Spark entrepreneur winners unveiled

By Siobhan Leathley

Zend ceo and guest speaker Vaughn Rowsell (l) with winning team members Shaun Tan and Oliver McGregor. Photo / supplied
Zend ceo and guest speaker Vaughn Rowsell (l) with winning team members Shaun Tan and Oliver McGregor. Photo / supplied

Eco-alternatives to plastic, shoplifters and wandering children are problems dealt to by this year's winners of the University of Auckland's Spark $100k Challenge.

EcoFibre , claimed first prize-$25,000 seed capital and six months incubation with Auckland's largest incubator Icehouse - for its natural fibre composite which is longer lasting and better for the environment than plastic.

Team leader Oliver McGregor said the company's product EcoTape is ideal for sporting equipment, car and aircraft interiors, healthcare products, construction, and other consumer goods.

"EcoFibre is about innovation and global aspiration," McGregor says. "We plan to build our business into a long term export-orientated company."

Judge and Icehouse Ice Accelerator director Ken Erskine said there was a very strong batch of finalists this year, but he felt there was a clear and worthy winner.

"There was a very high quality of ideas and presentations."

He said the Icehouse would support and mentor the team throughout its development.

"They'll receive venture development support, guidance and exposure to a large number of networks."

EyeDentify took second prize-$15,000 seed money and three months with The Icehouse-for its online collaboration tool. The online platform connects retail businesses, security providers and local police to identify, reduce and prevent shoplifting.

Chief executive James Corbett said research shows New Zealand companies were losing $760 million per year; 33-55 per cent of this was due to shoplifting.

Third place, Radar-three months ICEHOUSE incubation-created a "find-me" Smartphone app which used wireless technology to connect children with guardians, so they could monitor where the children are at all times.

Team leader Sam Robinson said: "Radar provides the technology and means to enable finding the child calmly and with minimum fuss, so a parent's instinctive panic that often overrides rational thought can be minimized."

Special prizes went to MindAngel , which won the UniServices Research Commercialisation Prize of $5000. The prize assists entrepreneurs in commercialising their products, and developing their ideas into a reality.

With 13 high-quality finalists this year, Spark chief executive Geoff McGrath said it was very difficult to choose a winner.

"It was a big question as to who would win. There was a high level of quality this year, and those who didn't win this year may have in previous."

"Our winners this year have been chosen for showing the greatest potential for future success, and we are delighted that commercial companies with a strong social purpose have taken the top prizes.

The Spark Special Prize of $5000 seed funding went to Play.Create.Eat, an iPad application that teaches children how to cook.

Other finalists included Notable and AuraMed Tech.

- NZ Herald

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