Students offer bright ideas

Eco-friendly pet products, fashion labels manufactured from repurposed leather car seats and more ethical hair products for Chilean consumers; all were acknowledged this week at Startup Dunedin's Audacious programme, which challenged students to pitch their best money making ideas to a Shark Tank-like panel of judges.

After two months spent refining their start up concepts, 35 students from the University of Otago and the Otago Polytechnic presented their business cases in the hopes of securing seed funding for their start-ups.

This week the contenders lined up in front of the four judges - Jamie Reidle of Polson Higgs, Firebrand's Rebecca Twemlow, Peter Ramsay of Startup Dunedin and Sarah Rickerby of the Chamber of Commerce - and a room full of about 140 critical observers.

Despite jangling nerves, the presentations were highly interactive, amusing and well conceptualised, the judges said.

Concepts ranged across a wealth of ideas, from pet products using recycled textiles to the development of an online network for teachers.

There was a common theme - that of balancing commercial returns with sustainability.

University masters student Mat Arand explains the thinking behind "Sole Precedent" using...
University masters student Mat Arand explains the thinking behind "Sole Precedent" using repurposed textiles from shoes and car seats. PHOTOS: BRENT MELVILLE
The winner of the most "audacious" idea was University of Otago material science masters student Mat Arand, who wants to develop a fashion label out of repurposed textiles from discarded shoes and car seats.

His concept, Sole Precedent, was given $500 in seed capital.

Matthew Clough and Olivier Despatis, created Compass, an app aimed at changing the way environmentally savvy consumers could access information about a product, where it is from, and how it is made.

Judges were impressed and the two won a six-month advisory board package sponsored by Polson Higgs.

Perhaps the most quirky idea came from dog-lover Hannah Rasmussen, who presented her business case for the manufacture of quality pet collars and leads from waste materials, avoiding the use of plastic.

Her doggy clothing plan landed her the best physical product award, valued at $500 from United Machinists, as well as a $4000 website build through Firebrand.

The best positive impact award - valued at $2000 - went to Tenisha Peters' PCOS Fit, focused on creating a fitness and education programme for women with polycystic ovary syndrome.

In recognising the value of education, UNITEtutors - developed by Xavier English - wants to use tertiary students to both mentor and tutor kids who cannot otherwise afford tutoring, while Mimir, conceptualised by Norwegian students Baard Berqkvist and Carl Tronrud, provides a platform for teachers across borders to share lesson plans, resources, ideas or even ways to deal with tricky media topics.

The two concepts grabbed the attention of the judges, winning a logo design and places at Co.Starters business course respectively.

Chilean international student Merilyn Toledo wants to create an ethical shampoo bar called Cafune for her home Chilean market, where there is no plastic-free packaging for hair care products.

Otago Polytechnic students Emma Taggart (left), Jess Marvin, Rory Sutherland and Tessa Aitken...
Otago Polytechnic students Emma Taggart (left), Jess Marvin, Rory Sutherland and Tessa Aitken pitch their sport equipment-sharing idea, "Lenda" to judges.
Ms Toledo won the award for best business case.

Albert Jordaan and Sam Hewitt came to Audacious hoping to get some experience building a website for another team, but shifted their focus to another problem - photographers needing presets (filters for photos).

Their concept, Merge Studios, represents a market place for photographers to upload their presets for others to download.

They were also awarded two places at Co.Starters, valued at $1200.

Leveraging off existing e-commerce platforms, Lenda is an idea to rent out high-value sports gear such as skis and surf boards online.

The four creators - Polytech students Emma Taggart, Jess Marvin, Rory Sutherland and Tessa Aitken - believe the site would generate revenues of $350,000 in its first year.

The judges and the audience agreed, awarding the quartet the people's choice award and the award for best pitch, providing $600 seed capital for the website.

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