Our picks of the bunch of this year’s innovative innovators

The New Zealand Innovators Awards 2015 were held last night, showcasing the best innovative products, services, people and companies. Here’s a rundown of our favourite marketing and tech-geared winners. 

The awards span across nine industry sectors and nine business disciplines, and were held at Cloud in Auckland last night.

Karma Cola won ‘Innovation in Marketing and Communications’ for its fizzy beverage, similarly dubbed Karma Cola, a fair trade soft drink made with ingredients the company sources directly from cola nut farmers in Sierra Leone, vanilla bean growers in Sri Lanka, and organic sugar cane farmers in India.

Six cents from every bottle of their product sold goes to the Karma Cola Foundation, then the proceeds are distributed to the people who grow cola in Borna Village, Sierra Leone and the community decides how to use the money, Karma Cola’s chief of propaganda and the dark arts (as her Linked In profile reads) Angela Barnett said earlier. “So far [as of July this year]we have given US $30,000 to them and they decide how to use the money and they have done some fantastic things with it.”

She says since the first Karma Cola was bottled in 2012 the community has built a bridge, sent a few children to school and built a rice-hulling centre. The foundation also supports an HIV theatre group and employed a primary school teacher and put a focus on rebuilding forest farms after several were wrecked after a ten-year civil war.

“We call it thirst aid,” says Karma Cola co-founder Simon Coley.

Judge’s comments: “Many people dream. Many have great ideas. Innovators focus and act. What a simply incredible story of New Zealand innovation. They have overcome many of the challenges most businesses face balancing social good and commercialisation.”

Eat My Lunch, a pay-it-forward lunch scheme, came away with ‘Excellence in Social Innovation’.

The initiative was co-founded by restaurateur-turned-philanthropist Michael Meredith and Lisa King and uses a buy one, donate one model. If you order a packed lunch to your office, Eat My Lunch will donate another lunch to a Kiwi kid who would otherwise go without.

The aim was to help the one in four New Zealand children who live in poverty and go to school hungry every day (Colenso BBDO, Beat Communications and Baker’s Delight are also supporting the initiative). 

Eat My Lunch sells a four-part lunch (including a sweet treat) for $10 delivered (Auckland only) and gives a children’s lunch to a decile one or two school for every lunch purchased.

Recently, Eat My Lunch told us they had one of their biggest days, sending out 2,000 lunches to hundreds of offices and 20 schools around Auckland.

King says many businesses have a corporate social responsibility component, but Eat My Lunch is taking it one step further and putting CSR at the heart of its whole operation.

“We’re definitely not a charity, though we want to achieve the same outcomes and the same impact,” she says.

“But we want to do it as a business in a really nimble, commercial way.”

Judge’s comments: “I really like, support and admire Eat My Lunch’s purpose to alleviate poverty in New Zealand through a buy-one, give-one model. All this via a sustainable business model. I particularly like that you can also do buy-two, where customers can just donate.”

OpthalmicDocs, open-source eye care, picked up the ‘People’s Choice Award’ for its 3D printable lens holder, which attaches to a smartphone, turning it into a retinal camera for eye examinations.

Combined with a free app, the gadget puts a portable eye clinic in the hands of any doctor in the world with a smartphone.

The inventor of the gadget, Dr Hong Sheng Chiong, who runs the eye clinic at Gisborne Hospital during the day, wants to give doctors in the third world the tools to detect and treat preventable blindness. He says even eye charts on the wall of a clinic can cost thousands of dollars, so he’s converted all the basic vision tests into a smartphone-friendly app format.

“We believe everyone deserves access to quality eye care,” he says. “It’s supposed to be cheap, to help people in developing nations. So why would you put a label on it or mark up the price by 300-400 percent?”

Judge’s comments: “This is a brilliant concept, putting together a unique combination of open source 3D printing capability with an app. It has the potential to transform preventative eye care.”

The ‘Emerging New Zealand Innovator’ title went to Weirdly, an online recruitment tool built around the belief that bringing like-minded individuals together, who are engaged and passionate about their work, makes them more productive and loyal to their employer.

“We are getting businesses to focus on getting people that are aligned with their values and purpose, first, and skills and experience, second,” says CEO and co-founder Dale Clareburt, who has been in the recruitment industry for 20 years.

“By doing this we’re making the recruitment process fun, we’re making it easy, and we’re making it cost effective.”

