Lisa Booth and Mikkel Fishman are the latest to be accepted into our LIFT programme. The pair are working on their business Kai Tech.

Kai is a collaborative food system and platform. Its proprietary technology accelerates healthy, sustainable food to all people. It learns what you love, knows what is available, and matches the two unlocking solutions to some of the biggest challenges such as eliminating waste.

Lisa and Mikkel are opening the Kai technology up to like-minded movers and shakers in food, partnering to scale impact.

The duo has been paired with mentors Rebecca Mills and Vaughan Fergusson. We recently caught up with Lisa, Mikkel, Rebecca and Vaughan so you could learn a bit more about them.

Read below to find out why Rebecca used to be called Donut, how Vaughan’s mum introduced him to computers, how Mikkel turns being the worst at something into being the best and what discovery Lisa made about herself only eight years ago that changed her outlook on life.

Rebecca Mills:

Rebecca Mills is an Impact Strategist and Founder of the Transformation Agency, The Lever Room™. The Lever Room™ works at the intersection of innovation and sustainability, helping clients to create positive impact at scale. Their approach has been crafted over a decade of being at the global forefront of regenerative development.

What got you into your line of work and how did you end up where you are?

One day I came home from netball, made a milo, turned on the TV and saw Bob Geldolf, Live Aid and thousands of Ethiopian children without food. It was 1985 and I was 9 years old. It didn’t seem right to get in my bed that night, it didn’t seem right to eat my dinner that night. I stopped eating and slept on the floor outside the wash house/toilet door. I lasted a week before I realised the cause was futile as I had no direct impact whatsoever. To cut a long story short, in that moment I started to take the immediate steps to become an impact investor and strategist, ‘raising capital’ from friends to send over to Ethiopia for the other kids.

What are you looking forward to getting out of this process with Soda and each other as mentor or startup?

As a mentor I’m looking forward to helping the Founders see new perspectives and make new personal connections so that they are able to build a financially flourishing company that demonstrates the power of both technology and systems thinking to solve food system challenges.

Tell me something not everyone knows about you?

My childhood name was Donut. I asked my sister to call me Donut, because I liked Donuts. Her name is Teresa, but she asked me to call her Janet.

Vaughan Fergusson:

Vaughan Fergusson is the founder of Vend, a New Zealand high-growth tech success story, and founder of The Pam Fergusson Charitable Trust who run initiatives like OMGTech!, Mana Tangata and to help teach innovation and technology to kids of all ages and backgrounds.

He was EY's Tech Entrepreneur of the Year in 2014, a judge for the 2018 Entrepreneur of the Year programme and is the vice-chair of the NZ Hi-Tech Trust celebrating the NZ hi-tech industry through awards and education.

What got you into your line of work and how did you end up where you are?

When I was a kid I used to make box fort offices, where I would sit and imagine being a business person. A few years after that I got introduced to computers by my mum and I decided I wanted to own a software company, failing that, a cool jazz bar. Ever since then I kept following that idea, through university, to working in my first startup, to starting my own business, then another, then another, until some of them worked and now I am unemployable, so I just keep starting new things. But no jazz bar yet.

What are you looking forward to getting out of this process with Soda and each other as mentor or startup?

I love the process of refining a big idea down into little things you can action and do. There is a real art, or madness, to doing a startup. Most think you are crazy, but I see entrepreneurs as craftspeople or artists. They can see and imagine something that others can’t. Hanging out with people like that is just good fun.

Tell me something not everyone knows about you?

I've changed my name three times. It's a bit of a long story.

Mikkel Fishman:

Mikkel is a co-founder of Kai bringing a wealth of knowledge and vision from his background in systems science, big data analytics and transformation to a sustainable society through applying scientific insights.

What got you into your line of work and how did you end up where you are?

As a teenager I read the book Chaos by James Gleick, which convinced me that complex systems science was as revolutionary as quantum mechanics or Newton's laws. I decided to work in the field as a programmer, building the tools that the scientists would use.

After being in the field for several years, I grew bewildered at the inability for society to adopt the brilliant insights generated within academia. This led me into business so that I could take systems wisdom and apply it to our greatest challenges. I moved to NZ eight years ago because it is one of the best places to do this.

What are you looking forward to getting out of this process with Soda and each other as mentor or startup?

I'm most looking forward to translating our potential into reality while building long term relationships of mutual support.

Tell me something not everyone knows about you?

When I was a child my parents were told that I should be held back to repeat the school term due to my slow development. It wasn't until I was 8-years-old that everything clicked, and my progress jumped forward five years.

To this day when I try something new I'm the worst, but with practice I become the best. This gives me patience which is a good balance with the high paced nature of the startup scene.

Lisa Booth:

An experienced entrepreneur and digital marketer, Lisa is passionate about the Kai mission, the positive impact on the environment and making a real difference in people’s lives in a very tangible way.

What got you into your line of work and how did you end up where you are?

When I was at school I was always super busy. I played no less than 3 sports at a time, was in every committee and eventually deputy head girl. My first job was a paper run, after two weeks I figured the economics were ridiculously low so I quickly found a job that was less hours and more pay.

I tried to go to Uni, but could not sit still in a lecture. It was painful. So, I knew my only way to grow my career would be to work hard and learn along the way. Something that clicked with me early on was business, and the mechanics of it. I have started, failed and sold businesses, and when I have had gaps in my knowledge I would go get a job in that field and learn it.

Having children young gave me focus, and also time to try things, when most people have maternity leave to be at home, I used the time to start a business and flick it off for our next renovation. I had a strong pull towards management and marketing, but after working in the corporate world, I knew I wanted to do something that made some real world difference. I needed purpose.

I’m curious about sustainability, the planet and what we are leaving for our children. I’m desperate to figure out how I can help make an impact and help others, I'm driven to leave this world better than I came into it.

What are you looking forward to getting out of this process with Soda and each other as mentor or startup?

The wisdom from our mentors and those wrapped around the program, to help us focus structure and execute our ideas into a sustainable and successful business. We have great bones, I believe we can use this time to solidify our foundations, and propel us forward.

Tell me something not everyone knows about you?

Discovering I had ADHD, about eight years ago, and I believe it's an incredible super power. The drive and ambition and the hunger to do more has made me who I am. It was also a relief as so many things made sense, I think of a million things in one moment, I love being around people all the time - I never get tired of it, I can’t sit still and I struggle with long meetings.

I learnt how to be super self-aware and work with it, like not planning long meetings, being direct with action plans and doing all my brain work before 1pm, leaving afternoons for chatting with people where I don’t need a ton of focus. I’m really open about it, sometimes I can come across quirky - but I think the best people are a little quirky!