Lightning Lab Manufacturing Demo Day – The Pitch Day for Things You Can Drop on Your Toe
This post is the first in a three-part series covering the ‘NZ Day of Hardware Innovation’ which saw Lightning Lab Manufacturing and Callaghan Innovation’s C-PRIZE UAV challenge come together to pitch their products to a room full of potential investors.
Last Thursday, seven of the latest top New Zealand startups took to the stage to pitch to an auditorium of investors at Lightning Lab Manufacturing’s inaugural Demo Day. Lightning Lab Manufacturing is the first start-up accelerator in New Zealand for companies with physical products, and the first vertical to deviate away from Lightning Lab’s traditionally digital programme.
Until now start-up accelerators have tended to focus on ventures developing digital products. With small budgets, limited manpower, and time constraints, growing a start-up is hard enough without throwing all the challenges physical products present into the mix. Shawn O’Keefe, Lightning Lab Manufacturing’s programme director, says that it’s the challenges hardware start-ups face that make it more critical these early stage businesses receive growth strategies to get off the launch pad.
Lightning Lab Manufacturing’s first cohort has spent the past three months validating, iterating and preparing to take the stage. Demo Days are held at the end of each accelerator programme and are an opportunity for the teams to pitch to a room of investors in hopes of securing the capital needed to further grow their start-up.
After welcoming remarks, legal notices, and an entertaining speech from keynote speaker and jetpack inventor, Glenn Martin (more on him in part two of this series) it was time for the pitches.
Ecologically sound, resilient beehive frames
Jess Rolinson-Purchase, Rob Smith, and Olly Townsend
Industrial designer and co-founder of Ebee, Jess Rolinson-Purchase, lets the audience in on the beekeeping industry’s dirty secret – standard wooden hive frames are not strong enough for mānuka honey so plastic frames are used instead. The hives contain about 5kg of plastic and are replaced at least every five years. And if it’s one of 1,800 hives infected with American Foulbrood each year in New Zealand the apiarist has no option but to burn it. The burning plastic releases harmful fumes and is terrible for the environment – not exactly clean and green.
The team at Ebee believe hive hardware should be sustainable, resilient, cost-effective, and “match the natural goodness in beekeeping”. The safe, natural plant fibre the entrepreneurs have developed offer the best of plastic and wooden frames – they’re biodegradable, moulded in a single piece, and similarly priced to their plastic equivalent.
An upcoming pilot programme is planned and will involve five beekeeping companies around New Zealand and Ebee plan to roll out their hive products in early 2017. The team signs off with the assertion that this is a “clear problem we can solve”.
Smart baby products
After a stressful situation which arose from trying to feed his hungry baby on a train but finding the flask had gone cold, Bpod founder and serial entrepreneur, Lawrence Bass decided the only way forward was to develop his own range of smart baby products. Of the 346 parents surveyed, 96% had similar feeding problems and wanted to be able to heat milk quickly, easily, and safely both at home and on the go.
The app controlled Bpod products provide a solution that gives parents more freedom over when and where their baby feeds. Algorithms are utilised to make feeding time easier, safer, and adaptable to baby’s needs. Bpod plans to further develop their products next year before taking them to the global market.
Jack Candlish and Niko Dellios
“Hello, I’m Jesse and I have an incurable addiction to surfing” says Jesse Keith, Organic Dynamic’s mentor, he goes on to describe the life of a surfer as one based on community, and a love of the ocean and nature.
Most surfboards are made from polystyrene foam covered with layers of fibreglass cloth, and polyester or epoxy resin. These toxic materials which are hazardous to the shaper and the environment, have a short life expectancy as a surfboard, and then last forever in a landfill.
The Organic Dynamic team believe that surfboards should be as environmentally authentic as the sport. By mashing up digital manufacturing techniques with some design secrets from the days when aircrafts were made of wood, Organic Dynamic can make a wooden surfboard that is only a few hundred grams heavier than a top end foam board, and is stronger and more durable.
