Once a month we have a group of "friendly dragons" (aka Team Soda) that come together to hear pitches from startups and review the progress being made of those in a Soda startup programme. Over the next few months we'll be introducing you to this panel of knowledgeable business legends.

The newest addition to Team Soda is Aubrey Te Kanawa. Get to know him more below.

I was born and raised in the King Country, studied finance and economics at the University of Waikato. I spent several years in the banking sector before jumping into property in various disciplines, including tenancy management, facilities, and Maori land development. I have also been in a range of Maori governance roles over the last decade, more recently serving as a board member for Waikato Tainui and a number of its various sub-committees.

I currently work as a business development manager for Te Wananga O Aotearoa and currently direct the Kōkiri business accelerator.

What are you most passionate about?

Maori economic development as tools for reigniting self-determination.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done

Attending a 9 week coding bootcamp to learn full stack web development. It was the most intensive learning experience of my life!

Chose a movie title that best describes the story of your life?

The goonies.

What is the professional achievement you are most proud of?

Building a papakainga on our hapu lands at home. It was one of the most challenging projects I have ever undertaken, but ultimately one I get satisfaction from seeing every time I head home.

Where are you looking to head in the future?

Running a venture capital fund that backs cool startups, that do world changing stuff.

What, or who are you a “closet” fan of?

Beau Hightower, he’s a famous chiropractor that does YouTube clips making chiropractic adjustments on clients. The results are amazing.

Who has inspired you most or influenced where you have ended up now?

My grandparents, both sets.

Which four people, living or dead, would you most like to eat dinner with? What kind of dinner party would it be?

Both sets of grandparents. It would be a massive seafood feast for the entree and a boil up with mutton birds for the main.

A piece of advice you would give your younger self.

Grow a thick skin and be just a little bit deaf.