KFA Team

Meet Laura Reitel, Programme Director, and James Swope, Programme Manager

Get to know the people from behind the scenes, helping to run the Kiwibank FinTech Accelerator 2.0. These are the ones who have been involved since before teams could even apply… And now they’ll be supporting the rollercoaster journey our ventures have embarked on.

First up, we took some time out with our trusty leaders, Programme Director Laura Reitel and Programme Manager James Swope. We’re glad to have these steady hands at the helm!

Quick Facts:

Favourite Wellington cafe:
​LR: Scorch-O-Rama
JS: Sixes & Sevens (way more than any one person should visit one cafe)
Most used app:
LR: Slack
JS: Instagram
What song sums up the programme to you?
​LR: The New Dork
JS: Torn between Attack by System of a Down and Unwind by Healy


Q: Could you tell us a little about your background?

LR: I’m trained as a lawyer and worked for one of the biggest Scandinavian banks for 3 years. I also studied political science, international relations and went through a diplomacy school in the U.S. and Estonia.
After the financial crisis in 2008, I ended up working for a high-growth tech company and swiftly transitioned from law and HR over to operations which I found far more fascinating. I love problem-solving and since that’s a day-to-day challenge for startups, I’ve been working with early-stage ventures ever since. Before moving to New Zealand to help out with Lightning Lab in 2013, I worked at Techstars accelerator in U.S. where I had the very humbling experience of seeing first-hand how founders built ‘unicorn’ companies.

JS: My degree is in business with a major in marketing. I have been working at Creative HQ for a year and a half now. The most recent programme I worked on before KFA was Lightning Lab Electric, which was a huge learning experience around the energy sector in New Zealand and it’s opportunities.

Q: Why are you passionate about startups?

LR: I admire entrepreneurs who have the guts to take risks, create and often put everything on the line to build a scalable business and solve a meaningful problem for their customers. I find that to be incredibly brave and their passion inspiring. It’s fascinating to be around founders, I probably learn far more from them than they learn from me.

JS: I’m passionate about startups accidentally. A consistent factor with a lot of founders I meet is the level of passion they bring to their ideas and businesses. Passion is in the air and it’s hard not to breathe it in.

Q: What are you most excited about for the programme?

LR: We have so many brilliant entrepreneurs in the KFA programme this year!
I’m most excited about seeing them find a repeatable, scalable customer acquisition model which is typically the toughest challenge for any startup. Founders building sustainable businesses that have the ability to scale internationally is what KFA is all about.

JS: Two things have me excited about this programme:

  1. The calibre of the teams that are participating – they are all doing such cool things and doing them well.
  2. And the calibre of the org team running the programme! I’m surrounded by people who are awesome at what they are doing.
Q: What’s the change you’d like to see from the programme?

LR: I’m excited about all the new products that are getting launched to market and the value of them to New Zealanders. Just like Sharesies, Tapi and others from last years’ accelerator, I can’t wait for the companies this year to inspire more entrepreneurs to enter the FinTech space and create more new cutting-edge financial services.

JS: The change I’d like to see is the growth of every team and every person involved on a personal level.

Want to keep hearing more about the Kiwibank FinTech Accelerator? Stay up-to-date by signing up here.