Two things that are difficult in life: carrying skis, and finding a good landlord.

Ok, so those two things might – on the surface – appear to have about as much in common as pork spareribs and Adidas’ marketing strategy in the Philippines. But they are very much related, as they’re both problems young Kiwis have found solutions for – and solutions which have earned those aforementioned young Kiwis some pretty impressive accolades.

Matariki served as a fitting backdrop for the Dig My Idea Māori Innovation Challenge winners, who were announced earlier in July.

The third edition of the Māori Innovation Challenge – designed and delivered by ATEED with support from the Ministry of Youth Development, He Kai Kei Aku Ringa (HKKAR, a Government-supported Māori economic growth strategy) and Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, and with the aim of attracting more Māori into the thriving digital sector by stimulating a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship – drew more than 200 entries from across Aotearoa. The number is a new record – and twice the number of entries submitted in 2017.

But there could only be so many top winners, and taking out the top prize in the Rerenga o te Kora category, for people between the ages of 15 and 24, was Hamilton’s Jordon Messiter. Messiter created “Homely” – a digital market place that connects tenants with good landlords.

Leading the pack in the Muranga o te Ahi category, for people 25 years old and older, was Arena Williams from Auckland and Eric Goddard from Wellington. The two created “Kōwhiri,” a digital election platform for iwi in te reo Māori and English. Like Messiter, they also won a business startup and support package worth $10,000.

Dig My Idea judge Kaye-Maree Dunn – who’s also special projects manager at Māori Women’s Development Inc – said whittling down the entries wasn’t exactly the easiest if tasks – especially when so many of them were so promising from an innovation standpoint. “It’s exciting to see an increase of wahine Māori applicants and many coming from all sorts of backgrounds and communities, wanting to see how digital technology can make a real difference to others’ lives,” she said. “Eighty percent of the ideas that came through are focused on making a transformative difference to the lives of whānau, hapū and iwi.”

Dig My Idea winners

Dunn was one of three Dig My Idea judges. The others were Ian Musson, programme director at Kōkiri (a business accelerator programme – check out our most recent story about it here) and Mike Taitoko, co-founder of technology company Takiwā Ltd.

Check out this roundtable podcast about Kōkiri and Māori start-up innovation:

According to ATEED general manager for economic development Pam Ford, the competition proves once again that Aotearoa punches far above its weight internationally when it comes to producing innovative ideas. “Our digital sector is thriving, impacting all sectors. Dig My Idea helps to build Māori entrepreneurs so they continue to be active contributors in the digital economy, securing higher-skilled jobs and increased income.”

Dig My Idea finalists came from around New Zealand for a DIGIwānanga, a mentoring workshop and Dragon’s Den style pitch session, at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa in Mangere, southern Auckland. Winners were announced on July 8.

But Dig My Idea wasn’t the only innovation competition of late offering young people a chance to come up with solutions and get help commercialising said solutions. More than a hundred 15-to-24-year-olds entered the fourth edition of iDEAStarter, duking it out to receive up to $10,000 in business startup support.

The finals of the competition were held in early July at Auckland University of Technology (AUT) in a dragon’s den-style pitching event. In the 15-to-18 category, Emma Welte, Isobella Nicholls, Steffy Henry Albert and Eden Alter won top honours for Ski Sock. In short, Ski Sock allows folks to more easily carry their skis with an innovative carrying device.

In the 19-to-24 category, Jaskamalpal Barsa and Lue Reed emerged victorious with MapMyCrop, which provides accurate data for the horticulture sector by using new technologies.

Although “valued” at $10,000, the business startup support offered to iDEAStarter winners could prove to be worth far more than that. Aside from a $1,000 scholarship from Massey University, each of the winners receives a nine-week entrepreneur programme with CO.STARTERS@AUT, accounting mentoring from Chartered Accountants, top-notch accounting software from Xero, office space and membership (read: an invaluable chance for business networking) at GridAKL, and more.

Also delivered by ATEED, the first iDEAStarter was held in 2015. Competition judge Wynona Dekker, CEO at the University of Auckland’s Unleash Space, said a common theme that came through in the entries was an emphasis on making people’s lives better. “The wonderful thing about ideas generated by 15-24-year olds is that they haven’t spent an entire career becoming accustomed to risk and limitation, so they’re willing to have bold ideas.”

Auckland councillor and youth advocate Richard Hills said the competition is a great avenue for young people to let their ideas grow, get legs and take shape – and that their ideas can help make Auckland a more inclusive and diverse city.

As with Dig My Idea, ATEED’s Ford is also a strong believer in the importance of competitions like iDEAStarter.

“It’s really important to support young people to dream, create and do – they are our future business leaders and exporters,” she said. “iDEAStarter is a platform which gives budding entrepreneurs the mentors and tools they need to help them on their journey. We’ve seen impressive businesses built from previous competition winners, which shows that it really works to nurture talent from the outset.”