Greg Johnston has been an invaluable voice for Seed Waikato since we began. A born innovator and change maker, Greg’s experience and achievements in the startup space make him a valuable member of our Committee. He is also one of the bravest and most resilient people we know. Greg is an amazing human who believes in Seed Waikato! So we sat down with Greg so that he could share with us more about his beliefs and goals.
Tell us a bit about yourself….
I was born and raised in Hamilton with my older brother and younger sister. I went to Hillcrest High School (more to play sport and eat lunch), and left with no clear idea of what I wanted to do 'when I grew up'. After stints in catering and truck driving, I made the leap into university, studying Business Management at Waikato to explore the idea of one day starting a business of my own. At uni, I was fortunate to lead 'Enactus', a global non-profit student organisation (which I loved), and stumbled into the startup business world when a team of us entered and won Soda's Innes48 Startup Competition at Wintec.
Since leaving uni, I've been working on startup business opportunities, and am currently the CEO of Manta5. I'm also passionate about helping out other entrepreneurs, especially social enterprises like Seed Waikato.
Who inspires you?
I'm inspired by so many people! Some people that spring to mind - David Kelley - pioneer of 'Design Thinking' and IDEO founder; Tim Brown - Kiwi who founded Allbirds; Victoria Ransom - Kiwi who founded Wildfire and sold it to Google; Brené Brown - vulnerability and shame research & TED speaker.
Where is your favourite place in the Waikato?
Raglan - such a rad spot! Cool beaches, great cafes and awesome culture! Want to live out there one day.
What’s the best thing you bring to Seed Waikato?
I'd like to think I can bring some creativity and strategic thinking to the table. I hope to pull from my startup experience in 'bootstrapping' and validating ideas, and keeping stakeholders happy.
What do you spend your time on?
In the day, I'm the CEO of Manta5, a Hamilton-based startup with a vision to become 'cycling's new frontier' by commercialising the world's first hydrofoil bike which planes on water. We're growing quick at the moment so it consumes a fair amount of my time, but when I get spare time, I love travel, mountain biking and chilling at the beach.
What’s the most courageous thing you’ve ever done?
In my career, probably overcoming my fear of public speaking by pushing myself into intense situations to get slowly more confident. But personally, being the police and media liaison for my family when my younger sister Toni passed away in the Collingwood Street fire was the hardest thing I've ever done.
What’s the coolest thing you’re working on right now?
Would have to be the bike on water - such a crazy product that people don't believe until they see it! Cool to work with such talented engineers who can bring complex ideas to life.
What colour crayon would you be?
Navy blue. Pretty much everything I own is wither blue, white or black!
What inspired you to join Seed Waikato?
The founding Seed Waikato team's approach to starting Seed Waikato inspired me a lot. By utilising design thinking and actually going out and listening to the target people they hoped to serve, the team did a brilliant job in then delivering on what people really wanted. So many people talk about being focused on helping others, very few do a good job of actually engaging people along the journey to craft the solution.
What does Seed Waikato mean to you?
To me, Seed Waikato is a powerful collective and a foundation for young people to connect and grow from, helping in whichever way they might need to gain more fulfilment in life. Founded by young people, for young people, and that's pretty special.