Waikato Management School students (left-right) Zack Pentecost, Rhandal Meyerink, Deanna Morse, Emily Svadlenak, Richard Liu and Mitch McNae took out the $1,000 ‘Craziest Idea that Might Just Work’ Award at the Innes48 Business Startup Competition. Photo courtesy of SODA Inc. NZ
The idea of exporting clean Kiwi air to people living in the world's most polluted cities has seen a team of students from Waikato Management School win a $1,000 prize for the Gallagher ‘Craziest Idea that Might Just Work’ Award at the Innes48 Business Startup Competition 2016.
Held at Wintec from 8-10 April, Innes48 is the largest business start-up competition of its kind in New Zealand. Each of the 15 participating teams was given just 48 hours to develop an original business idea, conduct market research, and write a business plan with financial projections. Just six teams made it through to the final pitching round, where they had to present their idea to a panel of high-profile judges and around 300 guests.
After reading that air pollution is one of the world’s top 10 killers, the WMS team came up with the idea of selling portable canisters of fresh New Zealand air – attached to easy-to-use breathing devices - to wealthy consumers living in smoggy cities like Beijing or Moscow.
As soon as Rhandal pitched the idea of selling air, we knew this was it. It was crazy and we do crazy!
Deanna Morse - BCS student and Innes48 WMS team leader
“A decade ago, the world was shocked by the introduction of bottled water – a commodity that literally falls from the sky,” says team leader Deanna Morse, who is studying for a Bachelor of Communication Studies. The bottled water industry is now worth over $100 billion globally. Will this be the future of clean air?"
Along with Deanna, 20, the Waikato team included Emily Svadlenak, 20, (Bachelor of Communication Studies); and Bachelor of Management Studies students Richard Liu, 19, Rhandal Meijerink, 21, Mitchell McNae, 20, and Zack Pentecost, 20.
A revolutionary product idea
Deanna says her team deliberately chose a revolutionary product idea that would disrupt society. “As soon as Rhandal [Meyerink] pitched the idea of selling air, we knew this was it. It was crazy and we do crazy!”
“Our Friday night was spent researching and discussing how we could differentiate ourselves from our competitors. We went big – shocked by the fact that 40% of the world’s premature deaths are due to air pollution in China. We wanted to make a social, long-term difference – providing New Zealand air as a ventilation system for rooms, focusing on maternity wards and hospitals.”
Inspirational business mentors
During Innes48, teams gained new insights from inspirational business mentors and guest speakers about what it takes to become an entrepreneur. Teams also attended quick-fire workshops on business validation, problem-solving, business modelling, finance and pitching.
“We pitched last so we knew we had to project energy, and most importantly, our personalities,” says Deanna. “People laughed; they looked engaged. That was awesome. We put everything into the competition and had fun. It was an incredible experience and we are so thankful of WMS for always supporting us! They provided us with funding and continued support over the weekend".
The judging panel included software entrepreneur Melissa Clark-Reynolds; Robett Hollis, a former pro-snowboarder who now owns several media ventures; Graham Gaylard, chair of SODA Inc business incubator; and Chip Dawson, a technology investor who has been a CEO of global organisations for the past 12 years.
Mixing business and friendship does the trick
The Waikato students are close friends, having recently co-founded the university’s Study Abroad Network and the International Buddy Programme. Between them, they have knowledge of strategy, international management, finance, supply chain, marketing, public relations and leadership communication.
“It made sense to enter. We complement each other and are always up for new challenges,” says Deanna. “We entered the competition with the absolute belief that our combined strengths are a force to be reckoned with, and we wholeheartedly believe and trust in each other.”