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Meet the 2020 CEO of Velocity

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Velocity is the University of Auckland’s student-led entrepreneurial development programme based in Unleash Space. In the seventeen years since its launch in 2003, Velocity has helped forge over 120 ventures, raised over $258 million of capital and created more than 800 jobs.

Leading Velocity this year as CEO is Gemma Bell, a Bachelor of Arts and Laws student. Gemma is in her third year of Velocity, having previously held the role of Marketing Lead.

Q: What led to your interest in innovation and entrepreneurship?

I applied to join Velocity at the end of 2017 (for the 2018 team) when I was looking to diversify my extracurriculars at university. I knew that the Velocity programme had a fantastic reputation and an incredible team culture, the latter of which really sold it to me. I didn’t know too much about the world of innovation or entrepreneurship at the time, but I was really excited to contribute to Velocity in any way I could and see where the journey would take me. Needless to say, I’ve never looked back! Joining the Velocity team has been one of the greatest decisions I’ve made at university.

Being on the Velocity team has really allowed me to explore innovation and entrepreneurship, not only at the University of Auckland but the wider ecosystem at national and global levels too. I’ve met incredible people from all over: those who run their own start-ups, those who support those who run their own start-ups, and those who have so many great ideas because they are just so passionate about being innovative.

Velocity has shown me that there are many inspiring people in the innovation and entrepreneurship space who are pursuing more than profit – they’re tackling some of the world’s biggest problems, some of the smallest, overlooked problems, making life just that little bit easier or even just more exciting for us all. This makes it such an exciting space to follow. 

Q: What have been some of your highlights of your time in Velocity?

I have thoroughly enjoyed all my time in Velocity and it’s really awesome to think about how much I’ve grown in knowledge and skill, from my first day of professional development in 2018 where I got my first insight into the innovation and entrepreneurship world and learnt about the truly amazing ventures that came from the Velocity programme, all the way to now, as CEO, where I get to set the vision and work with an outstanding team of fellow students on delivering opportunities to others. 

Two particular standouts for me have been getting to emcee our large Velocity events. Last year, I emceed the Velocity Launch which was such an awesome way to start the Velocity year, by truly celebrating what the programme has achieved and what it will achieve, as well as inspiring new and old participants and supporters to get involved. I also emceed the Velocity $100k Challenge Finals after having gone through the Launchpad Programme with the qualifying teams and getting to follow their progress, so that was another highlight for sure. 

My highlights would not be complete without mentioning getting to work with the 2020 Velocity Team! COVID-19 has presented many opportunities and challenges to us all, and the team have just been fantastic in making sure the programme still runs as well as it is known for – and I am very proud of them all. 

Q: What is your elevator pitch for reasons to get involved in the world of innovation and entrepreneurship?

The world needs innovators and entrepreneurs now more than ever before! The COVID-19 crisis has increased the already existing need for innovative and technological solutions, but it has also really highlighted the need to support entrepreneurs in bringing these solutions to where they can really help in the world. 

Moreover, innovation and entrepreneurship are not opportunities limited to a certain degree or skillset, neither are ideas, problems, and solutions, which come from everywhere. If we only let a narrowly defined group of people turn their ideas into reality or solve the world’s problems, then society would be a very particular and quite boring place. 

So whatever you’re interested in, whatever opportunity or idea has crossed your mind, I encourage you to act on that. Forget the labels – getting involved in a world which celebrates creative thinking and innovation, and with the aim being to deliver solutions to industries or groups of people who need them the most, is something you will definitely benefit from.  

Q: As CEO of Velocity, what have you learned about leadership?

Two things. Firstly, that a title means nothing without hard work and the support of a team who believe in a mutual vision and have common goals. Secondly, as attributed to Maya Angelou, “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Every person needs to feel heard, appreciated, and understand both that their work matters and how it matters, especially in relation to the goals of the wider team. As CEO of Velocity, I aim to grow a team full of empowered individuals who are able to further empower our programme participants to enhance the lives of others through innovation and entrepreneurship. If I can achieve this, and witness the growth and development of the team and participants, then I will be satisfied as a leader.

Q: What do you see yourself doing in the future?

I have an open mind, especially as getting into the innovation and entrepreneurship space was not something I would have seen myself in. I definitely see myself in the future doing something that aligns with my passions, which are people, service, social development, and most of all, making a meaningful impact on the lives of others. These drive the opportunities I seize and I look forward to seeing where this takes me in the future.

