Maori tech entrepreneurs
to explore opportunities in Vietnam

Vietnam is quickly gaining a reputation for its entrepreneurial spirit – and five Māori entrepreneurs will get the chance to experience the country’s tech-hungry culture on a visit in November.

The Asia New Zealand Foundation is partnering with Kōkiri, a business accelerator for Māori entrepreneurs, to offer the “Accelerate Vietnam” programme from 25 November to 2 December. The Southeast Asia Centre of Asia-Pacific Excellence (CAPE) has provided the funding to make this opportunity possible.

The participating entrepreneurs are:

  • Damaris Coulter (Ngāti Kahu), CEO & founder, The Realness (a tool for finding owner-operated restaurants), Auckland
  • Adele Hauwai (Ngāti Kahungungu, Tūhoe, Tainui), CEO & founder of SeeCom (a digital interactive sign language game), Hamilton
  • Denym Harawira (Ngāti Awa, Ngāi Te Rangi, Tūhoe, Ngāti Porou), CIO, Arataki Cultural Trails (a proximity-based app to show sites of cultural significance) Tauranga
  • Nikora Ngaropo (Te Rarawa, Tūhoe, Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Kahungunu), director and founder of NNMD and Young Animators (a Māori-led design & animation tech company), Hamilton
  • Kawana Wallace (Ngāti Uenuku, Ngāti Tuwharetoa, Ngāti Rangi), CEO and founder, myReo Studios (bilingual digital education games), Huntly

The trip will take the group to Ho Chi Minh City and Danang to build networks in Vietnam’s entrepreneurship ecosystem and gain an understanding of the business culture and environment. In Danang, they will attend the Techfest conference, expected to have 5,000 attendees.

Asia New Zealand Foundation leadership and entrepreneurship programme manager Adam McConnochie says the Vietnam visit will be the first in the new “Accelerate Southeast Asia” initiative, which sees the Asia New Zealand Foundation and the Southeast Asia CAPE partnering with New Zealand accelerator programmes to take entrepreneurs on targeted visits to Southeast Asia.

“We’re really excited to be working with Kōkiri on this initiative. The participating Māori entrepreneurs are working on a range of interesting projects, and we look forward to them connecting with Vietnamese entrepreneurs who are coming up with innovative ways to tackle challenges in that country.”

The programme is designed to develop global confidence amongst emerging Kiwi entrepreneurs, highlight opportunities in the region and build strong networks with Southeast Asian entrepreneurs.

“Vietnam was chosen as our first destination because it is known for its youthful and entrepreneurial population, and its government is supportive of start-ups. Ho Chi Minh City is increasingly gaining a reputation as an international tech hub.”

Kōkiri’s Ian Musson, manager of business development, says: “Taking Māori entrepreneurs to the world has always been the goal for Kōkiri. We’re excited to help support the growth of five start-ups to enter the Southeast Asian marketplace – and with a population of 650 million that dwarfs both New Zealand and Australia.

“This is an amazing opportunity – the teams will experience a new culture and a new way of engaging in business. New relationships will be developed, and new foundations laid for what will be a promising future for Māori entrepreneurs.”

Cecily Lin, programme manager for the Southeast Asia CAPE adds: “We are very pleased to provide this opportunity for a hugely enthusiastic group of Māori businesses to explore the Southeast Asia market. There are great opportunities in the region and a lot of untapped potential. We’re excited to see how the Kōkiri businesses flourish under this programme. We’d also like to extend our thanks to the Asia New Zealand Foundation for their partnership on this project.”      


Asia New Zealand Foundation

Established in 1994, the Asia New Zealand Foundation is New Zealand’s leading authority on Asia. Through a range of programmes, the Foundation provides experiences and resources to help New Zealanders build their knowledge, skills and confidence to thrive in Asia.



Kōkiri is a Māori business accelerator dedicated to speeding up the development of early stage Māori businesses. Led by Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, Kōkiri is delivered in partnership with Callaghan Innovation and the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment through He kai kei aku ringa – The Crown-Māori Economic Growth Partnership.


Southeast Asia CAPE

The Southeast Asia Centre of Asia-Pacific Excellence was established by the Government to equip New Zealanders to engage and do business with Southeast Asian countries and enhance New Zealand’s economic, trade, political and cultural relationships with the region. The Southeast Asia CAPE is hosted by Victoria University of Wellington as part of a consortium of New Zealand universities. 

For more information:

Rebecca Inoue-Palmer
Acting director strategic communications and media, Asia New Zealand Foundation
(04) 470-8701,