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Venture Lab incubator primes student start-ups for success

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2 July 2020

If innovation comes from a diversity of ideas, there could be no finer example than the ventures that have come out of the 2020 Venture Lab incubator which are based around Greenshell mussels, poi, power systems for spacecrafts and med tech for the Pacific Islands.

In 2018 the Business School’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship began a bold initiative to create its own venture incubator. Now in its third year, the Venture Lab programme has established a successful format for providing winners of the student-led Velocity entrepreneurship competition with a runway to get their ventures off the page, off campus and into the world. Participants get a six month residence in the incubator with a wealth of opportunities provided. Support includes desk space, a $10,000 stipend per team to enable them to focus time on their venture and access to funds such as the $20 million evergreen University of Auckland Inventors’ Fund and IP Group Fund. Most importantly, all participants get access to a range of mentors and advisors and a weekly check in with Venture Lab Manager Ken Erskine. Ken is a respected entrepreneur and investment fund manager who has previously worked in leadership roles for organisations such as the IceHouse. Venture Lab participant and Greenshell Spat Co cofounder Will McKay says “Ken is incredibly supportive of our business, us as a team and as individuals. He’s always challenging us to learn more, make improvements and has constructive advice on how to get there. He’s also just a laugh to hang out with”.

The global pandemic has meant that the Venture Lab management team have had to amend the way the programme has been delivered with mentoring and check-ins delivered online during lockdown. It’s also meant that the ventures in the Venture Lab programme have had to pivot. Programme Manager Judith Marecek says “The teams are all experiencing the impact of COVID-19, but they see this as an opportunity and a way to adjust to market demands.” As such, the support they are receiving through Venture Lab has come at an opportune time. Judith says “From experience we know that it takes a lot to start a venture. Since we’ve wrapped additional support around each of the Velocity $100k winners, we see these ventures stay the course and be successful much sooner. As a cohort they learn and develop together, and with the expert guidance from Ken, they accelerate fast.”

Programme Coordinator Jessica Schneider says “We put a lot of effort into delivering opportunities such as bespoke workshops on topics like capital raising and IP protection. It’s great to see the teams advance so rapidly. For example, Luxor has received a free launch with Rocket Lab and funding from both the Icehouse and Rocket Lab. We’re excited to see where each of the teams’ ventures take them, and to welcome the next cohort in 2021”.

2020 Venture Lab participants

VentureLab 2020 Participants

Greenshell Spat Co
Greenshell Spat Co is an aquaculture technology company set to enable the New Zealand Greenshell™ mussel industry’s $1 billion potential through the creation of mussel ‘super babies’. The fundamental limiting factor that prevents the growth of the industry is the lack of baby mussels (known as spat). These are the seed stock for all farms most of which is collected attached to seaweed from 90 Mile Beach. The “lack” of spat is an issue of inefficiency – 95 % of all spat are lost from farm production in the first few weeks. Read more.

SpinPoi
The older population is growing at an unprecedented rate, with seniors expected to outnumber youth for the first time in history by 2025. One of the primary reasons for this shift is our increased lifespan. Unfortunately, the increase in our life expectancy is moving faster than the increase of our healthy life expectancy, leaving many older adults facing chronic disease and poor quality of life in their later years. This not only impacts individual wellbeing, but puts a burgeoning demand on health care to prevent and treat chronic conditions. SpinPoi conducted the first study to scientifically investigate the effects of poi on health for older adults. The clinical trial proved significant physical and cognitive benefits after just one month of poi practice. This scientific evidence, in addition to the innate qualities of poi and our world leading expertise in the field, has provided a strong foundation for their social enterprise. Read more.

Luxor Astronautics
Growth of the small satellite industry is limited by the power available from solar arrays. In the small satellite market, power systems, which are primarily solar arrays, typically consume about 30% of the spacecraft’s mass. Satellite designers and integrators make compromises by restricting the number of available instruments or decreasing their performance in favour of lower power consumption. Satellites could achieve their true potential if the power budget were not a factor. Luxor are developing a product that utilises the optical concentration of sunlight to generate unmatched quantities of power, all while remaining lightweight, compact and easy to use. 

Pacific Med Tech
The current system for donation of medical equipment into low-resource settings such as the Pacific Islands is broken. Although the donated equipment is highly valued by the recipients, the current donation models do not take into account the need for specialist staff to understand the operation of or repair the equipment when it needs repair. In addition, donated equipment is often not designed to operate under conditions found in the Pacific Islands, where lifesaving equipment is in constant use in high heat, humid, and dusty environments. Pacific Med Tech is a social venture building capability and capacity in the biomedical engineering field in the Pacific region.

