Site logo

Angel Awards 2024 Announced Julian So and Kara Technologies recognised 

At its 2024 summit in Auckland today, Angel Association New Zealand announced the winners of the Puawaitanga Award – recognising founders and investor directors who exemplify what can be achieved when committed people draw on their collective skills and experience – and the Kotahaitanga Award – recognising people in the angel community who have made an outstanding contribution to the industry.  

The Puawaitanga Award has been presented to Kara Technologies CEO Arash Tayebi and his team and well-known, Auckland-based, angel investor Ken Erskine, who has been the lead investor and a former chair of the venture backed startup.  

Kara Technologies is building a more equitable and accessible global communications system for the deaf community through a combination of motion capture, AI and neural network algorithms. The team has developed digital humans – avatars with high fidelity faces and emotional expressions that are easily comprehensible to their audiences.  

Arash and the team met Ken at Auckland University where they began early development of Kara’s technology. Ken has been an enthusiastic champion of the impact and value Kara Technologies has been creating for the world ever since.   

Ken brings a wealth of experience from the time he spent leading Ice Angels, through his role at Matu, a deep tech fund and through watching startups in his own extensive angel portfolio. This experience has been deployed to help Kara secure investment from Sydney-based Investible, Te Pae ki te Rangi, Flying Kiwi Angels, Quidnet Ventures and Icehouse Ventures and dozens of individual angels across the country.  

In acknowledging the award, Angel Association Executive Chair, Suse Reynolds said Arash and his co-founders, Sahar Izadi and Farmehr Fahour together with Ken, who is now also listed as a co-founder on the website, powerfully exemplify how scaling the value in a venture backed company is always a team effort and how investor-founder alignment, mutual support and good governance can amplify the prospects of success for a startup.  

The recipient of the Kotahitanga Award is Julian So. Julian is a long-standing member of Enterprise Angels and Flying Kiwi Angels. Julian is also the founder of CFO4U, providing specialist ‘chief financial officer’ support to startups. He has been a champion for startups and early-stage investment for well over a decade. His empathy for all those involved with startups makes him an incredibly effective investor and advocate for the asset class, including introducing new members to the angel networks where he is a member. Julian’s LinkedIn profile is replete with posts cheering on founders, acknowledging the challenges, and offering advice and inspiration to founders and investors alike. 

“Julian is one of our community’s true gems. It is clear from your very first conversation with him that Julian believes deeply in the immense positive impact startups and their teams can have on the world and that he equally understands the commitment and challenges that need to be navigated to achieve success. Hailing from Hamilton, Julian illustrates that support for startups is not just in the big cities.  Julian’s faith in, and commitment to, early-stage investment and startups thoroughly deserves to be recognised and should inspire others. We are incredibly lucky to have people like him in our world – humble with a great sense of humour – and shifting the needle for startups,” said Suse Reynolds.  

Susan Iorns received the Arch Angel Award which was first awarded in 2009 to Sir Stephen Tindall. See separate release.  


For more information, please contact Suse Reynolds, AANZ Executive Chair 

mob: 021 490 974 or email: [email protected]                               

The Angel Association of New Zealand (AANZ) 

The Angel Association is an organisation that aims to increase the quantity, quality, and success of angel investments in New Zealand and in doing so create a greater pool of capital for innovative start-up companies. It was established in 2008 to bring together New Zealand angels and early-stage funds. AANZ currently has 50+ members representing over 900 individual angels associated with New Zealand’s key angel networks and funds. AANZ works closely with NZTE (New Zealand Trade and Enterprise), NZ Growth Capital Partners and Callaghan Innovation and a number of private sector partners including Jarden, PWC, Avid Legal, KiwiNet, Uniservices, Amazon Web Services and BNZ. For more, please visit: 

The Puawaitanga Award recognises the founder and investor-director who best exemplifies what can be achieved when committed people draw on their collective skills and experience. This award celebrates an angel-backed venture achieving world class success. This venture has excellent governance, a compelling business proposition and a well-defined strategy for exponential returns.  

Puawaitanga – ‘best return on integrated goals’. 

The Kotahitanga Award recognises those people in the angel community who have made an outstanding contribution to the industry. It acknowledges those who have selflessly given personal time and energy for a sustained period and contributed to the professionalism, profile and reputation of angel investment in New Zealand. 

Kotahitanga – ‘unity and a shared sense of working together’.