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Meet the judges for NZ Startup Bootcamp 2020


This year’s judging panel for NZ Startup Bootcamp is a powerhouse of business nous! With pros from four very different corners of the business world: CEO & Founder of Valocity Global and Data Insight Carmen Vicelich, peanut butter nutter and Fix & Fogg founder Roman Jewell, Blackbird Ventures partner Samantha Wong and Auckland University of Technology's head of entrepreneurship and innovation Martin Bell.

We asked them the same three questions so you can get to know them a bit better.

Read on to find out how Carmen solves complex issues with data, if Roman has a nut allergy, why Samantha isn't a famous michelin-star chef, what musician Martin has an encyclopedic knowledge of, and more.

Carmen Vicelich:

Carmen is not your typical anything - a powerhouse entrepreneur who has built two multi-million-dollar, international data and technology businesses in just five years at the same time as balancing life as a wife and mother of four young children.

She was named a finalist in the 2016 ‘Women of Influence’ awards and won the Auckland University Business School’s ‘Entrepreneurs Challenge’ award in 2015. She has also been a finalist in the ‘EY Entrepreneur of the Year’ awards.

In 2018 one of Carmen's businesses, Valocity, was recognized as one of five finalists in the global general category at the global fintech awards in Singapore, as well as a finalist for the Fintech Hackcelerator.

Carmen is also a published author, having launched ‘The Data Revolution’ in late 2017.

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

I wanted to work with technology and data to solve complex problems and when I looked around the market no one was doing what I wanted to do; solving some complex issues that hadn’t changed in a long time. I started Data Insight, which started helping large businesses and government that had lots of data and no insights, and we then built Valocity which leverages data and technology to streamline the mortgage and valuation process.

What are you looking forward to getting out of the NZ Startup Bootcamp?

I'm looking forward to sharing some of the lessons learned and top tips that I never knew and giving back to support and inspire our future businesses, while enjoying the diversity of the start up community.

Tell me something not everyone knows about you?

I speak three languages.

Roman Jewell:

Six years ago, Roman started Fix & Fogg with his wife Andrea when they were expecting their first child. Previously both lawyers, they made the choice to leave behind the corporate life and dedicate their time and energy to creating something meaningful, sustainable, and delicious. They decided to make the best butters.

They love that they make every jar of Fix & Fogg from start to finish in their factory in Wellington. From designing their labels to their carefully blended peanut butter, they're completely hands-on throughout the entire process.

They think their award-winning butters are so popular because people can taste the difference in a product that’s handmade by humans who care about quality.

Their peanut butter has now won awards in New Zealand, Australia and Singapore.

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

Making peanut butter was really a hobby I had that grew into a passion, which then snowballed into a business.

What are you looking forward to getting out of the NZ Startup Bootcamp?

Helping, sharing, being inspired and connecting with entrepreneurs from all over New Zealand.

Tell me something not everyone knows about you?

I'm allergic to peanuts (just kidding!) - I love taking my kids camping. We try to get away most weekends to different spots around Wellington.

Samantha Wong:

Samantha is a partner at Blackbird Ventures, a mentor at Startmate, Australia's leading accelerator and prior to joining Blackbird, she co-founded a Startmate Company, CapacityHQ, a professional services marketplace that she sold to LegalVision.

Prior to that, Samantha led Product and Strategy teams at SurfStitch.com after career-pivoting out of corporate law. She writes at https://medium.com/@holasammy.

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

I got into venture by accident. I started my career as a corporate lawyer, then quit to join an early stage e-commerce startup SurfStitch in their product team and then launched the business in Europe. After that I founded a company that went the Startmate accelerator and was between startups when Blackbird suggested I might make a good first hire for their team. I joined in 2015 with the intention of spending no more than two years there before going out to start my next company, but once I joined Blackbird I really fell in love with the mission and realised that my skills and experience could be best used to help supercharge other ambitious founders.

What are you looking forward to getting out of the NZ Startup Bootcamp?

I'd like to discover some potential rising star founders and hopefully see the start of some world-changing ideas!

Tell me something not everyone knows about you?

I started a chef's apprenticeship in high school. I thought I wanted to be a famous michelin-star chef. I realised that I was far too clumsy to safely work in a kitchen, and I have the scars to prove it.

Martin Bell:

Martin has been working on the front-lines of innovation, entrepreneurship, media and technology for more than 25 years. As the co-founder of Idealog, Good and stoppress.co.nz, Martin helped to launch some of New Zealand’s most highly-regarded and durable media brands and he is the recipient of multiple New Zealand Magazine Awards.

Martin is now Director of Entrepreneurship & Innovation at AUT and is the Executive Producer of Project Connect, New Zealand’s premier event programme focussed on digital innovation and commercialisation.

If that wasn’t enough to keep him busy, he is also the Founder and CEO of JAVA Hi-Fi, a high-end boutique audio manufacturer that makes some of the world’s best-sounding amplifiers.

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

I’m a late bloomer when it comes to entrepreneurship – I didn’t start my first company until I was in my mid-30s, although prior to that I had worked for companies with a very entrepreneurial culture that encouraged autonomy and independent decision making. I exited my business after 7 years of fun, sweat and toil and after a few months of battery recharging and pondering my next move, found myself working in management consulting.

One of my first clients was AUT - one thing led to another and before I knew it, I was developing a student entrepreneurship strategy for the University, which led to the establishment of an office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation. I’m now AUT’s Director of Entrepreneurship and Innovation with a mission to ensure that every student with a business idea gets the support they need to start up while they study, and an opportunity to develop entrepreneurial thinking as a tool for their future.

Through a range of initiatives, we are creating a dedicated student entrepreneurship support system that helps students to build invaluable skills, to collaborate, create, adapt, fail, pivot and grow their business - and themselves - while they study.

What are you looking forward to getting out of the NZ Startup Bootcamp?

I may have been a late bloomer, but once entrepreneurship gets its hooks into you, it rarely lets go. I love the excitement, the fun, the possibilities, the adrenalin, the opportunity to solve problems big and small – all things that will be in full-force over the Startup Bootcamp weekend. It’s also incredibly inspirational spending time with people who are (in the main) new to entrepreneurship. Their enthusiasm and ‘anything is possible’ attitude provides a welcome counterpoint to much of the cynicism and pessimism prevalent in modern life.

Tell me something not everyone knows about you?

I have an encyclopedic knowledge of the life and works of David Bowie. In fact, I once beat the NZ Mastermind Champion whose specialist topic was David Bowie in an impromptu Bowie quiz.

For more information about the upcoming NZ Startup Bootcamp visit nzstartupbootcamp.co.nz

Applications to take part are open until 13 March.


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