James Hutchinson
James Hutchinson

social media

2 July 2020

If innovation comes from a diversity of ideas, there could be no finer example than the ventures that have come out of the 2020 Venture Lab incubator which are based around Greenshell mussels, poi, power systems for spacecrafts and med tech for the Pacific Islands.

In 2018 the Business School’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship began a bold initiative to create its own venture incubator. Now in its third year, the Venture Lab programme has established a successful format for providing winners of the student-led Velocity entrepreneurship competition with a runway to get their ventures off the page, off campus and into the world. Participants get a six month residence in the incubator with a wealth of opportunities provided. Support includes desk space, a $10,000 stipend per team to enable them to focus time on their venture and access to funds such as the $20 million evergreen University of Auckland Inventors’ Fund and IP Group Fund. Most importantly, all participants get access to a range of mentors and advisors and a weekly check in with Venture Lab Manager Ken Erskine. Ken is a respected entrepreneur and investment fund manager who has previously worked in leadership roles for organisations such as the IceHouse. Venture Lab participant and Greenshell Spat Co cofounder Will McKay says “Ken is incredibly supportive of our business, us as a team and as individuals. He’s always challenging us to learn more, make improvements and has constructive advice on how to get there. He’s also just a laugh to hang out with”.

The global pandemic has meant that the Venture Lab management team have had to amend the way the programme has been delivered with mentoring and check-ins delivered online during lockdown. It’s also meant that the ventures in the Venture Lab programme have had to pivot. Programme Manager Judith Marecek says “The teams are all experiencing the impact of COVID-19, but they see this as an opportunity and a way to adjust to market demands.” As such, the support they are receiving through Venture Lab has come at an opportune time. Judith says “From experience we know that it takes a lot to start a venture. Since we’ve wrapped additional support around each of the Velocity $100k winners, we see these ventures stay the course and be successful much sooner. As a cohort they learn and develop together, and with the expert guidance from Ken, they accelerate fast.”

Programme Coordinator Jessica Schneider says “We put a lot of effort into delivering opportunities such as bespoke workshops on topics like capital raising and IP protection. It’s great to see the teams advance so rapidly. For example, Luxor has received a free launch with Rocket Lab and funding from both the Icehouse and Rocket Lab. We’re excited to see where each of the teams’ ventures take them, and to welcome the next cohort in 2021”.

2020 Venture Lab participants

VentureLab 2020 Participants

Greenshell Spat Co
Greenshell Spat Co is an aquaculture technology company set to enable the New Zealand Greenshell™ mussel industry’s $1 billion potential through the creation of mussel ‘super babies’. The fundamental limiting factor that prevents the growth of the industry is the lack of baby mussels (known as spat). These are the seed stock for all farms most of which is collected attached to seaweed from 90 Mile Beach. The “lack” of spat is an issue of inefficiency – 95 % of all spat are lost from farm production in the first few weeks. Read more.

SpinPoi
The older population is growing at an unprecedented rate, with seniors expected to outnumber youth for the first time in history by 2025. One of the primary reasons for this shift is our increased lifespan. Unfortunately, the increase in our life expectancy is moving faster than the increase of our healthy life expectancy, leaving many older adults facing chronic disease and poor quality of life in their later years. This not only impacts individual wellbeing, but puts a burgeoning demand on health care to prevent and treat chronic conditions. SpinPoi conducted the first study to scientifically investigate the effects of poi on health for older adults. The clinical trial proved significant physical and cognitive benefits after just one month of poi practice. This scientific evidence, in addition to the innate qualities of poi and our world leading expertise in the field, has provided a strong foundation for their social enterprise. Read more.

Luxor Astronautics
Growth of the small satellite industry is limited by the power available from solar arrays. In the small satellite market, power systems, which are primarily solar arrays, typically consume about 30% of the spacecraft’s mass. Satellite designers and integrators make compromises by restricting the number of available instruments or decreasing their performance in favour of lower power consumption. Satellites could achieve their true potential if the power budget were not a factor. Luxor are developing a product that utilises the optical concentration of sunlight to generate unmatched quantities of power, all while remaining lightweight, compact and easy to use. 

Pacific Med Tech
The current system for donation of medical equipment into low-resource settings such as the Pacific Islands is broken. Although the donated equipment is highly valued by the recipients, the current donation models do not take into account the need for specialist staff to understand the operation of or repair the equipment when it needs repair. In addition, donated equipment is often not designed to operate under conditions found in the Pacific Islands, where lifesaving equipment is in constant use in high heat, humid, and dusty environments. Pacific Med Tech is a social venture building capability and capacity in the biomedical engineering field in the Pacific region.


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