Sulu Fiti went through the first Kiwibank FinTech Accelerator in NZ in 2017, with his company Liberac, and he’s now the Community Outreach Manager at Mahuki – Te Papa’s Innovation Hub, building the culture and heritage sector from the inside. We asked him a few questions about the journey he’s taken from then to get to where he is now.
How did you use your accelerator experience to shape the work that you now do?
During my time at the Kiwibank FinTech Accelerator, I met the G.M. of Mahuki, Tui Te Hau, a couple of times. She’s a brilliant woman and someone who I have the utmost respect for. So, when I saw the opening for the Outreach Manager role come up not long after my KFA experience, I jumped at the opportunity to work alongside her. My previous startup experience, as well as having come fresh from an accelerator, has put me in good stead to understand what the Mahuki teams are going through. It makes it a lot easier for them to relate to someone who has gone through a similar journey.
What did you learn about personal values and resilience during the KFA programme?
Although I’m a born and bred Kiwi, I identify as a ‘New-Zealand-born-Samoan’. My folks are my biggest inspiration and role models. Their journey from Samoa to New Zealand and the challenges that they overcame puts everything that I do into perspective. I doubt that I’ll ever experience the hardships that they endured, particularly during their early years in New Zealand. My parents are incredibly principled, humble, and decent people. And, I hope that when people think of me, that those same qualities are what come to mind.
I’m a pretty strong-willed character and being a founder tests every ounce of your being. You need to have one hell of a strong resolve.
What tools, tips and tricks would you recommend to a startup looking to create a new business?
Trust your gut. I reluctantly took some advice against my better judgement last year. Thankfully, it didn’t result in anything unfavourable happening.
Having someone really close to you who you can turn to when you need a timeout is invaluable – shoutout to my girlfriend.
Also, read – a lot; anything, and everything.
You’ve gone from building a startup and taking it through an accelerator, to now working with an incubation programme. What’s the most inspiring thing about being a founder and working in the startup space? And, if anything, what would draw you back to found another company?
I was in the unique position of being the only person of Samoan heritage in the inaugural KFA. So, there’s a light shone on you for being atypical of the ‘young-white-male founder’ narrative that is commonly associated with the startup scene. It’s inspiring and kinda empowering to be cast against type.
I’m working on something, so it won’t be long before I’m deep into startup mode again.
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