The Winners

Last month Spark announced the winners of its $100k Challenge, its flagship business planning competition.

After the 12 finalist teams completed the Launch Pad, a 8 week mentorship and workshop programme designed to help them develop their business, their business plans were submitted to the judges. This was followed up with a pitch to the judging panel in a Dragons Den-like scenario.

Then on 20th October, to a crowd of 300+, the winners were announced. Refer below to the public disclosure summaries of the winners. For a full list of the finalists please visit here. Media release here.

This year we saw a greater penetration into the postgraduate and staff community which meant that we also saw a greater degree of hi-tech businesses and university IP entering the challenges. As a scientific individual moving into the area of tech commercialisation and this being an area of performance which NZ has copped slack over, these developments were great to see. You have researchers using the terms ‘market validation’ and ‘business models’ when referring to their research, tech, widget. It may seem like a small step to some, but it’s a giant change in mindset of researchers.  More so we were able to achieve this while maintaining Spark’s mainstream student start-up business venture entries.

Each year the Spark Challenges get more competitive. Since entering the Spark system earlier in the year, each of the finalists had progressed a long way. By judging time, all of them were in full dialogue with their markets, some about to undergo product/ service trials and some were even starting to take orders.

Another success for Spark this year was that we are seeing businesses being launched which weren’t successful entries (in receiving a prize) in this year’s challenges. Not disheartened by this they pressed on to launch their business. An example is

Spark now has fostered the creation of 72 start-up ventures since 2003. This number was 50 at the beginning of 2010. Not only are we helping staff and students launch new ventures but we are also discovering alumni, who were inspired and educated by Spark, that have launched businesses following graduation.



PhotoPURE (left), Healthy Memory Company (right).


First Place – $20,000 seed capital + 6 months business incubation @ The ICEHOUSE


PhotoPURE is a novel and advanced inorganic composite material developed based on nanoscience and photocatalytic technology. It is able to quickly decompose contaminants in the environment through the use of light energy. Compared to other environment purification products, PhotoPURE is more efficient and provides a longer-lasting purifying effect due to its unique nanoarchitecture. The purification process is a green process that does not create any secondary contaminants or other harmful by- products, making PhotoPURE safe for both indoor and outdoor use.The PhotoPURE team intends to apply PhotoPURE in the areas of air and water purification. With its high efficiency, low energy consumption, long life time and almost no maintenance requirements, PhotoPURE will radically reduce purification costs while ensuring air and water qualities of the highest standards.

Second Place – $10,000 seed capital + 3 months business incubation @ The ICEHOUSE

Healthy Memory Company

Loss of memory and loss of independence are the Number One fears of seniors in both the UK and USA. As the Baby Boomer population (born 1946 to 1964) increases exponentially in New Zealand and globally, so sadly does the incidence of memory ailments and the inability to live alone. Research by Dr. Allison Lamont, PhD. has identified six key areas of memory function that are needed in older age for independent living. A range of science-based products, on-line and course-based, has been designed by the Healthy Memory Company to boost performance in each of these vital areas. Brain connections can re-grow with stimulation at any age and it is the mission of the directors of the company to help Boomers build brain resilience so that they can retain their youthful memory skills and protect themselves against future memory loss.

Third Equal – 3 months business incubation @ The ICEHOUSE


Imagine a village way beyond broadband infrastructure or even phone lines. Such areas are the target of the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) and the Intel Classmate PC programmes, designed to get low-cost computers into poor communities. These initiatives have deployed a combined 2.6 million laptops to remote communities around the globe. There are plans to deploy 30 million in the next 5 years. But these laptops are DISCONNECTED. OneBeep has developed an inexpensive and robust method to send educational content to these laptops. Using OneBeep’s software a file of educational data can be converted to audio, which is sent via radio waves. This can be received on any cheap AM/FM radio, which passes it on to the laptop. The file is then converted back to its original form once it has been received on the children’s laptops ready to be viewed. As every village has AM radios, you now have a low-cost way to beam out daily lessons, health material etc over long distances to thousands of children.

Third Equal – 3 months business incubation @ The ICEHOUSE

The G.I. Joes

Our venture entails commercialisation of a novel medical method and software package to record the electrical activity arising from the human stomach ("electrogastrography"). This system is being developed to investigate potential ‘gastric dysrhythmias’ – abnormal electrical behaviours in the stomach that may contribute to highly symptomatic diseases including indigestion and heartburn. These major diseases of Western society affect up to 30% of the population, and inflict a massive burden of suffering and healthcare costs.  These diseases currently sustain a multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical industry.  To realise our venture, we have assembled a multidisciplinary team of clinicians and biomedical engineers who are experts in gastrointestinal (G.I.) experimental research, device development, software development, and commercialisation. Our roadmap is to build value in our product through continued IP growth, prototyping, engineering and clinical R&D, and risk elimination, before engaging our exit strategy and licensing our product to a major industry partner.


Graeme @


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