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2020 Velocity $100k Challenge winners revealed

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23 October 2020

 The emotional and mental rollercoaster of life as an entrepreneur was on full display at the finals of the Velocity $100k Challenge. Anticipatory silences were broken with thunderous applause and heart-felt disappointments were softened with encouragement of future prospects. 

The Velocity $100k Challenge is the flagship competition within Velocity, New Zealand’s leading university entrepreneurship development programme. Delivered by the University of Auckland Business School’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Velocity is now in its 17th year. It has a legacy of opening up limitless opportunities and identifying the entrepreneurs and change-makers of the future. 

Participants enter with an idea for a solution to a problem: a social issue, an environmental problem, a market opportunity, or one based on their university research. Teams pitch their ideas to judges from within New Zealand’s entrepreneurial ecosystem who decide which ideas display the potential to fly. From an initial 80 entries, teams were narrowed down to five winners to receive a share of a $100,000 prize pool including a place in the six-month VentureLab incubator, starting early 2021. 

The guest speaker for the grand final was Tim Brown, co-founder of Allbirds. Allbirds’ beautiful and sustainable sneakers were first launched in New Zealand and San Francisco in 2016, wooing Silicon Valley before radiating their charm to take on the world. The Kiwi start-up received a recent valuation of $1.7 billion. Tim arrived via Zoom, speaking to the audience of the civil unrest and Covid lockdowns in America and reminding those in attendance of how lucky they were to just be able to sit together. Tim was authentic and straight-up speaking to the rapt students, pointing out that Allbirds was not an overnight success and he had more than 7 years of hardship where he was constantly being questioned by himself and others around the merits of the idea of wool shoes. Amongst the many wise words delivered was the point that while failure is not to be celebrated and not the end goal, it is a certainty to be expected at some point. Tim’s advice was reiterated by Wendy Kerr, Director of the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, who asked those who were not successful on the night to not be discouraged. She said that whether or not their venture succeeded, the experience of going through Velocity will have built capability and relationships that will last a lifetime. 

The ultimate winner of the Velocity $100k Challenge was RosterLab, a healthcare-centric rostering service provider, which uses state-of-the-art artificial intelligence, nicknamed ROMEO (rostering machine and expert organiser) to build the ideal rosters for hospitals. Taking into account variables such as staff skills and satisfaction, legal obligations, patient demand and the need for Covid-19 bubbles, ROMEO automatically creates contract-compliant, safe and efficient rosters. 

RosterLab founder Isaac Cleland, who is currently completing his PhD, says “To win $15,000 plus have mentoring and a place to work for six months is a tremendous prize to get Rosterlab off the ground.” 

2020 Velocity entrepreneurship challenge winners 

Overall winner – RosterLab
RosterLab uses state-of-the-art artificial intelligence techniques to build exceptional rosters for hospital staff, much more quickly than is possible by hand. With a simple-to-use web application for roster creation and associated staff phone app, RosterLab can automate almost all of the rostering process. 

Runner-up – Ūkaipō
Ūkaipō will provide an educational voice that will bring about the revitalisation and strengthening of the experience and connection of the placenta burial practice through their Rau Whenua package. This provides not only the mothers themselves, but also future generations to come, with an incredible, beautiful and connection-building tradition. 

New Venture Category winner – Nikau Robotics
Nikau Robotics is stepping up to the challenge of the construction industry. They have developed an on-site manufacturing tool that automates woodworking. Nikau Robotics are making automated construction accessible to small businesses that have previously been excluded from these technological advancements. 

Social Category winner – Kiwrious
Kiwrious believes that science is fun, creative and social and they help students experience this for themselves. Kiwrious is a low-cost sensor kit that empowers students to engage in scientific inquiries in and out of school. 

University Research Category winner – FishBox
The marine life around New Zealand is a priceless commodity, yet both the people in the fishing industry and those that police the fishing industry use inefficient manual processes to measure and classify hauls of fish. FishBox is a modern solution for efficient management of this precious resource. 

