Students put through their paces at Level One TGS Ignition Day

Students put through their paces at Level One TGS Ignition Day

Slip-on sprig savers for football boots, a fashion app, a heated wetsuit, disposable toothpaste capsules and a study box were just some of the business ideas generated by students at the TGS Ignition Day hosted by Level One on the Devonport Wharf last weekend.

More than 30 Takapuna Grammar School Business Studies students from across a range of years took part in the second annual Ignition Day which saw groups of five matched with a local business entrepreneur.  The students initially generated three ideas per group which were then whittled down to one and they then presented their ideas to the team of judges which included Rudi Bublitz, Simon Lampen, Duncan Ledwith and Sinead Watson.

Former TGS students Louis Gordon-Latty of Glory League, Shaun Quincey of Genoapay and Jack Downs, the local representative on Auckland Council’s Youth Advisory Board, were all on hand to give advice and help provide inspiration.

Organiser Matt Yallop told the students as they went off to develop their pitches, “it’s all down to how you deliver it.  There are no rules”.

Emma Johnson, Head of Business Studies at TGS, said, “The students gained a huge amount from the day.  Not only did they have the privilege of being paired with a local entrepreneur for several hours, but they also learned how to develop an idea, validate it and then pitch it to a team of judges.  The experience the students gained was invaluable but we were also very impressed with the quality and creativity of ideas generated.”

Team Awards went to:

Most Compelling Play:  Aquatech team for their heated wetsuit, mentored by Tim Gelston.

Best Overall Pitch:  Soul Savers team for their Slip-on Sprig Savers for football boots, mentored by Anna Yallop

Most Improved Team:  Ninja Strike Force 7 team for their Fashion search app, mentored by Craig Norris

Photo names – left to right

Most Compelling Play:  Aquatech mentored by Tim Gelston.

Knight Hou (Spark), Amanda Hunter, Nate Coyne, Zoe Raines, Matt O’Reilly, Tim Gelston

Best Overall Pitch:  Soul Savers mentored by Anna Yallop

Hunter Rush, Milly Pearson, Shannon Blackhall, Anna Yallop, Abby Harris

Most Improved Team:  Ninja Strike Force 7 mentored by Craig Norris

Nelly Farmiloe, Maddy Barton Reid, Ruiliang Nie, Craig Norris, Joshua Downs​
From Francophile to Fintech

From Francophile to Fintech

Our newest Level One resident, Aaron Drew, has fond family memories of trips to the Devonport beaches when Lake Road was not quite so busy. We’re happy that he’s made the smart decision to cut the commute and make Level One his close-to-home work base.

Aaron, who is now running an investment governance training and a consulting business, started his financial career at the Reserve Bank in Wellington which is where he met his future wife, a Chilean. They travelled together and spent four years in Paris, where they both worked at the OECD in the economics division, discovering along the way that all clichés about Europeans from the TV show ‘Allo ‘allo were broadly accurate. 

A few years later, and by this time back in Auckland with family in tow, Aaron was working at NZ Superfund as an investment strategist, when the GFC struck. He describes it as a surreal time with the ‘normal’ rules of markets and economics being upended, and experiencing a phase shift compared to the general public.  

After six years at the Superfund Aaron ways he was ready for a new challenge and joined fi360 Pacific, a fiduciary consultancy that is linked to fi360 in the United States.

He says it’s been a steep learning curve from a corporate environment but he really enjoys the flexibility and variety of work and clients.

In his training and advisory businesses, Aaron works across NZ, Australia and the Pacific so for him, it’s vital that he can work remotely.  

It also gives him the opportunity to bring to this part of the world some of the “fintech” tools his US partner has developed for advisory businesses and investment organisations.  

Aaron says, “In general, I think fintech is great for investors as it’s driving down costs and increasing the variety of investment options.  It’s also a great opportunity for advisors to improve their service offering and the economics of managing wealth for clients with lower balances. For example, we are seeing in the US that the most successful practices are bringing into their businesses robo solutions and that’s just starting to occur here too.  

