The University of Auckland is further championing student innovation and entrepreneurship through the initiation of a brand new incubator – VentureLab. This unprecedented initiative, delivered by the University’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, is designed to support students and staff who have a developed venture concept by further developing their capability and giving them the expertise, space and resource to fully ignite their idea.
Over the course of six months, VentureLab participants have access to a wealth of resources including a board of advisors, a $10,000 stipend per team, access to further funds and university resources and dedicated desk space. VentureLab teams have been working in the Business School over summer and now have their own room at the university’s new innovation hub Unleash Space, where they can further work on their business. A key component of the VentureLab programme is the support of VentureLab Manager Ken Erskine, who provides operational support and wisdom. Ken is a former director of startups at the ICEHOUSE with a long history of working in the local and international startup ecosystems.
In its first iteration the incubator is supporting five of the winning teams from the 2017 Velocity student entrepreneurship programme. As Velocity participants the cohort had already been through the process of developing a business case and validating their concept and are at the stage where they are well on their way to preparing their venture for launch.
The pace at which some of these teams have been operating is truly impressive. Kara Technologies Ltd is an online educational platform that aims to deliver education material to deaf children using sign language avatars. They have already attracted significant levels of investment from the University of Auckland Inventors Fund and have hired staff. They are now rapidly prototyping using state-of-the art equipment, such as a $20,000 Mocap suit that was able to be purchased through the support of the University. Kara Technologies CEO Arash Tayebi says “We plan to work with educational institutions and online material providers to become the Coursera for the hearing impaired. We are so fortunate to be a part of the VentureLab programme. The supportive mentorship and vital resources that we receive through this programme enables us to accelerate from an idea into a Minimum Viable Product in just a few months”.
Director of the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship Wendy Kerr says that the provision of an incubator is an important evolution in the University’s student innovation and entrepreneurship offering. “The University of Auckland has a long history of encouraging students to develop concepts, but there is more that can be done to help our students bridge the gap between venture concept and business reality. The creation of this incubator is an exciting next step.”