STARTUP SUCCESS: CELEBRATING THE NEW FACES OF NZ’S TOP STARTUPS

Vizbot Matt CaobhamVizbot SamsonMohamed Vizbot

Today is Day 4 of Global Entrepreneurship Week, and we are celebrating by profiling some of the #NewFaces that pass through Creative HQ here in New Zealand, as part of an initiative created by Kiwi Connect to putting the spotlight on young entrepreneurs under 30 learning how to start a startup and doing awesome stuff for the NZ startup ecosystem.

Today we sat down for chat with Matt Cobham, co-founder and CEO of VizBot – a team that went through NZ’s first ever government tech accelerator programme earlier this year.

Vizbot was developed through the R9 accelerator, a programme developed by Creative HQ and Better for Business as one of the first government business accelerators in the world. R9 is based on Lightning Lab’s formula of intensive mentoring model but built in conjunction with Results 9, a collaboration of eight agencies within government based around taking problems for public sector services and improving them through market validation. 5 teams went through the programme with a mix of government intrapreneurs and startup entrepreneurs – Vizbot were given the problem set of Licensing and Permits in the 12 week programme.

Through research and customer discovery Vizbot found that the biggest issue people had with Licensing and Permits was the Building Consent process. The Council process means that an agent acting on behalf of the building owner (usually an Architect) collates all the paperwork needed for a Building Consent, and submits it to the Council. It ends up in what Architects refer to as a ‘Black Hole’ an area of who knows what for up to 20 days.

Generally an Architect or Project Manager will line up work to be done, beginning on the first day of receiving the Building Consent. Often issues arise on day 19, meaning there’s a holdup in consent. This pushes back the start date, sometimes for weeks. Every week the build is held up, this costs the building owner around $5000.

Vizbot’s focus is to reduce the number of R.F.I’s (Requests for Information) by creating a smart process web platform with an algorithm that identifies what the applicant needs to provide as part of the consent. Better complete information to the Council means minimal back and forth and a quicker smoother processing time. Once submitted, Vizbot makes the process transparent so that the applicants can identify who’s looking at it and where it’s at. If there are problems the applicant will see this early on and be able to take the necessary steps to fix the problem or provide the necessary documents. Matt’s passion is efficient systems and reducing waste in the way people do things – a core driver of Vizbot’s reason for being.

Currently Vizbot is built primarily for industry experts and contains a lot of Architectural jargon. They are however working on a tailored homeowner version – watch this space!

We asked Matt some questions about his entrepreneurial journey so far:

How did you become involved in R9, and then develop Vizbot through that?

Although I have a background in Engineering, before Vizbot I was working on a startup looking at health & safety software. It was through this project that I applied and was accepted into the R9 Accelerator, and just before the programme started the Health & Safety Project fell through. Knowing that I wanted to continue to be involved in large organisational government change, I carried on with the Licensing and Permit solutions and Vizbot is currently working out of Creative HQ’s space, developing our offering and securing new clients now that the R9 Accelerator is finished.

Who else is in your team?

The Vizbot team has evolved with the growth of the business, beginning as a team of four and a team of three, with a mix of founding team members and new faces.

Samson Phommachack is Vizbot’s Chief Marketing Officer. Samson found out about the accelerator and truly believed in what it would mean for bringing change to how government works, but more importantly what this means for the people of NZ. He left ENZ to pursue this full-time.

Mohammed Mokhtari who is now Vizbot’s Software Engineer joined later on. He was previously a Lab Tech on his OE from France. He found out about Vizbot coincidentally through meeting Laura Reitel, Creative HQ’s Lightning Lab XX Programme Director, on Twitter.

What lessons have you learnt since working on Vizbot?

So many, we are now in our seventh month. The biggest one that we’ve learnt … is that Government does have the potential to be able to do this, to be agile and lean, push the limits in how they do stuff. It’s more the cultural and behavioural change that they have to understand, not so much the technical stuff.

One of the biggest positives we will take away from creating Vizbot is that Councils, Taupo City Council in particular, are just so forward thinking in the way they do things… wanting to bring younger people into their organisation, leaner smarter technology… it’s huge for us, and we hope it sets a precedent for other councils to follow suit.

What are some of your biggest challenges?

Our biggest focus is trying to secure startup funding. We have had contributions from MBIE and they have supported us through the continuation of R9. From here we are looking to do something slightly more formal.

Are you looking to move into the overseas market?

Yes, we have done quite extensive research into that… we are looking to get into Australia by the end of next year. Any commonwealth country using common law do very similar licensing processes to building permits, so it’s only a matter of changing content.

Samson is actually in Malaysia right now as one of the five NZ representatives for the ASEAN Young Leaders Summit. That’s pretty big for us in terms of showing New Zealand Government, local and central, that the people behind Vizbot are leading the pack by representing New Zealand in Asia in order for us to build trust and receive strong government backing in the future.

ASEAN young business leader summit

For more information about Vizbot see their website; http://www.vizbot.co.nz/about/

For more information about the R9 Accelerator programmes check out http://creativehq.co.nz/innovation-services/r9accelerator/

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