“It’s probably much more of a challenge for the funds management industry as it has sped up the commoditisation of research and value-adding investment strategies.”

Off Main Street Features in the Flagstaff

Off Main Street Features in the Flagstaff

Many Devonport tech businesses operate from homes or in local offices — just like LevelOneHQ.  The Flagstaff has recently launched a monthly column, “Off Main Street”, which shines the light on local innovators.  The launch column profiled local tech entrepreneurs Rich Chetwynd and Nicole Fougere, who have already developed and sold two companies to Silicon Valley firms.

We’re on the Big Screen

We’re on the Big Screen


Look out for Level One’s ad the next time you’re watching a movie at The Vic.  We currently have desk space to rent which you can take by the day or month — for highly competitive rates.  And where else in the world would you get an office view like ours?  Not to mention the ability to kayak to work or the 20-second walk to the ferry.  We’ll give you a free trial if you’re interested — ask Simon or Leah for more details.

Hats off to Conversant

Hats off to Conversant

Hats off to our very own Cameron Beattie and Conversant for their recent acquisition by leading broadband and telecommunications provider, Voyager Internet.


Some glowing comments were made by Voyager MD Seeby Woodhouse in a recent press release:


“Conversant have built a reputation based on their truly innovative approach. Cameron and the rest of the Conversant team are exceptionally good at what they do, a fact which is reflected in the extremely high performance standard of their products.

“The acquisition will allow us to leapfrog the development of Voyager’s equivalent VoIP offering – enabling us to deliver new and better functionality to our customers much, much sooner than would be possible via a traditional R&D process.”

Our Conversant friends may have moved over the water, but they’re still very much a part of the Level One community and a feature at Friday night drinks.  Once we get our roof back on we’ll be looking for more tenants, so give Simon a shout if you know of anyone.

Bringing Entrepreneurial Knowledge to the Younger Generation

Bringing Entrepreneurial Knowledge to the Younger Generation



Kudos to Devonport local Jack Downs who was recently appointed as the Devonport-Takapuna representative on Auckland Council’s Youth Advisory Panel.  The 20-strong panel helps identify issues that are important to young people and provides advice on Council’s regional strategies, policies and plans.  Together with two other panel members, Jack’s off to Beijing next month for the Beijing Sister City Youth Foundation where young people from 80 countries throughout the world will gather for the week-long information-sharing event.


Jack’s perfectly placed to bring entrepreneurial knowledge to the younger generation. Along with three other Takapuna Grammar School senior students, Jack designed and developed the Trident Weather app, which gives location information and forecasts on temperatures, tides, wind direction, wind speeds and swells.  The app helped win the group the Best Digital Tech Company award at last year’s Callaghan Innovation awards in conjunction with YES, the Lion Foundation Youth Enterprise Scheme.

And when he’s not designing award-winning apps and advising on issues that affect young people, Jack’s the in-house Shopify specialist with cloud tech consultancy The Instillery.


We’re all signed up

We’re all signed up

You probably couldn’t help but notice the jazzy new “Level One HQ” sign as you walked up the stairs just now.  Just in case there was ever any doubt about where you come to plant yourselves every morning, you now know where you are.  Welcome!   Watch this space as there’s more to come…


What I Love Most About Coworking……

What I Love Most About Coworking……

In the spirit of National Coworking Day, we’ve polled our residents to find out what they enjoy most about coworking.  Looks like it’s been given the big thumbs-up….