The team plans to supply their surfboard blanks to local shapers, who make 80% of New Zealand’s surfboards. They aim to set up hubs around the country close to local shapers where the board blanks can be laser cut. So far their surfboards have received positive user engagement from New Zealand’s surfing community.
What we focus on in a film has a huge impact on how we feel about the stories unfolding before us, says Kine6 founder Sean Snyder. There is no autofocus option in cinematography so creating visually compelling footage can be difficult for small producers. The technical challenges that camera operators face around holding focus through a complex shot can lead to multiple takes or, failing that, artistic compromises.
Kine6 have taken motion capture technology developed for Weta Digital and adapted it for small film-makers. The focus system uses an invisible marker that is tracked by a controller device which then focuses the camera where ever the subject moves. Kine6 promises to expand the artistic options for both camera operator and director. According to the founders, the system will allow for never before seen shots and has a number of potential applications including sports and aerial cinematography.
The team has been invited by Callaghan Innovation to attend the 2016 NAB trade show in Las Vegas. Next year they plan to focus on getting the system ready to be in the hands of filmmakers by the end of 2016.
Rifle stocks for long-range hunters and competition shooters
Clive Judd, Chris Dye, and Rocky Dew
Precision Platforms’ founders share a combined 35 years of military service and “an addiction for accuracy”. The avid long-range target and sports shooters struggled for years to find a stock that would fit them – current manufacturers of rifle stocks use a one-size-fits-all approach and adjustable rifle stocks are only found on Olympic level rifles. Female shooters are the fastest growing segment in shooting sports and Precision Platforms says this mean now is the time to begin offering customised options.
Bringing a raft of digital manufacturing and composites technologies into play to address the problem, they have developed a customisable and adaptable aftermarket solution for the amateur who is seeking Olympic levels of precision at a more accessible price.
Currently, the team is working on developing a system to further customise options using scans from customers hands. They have already been approached by several interested retailers from Australia, Canada, and the United States.
Audio effects combining the best of the analog and digital worlds
Tim Prebble and Matt McLeod
Musicians, like artists, rely on their tools – effects pedals allow the creator to add colour and tone to a work. Modern music exists in a heavily digitised environment, but musicians still want the sound that can only come from analog equipment. But analog does not offer the convenience or functions of digital pedals and often need frequent adjusting.
Dogmatek’s effects pedals give the guitarist a pure analog signal path, but with controls that provide the convenience and functionality of digital. According to Tim Prebble, Co-founder of Dogmatek, with their hybrid pedals musicians are willing to take more creative risks because the results are reliable. Dogmatek understands that musicians are particular about their effects pedals so they plan to offer a try-before-you-buy option. In just one week of their website being live, they had $2,500 worth of preorders and interest from several retailers including The Rockshop.
The Misprint Co.
Repurposing paper waste into notebooks
Jenny Buckler, Priscilla Loong, and Kareena Harris
As design students, The Misprint Co. founders saw a lot of paper going to waste. Soon the students discovered the paper recycling industry was missing a very important trick – much of the paper that goes to recycling from universities and corporations has little or no actual printing on it. Within three months of dumpster diving at Massey University the team had collected enough paper for 88 repurposed notebooks. By giving these pieces of paper a second life before they are eventually recycled, vast amounts of water and energy are saved.
The Misprint Co. have found that many firms are enthusiastic about having their waste paper repurposed as notebooks and re-used in a way that provides physical evidence of their commitment to sustainable business. Though other companies repurposing waste paper exist, The Misprint Co. creates a point of difference with their Ecoloop service which collects a business’s waste paper and returns it to the same company as stationary.
Next year, the team plan to move to a retail space and increase production. The company who describes itself as “for profit but with social impact at our core” aims to gain 500 clients in the next three years.
Demo Day marks the end of this cohort’s time at Lightning Lab but life is just beginning for these seven start-ups – watch this space!
If you are interested in contacting one of the ventures from Lightning Lab Manufacturing for investment purposes, please contact Programme Director Shawn O’Keefe.
For more information on Lightning Lab, see here for how you can build a high growth startup.