The director of Callaghan Innovation has resigned amid reports of a celebrity-backed private firm. | So Good News
Rachel Kelly has left Callaghan Innovation – and she’s not going quietly. Photo / Provided
Callaghan Innovation says intimidation and stalling tactics have become a major problem in the innovation sector after a director’s resignation sparked controversy.
The government’s innovation agency today issued an extraordinary announcement following the resignation of director Rachel Kelly after the weekend and speculation and allegations surrounding her complaint about “villains” in the startup scene.
“Following the tragic death of a founder in the startup ecosystem at the end of last year, Callaghan Innovation has made a thoughtful decision to strengthen due diligence on the organizations it buys services from,” the agency said today.
Although no one was named in the statement, Callaghan appeared to be referring to Jake Millar, the Kiwi entrepreneur and founder of business education platform Unfiltered, who died aged 26 in Kenya.
“We have become increasingly aware of allegations of intimidation and various stalling tactics by some players operating in the founder/startup ecosystem,” the agency added.
“Callaghan Innovation does not tolerate such tactics and we would prefer not to purchase services from anyone who uses them.”
The agency recognized the continued interest of commentators and blog sites in the acquisition process for founder and startup support programs.
Some LinkedIn users have left lengthy comments about these programs and Freedom of Information Act requests submitted to the agency.
Callaghan Innovation said concerns about intimidation and dissent did indeed factor into recent acquisition decisions.
The agency said it had received several requests from the IAEA seeking details on those decisions.
“Many details have been released, but not all decisions have been made, some after consideration of specific internal and external legal advice. We didn’t want to withhold or hide that information,” added Callaghan Innovation.
“The decision not to release certain details has drawn various sides of the debate, including the recent resignation of board member Rachel Kelly, who regrettably resigned.”
Earlier today, BusinessDesk said Kelly resigned over the way Callaghan handled due diligence reports on his private company Manaaki/We Are Indigo.
Kelly quit and posted on LinkedIn yesterday.
“I don’t think I’ve ever met a Callaghan Innovation representative who wasn’t passionate about contributing to a better future through innovation,” he said.
“However, over the past few months, I have had significant conflicts with my values and the decisions made by the board, particularly what I learned during the recent audits and subsequent OIAs.”
He said he had officially resigned as director of Callaghan Innovation due to differences in values.
“I want any evildoers and those charged in this case to be exposed with evidence of what they did and justice for their victims.”
BusinessDesk was aware of the problems with more than $5 million in government work during the pandemic, but Manaki said he did nothing.
Controversy has been brewing in New Zealand’s innovation sector for some time.
This relates to allegations that Manaki/We Are Indigo used startup founders contracted to provide assistance.
“We recognize that we made mistakes during these partnerships and that we need to improve processes and performance,” Manaki/We Are Indigo said in a statement.
“However, there was no ill will on our part.”
Manaaki/We Are Indigo shareholders include All Blacks Ardie Savea and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.
Callaghan Innovation was presented by the Crown Research Institute IRL in 2013.
The agency is named after Sir Paul Callaghan, a physicist specializing in nanotechnology and magnetic resonance imaging.