Meet the Hillfarrance Scouts


Nawaz Ahmed

Nawaz discovered his passion for innovation and start-ups at quite a young age. He is a co-founder of Visuali, a new hypervisual content creation platform and previously was the founder of Kimera, the only company selling subscription boxes for tertiary students in New Zealand.

He also works with leading blockchain advisory firms building and advising new blockchain-based projects. Previously he has been a project manager for a social enterprise and has worked for various companies such as Auckland Uniservices, Green Spot Technologies and Level Two in roles ranging from technology development and market analysis to sales and marketing.

He hosts a blog (soon to be podcast) talking to VCs and entrepreneurs around the world (click here), and using the skills and knowledge from my various experiences he advises and invests in startups as an angel investor and scout!

Julian Lambert

Julian is one of the directors at Potentia IDT Recruitment and has committed the past 15 years to helping grow businesses and people’s careers within the technology industry of New Zealand.

He believes these businesses and the people driving them are key to New Zealand’s future prosperity and Julian has worked hard to provide the right advice at the right time throughout his career. This
has resulted in deep lasting relationships with those leading growth and change as well as the development of a talent consulting service catalogue to predict and satisfy employers’ needs.

Specifically Julian leads leadership search for Potentia. This journey began in Japan, then switched to New Zealand 15 years ago. During this time he has built a local network of willing advisors, mentors,
specialists and growth practitioners to allow him to provide insights and connections to assist organisations and leaders navigate their growth or change journey. Parallel to this, the angel investment, strategic advice and governance he provides for technology companies gives him another opportunity to contribute to the industry that he deeply cares about.

Mel Lim

Mel is Kea’s Global Partnerships & Engagement Director. Mel has 15 years experience across corporate partnerships & events management in NZ and Australia. A connector of people and business, Mel believes in the power of communities and collaboration to create impactful, sustainable change. A foodie at heart, Mel also supports Everybody Eats, a charity whose mission is to reduce food waste, food poverty & social isolation in NZ.

Richard Chew

Richard is a chartered accountant qualified from PwC who has been recognised in the NZ CFO awards. He is a member of the Chartered Accountants of Australia and New Zealand (CAANZ) and holds a Bachelor of Commerce from Auckland University.

Richard has more than two decades of senior management experience in sectors ranging from media, entertainment, advertising, marketing, retail, property and fintech. He has held positions as CFO and senior commercial finance roles at Les Mills, Allpress Espresso, Fox Sports, R&V, FCB and 90 Seconds where he has achieved significant investments from various Venture Capital funds and investors (Sequoia Capital, AirTree Ventures, etc..)

Richard is on the Board, Director, advisor and investor for several startups (Mahi Tahi Media, Money Match, Centrapay to name a few) and NZX listed companies across media, franchise and tech sectors on their growth journey.

Bay of Plenty

Alex McCall

Alex believes that ideas can change the world and that how we execute on making them a reality is where the real journey begins.

He is particularly excited as to how we can utilise technology to greatly increase the connection between people and solve problems worth solving. Often low tech solutions are the way to solving high tech problems too.

He is interested in supporting ventures with: Human-centred design, user experience, product testing, marketing strategy, customer engagement, startups, entrepreneurship, soil health, regenerative agriculture, raising capital, innovation and investment in NZ businesses.

Alex is a prolific entrepreneur and founded multiple New Zealand-based startups. He has also worked for a number of high profile companies and startups, whilst travelling the world.


Marian Johnson

Marian Johnson has been leading the Ministry of Awesome team since 2017 helping to drive a dynamic startup and innovation ecosystem that will power NZ’s future success. In 2019, she led the establishment of the high growth startup incubator – Te Ōhaka – Centre for Growth & Innovation – in partnership with the Ara Institute of Canterbury and ChristchurchNZ. The incubator is home to around 30 early stage startups in central city Christchurch. Marian is deeply passionate about engineering the serendipity required for a dynamic startup and innovation community in New Zealand – driving collaboration between founders, investors, government, talent, and corporates. Previous to her role at Ministry of Awesome, Marian spent 15 years developing and executing business growth strategies for tech startups in NZ as well as with Universal Studios and Discovery Networks in the US and Europe.


