Coaches and Mentors

Check out the amazing Startup Weekend coach and mentor team ready to support you throughout the event

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Daimon Stewart 

Director at Staples Rodway Taranaki 

Daimon is a born and bred New Plymouth local. After graduating with a BBS, Daimon headed to London for the great OE and found a position handling accounts for Michael Flatley of Lord of the Dance fame. Upon his return to New Zealand he worked as a Management Accountant for Hooker Pacific before joining Staples Rodway in 2002. He quickly progressed from Senior Accountant to Associate, and was appointed a Director in January 2013. Having experience as a company accountant as well as public practice, and previously owning a side-line in an importing/distribution business, Daimon has a great deal of commercial experience and an understanding of business processes from both sides of the fence.
Daimon has a passion for working alongside small business owners to create effective business strategies and maximise returns. "Being at the forefront of customer relationships is what I enjoy the most" he explains, "I love helping businesses grow, whether that's by giving tax advice, or being a sounding board for business decisions." Daimon is also an accredited Business Mentor with Business Mentors NZ which has been a great avenue for serving his passion.


Letitia Stevenson

Founder at Yonder

Letitia is a Taranaki local who has traveled extensively and then come home to the naki to start her own business. She has personal experience in startups and sales, specifically in the tourism sector. She has a background in teaching, mediation and facilitation of social/ health care policies for local government. Letitia has a BA in Social Anthropology and Geography from Massey University and a Graduate Diploma in Secondary Teaching. She is currently involved in the development and sales of tourism technology involving Artificial Intelligence and messenger apps. She is passionate about the tourism sector, making it sustainable and accessible for future generations and works closely with businesses to achieve this. As a previous participant of start up Taranaki she knows what’s involved, not just in the weekend, but taking that idea and turning it into a business.


Dan Thurston Crow

Human Performance Optimizer

Working in both New Zealand and China, Dan Thurston Crow has occupied roles across the marketing/comms/product/HR spectrum, and led teams on a diversity of projects, including brand identity development, advertising, organizational change, user experience, product design and learning and development. His fascination with entrepreneurialism has led him into ventures in the digital technology, education, media and professional services sectors.

At heart Dan is a design thinker, and along with his well developed strategic, creative and facilitation skills he has a passion for helping teams and their leaders surprise themselves with what they're capable of when they approach complex problems from unexplored angles.


Steve Wilson

Senior Lecturer Tourism and Innovation at PIHMS

Holding a Masters in Tourism Management, senior lecturer at PIHMS, Steve Wilson has extensive experience in the tourism sector, from the development of marketing and software solutions to key roles at strategic levels. Being actively involved in the innovation space, it is very exciting to be involved in the Taranaki Tourism StartUp weekend as a mentor.


Ian Frame

Professional Director and Business Adviser

Ian has extensive experience in management and governance across a wide range of business sectors in NZ and the Asia Pacific region. He initially graduated in engineering and business studies, and after 40 years of managing corporate enterprises he is now semi-retired, while still working with a number of small to medium sized enterprises to help them grow as successful businesses. He is currently a director of four of these enterprises and advisor to four others. His last full-time role was as CEO of Wellington-based private equity investor Rangatira Ltd from 2003 until 2014. Ian is now resident in Taranaki.


Rob McEwan

Director, Business Computing Services, Staples Rodway Taranaki

Rob has over 30 years of computer and commercial experience from companies in the United Kingdom and New Zealand. He also has extensive experience working in the petrochemical industry with responsibility for IT engineering and service delivery to the Asia Pacific region. Recently Rob has focused much of his time on assisting clients to develop and implement cloud computing strategies and as Director of the Business Computer Services division, his internal roles include team leadership and project management with a proven record of accomplishment working with diverse teams to deliver projects.


Daniel Fleming

General Manager and Co-owner at King & Queen Hotel Suites

Daniel is the General Manager and Co-owner of the King & Queen Hotel Suites, New Plymouth’s leading luxury boutique hotel located in the thriving West End Precinct. Daniel is the Deputy Chair of the Taranaki Chamber of Commerce, Chair of the West End Precinct and is on the WITT Council. After attending New Plymouth Boys High School he went on to study his degree at the Pacific International Hotel Management School (PIHMS).  Prior to opening the King & Queen Hotel he worked in hotels throughout New Zealand and Australia with companies such as InterContinental, Millennium and Sheraton. Daniel has a huge passion for tourism and Taranaki.

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Steve Hanrahan

Advocacy Manager at Tourism Industry Aotearoa (TIA)

As Advocacy Manager for TIA Steve’s role involves working to resolve issues impacting on employers and different sectors of the tourism industry, and ensuring TIA takes a leadership role on a range of different issues.  Much of the advocacy involves working with local and central government.  Recent work includes addressing visiting driver issues, responding to freedom camping concerns, promoting domestic tourism, and developing initiatives to attract NZers to work in the tourism industry.

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Ian Balme

Founder at Forgotten World Adventures

Ian's love for the outdoors, the people of New Zealand and preservation of its history that fueled his inspiration to launch what is today known as Forgotten World Adventures.

