YiA Judges


Innovation Developer

Originally from Tauranga, Wade now works in the innovation kitchen at Nike. Wade will be flying in from Portland, Oregon to tell us about his journey from the Bay of Plenty to the world of innovation at Nike, a company that focusses on innovation to propel its brand.

Wade grew up in Omokoroa, attended Tauranga Boys College before heading to the University of Canterbury where he studied mechanical engineering. He then completed a Masters of Engineering in Management which is a condensed MBA program focused on innovation and entrepreneurship.

After graduating Wade moved to Nelson to work as a design engineer and quickly moved into project management at Brightwater Engineers.

In 2004 Wade moved to Portland, Oregon and founded a small business with his now wife called Blumebox, a business focused on bringing new delivery concepts for fresh flowers to North America. Wade also worked as a project manager at The Greenbrier Companies which is a leading global railcar manufacturer. While at Greenbrier he worked in a number of roles including project management, process improvement and business development.

Sparked by the global downturn in 2008 Wade was asked to work in a business development role which culminated in establishing a footprint in South America via a joint venture with the largest railcar manufacturer in Brazil.

Wanting to work in a faster paced environment Wade moved to Nike where he now works as an Innovation Developer in their innovation kitchen. Maintaining a rich pipeline of innovations to fuel a multi-billion dollar sports business is like a childhood dream.

Read our Q&A with Wade to hear why he’s so keen to be a part of YiA 2017.

Q: Why did you want get involved with YiA?

I am proud of where I come from and grateful for the education I received growing up in NZ. Being involved with YIA is an opportunity for me to give back and to support a great organisation that inspires innovation and entrepreneurship among students. I’m excited to get back to Tauranga and see all the work that is happening in the local innovation incubators and industry that will ultimately create new opportunities for the region.

Q: What’s your favourite innovation of all time?

I would have to say electricity. The advent of electricity was a true revolution that would ultimately improve the lives of everyone on the planet.

Q: What’s the most expensive innovation you have ever splashed out on?

Probably the first laptop I purchased when I moved to the US. Laptops used to be quite expensive but I wanted the portability so it was an innovation I was willing to pay for.

Q: Describe what’s it like to work at Nike HQ in 3 words.

Inspiring. Challenging. Fun.

Q: What’s your one piece of advice to our entrants?

Don’t ever lose sight of the customer. Innovation can often be secretive, leading to endless conversations where we often end up essentially talking to ourselves. The sooner you can test with and gather real feedback from your user the better. So often they raise issues that you didn’t even think about, or put to rest concerns that might be non-issues.