Apple co-founder Woz to judge top Kiwi tech talent

New Zealand’s best technology and social change champions have been recognised by APAC technology awards program, The Talent Unleashed Awards 2014.

The five regional winners will now move through to the global finals which will be judged by Sir Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group and Steve Wozniak, Apple cofounder.

Richard Earl, Founder and Managing Director of Talent International, the global IT&T Recruitment and Technology Services Specialist behind the awards, says the level of entrants from New Zealand was exceptionally high and reflecting the reputation of the tech-savvy nation.

“Nearly everyday there is a new story about another great, New Zealand-based, tech company launching in the market both locally and internationally,” he says.

“The local ecosystem for tech start-ups is fertile with investment and support from government, and respect for innovation, making for a positive and forward-thinking tech community.”

New Zealand’s entries came from a wide variety of industries with the regional winners in the five categories coming from education, charity, property management and just one corporate.

For the Rising Star Award (an award for those under 25 years of age) the category winner was Tom Wallace, Founder of Re-Leased, a cloud based property-management tool.

With its end-to-end solutions, including Xero accountancy plug-in (another NZ tech company), Re-Leased is set to dramatically simplify the way property managers organise their business.

The Best Start-Up Award went to Frances Valintine, Chairperson of the Board and Director of The Mind Lab an educational program in collaboration with Unitec Institute of Technology.

The program sees teachers and educators up-skill in areas of technology and innovation to empower the next generation with scientific creativity and robust skills needed for a rapidly changing digital future.

The Community Impact Award for social change pioneers went to David Hillier, Founder of Little Lot, a charitable giving platform that uses advertiser’s money to allow the user to donate to a chosen charity by uploading branded wallpaper to a device.

The Digital Content Award was given to Chris South, Head of Dynamic Services, Network 4 Learning platform – Pond. Pond is an online community for educators to share vast amounts of content and resources. It can create bundles of content chosen by educators to shape a lesson or whole units of study.

The Inspirational Leadership Award went to Neeraj Lala, whose 16 year management journey through the ranks of Toyota has now seen him rise to the role of General Manger, Marketing, and Product Planning & Used Vehicles at Toyota, New Zealand Limited.

Earl also said he hoped the Talent Unleashed Awards would bolster New Zealand’s position on the international technological innovation and start-up scene.

“New Zealand deserves to be recognised as a world class success story for what can be achieved when a combined effort from government, industry and pure talent and capital, come together to make a change for the better,” he adds.

He applauded the New Zealand Government’s recent initiative to encourage start-up businesses, with two new tax measures announced in its budget, which are expected to result in a return of NZ$58.1 million to drive research and development.

Regional judges Candace Kinser, CEO of The New Zealand Technology Industry Association, and Kalman Bekesi, CTO of Auckland based movie marketing company, Movio, said the award entries were “full of potential”.

Both judges maintained New Zealand is uniquely poised to catapult its rich technology development concepts and projects into a global arena.

“I think New Zealanders are well placed to innovate in niche areas of technology, particularly in education and learning, and the country’s increasing commitment to investment and infrastructure in technology,” Kinser adds.

Bekesi adds; “New Zealand has the ability to compete on the world stage when it comes to technology and innovation. Kiwi ingenuity is definitively alive in the technology space.

“The trick for our start-ups is to understand how to commercialise their ideas at the earliest stages of the business, and then strengthen their skill set with good mentorship and advisors.”

All New Zealand Regional Winners will now be judged by global judges, Sir Richard Branson, Founder of the Virgin Group and Steve Wozniak, Apple Co Founder.

They will compete for the global prize; a five day business mentoring workshop at the Branson Centre for Entrepreneurship in South Africa during Global Entrepreneurs Week in November this year.

Steve Wozniak praised the New Zealand start-up scene saying that is was time to look beyond Silicon Valley for innovation and diversification.

“When we think of great start-ups and where they began you can’t help but look towards the United States and Silicon Valley where I first started and the history making achievements there,” he says.

“But more and more we’re seeing interesting start-ups flourish outside of Silicon Valley in places such as the UK and India but also in Israel, New Zealand, Singapore, Finland, and Brazil to name just some.

“We all know diversity brings so much more to the table and by focusing outside of the usual and rewarding all sorts of people in tech, we can only make it better.

Wozniak adds that the Talent Unleashed Awards were integral to ensure the APAC region is recognised from a global viewpoint for venture capital and angel investors.

“Talent International is one of those organisations who are determined to make the technology industry better by promoting the game-changers, and rewarding not only those technology superstars at the top, but seeking out and recognising the individuals. I’m delighted to be a part of this program across Asia Pacific,” he says.

The Talent Unleashed Awards global winners will be announced simultaneously at events in held in Auckland, Sydney, Hong Kong and Singapore on July 31st.

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