Lily Stender

Lily is the Founder of Tolaga Bay Innovation, a social enterprise developing indigenous entrepreneurship.
Tolaga Bay Innovation is the first pilot programme working in partnership with Ministry of Social Development to grow grassroot businesses in rural New Zealand – dealing directly with government and bypassing the usual middle agencies and red tape. Tolaga Bay Innovation is working on the ground with the local people who have natural skills and attributes, but require business support to enable their self employment and sole trader aspirations to be achieved.
Tolaga Bay Innovation has established a business incubation, with full wrap around support services for up to ten start-up ventures in Tolaga Bay. Tolaga Bay Innovation has set up an in-house technology hub to upskill the local people and increase their capacity to sell products and services online to the global markets.

Hawke's Bay

Jessica Knapp

Building community and creating connection is absolutely central to Jessica’s work and life. She is interested in people and their stories and she thrives when helping businesses grow.

As a founding member of the OfficeRnD team (employee number 2), Jessica managed Sales, Account Management and Business Development for the Americas and APAC. She loved the variation in her role and being part of the full life-cycle of a customer. Jessica has worked in Tech and Coworking in both Los Angeles, and London, now that she’s back in New Zealand (Hawkes Bay specifically!) she likes to keep a strong global mindset while basing herself here in beautiful NZ. I am very interested in observing innovation, tech, coworking and community around the world.


Kaye-Maree Dunn

Māori – Te Rarawa, Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Mahanga, Ngāi Tāmanuhiri, Ngāi Te Rangikoianaake

Kaye-Maree has worked with many Māori organisations, from a flaxroots level through to iwi and Māori enterprises developing their capability, identifying risks and creating development pathways. She is an experienced facilitator, and delivered our governance training programmes to dozens of iwi organisations.

Kaye-Maree is an Edmund Hillary Fellow, holds several board roles and is the co-founder of a blockchain application called Āhau which manages personal data through a set of tools that enable data collection, storage, management and access.

Her many hats demonstrate Kaye-Maree’s commitment to making change in a number of fields, especially for Māori.


Simon Small

With a career rich in carving new pathways and driving commercial success, Simon has a unique background, founded in broadcasting and technology which he has leveraged to assist individuals and businesses across the globe, drive rapid innovation and growth.

From a base in New Zealand launching Pacific Island Theatre, to London to be the person spearheading digital interactive TV in the UK, Simon leveraged this capability to drive the growth of two major software companies: Diligent, one of only 50 global SaaS (Software as a Service) companies to reach $200m in Annual Recurring Revenue; and Arria, an Artificial Intelligence company, which he co-founded, and which is now one of “10 Most Trusted Big Data Analytics Companies in the World”.

​Based in Queenstown, he is entirely future-focused, looking for ways that technology can support and promote better lives for all.


Greg Johnston

Greg is a driven entrepreneur who’s passionate about high growth startups and innovative social enterprise.

He was most recently the CEO of Manta5 after 4+ years growing the startup company from two engineers with a prototype to a 30 strong team with an in-market globally recognised water sports product – the world’s first hydrofoil bike – see
He recently decided to move on from Manta5 to build Ventureval, which is a consulting platform that helps other business and social entrepreneurs with their idea validation, strategy, design thinking, scaling and capital raising.

His core belief around startups – question the fundamentals to understand the core assumptions, and then validate wisely to gain clarity – before spending money and time on things we can’t afford to be wrong about. Keep the customer at the heart of everything while we ‘flearn’ (fail and learn) at pace.

Greg is always keen to meet new people, help connect others, and find ways to collaborate.


Alan Hucks

Alan has been deeply involved in the innovation ecosystem for two decades both as an entrepreneur and working with startup ventures to make a positive global impact. It is people that make change for good and he is passionate about helping innovators who pioneer new business models and converging technologies to disrupt and democratise. 10 years providing coaching and business development for NZ’s leading Innovation Service provider, Creative HQ has provided Alan with a wealth of experience across multiple industries, technologies and connections. Having worked with large government agencies, large corporations, hundreds of innovative startups and thousands of entrepreneurs he is a seasoned “people person” that understands the need for co-design and customer-centric solutions. Alan believes the combination of timing, team and market with the right purpose, technology and business model can produce exceptional results. However, it is discipline, perseverance and ambition that allows the best to succeed or stand out from the crowd. A team working together in harmony and a strong culture aligned to a purpose is a powerful combination. It is Alan’s passion to make Aotearoa’s startups shine on the world stage and make a better world for all.

He waka eke noa!