The Distiller

Resident Showcase: Casey Davies-Bell

Angus Pauley interviews fellow Startup Dunedin Community manager Casey Davies-Bell.

How did you come across The Distiller?
I first came across the The Distiller after attending the 2015 Startup Weekend. I didn’t even know we had co-working spaces in Dunedin at that point and had been working from a friends garage that leaked!

When I first came in 3 years ago, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Back then there were a couple of people that used it but for the most part it was empty. I was made to feel welcome by the then community manager Jason Beck and quickly become friends with the other residents. I remember thinking it was pretty awesome to have an actual office building to work on my idea.

Do you follow a particular process when you meet a new Start-up? What does that process look like?
Often the first move is to get them to come into the Distiller for coffee, or on a 31 degree Dunner Stunner like today, a cold glass of water. I like to meet face to face to hear them out and listen to their idea first, as well as get a feeling for them as a person.

I find this important for a couple reasons - people come in at all different shapes with ideas at all different stages. There is no one size fits all solution so it’s important to listen and give help based on their unique situation. Usually the most valuable next move is a relevant connection, introduction to tools like the Lean Canvas, covering upcoming events, or making them feel welcome to use the free co-working space.

Coming to the Distiller for the first conversation is non-committal and an easy way for someone to feel out the environment and network directly with other entrepreneurs and Do’ers. Fittingly, we usually conclude with a tour of the Distiller and introductions to the other residents.

What’s the most common mistake you see in an early stage start-up?
There are two.

The first is feeling it is imperative to be secretive and coy about sharing the idea incase someone pinches it. The reality is you are significantly more likely to fail due to the execution whether you don't understand the market or have an internal breakdown in your team. The more help you can get the more you stack the odds in your favor. Of course there are exceptions like ideas that need a patent, but they are few and far between.

The second is ‘project creep’ - wanting to start big. Startups are usually under resourced so it is important to be strategic about what you pursue first. It’s not to say you shouldn’t have big aspirations, but starting small and acting now can’t be stressed enough. Startups don’t starve from ideas, they drown in them. You really want to build an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) and take it from the assumption you are almost certainly going to be wrong on some logic you have - and that is okay. The goal should then be to test your assumptions in the real market and scale what works.

Is there part of your job you find particularly enjoyable? 
One of my favorite parts is getting to meet and hopefully help people working on all sorts of different projects. I get a kick out of trying to join the dots and find solutions for problems. In particular I really like commercial ideas that try and solve global problems - I see enterprise as a powerful vehicle for change, good or bad, and we have the power to make it good.


What is one thing you wish you had more time for?
I really want to get back into surfing. I snapped my board a while ago and haven’t made the time to get back into it. St Clair and Black Head are my go to spots.

What 2-3 books have most profoundly affected your life in recent memory?
‘Zero to One’ by Peter Thiel is a must read for any startup. ‘The E Myth Revisited’ by Michael E. Gerber is also great for any small business. My favorite for sure is ‘Elon Musk - Tesla, SpaceX and the quest for a fantastic future’ by Ashlee Vance.

What Startup Dunedin event are you most excited for in 2018 or have talked about most to other people?
Definitely Startup Weekend. It’s amazing to watch people exceed their own expectations of what they are capable of in such a short time. Also the opportunity for connecting with other entrepreneurs and leaders in the space in a single event is arguably second to none.

Do you have a strange habit, or something which you do that even you, yourself, consider absurd or odd?
I enjoy working from the Distiller so much that I actually have an alarm to tell me to go home at 7pm! Of course I have been known to ignore this from time to time.

And finally Casey DaviesBell, who is your favourite co-worker?
Well I certainly have a lot in common with Angus, including our birthday!




The Distiller Resident Showcase: Kitt with Aleks Dahlberg

Aleks Dahlberh - Co-founder of property management software, Kitt.

Aleks Dahlberh - Co-founder of property management software, Kitt.

Angus Pauley interviews "Co-founder and Dark lord Sauron"  of Kitt; Aleks Dahlberg, on everything from AI to the heart warming speeches of Bernard Hill and Viggo Mortense.

Kitt is property management software which simplifies property management for landlords and investors. They make communicating with tenants, maintenance, expenses, tracking rent and finances easy and inexpensive. Kitt is built on top of an AI driven banking API and harnesses leading automation software which allows them to do it all.

What were you doing before Kitt

Kitt has been multiple things. It actually started off as a product called Venturestay (or Wonderstay, you decide), which was sort of similar, but for landlords who rent specifically to working-tourists. It turned into a similar platform called Stayrs. However, after we became more serious and met with serious people - we saw the problem vividly and pivoted to Kitt.

