem-solving, growth, innovation and hilarious moments.


Kicking off the weekend in our Rise Up, Start Up! t-shirts.

This year was extra ambitious. Fashion industry waste, the world's second largest polluter; environmental degradation and erosion of identity; systemic bullying of neurodiverse whānau; poverty, the systemic challenges of the health system. These are some of the problems that our participants were working to craft solutions for on a local level. 


One judge Luke Fox asking questions about one of the pitches. Photo credit @MarkisaStudios.

Startup Weekend is a place for firsts. First time speaking in front of a crowd, first time working with a lean canvas, first time asking for help, first time following instead of leading, first time leading, first time making a budget. And it’s not just the participants rising up to the challenge. We have first time mentors, first time org teamers, first time volunteers, all supported by veterans in a tuakana-teina system.


Renay, Lily, Jasmine, Christina and Chrystal sharing observations.

In 54 hours from concept to creation. On Friday courageous participants pitch kaupapa close to their hearts and teams rally around them. On Saturday and Sunday the teams craft and iterate solutions. On Sunday from 4pm the teams pitch to a panel of judges. 


Our awesome judges: Luke Fox, John Pittar, Amanda Cook and Polly Crawford. Photo credit @MarkisaStudios.

As you can imagine, it’s a pressure cooker. Teams work through months of work in a number of hours, they verify, prototype, test, iterate, reframe, pivot and prototype and test again. And then they have to put it all into a presentation and pitch it clearly and confidently. It’s a very steep learning curve, a microcosmos of what it’s like to run a startup. 


Nicola, Jono and Larni-Jean getting the most out of their lean canvas and the sunshine.

Everyone goes on a bit of a journey on the weekend. The participants in each team this year either knew each other very well or not at all. In both cases, it’s hard to remain patient working together under a lot of pressure. We witnessed some very concrete moments where people checked themselves and decided to make their next move a constructive one. To dig deep and show up for the collective and serve the kaupapa.


After a rollercoaster weekend, everyone gathers for prize giving.

In Tairāwhiti, people always pitch kaupapa. Friday night pitches affirmed the strong cultural foundations of Te Tairāwhiti and the way in which this imbues a collectively held characterisation of entrepreneurship and business. It is inherently collective, deeply rooted within community, and shaped by tightly-held relationships between people and place.


HineAio, Mana, Whare and Doreen catching up before diving back into their mahi.

And the winners are! Each and every participant showed the courage to grow, to rise up for their kaupapa and for each other. By Sunday we had seven awesome five-minute pitches. Based on where the teams were by that point and what they presented, the Judges then announced the winning teams.


Honourable Mention went to In Your Element! A clothing repair and upcycle service specifically for industry workwear. 


Team In Your Element: Tim, Katie Pi, Emily and Kelly. Photo credit @MarkisaStudios.

Third Prize went to Korowai! An innovative healthcare clinic that combines clinical western and Hauora services to create a holistic offering. 


Team Korowai: Tui, Papa Danny, Luke, Bailey, Christian and Ruth. Photo credit @MarkisaStudios.

Second Prize went to Blindspot Busters! An online platform and peer support forum to help neurodiverse people navigate systems.


Team Blindspot Busters: Jono, Larni-Jean and Nicola. Photo credit @MarkisaStudios.

This year we created a new award in line with our theme. It's an award from our Mentors in honour of the courage and commitment to embrace the journey and Rise Up! It recognises the inner work that people do within the team in order to create the product, service, solution that they pitch as a team. 


The Rise Up Award went to Blindspot Busters! Congratulations to Nicola, Larni-Jean and Jono! You were amazing and we are so proud of you!


Team Blindspot Busters winning their second award. Photo credit @MarkisaStudios.

First Prize went to Hadbros! A bilingual board game for tamariki to learn financial literacy skills.


Team Hadbros: Pere, Manaia, Marney and Noti and Jo (not present). Photo credit @MarkisaStudios.

It takes a village... Besides the participants, Startup Weekend gathers a crowd of people that all play a part in supporting the participants working in their teams to bring their ideas to life. Everyone gets a t-shirt so we can make sense of who’s who and we all look like M&Ms. Participants get a black shirt because they’re the coolest. Ninja mentor green shirts walk alongside the teams, this year joined by amazing mentors from ARUP. Our vibrant facilitators keep the pace in their red shirts while the org crew organise quietly in the background in blue and volunteers magic everything into place in their purple shirts. 


Startup Weekend Tairāwhiti 2024 cohort.

And some pūtea. We are grateful for all the beautiful relationships built and for the diversity of organisations and businesses that generously give towards making this kaupapa possible each year. Special thanks to our sponsors: Te Runanga o Ngāti Porou, Futureverse, Tairāwhiti Contractors, Whangara Farms, Māori Womens Development Inc, Kaiwhakanau, Aatea, Kanapu, Campion College, Sunshine Brewery, Markisa Studios (photography) and to all the Tāiki e! Whānau without whom we could never pull this off. 


Colart, Alice, Bailey, Kelly and Manaia dishing up some of Mags' delicious kai.

A final thanks for the kai goes to Makere Kupenga and Tony, the kitchen ninjas that kept us nourished for the whole 54 hours.


Thanks everyone for making hope actionable together! About Startup Weekend. Techstars Startup Weekends are community-driven events that empower aspiring entrepreneurs, innovators, and changemakers to collaborate on building startups that make a positive impact. From idea generation to prototype development, participants work together to turn their visions into reality in just 54 hours.




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