Weirdly does this by giving applicants a customised quiz, before they upload their CV. The questions give the candidate a sense of the workplace’s culture; the answers give the employer a sense of the personality of a potential employee.

“We’re giving employers the opportunity to find out heaps more about somebody, and for the applicant to be able to tell the employer heaps more than they can put in their CV.”

Questions include: How fast do you usually walk on a scale from amble to power walk? (Hint: power walkers are more achievement orientated, amblers are more creative.)

Judges comments: “Weirdly uses smart digital tools to match people with the right culture. It’s got a real ability to scale and become a global service.”

8i won ‘Innovation in Media, Music and Entertainment’ for its integrated software platform that allows anyone to convert standard digital video into immersive 3D video, using 8i’s proprietary video format; it also has studios in Wellington and Los Angeles that shoot 3D virtual reality video.

8i uses 20 off-the-shelf 2D cameras, converting the footage into 3D, virtual reality video, giving the viewer a 360 degree experience, says 8i’s chief operating officer, Toni Moyes.

“Our aim is to make the internet more human with immersive 3D video that allows you to be in the same room as the people recorded in virtual reality and be able to walk around them.”

“It’s a way to experience other people in an entirely new, much more intimate way than the video we all consume today. We want to enable anyone to create and share these experiences on any device.

Moyes says 8i is “hardware agnostic” and its product can be viewed through a smartphone, augmented reality or virtual reality headset.

The company is also developing a consumer content platform, similar to Vine or YouTube, where, according to Moyes, users will be able to “create, experience and share lifelike 3D video of real people across virtual reality, augmented reality and the internet”.

Judge’s comments: “This is really a huge undertaking in a massive global industry. It is inspiring to see this global view and building an international company. 8i have raised some great funds and built an impressive team, focussing on the kind of 3D that people actually want to use across a wide range of devices.

  • See our story on Contiki’s use of virtual reality here.

Kode Biotech took out the coveted ‘Supreme New Zealand Innovator’ as New Zealand’s most innovative organisation, after developing a base platform that can cure cancer using the human body’s auto immune responses.

  • See more on the winners of the New Zealand Innovators Awards 2015 in the Summer 2015/2016 edition of Idealog magazine.


Supreme New Zealand Innovator

Winner: Kode Biotech – Kode anti-cancer treatment

Innovation in Agribusiness and Environment

Winner: Fibre-gen – Hitman PH330

Innovation in Design and Engineering

Winner: Methven – Aurajet shower spray technology

Innovation in Financial and Professional Services

Winner: Harmoney – peer to peer marketplace

Highly Commended: Semble – mobile payment
ShipIT – delivery automation

Innovation in Food and Beverage

Winner: Genevieve’s – long shelflife pates
Highly Commended: BBC Technologies – CURO

Innovation in Health and Science

Winner: Kode Biotech – Kode anti-cancer treatment
Highly Commended: Ophthalmicdocs – oDocs Eye Care

Innovation in ICT and Cloud Solutions

Winner: Kami – online document collaboration
Highly Commended: VMob – intelligent personalisation

Innovation in Marketing and Communications

Winner: Karma Cola – fair trade soft drink

Innovation in Media, Music and Entertainment

Winner: 8i – virtual reality
Highly Commended: Clip ‘N’ Climb – rock climbing safety
Holmes Solutions – adventure recreation magnetic braking

Innovation in Sustainability and Cleantech

Winner: Terax 2013 – waste conversion technology

Emerging New Zealand Innovator

Winner: Weirdly  – recruitment tool

Innovation Excellence In Research

Winner: Fonterra R&D Centre – milk fingerprinting
Highly Commended: Trio Lifesciences – breast cancer screening

Excellence In Social Innovation

Winner: Eat My Lunch – eat-one, donate-one lunches
Highly Commended: University of Auckland – SPARX

Export Innovator Of The Year

Winner: Methven – Aurajet shower spray technology
Highly Commended: Karma Cola

Most Inspiring Individual

Winner: Glenn Martin – Martin Jetpack

Sustained Innovation Excellence

Winner: Scott Technology – automated meat processing

Young New Zealand Innovator

Winner: Auror Leadership Team – Auror
Highly Commended: Alistair Scarfe – Robotics Plus

People’s Choice

Winner: Ophthalmicdocs – oDocs Eye Care

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