The field is narrowing in Manawatū/Whanganui’s 2017 Innovate competition as the top 20 entries are whittled down to the final six entrepreneurs
Innovate manager Dave Craig said the quality of entries had been getting better and better over Innovate’s six-year run, and it was getting harder for the judges to pick between the ideas on display.
“We used to get hundreds of entries every year, and one in 20 was an idea that had legs. Now it’s every second entry.”
In fact, this year’s crop of aspiring entrepreneurs was so good, the final five had become the final six, he said.
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One of the finalists, Palmerston North banker Arthur Chin, cut a trip to Australia short and made a mad dash across the ditch to take his shot at Innovate.
He flew from Canberra to Sydney and on to Wellington before driving up to Palmerston North and arriving less than an hour before he was due to make his pitch.
Chin sunk $25,000 of his own money into developing and patenting a new disposable, single-serve package for baby formula.
A frequent traveller, Chin said he saw a lot of parents feeding their toddlers and babies from bulky plastic containers. He came up with a single serve bag that was easy to fill and more hygienic because it was disposable. The design was also fairly environmentally friendly and made of 60 per cent biodegradable plastic.
Chin said the same bag could be used for liquids for any traveller, or even fitness fanatics looking for single-serves of protein shakes.
Over the past four years, he had made a protoype, got a patent for his design and had an initial production run lined up when he heard about the Innovate competition.
Chin said he decided to delay launching his business to enter Innovate, because he wanted to make sure he wasn’t making any rookie mistakes by running his plans past some of the best business minds in Manawatū.
OBO sports equipment manufacturer owner Simon Barnett, one of this year’s 31 Innovate mentors, said Chin had everything ready to get a business started, but he’d likely have to leave his banking job to give it the attention it needed.
“Honestly, I think he just needs to get on and do it.”
It took bravery to risk giving up a good job for a start up, but Barnett thought the idea’s potential was worth the risk.
There were 10,000 planes in the air at any one time, most with at least a couple of babies or toddlers on them, he said.
Barnett said if Chin’s product was as easy to use as he said and convenient to take through airport security, that was huge market in itself.