C’mon, admit it: it seems like there are more start-ups running around these days than you can shake three sticks at.
But not all start-ups are created equal. And the start-ups that made their way to Webstock in Wellington last week to take part in BNZ’s famed Start-up Alley are the best of the best. But even among the crème-de-la-crème of up-and-comers, there could only be one winner in each of the two categories.
Facing down judges Derek Sivers, Anna Guenther, Leah Culver and BNZ head of small business Harry Ferreira, Talk Town took home the top prize in the Social Enterprise Kick Start category. Talk Town has developed a digital self-advocacy and communications skills game for deaf children. Users will be able to develop the skills through interactions with game characters.
Talk Town’s Zoë Haws says the win is a “massive endorsement” for what the company is doing. “The prize money and the connections we’ve made bring us another step closer to what we’re trying to achieve,” she says. “We’ll use the money [we won] to launch in beta in Australia and New Zealand. With the feedback and information from those markets we will then continue globally, starting in English-speaking countries.”
The top prize in the Start-Up Accelerator category went to coHired. Through coHired, companies are able to shorten the recruitment process. The software matches jobseekers to new jobs and shortlists applicants using their CV and a 10-minute questionnaire, providing the recruiter with a “top five” based on experience, skills, and cultural fit.
Andrew Nicol, co-founder and CEO of coHired, says he was incredibly proud of the team. “We’ve been working tirelessly to make something so new – and this is great recognition. We’ll use the $20,000 cash from BNZ to support the development of the software and machine learning. The US is a lot closer now, particularly with the flights we won. It’s a massive market and we already had plans to go up there. And in a few weeks we’re having some meetings in Australia.”
Both Talk Town and coHired won $20,000 in cash each, as well as access to business mentors provided by BNZ. BNZ also awarded coHired with two return air tickets to make new connections across the Pacific. In a statement, BNZ said that coHired “have a great opportunity lying ahead of them in the US. This is a company that can literally scale into any corporate in America and the rest of the world.”
BNZ has been supporting Webstock and organising BNZ Start-up Alley for a number of years. As the Start-up Alley judge Ferreira says: “New Zealand is a country of ideas, and of people who give things a go. As a result of that, we see a lot of ideas turning into businesses.
“As a bank, we have a part to play in helping these businesses become established and thrive and we want to work alongside their founders. What better place to start than the largest gathering of tech thinkers and entrepreneurs in New Zealand? Tech is going to play a vital role in the transformation of New Zealand. Because we are so remote as a country, we have an opportunity to develop strength and over-perform in the tech space, the weightless export industry.”
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