Eight teams pitched to win at AUT’s entrepreneurship competition X Challenge – The Final Pitch on Wednesday 1 December. The teams competed for a share of the $20,000 cash prize pool and over $10,000 of goods and services from competition sponsors Auckland Unlimited, New Zealand Growth Capital Partners, Stace Hammond, Bridgewest Ventures, Hillfarrance, Gait International, Amazon Web Services, Rocketspark, Storytech and AUT Ventures.
Thanks to the generous support of our sponsors, each team already received a Rocketspark website trial, free access to the Storytech brand story solution and an invitation to participate in the Amazon Web Services Activate programme, including USD$10,000 of account credit.
All eight finalists worked with incredible focus and determination to prepare in the midst of a COVID lockdown, delivering end of year submissions, studying for and sitting exams, holding down part-time jobs and other life in general. Their dedication showed on the night with the judges commenting on the remarkably high overall standard.
Vaughan Fergusson (Judge, Founder of Vend, Investor) commented, “the overall quality of the pitches and plans was amazing, in fact better that some investment pitches I have looked at in general from more seasoned entrepreneurs. The future is looking bright with this level of talent coming up from the grass roots”.
Each of the finalists submitted a business plan the week before which was reviewed and evaluated by the judges and counted as 50% of the final score. The other 50% was based on the pitches and Q&A.
The four judges for The Final Pitch were Kerri McMaster (CEO – Good Health Breathing, previously Co Founder – Performance Lab Technologies), Sam Kamani (C Co-Founder & CEO of Ensydr and Host of "Web3 with Sam Kamani Podcast"), Vaughan Fergusson (Inventor – Institute of Awesome, Co Founder – Pam Fergusson Trust, previously Founder – Vend) and Marisa Fong (Co Founder – Arné, Executive Judge – Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year)
X Challenge – The Final Pitch was held online this year, with the X Challenge organising team working hard behind the scenes to translate all the moving parts of the in-person event to virtual. The AUT AV Team were invaluable, and the huge set up required belied the near-seamless transitions on the night. With eight teams including 10 main presenters and 24 total teammates for question time, one MC, two keynote speakers, four judges, and four award presenters – as well as the team behind the scenes – AUT AV said this was the most complicated online event they have ever done.
The online delivery also threw up a quandary around audience engagement. For the first time this year we introduced a People’s Choice award – where the registered audience got to vote for their favourite pitch of the night. A keynote by leader, author and innovator, Joe Davis (Co-Founder and CEO of Nanogirl Labs) entertained and inspired the audience while the judges were deliberating.
Joe’s talk utilised the research and learnings from his recent book, Silver Linings, which explores the journeys of more than 100 NZ businesses and community leaders who have found ways to respond and thrive during New Zealand’s first COVID-19 ‘lockdown’.
A perfect keynote for the times!
Another first for 2021 was the collaboration with AUT School of Art and Design to run an extra competition within X Challenge. We asked students to submit designs for the 2021 X Challenge trophy and received some impressive entries - including a submission from finalist team Scrapz! The winning entry is from AUT Industrial Design student Andrew Lee. The trophies, produced in the AUT lab with the support of technician Matt Davis, will be presented to the winning students in 2022 once we can get together in person.
AUT postgraduate students Ander Castelltort Schnaas and Hannah Wetzel (both MSc, Astronomy and Astrophysics, DCT), along with the rest of the Delta Waterways team (Morgan Dolfing, Helen Chambers, Brendan Bell, James Lea and Matt Moran) won the Supreme Winner Award and more than $10K in cash and prizes in AUT’s entrepreneurship competition X Challenge.
Delta Waterways’ vision is to be at the forefront of global environmental monitoring. Using the latest in satellite data and their own proprietary machine learning technology, Delta Waterways say they will revolutionise how freshwater systems are monitored.
The judges said they showed “good understanding of a global and critical environmental issue with a comprehensive, clear business plan towards addressing the problem”, and liked that they had already begun building key relationships with councils and freshwater scientists. The judges were also impressed with the strength of the team and advisory panel.
Taking the Runner-up prize was AUT postgraduate student T'heniel Chetty with EquipPro who recently completed her Masters (MDes, DCT) focusing on designing airway management equipment with paramedics and paramedicine students. The Judges said T’heniel had created an ingenious solution for a problem that no one had thought about, with a clear business plan, thorough cost and pricing research, and an impressive vision. A favourite with voters, T’heniel also won the People’s Choice Award.
The hotly contested third place was won by K&R Innovation. Second year AUT student Kylan Waters (BBus, BEL) and teammate Ria Sharma showed they had identified an excellent opportunity, utilised great design and branding, and impressed the judges with their prototype.
Kerri is the CEO of Good Health Breathing and Co-Founder of Performance Lab. Kerri works where health and technology collide, and she has an intimate understanding of the prerequisites for world class performance as the winner of two back-to-back World Karate Championships. In the business world, Kerri has a history of transforming unique intellectual property into a scalable and profitable business and she says that she is “on a mission to empower others to achieve optimal health via sustainable technology solutions.”
Sam is the Co-Founder & CEO of Ensydr and Host of "Web3 with Sam Kamani Podcast". Ensyder is a gamified platform bringing fun to investing and trading. Sam is a marketer, gamer, and an entrepreneur with a passion for startups, technology, and innovation. He’s also the host of the podcast - Want Money Got Money and the author of two books - The 30 Day Startup: How to Create a Successful Tech Startup in 6 Weeks for Less than $50K and Business in the time of Corona: How to pivot your career or startup and succeed in disruption. Sam is driven to help founders, entrepreneurs and dreamers learn from the stories of other founders and investors.
Vaughanis the founder of pioneering cloud-based retail company Vend, which was sold for $500M in March. Vaughan was our first ever returning X Challenge judge and sat on the judging panel for the inaugural X Challenge grand final in 2017.
Vaughan is the co-founder of the Pam Fergusson Charitable Trust with his partner Zoe, helping kids, communities and educators invent the future they want using science and technology.
Vaughan is also known for the impossible challenges he sets, whether it is cycling around the world solo, getting a singing gig in front of 100 people or running 1,000 kilometers. His current challenge is re-booting an old school camp in Raglan as a camp for inventors.
Marisais the Co-founder of Arné Skincare and Madison Recruitment. Marissa is a serial entrepreneur, investor, director, and speaker, who loves the business of business and supporting causes that improve the lives of all Kiwis. Marisa is not new to judging – she is a member of the panel tasked with selecting the Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year and also holds a position as a trustee for Simplicity Kiwisaver.