Mini Dragon’s Den

SHARE

A Queenstown com­­­­­­pany helping other entrepreneurs grow says there’s never been a better time to start a business. 

Southinc – an “incubator” for start-up or existing companies – is celebrating its own growth since setting up two years ago and is on the hunt for like-minded enterprising people. 

Short for Southern Lakes Business Incubator, Southinc is the brainchild of local businessmen Dan Roberts and Mat Weir. 

They locate “business angels” – or investors – and pair them up with entrepreneurs, while assisting them through their internet marketing company Xebidy based at their Queenstown Innovation Centre in Cow Lane. 

It’s a concept similar to the hit international reality TV series Dragon’s Den – except there aren’t any “dragon” investors and it’s “much, much harder work”, Roberts says. 

“Queenstown has an extraordinary amount of wealthy individuals but also an extraordinary amount of amazing philanthropic individuals. 

“We are really lucky in that regard, compared to investors in Wellington or Auckland with their own corporate lives. They’re hard to communicate with, compared with investors down here. 

“They also want their pound of flesh but in Queenstown, there’s more emphasis on helping a new business grow.”
Roberts adds: “It’s a tough market at the moment but it’s a good time to be starting a business because if you succeed now, over the next two to three years you can only go up.” 

Roberts, an experienced web marketing strategist and public speaker, and web guru Weir – who as a teen designed a photo-sharing website before the likes of Flickr was invented – have already helped two start-up businesses succeed. 

Both companies – bike trail guide NZbybike.com and social network site upp.to.com – will soon create at least six new jobs in the local community. 

Roberts and Weir are expanding their premises to rent out desk space to like-minded businesses for “incubating” or general support. 

“There’s so many great mentors in Queenstown but it’s hard for people to get together, so hopefully the Innovation Centre can help,” Weir says.