Idealog looks back: the top 10 innovative companies that caught our eye in 2014

We cover a lot of business stories here at Idealog, so as a wrap of the year, we decided to trawl back through our 2014 print and web archives and dig out our picks for the coolest, most innovative New Zealand companies of the year.

Disclaimer: The choices for the top ten were endless, so don’t be too mad at us if you’re not on the list. We think every company we cover at Idealog is pretty cool.

This list is in no particular order

PRIDE AND JOY
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Though at first glance, Pride and Joy may seem like your standard Kiwi ice cream company, there is a lot more than meets the eye. The concept behind the company is to give job opportunities to unemployed young people and help “entrepreneurise” them by letting them run their own ice cream pod, somewhere around New Zealand. Founder James Coddington summarises this: "We don't view ourselves as an ice cream company, we view ourselves as a personal development and professional development company."

YOUBIKE
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The ideas behind a product are often spawned by a gap in the market, but not many are as touching - or ingenious - as the story behind YouBike. When 38-year-old Phil Thorn was struck down by meningitis and left blind, deaf and paralysed from the waist down, his brother Clem built the YouBike – a bed-mounted exercise bike that helps with rehab for those who struggle to exercise the lower part of their body.

THE MIND LAB
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Preparing the future generations for the daunting prospect of a tech-saturated world is no easy task and one a lot of schools are lagging behind in. Which is why founder Frances Valintine created The Mind Lab, a space to assist kids to invent and create, and to upskill their teachers, and take the fear factor out of technology. Now the project has morphed into The Mind Lab at Unitec, a post-graduate digital and collaborative learning programme for teachers. The Mind Lab is also helping to defy common technology misconceptions, such as girls not being interested in robotics.

LITTLE FLOCK OF HORRORS
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Most parents look at advertisements featuring young children playing peacefully with angelic smiles on their faces and recognize them as a crock of *#$&. So children’s clothing company Little Flock of Horrors doesn’t pretend to be anything it’s not. Its advertising, which shows photos of crying kids, temper tantrums, dropped bottom lips and less-than-perfect moments, fits with its “100% honest” branding, and the range has been picked up by some big international retail names.

THE GOODNEST
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You wouldn’t put it past three former TradeMe executives to conjure up an innovative business idea – and that’s exactly what James MacAvoy, Richard Humphries, and Sam Morgan did with The Goodnest. Their cloud-based cleaning company aims to take the pain out of booking a cleaning service in old fashioned ways (directories calling different companies etc), by instead using a simple web-based process. Their business model is not unlike taxi industry disrupter Uber and the company wants to do just that: disrupt the industry.

REFOLD
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How do you make companies more willing to take on inexperienced interns or graduates? You design a cardboard pop-up desk and design a structured one-week work experience programme, then connect graduates with companies and let the magic happen. That’s what Massey University students Fraser Callaway and Oliver Ward did with their company, Co-nnection, in order to address the growing problem of design graduates never having set foot in a studio by creating a flexible one-week programme. The cardboard desk was such a hit they've now expanded it to have a life of it's own as a separate product. The desk, called Refold, allows graduates to set up shop anywhere without taking up space and has been featured on websites worldwide, such as Trendhunter.

CURATE
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We’ve included a festive themed entry in our top ten, in the form of our Pitch Circus winners from earlier this year, Curate. Whether you have no idea what to get your family and friends for Christmas or want to drop some not-so-subtle hints to your loved ones about what you want to be gifted, Curate acts as a Pinterest-like gift wish-list. It’s a website that allows people to like, save and share online items for sale, curating a list of things they might like and avoiding in-store shopping madness. At the same time, you can browse other people’s listings and interact with their picks. Co-founder Nicky Walsh, who started the site with her brother, calls it a “social way to shop”.

GLASSJAR
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Putting a bunch of young people in a flat and expecting them to do grown-up stuff like manage finances is almost guaranteed to end in tears. Glassjar, founded by George Smith, Duncan Keall and Matt Galloway, helps flatties divvy up their finances with a simple online set up, notifying people when their payments are due and how much is owed. The website also allows people to see where communal flat money is going, so there’s no need to feel ripped off or for dramas to arise about how much is going towards what. It also takes away the need for the dreaded role of a flat accountant, so no one needs to be burdened with organizing everyone’s money.

WILDING & CO
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How do you create an environmentally friendly business by killing and using unwanted pine trees? You create a process that chops them down and turns them into some of the world’s best oil to be used for high quality perfumes, oils and anti-bacterial cleaning products. Michael Sly, Mathurin Molgat and Dave Turnbull are making use of the 800,000 or so hectares of rogue wilding pine trees in Central Otago, and thereby keeping the invasive pine pests from taking over tussock land.

IDEAFORGE
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Ideaforge is a site that connects the ideas people with the make-it-happen people and the investment people, all in one place. Founder Aimee Whitcroft created the site to have a place to share the great ideas that strike people and give them the tools and people at their fingertips to make it happen. Once you sign up, you’re asked whether you’re going to submit ideas, time and skills, or cash or resources, then you’ll be able to look at people’s plans and ideas and decide if there’s some you want to get involved in.