Construction and demolition waste, detection of plant diseases and fitness tracking were just a few of the real-world concerns tackled by innovators and entrepreneurs as part of the 2023 Velocity $100k Challenge.

The team behind a revolutionary solution to divert construction waste from landfill were awarded first place in an awards ceremony held at the Business School’s Sir Owen G Glenn Building at Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of Auckland, this week.

The winning venture, WasteXpert, spearheaded by undergrad law student Jean-Luc Ellis, Max Lawton and Logan Soole, was awarded $25,000 seed capital. Approximately 50% of landfill in New Zealand comes from construction waste. Their venture aims to address this environmental challenge by reducing the amount of waste.

Meanwhile, five further teams took home a share of the prize money, which will help gain traction and support them in getting their ventures off the ground.

The $15,000 runner-up award went to a venture called PlantPeepers who have created a monitoring tool to help greenhouse growers detect plant diseases and pests in their early stages. This will enable crop growers to proactively prevent outbreaks and reduce the need for pesticides, providing them with a more sustainable and efficient approach to managing their crops.

Four teams tied for third place, each of them being rewarded with $5,000 seed capital.

CycleMate, who aim to address the gender challenges in the construction industry through a self-managed sanitary disposal kit to improve the quality of work-life for female tradies and are setting an industry standard of providing appropriate sanitation facilities that are discreet and convenient, also won third place.

Meanwhile, another $5,000 award went to Glowguard for their next generation SPF50 that provides extended sun protection time available in four flexible tints, housed in a first to market dissolvable refill system.

Resys was awarded for their tailored research project management system for researchers that enhances collaboration, provides quick support access, ensures data security, and offers an intuitive experience with a feature-rich free plan that continuously adapts to their needs.

Third place also went to Smartbell for their innovation in the field of fitness equipment and tracking. Their smart machine learning-powered dumbbells automatically track weight, reps and growth, which can be shared via the companion app, and provide real-time feedback on form to prevent injury and muscle imbalances.

The Velocity $100k Challenge is New Zealand’s leading university entrepreneurship competition, delivered in partnership between a student committee and the University of Auckland Business School’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Over the last 20 years, thousands of people have participated in the programme, developing their entrepreneurial mindset, innovative capability, and enterprising skills.

Alums of the programme, including awards night keynote speaker James Corbett, technical co-founder of Auror, have taken this knowledge into a myriad of careers in various industries and have gone on to become founders, creating ventures that benefit their future and the future of the communities they serve.

James Corbett, a former University of Auckland Mathematics and Computer Science student, was runner up of the Velocity $100k Challenge with his team back in 2012. Since then, their business Auror has been changing the game with its world-leading crime prevention and detection intelligence platform, winning them a place on Deloitte’s Fast 50 list in both 2021 and 2022 and leading to the co-founders being honoured with the EY Entrepreneur of the Year New Zealand 2022 award.

Director of the University of Auckland Business School’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship Darsel Keane says “Velocity alumni use the knowledge and skills they acquire during the programme to build a wide array of careers across all industries. With the Velocity programme celebrating its twentieth anniversary this year, I am proud to be able to count 276 ventures ignited by CIE alumni, which have created 3,260 jobs and raised over $1.39 billion in capital. The sheer size of this year’s competition is a testament to how deeply innovation and entrepreneurship is embedded within the university, spanning all disciplines. I am glad to be able to watch so many promising future entrepreneurs thrive and carry their ideas out into the world.”