Before that?

Previously I made a bunch of not-so-great web products that didn’t do much, and ran another web-design/graphic company to keep myself afloat. I also did another ‘start-up’ called Haggle with Kitt’s current CTO, David, back in 2014 (I think). That didn’t really go anywhere. 

And before that?

Before start-ups I was up to no good; just being a piece of work really. I knew I always wanted to run my own companies but delayed it to focus on causing trouble.


Was there an 'a-ha' moment in which you came up with the idea for Kitt? 

There was no ‘a-ha’ moment. I don’t even remember starting it. The first I thing I remember is Sam and I building it. That’s all I recall.

How did you come across The Distiller?

I first heard of The Distiller after Startup Weekend 2015. I came in a couple of times, but I didn't make much use of it then, which was probably unwise since the last 6 months here have been great!

What does the start of your day look like at The Distiller

I set up my laptop and then go through scribbles I made on a piece of paper the night before; reading my thoughts and to-dos. Then I remember I've already written them in my note book and procede to make a coffee.

How do people currently solve the problems Kitt solves?
Through either a pad and paper (which I am not against at all), or by using property agencies which are probably on average 500% more expensive than Kitt per month. 

How did you plan those initial conversations with landlords and property investors? Do people generally fear AI, or have you found it a good talking point?
To be honest when we first started talking to people, we winged it. Eventually, we knew what to talk about. 

In regards to AI: People like hearing the acronym AI, that’s all I’ve noticed.

How did you meet your team for Kitt
Good question.

Sam, I went to Highschool with. He was the only person I knew who did any web stuff outside of school. Naturally, we developed a bond.

David, I met through the PC game Counterstrike. We were in the same server and I asked if anyone knew how to code. Eventually, I got to know him.

Eugene, I met when I was working for someone else. He came in for a job interview. I met up with him afterwards and convinced him to work for me instead (for no money).

Scott, I have been friends with since highschool. He’s my flatmate now and is contracting to do some minor coding as well as clean up our messy front-end.

If you could recruit one famous person to the Kitt team, who would you recruit and why?

Probably Bernard Hill or Viggo Mortensen to give us heart warming, motivational speeches from The Lord of the Rings adapted to fit Kitt.

Something like the below:

This explains the second language listed on your Linkedin Profile. 
Correct! Sindarin is one of the Elven languages in Tolkien’s Arda (Lord of The Rings). 

@aleksdahlberg - Gram 1

@aleksdahlberg - Gram 1

You have an impressive Instagram boasting over 4000 followers. We've cherry picked a couple of images for you to give some more context to - can you explain these grams?
I post images on Unsplash and they often get posted elsewhere - that's where most of my followers have come from.

The first one (top left) is Seane (my girlfriend) contemplating a triple back-flip off of the rock at Tunnel Beach fully clothed - which is impressive.

@aleksdahlberg - Gram 2

@aleksdahlberg - Gram 2

The second (bottom left) is a piece of ice I found at Mackenzie that had scratches in it resembling the outline of the mountains in the foreground.

What would you caption this article when we share it on Instagram to make it go viral?
“Please don’t let this go viral” - post the question as well.

What’s next on the horizon for Kitt?
We are launching sometime in January. We're also raising funds again in the next few months.

And finally, if you could put anything on a billboard what would you choose? 
Some glue, so someone can attach some advertising to it.





The Distiller Resident Showcase: Thomas Weidling

Thomas Weidling - Audacious

Thomas Weidling - Audacious


Thomas studied at the International School of Geneva and has enjoyed a recent career change from banking to managing Audacious, the Otago programme for student startups.


Audacious is a two round business programme run for Otago Polytechnic and University of Otago students. 

Round One is about exploring business problems and solutions. It involves putting together a team, analysing ideas and beginning to communicate your story. 

Round Two has workshops covering topics including business plans, finding finance, and legal issues. Challengers submit a detailed business plan and pitch their idea to the judges in the Dragon's Den.

"Audacious is about being brave enough to take the path less travelled. It is about starting a business, being your own boss, taking a risk, doing what you love and just maybe leaving your mark on the world." - Audacious Website

How did you come across The Distiller and how long have you been a part of the space?

My first visit was to join Varsha and Stephanie, my wife, in the second floor meeting room. It was a good place to meet and discuss business in a discrete place.

How do you start your day when you arrive at The Distiller?

I say Hello to everyone first of all. I start rather late every morning so there are always people there ahead of me. After that I'll unlock my office and get onto work. 

What 3 Audacious businesses have you talked to others about the most? 

