New Business Advisor To Assist Wanaka Startups

Startup Queenstown Lakes announced today the return of a Wanaka-based business advisor role following a 6-month period without a local-resident presence.

Jinene Clark, Wanaka, has started in her role to assist early-stage entrepreneurs, aspiring business owners, and those in the innovation/tech space.

Jinene Clark

Jinene moved to Wanaka last year, following a successful 25 years career in the IT and telecom industry in Australia. It’s a homecoming for her, whose family dates back five generations within the Otago region.

"We've been coming to the District for many years," said Jinene. "When we made the decision to move full time, Wanaka was the perfect combination of beautiful surroundings, mild climate and welcoming people."

Having spent the better part of a year enjoying the outdoor lifestyle and de-stressing from corporate life, she's ready to get involved in the community and give back after a successful career in IT and telecoms.

"The business advisor role really suits my skill set," said Jinene. "I get to help founders design and optimize business models, give guidance to aspiring entrepreneurs as they start their journey, and dive deep with some of our more successful ventures who could leverage my experience scaling up quickly."

“We’re excited to have Jinene on the team to put a permanent local presence back in the Upper Clutha,” said James Burnes, Chief Executive of the trust. “From owning and building a successful bakery to working on major, complex telecom tech ventures, Jinene brings an incredible mix of experiences and insights that will help our local innovators get better traction.”

Putting local feet on the ground

Startup Queenstown Lakes is now a year old as a trust, but represents more than 3 years of traction with its predecessor the CUBE, which formally merged into the trust late last year.

When the CUBE launched with QLDC support in 2016, Jason Watkins provided support to entrepreneurs and small businesses seeking advice and resources. At the end of last year, following the onboarding of the Board of Trustees, Watkins left his business advisor role to focus on a few ventures he'd been working on in addition to his CUBE leadership role.

For the past six months, Burnes has been visiting Wanaka 4-5 times per month to provide one-on-one support and facilitating workshops. While it helped the Trust stretch it's funding dollars, which comes primarily from QLDC, there was a definite drop-off on local service that needed a local more regularly available.

"I scheduled my time in Wanaka to reach as many folks as possible who needed help, but being based in Queenstown made it difficult for those impromptu coffees and quick face-to-face chats that comes with being nearby," said Burnes.

Jinene, who lives in Wanaka, will be working 12 hours per week, and have the flexibility to meet when required. In the first few months, she will be connecting with local business leaders, learning how to facilitate various workshops and programmes, and begin to meet with local entrepreneurs.

"I have plenty to do and look forward to hearing from the community about what they think is needed to make it easier to build a strong business here," said Jinene.

Five Quick Questions with Jinene

  1. Biggest achievement this year? 

    Competing in the 2.5km Ruby Lake Swim, after being told I may never swim again in July 2018. 

  2. Ski or Board? 

    Skier, Cardrona of course. 

  3. Ideal Job? 

    Cellar Door wine host; combining wine and sales passions.  Does that make my wine purchases Tax deductible ? 

  4. Craziest Job you’ve ever done? 

    Military Police, Australian Army Reserves. 

  5. Dream holiday destination?A.We living it here in WANAKA.

Big shoes to fill

Jinene will face comparisons to her predecessor, Watkins, who left a lasting mark on the local community when serving as advisor.

"Jason was incredibly well respected in the community. He had his finger on the pulse of the town and made a huge impact on numerous founders," said Burnes. "I'm excited to see how Jinene will make her own mark on the local community in the coming year."

The organization enters its second year with plenty of momentum and room for improvement.

"We need to make sure we're working closely with Ignite Wanaka Chamber, Lake Wanaka Tourism, the Cell and Engine Room coworking spaces, and other community leaders to make sure we're providing a positive impact," said Burnes.

"By living in Wanaka, Jinene will provide a more accessible point of contact for Startup Queenstown Lakes."

A background in tech and...baking?

Clark's career spans 25 years working in IT and telecom with a majority of her career at Austrialia telecom giant Telstra.

In recent years, Jinene was the go-to Industry executive for identifying new markets to launch products and services.

"I would work with our product development, engineering, and business teams to assess new market opportunities and design repeatable business models. It was an exciting role to be in, leveraging a strong talent pool and new global trends in technology," said Jinene.

Josie Debenham, David Pearse, and Jinene Clark chat at a recent Entrepreneur Coffee Jam at Prospector Collaboration Space in Queenstown.
Josie Debenham, David Pearse, and Jinene Clark chat at a recent Entrepreneur Coffee Jam at Prospector Collaboration Space in Queenstown.

Successful ventures include:

  • Managed Health Solution - a multi-use hospital bedside solution;  clinical IT access and results, vitals monitoring, meal ordering, with a patient entertainment portal delivering revenue streams. 3 years in design before proof of concept in a 10-bed ward, then initially delivered to over 3500 hospital beds.  The success has seen Executives from health organisations globally visit, review and try to emulate.
  • Smart Utilities - Intelligent Water Network - Taking the traditional Scada networks into the IP age.  A single pane of glass solution from problem identification via SIM card monitoring devices (leaks, pressure changes, turbidity, chemical etc) remote water/waste control, localised weather inputs (rain water ingress), to customer service and truck roll.
  • Autonomous Trains - How to deploy reliant communications delivering 99.999% availability in the most remote and harsh environments on the planet (dust, humidity, insects)  all controlled from the big-city control centre 1200kms away.
  • Commercial premises Fire monitoring (Australia NBN replacing copper lines) - The challenge is “No copper lines = no power to drive critical hardware”, and we have 12 months to deliver a solution. This included new hardware designed and sourced with Australian manufacturer, with dual batteries and dual SIM for true redundancy and overcoming mass in-building Coverage and cabling challenges for 4G phone connectivity.

In addition to her tech venture accomplishments, Jinene and her partner Greg Wood ran their own bakery franchise in Brisbane.

"We bought a struggling franchise and spent the 1st year turning it around, and had a successful business for 7 years. It was a great education in running a small business and dealing with all the issues any startup faces."

The couple also saw new market opportunities with wholesale baking and quickly built a high-margin book of business supplying local restaurants, motels and cafes. "We really grew the profitability by creating new revenue streams" said Jinene. "Ultimately, the franchisor didn't support these initiatives and eventually we decided to sell the business and turn our attention to other investments."

The experience gave Jinene a perspective for both small and enterprise level business issues and she expects these will bring value to the entrepreneurs she serves in her new role.

Looking ahead

Following her onboarding and initial kick-off projects, Jinene will be working to develop programmes that Startup Queenstown Lakes can deliver for first-time and aspiring entrepreneurs. She'll also be working to connect the many experienced executives in the District with startups and innovators that could benefit from that expertise.

"I want to be a trusted connector in the community and make sure anyone who is on their entrepreneurial journey has the best chance of success. This is my opportunity to give back and make a difference for others, and I couldn't be more excited to get started."



Want to connect? Jinene is now out and about in the community meeting entrepreneurs, innovators, and startup teams. You can contact Jinene at