A Postgraduate Student’s Journey:

From Velocity’s Innovation Challenge to Developing a Start-up

Imagine that you have an idea to solve a social issue, an environmental problem, exploit a market opportunity or even one based on university research.  Velocity helps your ideas become a reality.  In past years, Velocity has helped many postgrad students become successful entrepreneurs. 

 

The co-founder of Electroclear, Christopher Walker, takes us through his journey as a postgraduate student entrepreneur participating in the Velocity, where he, his friend Patrin Illenberger and his PhD supervisor Professor Iain Anderson were runners-up in $100k Challenge in 2018, and won $15k in seed funding for their venture.

Christopher and Patrin were in their final year of doctoral studies at The University of Auckland Bioengineering Institute when they decided to participate in Velocity’s Innovation Challenge, where entrants write 1,000 words about their idea to win $1,000.  They ended up winning one of the Innovation Challenge prizes for their idea of Electroclear, which uses electric fields to prevent unwanted growth on underwater surfaces.  Considering the positive feedback of judges, they decided to take their idea to the next level by entering Velocity’s $100k Challenge.

They teamed up with Professor Iain Anderson and developed their business model and strategy of Electroclear further.  By using underwater electric fields, they target and disrupt small organisms’ ability to settle on underwater surfaces such as boat hulls, drainage systems, ropes, and pontoons.  They are developing a permanent, non-toxic solution that can eliminate biofouling and prevent the spread of invasive species (e.g bryozoans, algae, larvae, and barnacles) and enhance aquaculture farming.  Their $100k Challenge entry made it to the finals, where they were paired with a mentor who helped them pitch their idea to the judges.  They placed second in the challenge, as the overall runners-up, and earned $15k seed money and entry to the start-up incubator, Venture Lab.

Today, Electroclear has raised funds over $100k and is not far away from selling Electroclear to their first customers.

Managing participation in the Velocity challenge while simultaneously pursuing a postgraduate degree came with its fair share of challenges. When asked about how he dealt with these, Christopher said, “If you can have a productive couple of hours every morning, you’ll find you are getting a lot more done in the day.” His tactic was to be as organised as possible by making a list of the tasks causing him stress and then spending the first few hours of every morning completing these tasks.

Christopher’s Velocity journey sheds positive light on taking on the challenge while pursuing your postgraduate degree and should encourage our postgraduate community to give it their best, to try and bring their idea to fruition.

 

Sneha Murali 

PhD