Innovate 2016 Grand Prize Winner Announced!

Building a business isn’t easy, especially when tooling breaks the day before your final pitch.  That’s exactly what happened to Chelsea Hirst from Peurgon, yet, after as she put it, “a little cry and a ton of determination,” Chelsea Hirst took out the top prize at Innovate 2016 in Manawatu Wednesday night.

Chelsea’s first product, called the ‘Beaubin’, fixes a few problems when it comes to feeding horses.  “Up to 25% of hay can be wasted if it’s contaminated by mud or manure, or if the hay blows away in the wind. The Beaubin keeps the hay in one place while still allowing the horse to access the hay through netting,” says Chelsea.  “The Beaubin is almost ready for sale.  I expected to have the first trial BeauBins ready this week, but due to tooling issues, that’s been pushed back until after Christmas. That’s start-up life though!”

The judging panel who consisted of Mike Creed, Murray Georgel and Mark Easton, all local business professionals, found the final section to be very close.  “The five finalists all had progressed over the course of the ten week competition.  We all were very impressed with the quality of each presentation which made our job a tough one,” said Murray Georgel.  “When it came to making the final selection, Chelsea’s business Peurgon was selected based on a few key points.  Her initial market is clear and niche.  Her product is ready now and Chelsea’s determination and team building skills are impressive.”

Massey University’s FoodPilot selected Simone Stewart and her idea, MumaBoost as the winner of their food prize, $5,000 worth of time and services.  Being a busy mum of 4, Simone realised that she needed time each day to stop, refuel and refresh.  So, she's working with Rodney Wong and Lyn Mcurdy on a food product that will give mothers a quick dose of relaxation and energy and the FoodPilot prize will no doubt accelerate her passion.

In true Innovate fashion, the judges once again created a new award on the night, the X-Factor award.  Due to a very impressive pitch by 15 year old Maddison McQueen-Davies and her product SWAG (Stuffed With Added Goodness), the $1,000 cash prize was an easy selection.  “Maddie’s pitch was incredible.  Her desire to learn and listen coupled with the fact that she worked through all aspects of her solution made this a perfect fit.  Plus, we think Mark Sainsbury might have a co-host next year,” says Mike Creed.

The 2016 Innovate competition began in July with over 100 submissions from Manawatu, Tararua and the rest of New Zealand. Over the course of two stages, the Innovate Top 5 is chosen; these entrants are then partnered with a mentor who together, completes a 10-week market validation programme.  At the conclusion of the 10 weeks most entrants have a substantial business model and even paying customers.

This is the sixth year BCC has run the Innovate competition and to date, it has attracted 1,216 entries. The competition, initially for Manawatu, has expanded to include the lower half of the North Island.  In six years, it has become the premier ideas accelerator in New Zealand. Innovate is one way BCC is helping to build an entrepreneurial eco-system in the region.

 “This was by far the best year yet.” says Dave Craig, Innovate Manager. “Innovate continues to improve by listening to what the market needs and wants each year.  It’s impressive to see the talent we have hidden here in the region and what Innovate’s platform continues to deliver.”

Five of the Top Six pitched their ideas to the judges and over 150 in attendance in a Dragon’s Den format on Wednesday night at the Sport and Rugby Institute at Massey University.

The mentor pool around the Innovate finalists this year included Sharon Bryant, Shane O’Brien, Simon Barnett, Lyn McCurdy, Rodney Wong, Larry Ellison, Rick Gain and Stu Bradbury.

The star-studded judging panel included Mike Creed, Murray Georgel and Mark Easton.

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Media contact

Dave Craig
Innovate Programme Manager
06 352 0117

About BCC

BCC helps build clever companies. As New Zealand’s specialist business development organisation for startups in agriculture, agri-tech and agri-food it also uses its expertise in tech transfer, startups and investment to help entrepreneurs and innovators in all industries take products to market.

About Peurgon

Peurgon, which means fear gone, creates innovative products that give horse owners peace of mind.  Peurgon’s first product, the Beaubin, is an innovative device that horse owners can use to feed hay to their horses without worrying about excessive waste.

Innovate. 1,216 ideas in 6 years.

Stage One: Entrants complete an on-line entry with basic details about your business. BCC team reviews all entries and the ones that show the most commercial promise progress to Stage Two.

Stage Two: Entrants complete a more detailed entry survey. BCC invited the Top 20 Stage Two entrants to pitch their business idea to the Innovate mentors who then pick their Top 5.  The mentor pool then partners a mentor or metors with each finalist who then progress to Stage Three.

Stage Three: For 10 weeks, the Innovate Top 5 completes a market validation course and works with their mentors to build a robust business model and plan.  Final presentations are made to the judging panel and a supreme winner is chosen.

The overall winning entry receives $5,000 cash, entry into BCC’s accelerator programme, office space at The Factory and an opportunity to pitch to the Manawatu Investment Group, or MIG.

Innovate 2017 will be open for entries in June 2017.