Movers and shakers

Published Mar 31, 2022

Movers and Shakers

An important part of growing a team is providing staff with the necessary resources to develop their skills and expertise. We want our team to excel and to take opportunities as they arise, helping them move on to the next stage in their careers. At Wellington UniVentures, we have a strong focus on developing talent not only for our own business but to help the innovation ecosystem flourish. We often see many of our team members go on to become leaders and CEOs of the and spin out companies that they have helped to develop. While we are always sad to lose members of the team, we are equally excited to see them continue to contribute to our ecosystem in a new role.

Ryan Graves and Ashwath Sundaresan were both Senior Commercialisation Mangers at Wellington UniVentures for several years, before taking new positions at Humble Bee Bio and Pacific Channel respectively.

Ryan Graves joined Wellington UniVentures in August 2017, leading the biotech and medical technology portfolio emerging from Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington’s research.

Ryan was also the commercial lead for a drug discovery project for people with multiple sclerosis (MS). The drug showed promise in rebuilding the damaged neurological tissue, and had the potential to be a game changer in the treatment of MS. This project became Rekover Therapeutics, a Wellington UniVentures' spin out company in 2020, with Ryan becoming co-founder and operations manager.

The experience gained from these leadership positions, led Ryan to take a role in 2021 as interim CEO of Humble Bee Bio. Humble Bee Bio is deep tech start-up company using synthetic biology to tackle plastic pollution by developing bio-inspired novel materials to replace plastic.

"Wellington UniVentures granted me the full exposure of the commercialisation process from scientific discovery, capital raising, building a patent portfolio to spinning out a company. The level of autonomy and accountability enabled rapid progress. Using our collective skills, we were able to identify quality data and an audacious idea and build it into a proof-of-concept companies or licence opportunities. Every project was an exciting journey with much to learn, and so much potential to build technical solutions for the future," explained Ryan.

Ashwath Sundaresan became part of the Wellington UniVentures’ team in January 2018 to work across our advance materials and engineering portfolios. Over this time, Ashwath developed great relationships with many researchers at Te Herenga Waka, helping to progress their ideas and create impact from their research.

Working with then PhD student, Shalini Divya on her research into aluminium-ion battery technology, Ashwath successfully formed the spin out company TasmanIon. TasmanIon aims to provide safer, cheaper and more sustainable battery technology for grid storage and portable applications. Ashwath helped found the company and lead the capital raise for the company in 2020.

With a passion for early-stage deep technologies and growing businesses, a position to see things from the other side came up for Ashwath at Pacific Channel as an Investment Manager. This was a great next step to advance his career and drive more deep-tech companies across Aotearoa.

Ashwath told us: “The experience at Wellington UniVentures has been great. Wellington UniVentures helped me to build a strong set of foundational skills that are relevant for the investment sector.”