Smile Today wins Auckland Startup Weekend

It was smiles all around as Smile Today took out Auckland Startup Weekend 2012 with its take on charitable giving, cooked up in just 54 hours.

While most of the other teams presented app-based business ideas, Smile Today's Bhavesh Bhuthadia (you might remember him as the brains behind the Cassatchel) kicked off by urging us all to close our eyes and imagine all our friends and family lined up beaming in front of us, before laying out its vision: a website where consumers donate to charity, while also uploading a photo of themselves smiling and in return receiving a photo of somebody else grinning back. It sounds a little corny, but the team's heart and passion were infectious – it also won the audience choice award by a mile. And tying in social media just might see Smile Today go viral. 

While the Smile Today team (Larissa Matheson, Aman Singh, Cara Tipping Smith, Leah Davis, Bhavesh Bhuthadia and Tong Liu) factored in a small commission on each donation – revenue models had to be presented – Bhuthadia says they weren't really focused on how to make money.

"Everyone put their heart into it," he says. "The heart was the main driver ... we put our heart into it and we had a lot of fun and a lot of laughs."

Next step is registering the company, continuing talks with charities, and then "world domination", or as team member Matheson put it, further expanding the "smile economy".

Smile Today won first prize, including a space on the ecentre sprint programme (valued at $4500), an MYOB startup services package (valued at $1000), a StartupPack  of legal services from Lowdnes Jordan (valued at $2000) and a $500 cash prize on company formation. 

Second prize ($250 and a couple of books) was awarded to Jump On Board, a venture that will streamline the process of planning group travel.

Honourable mention went to Roomie Finder – originally named Freak Filter, which many thought was a great name to start with, and which judge Brett Roberts kept referencing in subsequent digs throughout the night – a concept for a Facebook app to help punters find the perfect flatmate through their networks.

Startup Platform also got an honourable mention; riffing on the event itself, the team came up with a system for all manner of startup events to utilise that would streamline the process and better enable participants to track progress and stay in contact afterwards.

The Catapult Prize, which includes airfare, accommodation, and a desk at the Kiwi Landing Pad in San Francisco for one person for four weeks, went to Herepin. The Herepin business idea revolves around linking users to local community information and business offers in real time, and has had interest from ATEED and councils (and would have won the prize for snazziest logo, if there was one). Herepin was deemed the venture most scalable in the US market, and also scored a place on the ecentreSprint programme.

“The quality of the ventures emerging from Startup Weekends just keeps getting better and better," said Startup Weekend facilitator Dave Moskovitz.

"In addition to helping the ventures, these events help build up local entrepreneurial ecosystems.  The people you meet at Startup Weekend may be your next co-founders, contractors, suppliers, clients, or investors."

The event was judged by Crispstart owner Nick Gerritsen, NZICT CEO Candace Kinser, Pitney Bowes country manager Misti Landtroop and Wharf42 CEO Brett Roberts.

Auckland Startup Weekend 2012 teams

Jump On Board

A way to organise travel with friends online


A way to book rentals of venues, machinery etc online

Startup Platform

Management system for startup events

Local messaging platform

Roomie Finder

Screening for flatmates using common friends and interests, inspired by the launch of the Facebook app store

Commuters Campus

A way for busy people to upskill on the fly through audio content


Linking visitors to restaurants and attractions

Game of Startups

Online startup events – in some ways a competitor to Startup Weekend itself. As fellow Startup Weekend Dan Khan put it, very meta

Smile Today

Crowdfunding for charity with a feelgood factor– donate more than just dollars

Open Sesame

Bringing vending machines into the 21st century with mobile payments via QR codes


Virtual gift wrapping image of online purchases


An app drawing on data from various social networks and analysing it to make useful connections – creating more relevant links

Smile Today presenting at Auckland Startup Weekend Janine Barr Janine Barr Herepin team at Auckland Startup Weekend 2012 Janine Barr Jump On Board team at Auckland Startup Weekend 2012 Janine Barr

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