James Hutchinson
James Hutchinson

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Velocity is the University of Auckland’s student-led entrepreneurial development programme based in Unleash Space. In the seventeen years since its launch in 2003, Velocity has helped forge over 120 ventures, raised over $258 million of capital and created more than 800 jobs.

Leading Velocity this year as CEO is Gemma Bell, a Bachelor of Arts and Laws student. Gemma is in her third year of Velocity, having previously held the role of Marketing Lead.

Q: What led to your interest in innovation and entrepreneurship?

I applied to join Velocity at the end of 2017 (for the 2018 team) when I was looking to diversify my extracurriculars at university. I knew that the Velocity programme had a fantastic reputation and an incredible team culture, the latter of which really sold it to me. I didn’t know too much about the world of innovation or entrepreneurship at the time, but I was really excited to contribute to Velocity in any way I could and see where the journey would take me. Needless to say, I’ve never looked back! Joining the Velocity team has been one of the greatest decisions I’ve made at university.

Being on the Velocity team has really allowed me to explore innovation and entrepreneurship, not only at the University of Auckland but the wider ecosystem at national and global levels too. I’ve met incredible people from all over: those who run their own start-ups, those who support those who run their own start-ups, and those who have so many great ideas because they are just so passionate about being innovative.

Velocity has shown me that there are many inspiring people in the innovation and entrepreneurship space who are pursuing more than profit – they’re tackling some of the world’s biggest problems, some of the smallest, overlooked problems, making life just that little bit easier or even just more exciting for us all. This makes it such an exciting space to follow. 

Q: What have been some of your highlights of your time in Velocity?

I have thoroughly enjoyed all my time in Velocity and it’s really awesome to think about how much I’ve grown in knowledge and skill, from my first day of professional development in 2018 where I got my first insight into the innovation and entrepreneurship world and learnt about the truly amazing ventures that came from the Velocity programme, all the way to now, as CEO, where I get to set the vision and work with an outstanding team of fellow students on delivering opportunities to others. 

Two particular standouts for me have been getting to emcee our large Velocity events. Last year, I emceed the Velocity Launch which was such an awesome way to start the Velocity year, by truly celebrating what the programme has achieved and what it will achieve, as well as inspiring new and old participants and supporters to get involved. I also emceed the Velocity $100k Challenge Finals after having gone through the Launchpad Programme with the qualifying teams and getting to follow their progress, so that was another highlight for sure. 

My highlights would not be complete without mentioning getting to work with the 2020 Velocity Team! COVID-19 has presented many opportunities and challenges to us all, and the team have just been fantastic in making sure the programme still runs as well as it is known for – and I am very proud of them all. 

Q: What is your elevator pitch for reasons to get involved in the world of innovation and entrepreneurship?

The world needs innovators and entrepreneurs now more than ever before! The COVID-19 crisis has increased the already existing need for innovative and technological solutions, but it has also really highlighted the need to support entrepreneurs in bringing these solutions to where they can really help in the world. 

Moreover, innovation and entrepreneurship are not opportunities limited to a certain degree or skillset, neither are ideas, problems, and solutions, which come from everywhere. If we only let a narrowly defined group of people turn their ideas into reality or solve the world’s problems, then society would be a very particular and quite boring place. 

So whatever you’re interested in, whatever opportunity or idea has crossed your mind, I encourage you to act on that. Forget the labels – getting involved in a world which celebrates creative thinking and innovation, and with the aim being to deliver solutions to industries or groups of people who need them the most, is something you will definitely benefit from.  

Q: As CEO of Velocity, what have you learned about leadership?

Two things. Firstly, that a title means nothing without hard work and the support of a team who believe in a mutual vision and have common goals. Secondly, as attributed to Maya Angelou, “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Every person needs to feel heard, appreciated, and understand both that their work matters and how it matters, especially in relation to the goals of the wider team. As CEO of Velocity, I aim to grow a team full of empowered individuals who are able to further empower our programme participants to enhance the lives of others through innovation and entrepreneurship. If I can achieve this, and witness the growth and development of the team and participants, then I will be satisfied as a leader.

Q: What do you see yourself doing in the future?

I have an open mind, especially as getting into the innovation and entrepreneurship space was not something I would have seen myself in. I definitely see myself in the future doing something that aligns with my passions, which are people, service, social development, and most of all, making a meaningful impact on the lives of others. These drive the opportunities I seize and I look forward to seeing where this takes me in the future.


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