PocketSmith, Jason Leong (2008); Education Perfect, Craig Smith (2007) and  Gobelet, Ryan Everton (2012). 

The first two show how far you can go on an idea started in Audacious, and Ryan to prove you can win with an idea many would naively consider “basic”.

What is the weirdest/most absurd idea to come through Audacious?

I don’t know about all ideas ever presented to Audacious but the weirdest winner was Louise Corcoran who in 2010 won Audacious with the idea of constructing the first Southern Hemisphere bob sleigh track! Unfortunately, it was never realised.

Whos is your ideal guest speaker for Audacious? You get to have them over for dinner after.

Elon Musk, the remarkable inventor and creator of Tesla, SpaceX and numerous other StartUps.

What makes you feel most relieved after a day's work?

It depends on the season! Now it’s such a pleasure to get outside and enjoy the good weather. In winter getting home to my dogs relieves the daily pressure.

What is something you consider absurd that you love to do?

I touch rocks at the end of the St Clair/St Kilda beach when I go for walks and I touch the enormous Macrocarpa tree at the top of Ross Creek.

Finally, If you could put anything on a billboard that could be seen by thousands of people, what would you choose?

Live and Let live.

Author: Angus Pauley



Resident Showcase: Angus Pauley

Angus Pauley - Credit: Kat Hill Photography

Angus Pauley - Credit: Kat Hill Photography

An Interview with Startup Dunedin's marketing coordinator, Angus Pauley, about everything from Starting-up to cold showers. 

Angus Pauley is the marketing coordinator for Startup Dunedin. He is the youngest resident of the Distiller and will graduate next week with an arts degree majoring in Psychology. This week he sat down and gave us some insight into his life and journey at The Distiller. 

How did you come across The Distiller and how long have you been a part of the space?

I didn't stumble across Dunedin's startup scene until my final year of University. I was lucky enough to be selected for Venture Up and spent most of my 2016/17 summer holiday building a disruptive digital marketing business with four other co-founders. Venture Up was hosted at AUT in Auckland and run by the Wellington-based CreativeHQ. When I came back to Otago I was looking for a co-working space that shared the same vibes as the accelerator and the then named "Startup Space" fit the bill. To be fair, I think the natural SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) of Startup Dunedin helped a fair bit!

What was your first visit like?

I came in for a fifteen minute chat with Casey to see if it was a good fit. That fifteen minute chat quickly turned into a well-over-an-hour chat. Needless to say we hit it off and I haven't looked back since. 

How do you start your day when you arrive at the Distiller?

I used to be quite strict on using Tim Ferriss style time management as I was trying to juggle business with full-time study and part-time work. This meant starting my day by carefully prioritising my to-do list and aiming to get the top two or three things done before I went to my first lecture of the day.

Now that I'm full time with Startup Dunedin I still do the same prioritising but will usually look after a couple of things within the Distiller first.

What book(s) have you gifted most to other people?

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F@#$ by Mark Manson. It really cuts through the BS and came to me during an important time in my life. It focuses on integrity, but in a very unorthodox way. It is anti-self-help - very raw and very honest. 

What makes you feel most relieved after a day's work?

It's a cliché but, exercise. Whether I go for a run, play some footy or head to the gym; it always gets rid of tension. I've actually just started playing twilight cricket on a Monday night with some of the lads from work. I've never looked forward to Mondays so much!

What purchase of $100 or less has most impacted your life most in the last 12 months? 

I'll cheat a little bit and say my flight to Auckland to my best friend's 21st. It was a small gathering of family and friends and I was really happy I could be a part of it. 

If it had to be a physical product then I would say the Honey/Apple Cider Vinegar/Cinnamon I started buying 4 months ago. Even as a psych grad I can't exactly identify the mechanisms this concoction works on but I've slept like a rock ever since I started drinking it. 

What is something you consider absurd that you love to do?

Anyone that has met me at The Distiller will know I'm big on cold showers. I absolutely love them and I can't leave the shower without having it all the way cold for at least a minute or two. If you're sceptical on the benefits I would recommend reading the research papers or at least looking up Wim Hof

Finally, if you could put anything on a billboard that could be seen by thousands of people, what would you choose?

"By definition, not everyone can be exceptional. And that's okay. Start anyway."

I'm mostly riffing off of the book question with this one. Sometimes it takes moving your attention away from being bigger, faster and stronger, to remember how to enjoy life now - and in a paradoxical way that can often get you to your goals faster.

...can you tell I took some Philosophy papers? 


If you would like to feature on the Startup Dunedin blog contact us at