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Incubation Fund provides $20 million to help start-up companies

Brianne West, Founder & Chief Executive, Nous Labs and Ethique (Facebook Photo)

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Auckland, June 6, 2022

The government has launched a new $20 million fund and incubation initiative designed to address the high failure rate of New Zealand start-ups with a social or environmental purpose.

According to the latest Government data, start-up survival rates in New Zealand, including those with a social imperative, have declined by 45% over the past six years – a trend that began before the current pandemic.

Nous Labs, a new organisation which provides investment, mentoring, coaching and marketing support for environmentally and socially focused Kiwi enterprises in their early stages of growth, is the creation of Brianne West, Founder & Chief Executive of the country’s largest regenerative beauty product exporter, Ethique.

Low rate of survival

Ms West said that it is critical that Kiwi start-ups which are purpose-led be allowed to develop to a point of maturity where they become self-sustaining.

According to her, these ventures are built around a business model that seeks to solve a social or environmental issue and will play an integral part in addressing societal problems in the future.

“What we know about the early stage of social enterprises is that only around 5% will survive through their first decade. Businesses which are mission-driven often face additional barriers in reaching the next stage of their lifecycle and lack the support and infrastructure needed for long-term viability. These social enterprises may be introducing a new concept to the market which requires a high investment in consumer education, they may incur significant R&D costs in the early stages of their launch or the cost of giving back in some form may simply be too high for a start-up to bear,” she said.

As a person who has started and scaled a mission-driven company, Ms West has a first-hand understanding of the barriers they will encounter.

“While many may face challenges that are unique to their model, we need to look at the potential benefit to society they provide as well as what they can contribute to the economy,” she said.

About Nous Lab

Ms West, a former winner of the EY Young Entrepreneur of the Year award, said that Nous will be open to anyone with a great idea trying to solve a problem, including tertiary students as well as start-ups and will exist as a values-led growth programme for businesses and entrepreneurs working to create a better world.

She said that her entry into a start-up competition while at university supported the growth of Ethique, which now supplies a line of regenerative beauty products to thousands of retailers in over 25 countries.

“The first stage of the Nous Labs launch will be a competition open to New Zealand entrepreneurs of all ages with an early-stage start-up which can help address a societal or environmental issue.

“Students will be asked to present their idea virtually to an expert panel which will include identifying the social or sustainability problem they are seeking to change and details of how that will be achieved.

“The business support package for the early-stage start-up competition ‘Got Nous’ is valued at $140,000. “From there, the incubator will support other Kiwi start-ups which operate as a social enterprise in some way. Having entered a competition that helped me reach mentors and access support while I was studying at university, I recognise the need to help bring socially focused entrepreneurs through the initial stage of their start-up development,” she said.

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