“The diversity of viewpoints and shared experiences”…..Cameron, Conversant

“I enjoy the mix of people.  The interns, especially, amuse me”……Chris, Defacto Software

“Sharing inspiration with like-minded people”……Simon, Vinsight

“I like being around people — I worked at home for a number of years and slowly went mad”……Chris, Scientific Software & Systems

“I like meeting new people and hearing about new ideas and business ventures.  It inspires me to think differently”….. Leah, Conversant

“The co-working dog”……Narly, Potter IP

“It’s nice being around a diverse range of people with different skills and interests”….. Tate, Conversant

“Daily swims, good views, great sunsets”……Hamish, Conversant

“I just love the buzz of having a diversity of people around with a great sense of humour”……..Matto, Rabid

National Coworking Day Comes to Level One

National Coworking Day Comes to Level One

Level One will throw open its doors next Thursday, May 11 for National Coworking Day – a new concept for New Zealand and part of Tech Week which kicks off this weekend.  

National Coworking Day aims to showcase the network of coworking spaces in New Zealand, to generate interest in co-working in various cities and regions and to feature coworking spaces and coworkers as key players in New Zealand technology and innovation.  

Around 30 coworking spaces in New Zealand are taking part in National Coworking Day, including Confluence in Whanganui, Orchard Hub in Whangarei and Awesome HQ in Christchurch.

We’ll be open for visits between 9am and 5pm on the 11th, so please let friends, colleagues, locals and anyone else curious about coworking know that they can pop in for free and see what we do at any stage that day.  We’ll put on a few beers after 5pm, in fine Thursday afternoon style.


Helping to grow innovative companies

Helping to grow innovative companies

Marshall Couper is passionate about growing innovative companies.  A self-confessed sports addict, social entrepreneur and consummate networker and connector, Marshall is an investment manager at Callaghan Innovation where he advises many of New Zealand’s most innovative and creative businesses on how to become more commercial.

In particular, Marshall looks after connections, referrals, capital raising and partnerships and collaboration.  He’ll help put you in contact with people with specific skill sets of interest to your business.  He’s also focused on capability-building to make your business innovation-ready, and can point you to a range of programmes, training and workshops to help your business improve performance, eliminate inefficiencies and increase customer satisfaction.

Marshall also advises on R&D and the availability of grants designed to assist businesses, whether they’re a young start-up, established R&D performer or want to bring students on board to assist in R&D activities. 

Marshall acknowledges that the grants, which were first developed over 10 years ago, favour traditional R&D and are not really suited to today’s tech environment.  But he says that Callaghan Innovation is currently streamlining the process and redefining R&D in the context of digital, IT and software companies. R&D grants on offer include:

  • Getting Started Grants:  to help a business kick-start R&D
  • Project Grants:  to help business research and develop a product, process or service

Callaghan funds 40% of the cost.  Aimed at first-time R&D companies, it involves a subjective, committee-based application process.  Supportive of new technology, including AI, AR, AV, platform scalability, heavy duty security issues, big data analytics, algorithms

  • Growth Grants:  to help business fund an expanding R&D programme

Objective, no assessments or criteria around R&D but designed to be for technical research; data analysis and integration, rather than product validation, market validation and customer focus groups. Quarterly 20% rebate.  Need to show a three-year R&D programme as per IAS38 and provide quarterly management accounts.  If at the end of two years, you can show that R&D has been maintained, then you get a further two years on your three-year grant, making a total of five.  Need $300,000 annual eligible R&D spend to be eligible.

  • Student Grants:  to help businesses involve students in R&D.  To promote R&D learning in a commercial environment

The first tier of student grants is a $6,400 award to fund a 16-week undergraduate project in the summer break. Grants are given once a year in April/May and students need to be in their last year of study.  The application follows an RFP process.

The second tier funds a six-month project for students in their final year of study.  This is a one-off award of $30,000 with around 40% of companies topping that amount up. In addition, there are:

R&D Careers Grants: to add a PhD or master’s graduate to an R&D team to stimulate innovation

R&D Fellowship Grants: to solve a challenging R&D problem with PhD or master’s research

In the case of Masters and PhD Fellowships, the student is expected to work a third of their time in the business.  There also needs to be someone else in the company with equivalent qualifications so they can mentor them.

We’ll be inviting Marshall to come and chat to Level One residents sometime soon.  In the meantime, if you’ve got any questions, go here for starters.