Learn more 

Nicholas Bing
Nicholas Bing

social media

23 October 2020

The emotional and mental rollercoaster of life as an entrepreneur was on full display at the finals of the Velocity $100k Challenge. Anticipatory silences were broken with thunderous applause and heart-felt disappointments were softened with encouragement of future prospects.

The Velocity $100k Challenge is the flagship competition within Velocity, New Zealand’s leading university entrepreneurship development programme. Delivered by the University of Auckland Business School’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Velocity is now in its 17th year. It has a legacy of opening up limitless opportunities and identifying the entrepreneurs and change-makers of the future.

Participants enter with an idea for a solution to a problem: a social issue, an environmental problem, a market opportunity, or one based on their university research. Teams pitch their ideas to judges from within New Zealand’s entrepreneurial ecosystem who decide which ideas display the potential to fly. From an initial 80 entries, teams were narrowed down to five winners to receive a share of a $100,000 prize pool including a place in the six-month VentureLab incubator, starting early 2021.

The guest speaker for the grand final was Tim Brown, co-founder of Allbirds. Allbirds’ beautiful and sustainable sneakers were first launched in New Zealand and San Francisco in 2016, wooing Silicon Valley before radiating their charm to take on the world. The Kiwi start-up received a recent valuation of $1.7 billion. Tim arrived via Zoom, speaking to the audience of the civil unrest and Covid lockdowns in America and reminding those in attendance of how lucky they were to just be able to sit together. Tim was authentic and straight-up speaking to the rapt students, pointing out that Allbirds was not an overnight success and he had more than 7 years of hardship where he was constantly being questioned by himself and others around the merits of the idea of wool shoes. Amongst the many wise words delivered was the point that while failure is not to be celebrated and not the end goal, it is a certainty to be expected at some point. Tim’s advice was reiterated by Wendy Kerr, Director of the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, who asked those who were not successful on the night to not be discouraged. She said that whether or not their venture succeeded, the experience of going through Velocity will have built capability and relationships that will last a lifetime.

The ultimate winner of the Velocity $100k Challenge was RosterLab, a healthcare-centric rostering service provider, which uses state-of-the-art artificial intelligence, nicknamed ROMEO (rostering machine and expert organiser) to build the ideal rosters for hospitals. Taking into account variables such as staff skills and satisfaction, legal obligations, patient demand and the need for Covid-19 bubbles, ROMEO automatically creates contract-compliant, safe and efficient rosters.

RosterLab founder Isaac Cleland, who is currently completing his PhD, says “To win $15,000 plus have mentoring and a place to work for six months is a tremendous prize to get Rosterlab off the ground.”

2020 Velocity entrepreneurship challenge winners

Overall winner – Rosterlab
RosterLab uses state-of-the-art artificial intelligence techniques to build exceptional rosters for hospital staff, much more quickly than is possible by hand. With a simple-to-use web application for roster creation and associated staff phone app, we can automate almost all of the rostering process.

Runner-up – Ūkaipō
Ūkaipō will provide an educational voice that will bring about the revitalisation and strengthening of the experience and connection of the placenta burial practice through their Rau Whenua package. This provides not only the mothers themselves, however their future generations to come, with an incredible, beautiful and connection building tradition.

New Venture Category winner – Nikau Robotics
Nikau Robotics is stepping up to the challenge of the construction industry. They have developed an on-site manufacturing tool that automates woodworking. Nikau Robotics are making automated construction accessible to small businesses that have previously been excluded from these technological advancements.

Social Category winner – Kiwrious
Kiwrious believes that science is fun, creative and social and they help students experience this for themselves. Kiwrious is a low cost sensor kit that empowers students to engage in scientific inquiries in and out of school.

University Research Category winner – FishBox
The marine life around New Zealand is a priceless commodity, yet both the people in the fishing industry and those that police the fishing industry use inefficient manual processes to measure and classify hauls of fish. FishBox is a modern solution for efficient management of this precious resource.


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