Venture Centre and SODA Inc. have partnered to deliver incubation services to start-ups in The Bay of Plenty.

We believe that by building meaningful connections with influential and successful people, founders will develop the confidence and clarity to become a success too.

Program overview

The SODA LIFT program provides you with the right resources, connections, and people to help you develop strategies that will scale your knowledge and your business fast. You can expect your ideas to be tested and challenged to best develop and support the growth of your mind and your business.

To add value to you and your business, we find a Business Growth Mentor (BGM) who acts as a mentor for the duration of the program. We work with you to find the perfect match. Your chosen BGM will provide you with guidance suited to your schedule.

Every program is different as we first understand where you are at, your current needs and then work with you to craft a program that is customized and will have the greatest impact.

You’ll also receive access to the Venture Centre and SODA Inc. corporate partners and their wider networks. This includes access the shared office space if needed and expert advisor sessions on legal advice, marketing, banking, accounting, HR, and much more.

The programs are part-time, as we’ve identified that most founders need to do other things during the day in order to be able to ”pay the bills”, and are often building the business opportunity on the side within any remaining hours of the day and night.

This program is primarily about educating you as the founder with the best possible people we can find to work with you. We want you to have a powerful network and know what to do beyond the life of this program. 

Whatever stage of the journey business owners are on, we are here to support you through the customised SODA LIFT program.

If you have a great business idea or startup and an entrepreneurial mind-set, we want to work with you.

We don’t limit our intake of clients to just one profession or level of experience. We’ve worked with a lot of start-ups, entrepreneurs and many businesses ranging in different sizes.

Who should apply?

  • Entrepreneurs looking for mentorship
  • Start-ups

When to apply: 

We have a rolling admission process and assess applications for our program in our monthly committee meetings. We accept applications any time throughout the year, so you can apply when you’re ready.

How long is the program?  

A typical SODA LIFT program lasts for three months with longer programs available upon completion of the initial program.

Client investment:

We are looking for founders to be active, engaged and invested in their own personal development and business success which is why we require that clients contribute a monetary contribution of $150 a week throughout the 12-week program and a 5% equity stake in their business. 

Venture Centre is a social enterprise and SODA Inc. is not-for profit organisation. The idea behind the equity is that  one  day  your company will  be  successful and  these  shares  could  pay  for  future  entrepreneurs to come through a program for help just like you did - a 'pay it forward approach'.  Founders  who  have  received  invaluable support on their journey through a SODA program love knowing that their success will one day be able to pay for another entrepreneur needing support. 

Types of business and founders that will fit a program:

We want to work with the most ambitious people who are building world-class companies.

The investment committee looks at the founder and their business opportunity 50:50 and puts different lenses when reviewing an application.

As a founder focused program, a primary goal of Venture Centre and SODA Inc. is the education and growth of founders. Therefore, we are looking for coachable, ambitious and entrepreneurial traits in the applicants as much as we are looking for good business opportunities.

What does the committee look for?

  • Opportunities with high growth potential
  • Unique IP or a unique business model
  • Scalable and exportable qualities
  • Jobs created in the region and NZ
  • Creating export opportunities for NZ
  • The businesses is an addition to NZ’s national competitiveness

If your application falls short of our acceptance, we can also work with you to get your submission to an acceptable level. 

Some people we've worked with:

I felt they had a great understanding of my business and where we wanted to go. They spent time at the beginning to understand my business aims and from there catered the course around my requirements, they were very flexible and adaptable.

- Maggie Mitchell, Departure Lounge Caskets

SODA went out to find someone who would understand our product at a tech level and who has walked this road before and can guide me. They really understood the kind of person and help I needed.   

- Kai Cuff, 99 Reviews

I was very happy with the Mentors as we were given three to choose from. We were given three amazing options to decide on who we felt understood our business needs and fitted in well with our working style. 

- Darren Bainbridge, MyApiary

Our Process:

  1. Fill out an application form - if you want to discuss your application first call 0800 000 577 to book in an appointment.
  2. We will assess your submission against our selection criteria
  3. Come in and meet with the operations team to discuss you and your business
    • We will then give you more information about the programmes and discuss how your business might fit with this programme
  4. Based on this meeting you will either be offered to pitch at the next available investment committee meeting or we will recommend alternative options that may be more suitable for you.
  5. To present your pitch you will be asked to complete an executive summary, financials and a PowerPoint presentation about you and your business. We'll give you the templates, guides and support you in this process.
  6. Present your admission pitch to the investment team at this meeting. You will either be accepted or we will make suggestions as to what you could do to make a stronger case and pitch in another round, or let you know if we think you are not the right fit for our programmes.
  7. If your pitch is successful, you will then be invited to join the SODA programme.
  8. Once accepted, we work with you to customise your programme and find the perfect Business Growth Mentor for you and your business.


Instigator is a curated suite of programmes, events, and workshops designed by Venture Centre to support the digital and entrepreneurial capability of individuals and their communities. It exists to inspire and equip them with the skills, tools, mindset and connections they need to build impactful ventures and prosper.


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