We are delighted to welcome aboard a stunning panel of innovation talents to guest-judge this year’s YiA finalists’ entries.
Otumoetai College graduate Alex McCall returns as MC for our Awards Evening and with a new project to add to his already diverse stable of start-ups: Nude Greens. With a background in Earth Sciences, he is now actively pursuing the conviction, “that healthy soil creates healthy food and from this, healthy humans. Nude Greens aims to deliver nutrient dense food to kiwi tables in a way that is better for the people and the planet.”
Having worked in the New Zealand tech start-up ecosystem for the past 5 years, Alex has learned much for budding innovators and entrepreneurs. One aspect of the innovative mindset that Alex emphasises is empathy. “One of my innovation muscles I have been flexing… is empathy and the power of listening. This never stops for any product you create as if you are selling something you need to deeply understand who it is for, how they think,what language they use and what pain you are really solving for them.”
Melissa Woods hails from the Mount, where you’ll often find her and her family making the most of the ocean in their backyard. It’s her love of the natural environment that has led to establishing Salt of the Earth Packaging – a creative, ethical response to the problem of packaging pollution. “After 20 years working in business strategy, design and education I grew frustrated with the limited materials that were available for packaging our clients’ products. Four years ago the only options were plastic and there was just so much of it;excess layers and laminates that weren’t needed.”
Passion and purpose are key for Melissa’s motivation for innovation. When asked her advice for our young innovators she responds, “focus on fixing a problem or developing new ideas in an area of interest that you are passionate about. For it to succeed long term make sure it is relevant and will actually make a real difference.” And it’s important to just begin something. “It is better to launch and revisit and revise as you go than to procrastinate and strive for perfection only to miss the boat and never launch or make change.”
As a self-professed weirdo and do-er of impossible deeds,Vaughan Fergusson brings the ultimate ‘can do’ attitude to life. Another multiple starter-upperer, Vaughan’s long list of achievements include several transformational educational initiatives through the Pam Fergusson Charitable Trust, establishing global point of sale software company, Vend, and completing bucket-list challenges such as cycling around the world in 80 days, learning to sing to get a paid gig, and living as a non-consumer for an entire year – checkout his Ted Talk for more on these.
We asked Vaughan why YiA is important to help create tomorrow’s innovators. “Subjects and study is good, but it's also great to have the space to imagine and invent and try new stuff - especially if others tell you it's pointless, or impossible. But many of the things we think are impossible aren't. It's just that no one has done it before. And that's what innovation is about.” Vaughan will be conducting our Finalists’ Workshop and judging the Category Awards for YiA 2020.
Finally we have globe-trotting (until recently!) future of foods and agriculture thought-leader, Dr Rosie Bosworth. Rosie has a tremendous CV; a journalist, keynote speaker(check out her Ted Talk), academic researcher (her PhD from the Netherlands is in environmental innovation and sustainable technology development), alternative proteins commentator, entrepreneur, cook and yoga teacher – all of this stemming from a childhood love of food. And Rosie is big on people letting their passion guide their choices. “Have FUN with life. Explore what you love.Go with your gut and follow your passions. Forget about doing what you think you should do. If you line up to what you love, then the rest all falls intoplace and flows just that much easier.”
The Covid-19 pandemic has had significant impact on Rosie’s recent activities but like the true innovator she is, she can see the silver lining. Covid has created massive opportunities in areas such as healthcare and wellness, workplace and education innovations, food and agriculture systems, entertainment and tourism, and of course the emerging and varied uses of digital technology.
Rosie will join Alex, Melissa and Vaughan in the lead-up to the YiA 2020 Awards Evening on 15th October which will commemorate the 10th anniversary of the competition.