Saturday, June 15, 2024

Savvy students pitch future-focused business ideas

Ten finalists from the University of Canterbury’s Centre for Entrepreneurship Summer Startup Programme took part in a showcase competition last week, with a panel of industry judges selecting four award winners.

The Innovation Award went to Krzysztof Maliszewski (Master of Science) whose venture PiJ Tech features software to improve the quality of images provided by optical coherence tomography, a light-based imaging device that’s used to diagnose eye problems and diseases, including diabetes and cancer.

The Impact Award went to David Pethybridge (Master of Engineering Management) for his venture RoadVac, a portable device that removes surface-layer dust from gravel roads, offering a solution to a significant environmental problem that has adverse health effects.

The Most Well-Developed Award went to Monique Lau (Bachelor of Product Design) who created endoSoothe, a skin cream that uses natural ingredients such as ginger root oil, yarrow and cypress leaf oil to help relieve the symptoms of endometriosis. Lau, who is herself an endometriosis sufferer, developed the product as part of her third-year project in the UC School of Product Design.

The Presentation Award went to Marcus Davidson (Bachelor of Engineering) for his multi-player card game Coop, which he says is perfect for families and friends. The cards are illustrated by Marcus’ sister and depict chickens that are named after their family’s hens.

The audience at last week’s showcase also had the chance to vote for their favourite venture.

The People’s Choice Award went to Jack Carrick and Thomas McGuinness (both Bachelor of Commerce) and their product Nailed it Nutrition, a plant protein made primarily of soy and faba bean and containing amino acids.

The finalists were selected from an initial group of 24 students who took part in the Summer Startup Programme for the past 10 weeks. The programme is designed to help them fast-track their business venture through workshops and one-to-one guidance from experienced mentors.

UC Centre for Entrepreneurship Director, Gerard Quinn says the programme, which is celebrating its milestone 10th year, provides a challenging and valuable experience for participants.

“At the UC Centre for Entrepreneurship we are all about increasing the entrepreneurial spirit and capability within and beyond the University. Since November 2022, the student-founders of this latest Summer Startup Programme cohort have been putting in the mahi to develop their ideas, validate their markets and execute on their ventures.”

UCE Innovation Lead, Lisa Martin acknowledged the support of academics, entrepreneurs and industry experts who make the programme successful.

“They challenge our student founders in a supportive environment to take risks and learn fast, nail their business models and make things happen,” she said.

The other Summer Startup 2023 finalists were:

  • Alexandria Aitchison (Bachelor of Commerce) for ‘Rosalie’s Boutique’ a clothing line that offers affordable, classic pieces for women. 
  • Bonnie Humphrey (PhD Biological Sciences and Psychology) and Averill Moser-Rust (PhD in Biological Sciences) have set up Funded, a web-based, personalised platform that helps academics locate and secure research funding.
  • Matthew Calvert (Bachelor of Product Design), who is working on a venture called Ghost Gear that aims to promote more sustainable fishing practices by reducing the number of lost and discarded fishing pots in the ocean. Matthew is working on technology that would allow buoys and other gear to be tracked using GPS and then recovered, saving money and cutting waste.
  • Natasha Young (Master of Health Sciences) and Amber Jones (Bachelor of Teaching and Learning) are behind Prism, an online database that aims to improve healthcare and accessibility for the LGBTQ community.
  • Saskia van der Peet (Bachelor of Engineering) and Caleb Dell (Bachelor of Laws) have developed an online tool called Farmgate Foods to manage sales and shipping paperwork for small businesses.

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