Being a farmer and dedicated entrepreneur, this former Waikato Regional Councillor saw the scenery before him and it was a raw and untouched beauty. Inspired by the Otago Rail Trail, Ian understood the sense of adventure traveling down a railway line creates. His ideal was to find a safe and easy operation that offered the journey of a scenic train ride into the majestic Forgotten World. Following a comprehensive process of investigation, innovation and design from expert engineers the Forgotten World rail carts were created. With the lease secured from Kiwi Rail, Forgotten World Adventures was launched giving visitors the exciting opportunity to self-drive along the 142 kms of heritage rail tracks immersing themselves into the rich historic past of a remote New Zealand landscape. Since its inception, Forgotten World Adventures has grown from strength to strength and now offers rail cart journeys, jet boat and helicopter tours and has opened a motel to encourage visitors to stay longer in the Taumarunui area.

This year, Forgotten World Adventures won the New Zealand Tourism People's Choice Award and was selected as finalist in the Westpac Business Excellence Award - Less than $6m Annual Turnover and Ian was a finalist in the PATA New Zealand Trust Emerging Tourism Leader Award.


Cathy Thurston

Founder at Discover Taranaki 

Cathy set up Discover Taranaki as she wants to show off what we have and how we live. In her previous role at the local Council Cathy was significantly involved in fundraising for the Len Lye Centre and managed a group of community assets which included Govett Brewster Art Gallery and Puke Ariki. Cathy also coordinated the delivery of the Fleetwood Mac concerts in New Plymouth in 2009, three Rugby World Cup games in 2011 and two All Black tests with Ireland in 2010 and France in 2013. Much of her role involved connecting various people or groups together to make sure things happened.  Prior to this Cathy and her husband operated a  bed and breakfast for eight years. This experience taught them how much people visiting liked to meet the locals and hear their stories along with experiencing some of the best the province has to offer. They were written up as a great place to stay in the Lonely Planet for six of those years as a result. The learning from all of this helped shape Discover Taranaki.  Cathy is an ex school teacher and has also held various human resource type positions in a number of different industries. Cathy is a trustee of both  the Len Lye Centre Trust and the Taranaki Air Ambulance Trust.


Jo Allum

Co-Founder & Director at Venture Centre Tauranga 

Jo Allum is Co-founder, Investor and Director of Venture Centre the Bay of Plenty’s entrepreneurial and digital capability development centre which launched in 2014. 

She moved to New Zealand in 2007 with her partner who is Tauranga Moana tangata whenua and their two tamariki. For five years she has simultaneously worked on Venture Centre and strategic communications for the Angel Association of New Zealand to support growth in angel investor and angel group numbers and investor education. Prior to that Jo spent 15 years in Australia having moved from her home in London where she began work as a typographer/graphic designer in the print industry. 

While in Australia Jo co-created and launched mass-market publications for Murdoch owned Pacific Publications, worked with startups ranging from in-flight interactive content development, ecommerce, music, entertainment and news, which included personal experiences with both early-stage investment and acquisitions.

Jo has excelled in roles in publishing, communications, marketing and digital platform development building communities of interest online and off as diverse as Parents/Children with Parenting Australia, and Investors/Private Equity with Professional Investor.

Jo is passionate about the development of a community enabled learning network. The Venture Centre team has prototyped a system so that the expertise, skills and experience which is held amongst the people of a geographic area is identified and shared through learn-by-doing events, projects and early stage startup development. The goal of this innovative social enterprise is to increase the economic and social value created for and by the people in the community to improve equality of economic opportunity.


Suzanne Porter

Chief Executive at TAFT

Originally from the Hawkes Bay Suzanne held various senior positions in Local Government and also did a stint for Telecom in Wellington. She previously managed the award winning Puke Ariki museum, library and visitor information center and has held senior management positions in the public and private sector. Suzanne is currently the CEO for TAFT. Established in 1991, TAFT – Taranaki Arts Festival Trust was originally created to manage a biennial arts festival. TAFT now manages four major festivals including:

  • WOMAD New Zealand

  • Taranaki Festival of the Arts (Biennial event)

  • Powerco Taranaki Garden Festival (Annual event)

  • Right Royal Cabaret Festival (Biennial event)


Julia Ord

Customer Experience and Insights Manager at TSB

Julia is a Customer Experience and Insights professional and her passion is all about being customer centric and she believes that customer insight needs to be championed throughout a business to ensure success. Customer insights is not just about the analysis of data but about telling a story and being able to influence key business decisions.   Julia has 20 years of international experience working with a diverse number of companies ranging from automotive to food to tourism. She has worked on numerous projects that have helped businesses develop customer strategies or assisted with launching new products and services. She is currently the Customer Experience and Insights Manager at TSB and worked closely with the teams to understand customer expectations and develop customer focussed strategies in the ever changing world of banking.   Julia moved to Taranaki 10 years ago and lives in Hawera with her partner and two daughters. She is also currently in the process of setting her own Customer Experience and Insights consultancy business.


Eve Kawana-Brown

Business Development Manager at Massey University

As Massey University’s Business Development Manager for Taranaki, and working in partnership with Venture Taranaki, Eve has the privilege of working with a broad range of entrepreneurs and developers as they journey from pre-innovation to commercialisation across diverse industry sectors.  Her work involves her in the process of commercialising IP that is generated from within the university, from the private sector and other organisations, and from joint ventures involving both researchers and industry.  She’s also had the privilege of mentoring Young Enterprise students and seen some of the traps for these very young entrepreneurs.Prior to this role Eve has worked for 18 years at the interface between industry and tertiary education and research within a range of contexts including oil and gas, trades, hospitality and tourism, sport and recreation, and business disciplines. She has worked in management and advisory roles that have included strategy and business planning, change management, quality systems development, curriculum and delivery design and good doses of human resource management, coaching and performance management.