We are a coalition of entrepreneurs, investors, changemakers, and citizens, building an entrepreneurial framework for the Queenstown Lakes District. We are a catalyst and champion for the local startup community  to make an impact nationally and globally. We believe a thriving startup ecosystem is critical for our region to achieve economic diversity, increased productivity, and resilience.

We are Startup Queenstown Lakes.


The Queenstown Lakes region has a history of innovation with a global reach. From the creation of jet boats to bungee jumping to Oscar-winning film-production technology, we have a long history of pioneers who have made a worldwide impact. We want to accelerate the development of our startup ecosystem so that we are:

  • Building a diversified and resilient local economy, conducive to building nationally and internationally successful businesses that provide a diverse range of high-value jobs and opportunities for locals and immigrants alike.
  • Leveraging our history and strength as a tourism and adventure destination while using best-practices from other markets to shorten the timeline to success.
  • Capitalizing on our reputation as a vibrant and fun place to live, work, and play to create a thriving environment for innovators, technologists, and entrepreneurs to build their next big idea.


We are bringing together the various startup initiatives and activities under one umbrella so that every resource is working in a unified, coordinated fashion. Individuals and organizations within the startup community will maintain their autonomy, but now we’ve created a one-stop shop for strategic planning, thinking, resource coordination, fundraising, etc.

  • CUBE - Entrepreneur education and training
  • Startup Weekend - entrepreneur event
  • Queenstown Lakes Entrepreneurs - Facebook social networking group
  • Queenstown Technology Group - Geek-centric social meet-up group
  • Identifying and coordinating funding from local, regional, and national economic development funds
  • Promoting local, national, and global programs that will benefit entrepreneurs and startups in our region
  • Developing a strong investor community to accelerate the success of our most promising startups.


The ecosystem of Startup Queenstown Lakes is:

  • Protecting the unique and precious environment surrounding us,
  • Promoting a positive social impact that raises the quality of life for all residents,
  • Acting in a sustainable way for the long-term benefit of current and future generations.


How can you get involved?

We have launched www.startupqueenstownlakes.com as our online presence to make it easy for everyone to stay connected. On the website you can:

  1. See upcoming events and activities that you can participate in
  2. Sign up for our email list to stay in the loop with startup activities in the region

Have an idea or initiative you’re working on that you want to get on the radar? Send an email to intheloop@startupqueenstownlakes.com.

Our Board of Trustees & Leadership

Startup Queenstown Lakes Trust is independently managed by a board of trustees which have been appointed to oversee our mission.

David Wallace

David Wallace

David is managing director of Armillary Private Capital, a specialist investment banking, funds management, financial training and advisory firm. He has a background in investment banking, equities research and corporate treasury, with more than 20 years experience working in the private capital markets in New Zealand.

Luke Taylor

Luke is General Manager for Go Orange, the most dynamic adventure tourism business in the district with offerings in Kayaking, Cruising, Rafting and Jet Boating. Previously he was Country Manager for local tech firm Magic Memories and Operations Manager for Real Journeys. Luke is a veteran of the New Zealand Navy.


Alexa Forbes

Alexa is an elected Otago Regional Councillor and a lecturer and researcher in Leadership for Change programmes at Otago Polytechnic.  Her research is focused on two exponential curves – technological and environmental. She will help guide SQL towards wider community benefit.


Wayne Hudson

Wayne is a legal consultant with over 35 years experience as a commercial and corporate lawyer, having been a partner in Bell Gully and Hudson Gavin Martin. He is focused on the technology business sector, advising on the commercialisation of technology and intellectual property, the sale and purchase of technology businesses, capital raising, structuring start-up companies and dealing with shareholder issues.


Michelle Trapski

Michelle is a seasoned executive with an extensive background in tourism and small business scaling up. She is the former CEO of Active Adventures and AJ Hackett Bungy and brings extensive governance experinece as a trustee/director for several prominent organisations including NZ Snowsports, The Headwaters (Camp Glenorchy), and Ruapehu Alpine Lifts.


Glyn Lewers

Glyn is an elected Queenstown Lakes District Councillor and Civil/Structural Engineer at Airey Consultants Ltd. He is chair of the Frankton Community Association, a board member of Destination Queenstown and an Engineering New Zealand ambassador involved with aiding teachers to enhance the teaching of science, technology, engineering and maths.

Our History

Following work done by the Shaping Our Future Economic Task force in 2012, and advocacy from other organisations, the Queenstown Lakes District Council developed and adopted an Economic Development Strategy (PDF) in 2015.

A key aspiration of the Strategy was to develop a higher value and more diverse economy in order to boost incomes and mitigate the risks of relying on tourism. One of the two key priorities of the Strategy was to facilitate growth in the knowledge-based sector and other innovation-based industry. Facilitating growth in these sectors was identified as a pathway to relieving economic stress and vulnerability within the community.

Our "startup" ecosystem really began when a group of technology, business, and community leaders in Wanaka came together to enter fibre broadband provider Chorus' Gigatown Competition.  The Wanaka business community was united and stood as one throughout the competition and educated the community on the benefits of fibre and how this can benefit economic growth for the district. Over the course of the competition it estimated that local individuals and business invested approximately $300k.

Following the conclusion of the Gigatown Competition members of the Gigatown working group in Wanaka submitted a proposal in April 2015 to the QLDC long term funding plan (LTFP).  This submission included a ‘Plan’ that was designed to be a catalyst for growing economic development in the Upper Clutha region. The Plan was named the Centre of Unique Business Evolution or CUBE for short.  

Building on the work of the CUBE and the input from others, Startup Queenstown Lakes was formed in November 2017.  The initial group was made up of Wanaka and Queenstown based entrepreneurs, changemakers and citizens with a primary goal to establish a productive, well-connected startup ecosystem in the District.  The initial group numbered almost 15 and from that a core group formed a ‘decision making’ subcommittee. This subcommittee was largely responsible for driving SQL and oversaw the generation of a formal proposal to the QLDC 10 Year Plan that unified the CUBE, CLICK (an independent incubator) and new startup ecosystem activities under the Startup Queenstown Lakes name.  

Post confirmation of funding from QLDC, a Trust Deed was generated and a Charitable Trust was formed, called Startup Queenstown Lakes Charitable Trust.  The Trust (2714451) was incorporated on 17 August, 2018 and has three Formation Trustees, who were part of the original SQL decision-making group;

  • A.J. Mason
  • Gemma Zust
  • Trent Yeo

The formation trustees led the organization while an independently appointed committee vetted our Initial Trustees:

  • Wayne Hudson
  • David Wallace
  • Luke Taylor
  • Alexa Forbes, QLDC Appointee

In November 2018, James Burnes was appointed organisational lead by the Formation trustees and later, made Chief Executive Officer of the Trust by the Initial trustees.

In June 2019, Queenstown Lakes District Council extended support of Startup Queenstown Lakes through June 2021, enabling the group to build on its momentum. Today James and a team of contractors and volunteers lead the efforts of the Trust throughout the region.