Tuesday, March 5, 2024

University startup programme a launchpad for ideas

New umpiring software and a more sustainable powdered oat milk are two of the top ventures from a University of Canterbury competition for budding entrepreneurs. 

Now in its 11th year, Summer Startup is a 10-week business accelerator programme run by Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha | University of Canterbury’s Centre for Entrepreneurship (UCE).

It’s designed to provide students with the skills and support to launch innovative business ventures.

This year the programme featured over 90 speakers, including Brianne West (Ethique, Business but Better, IncrediBalls), Vaughan Fergusson (Vend), James Laughlin, Guy Horrocks, Icehouse Ventures, and Blackbird, as well as in-depth workshops and field trips. 

The 2023/24 cohort, which included 14 ventures and 16 students, participated at an All-Pitch Day on 2 February, where the top eight were selected to present at the Summer Startup Showcase held last week.

Jenny Zhu, who won the Innovation Award, has just completed her Bachelor of Engineering (Hons), majoring in Mechatronics. Currently a member of the New Zealand Women’s Badminton Senior Team, the keen sportswoman has devised LineBuddy, an automatic umpiring software that uses advanced computer vision and deep learning to assist badminton umpires at all levels.

“LineBuddy is an automatic umpiring system on your smartphone. Just set your phone by your court while you’re playing, and it will indicate when the shuttle lands in or out. Unreliable umpiring is a major problem in all sports, so this provides an unbiased, accurate, affordable and convenient solution to that problem,” she says. 

It also has applications for other sports and a potential global market. Zhu is currently at the prototype stage, with hopes to secure technical advisory support following her win.

Double award winners, Emma Arvidson and Renee Tauwhare (Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Kahungunu), walked away with the Impact Award and the People’s Choice Award. They’re also at the prototype stage with their powdered oat milk venture Teiny.

“Teiny is an oat milk powder that is rich in protein and calcium and reduces packaging and C02 emissions by 95%. It bridges the gap between dairy and plant-based, providing the great taste and texture associated with dairy while aligning with the sustainability goals of plant-based alternatives,” the pair said.

Arvidson started the venture last year, as her final project while studying towards her major in Chemical Formulation Design at the School of Product Design. Tauwhare left her job in interior design, joining Arvidson to work full-time on the venture.

With commercialisation plans underway, they hope to secure an impact investor following their success at the showcase.

“Summer Startup is the best thing I’ve ever done,” says Emma. “It’s made me believe in my idea, while opening the door to so many opportunities and connections. I don’t know how you could start a business without it.” 

UCE Student Innovation Lead, Pete Howard says the programme is about launching new ventures and giving students confidence and the belief they can turn their passion project into a successful business model.

“Even if they never become a ‘founder’, I believe every student needs to develop elements of the entrepreneurial mindset to be able to problem-solve through their career,” he said.

“Entrepreneurship also provides one of the most effective platforms to solve pressing world problems and have a positive impact on the world. This can be a life-changing experience for our participants.”

Programme alumni include Hannah Duder (Indigo & Iris), Luke Campbell and Lucy Turner (VXT), Chris Bacon and Jack Wood (Komodo Wellbeing), Kendall Flutey (Banqer), Ben Scales and William Murrell (Kiwifibre), Monique Lau (Endosoothe) and successful inventor and entrepreneur Logan Williams.

The students are supported by scholarships from the Tūmahana | UC Foundation

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