Waikato’s hub for entrepreneurs, Soda Inc. collaborated with Callaghan Innovation and startup centres nationwide to pull off New Zealand’s largest collaborative online startup event. Over 950 participants joined in #HacktheCrisisNZ, a 48-hour challenge hosted online during the weekend. Soda Inc. CEO Erin Wansbrough said this event was a masterclass in collaboration.

“The core organising team Kyra Piccione (Soda Inc.), Laura Reitel (Callaghan Innovation),  Luke Ball (Creative HQ), Jayden Szekely (SayOk Creative) & Louise Evans (COIN South), Dave Moskovitz, Sandy Isaac, James Swope and Emily Dwyer paired with over 50 mentors and coaches brought together a seamless experience for the 55 participating teams. It was a privilege to be able to share my experience as a mentor from the comfort of my bubble.,” says Wansbrough.

“We look forward to working alongside regional partners from across the Waikato to ensure that ideas and innovation that came out of the weekend can be brought to life and provide benefit to the greater Waikato community during these uncertain times and into the future," says Wansbrough. The event attracted 210 ideas from across New Zealand, 55 teams were formed, and by 2pm Sunday, 47 final pitches of solutions that could tackle the challenges of life beyond Covid-19 were submitted.

The judging panel included Sir Stephen Tindall, Greg Cross, Lisa King, Mike King and Vic Crone, who were all impressed with the calibre of pitches. Ultimately, they crowned Draw This! as the winning idea. Draw This! uses storytelling and art to build safe and fun connections across generations and between bubbles throughout New Zealand, and ultimately, won the heart of the judges. Project Leader and Co-founder of Draw This! Holly Grover said the team gave themselves limitations early in the weekend with a narrow problem to solve: engaging with elderly people using only a landline.

Other top team ideas included Shopalong - a one-stop full-pantry shop marketplace for suppliers allowing locals to buy items from local stores and have it delivered to their homes, Swiftly.nz - a lightweight, online “Popup Shop” that business owners can use to get their business an e-commerce site up and running in less than 15 minutes and allows their customer to click & collect and PowerMove – a pay it forward power sharing initiative to get power to those in need. The public can learn about all 47 final submissions here. Greg Cross, of Soul Machines said it was a privilege to be a part of such an innovative community “thinking deeply how to make a difference in the ever-changing and uncertain world we live in now”.

Soda Inc. and the other startup support organisations are now working together to offer follow on support to take these ideas to the next level and make them a reality. The organising team plan to write a guide of how to run an online event of this scale and make it open source so others can take this model and make it happen in their communities.

For those who want to see what they missed out on, there is an on demand channel here.

The event wouldn’t have been possible without the amazing sponsors who backed the event; Callaghan Innovation, Soda Inc., AWS activate, CO.STARTERS, Foundation North, Hamilton City Council, ChristchurchNZ, myob, and Propellerhead.