by Divina Paredes

Movers and shakers: Alan Hesketh, Nick Whitehouse and Ross Stephenson

Oct 25, 2017

Alan Hesketh has joined Fletcher Building as general manager information technology construction, residential and corporate, based in Auckland.

His previous roles included deputy director general information directorate at the Ministry of Health, general manager group information services at Super Retail Group and chief technology officer at LawMaster.

Nick Whitehouse is now acting CEO at McCarthy Finch, an artificial intelligence startup founded early this year, as a joint venture between law firm MinterEllisonRuddWatts (where Whitehouse was chief digital officer) and venture capital firm Goat Ventures. He continues to be a consultant on technology and innovation at MinterEllisonRuddWatts.

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As he stated in the 2017 CIO100, the joint venture is a first in New Zealand to explore on and capitalise on, the application of AI for legal services. He says the seeds for the JV started in 2015, when the board asked, “How are we innovating?”

This led us to create a lab to curate and prioritise sustaining and disruptive ideas, says Whitehouse, who joined the firm that year. It was this idea that acted as the catalyst for the resulting engagement with Goat Ventures, whose executives Whitehouse met at the NZ innovation mission in Israel led by Spark CEO Simon Moutter.

Ross Stephenson is now general manager technology at Kiwibank, coming from Sovereign, where he was CIO for four years. Stephenson’s previous roles include CIO at Westpac and programme director at Hewlett-Packard.

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SafeStack, New Zealand’s specialist information security company, is holding a free seminar for the charity/not-for-profit/social good sector in Wellington on November 22.

“We want to help this important sector learn about security on a tight budget,” says SafeStack founder and CEO Laura Bell.

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We want to help this important sector learn about security on a tight budgetLaura Bell, SafeStack

“Every year we try to give back to the wider community and offer free training to those who need a little help but don’t have the budget,” says Bell. “This year we want to step that up reach out to a sector that is very dear to our hearts.”

“We want to help these organisations to help themselves. Over two and a bit hours we’ll take them through the skills they’ll need to look after their own security, without any need for specialist people, or tools, or even a budget.”

A recent small business survey in the UK shows that 38 per cent of small businesses spend nothing on security at all, and only 5 per cent think they’ve been attacked. This compares poorly with official figures from the UK government and suggests a large number of small businesses have been attacked without them being aware of it.

“We see similar levels of awareness here in New Zealand and we’d like to help change that as much as we can,” says Bell.

The Velocity $100k Challenge winners: A surgical stitching device is being developed in New Zealand that could prevent complications during the surgical process and even save lives by saving time.

The team behind Suture Future, made up of University of Auckland medical students Joevy Lim and Adrian Ng, commerce/arts student Rui Han Yeu and mechanical design engineer from Fisher Paykel Machinery Ivan Sim, say their device will directly translate to lower rates of complications and deaths from surgery.

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Last week, the team won $25,000 in seed capital in the Velocity $100k Challenge, the University of Auckland competition for emerging entrepreneurs. Their first prize also gives them access to the Potential Programme, which includes support from experienced mentors and access to a wide range of support programmes.

They aim to launch their first product by early 2019.

Past prize-winners have successfully developed their ventures, including PowerbyProxi, the wireless charging technology firm sold this week to Apple.

This year’s runner-up was MicroVision, an accurate computer vision technology that allows measurements of deformations never before possible. It can monitor, analyse, and predict the mechanical behaviour and performance of large structures such as cranes and wind turbines as they operate in-field. “This will provide valuable insights into design, performance, maintenance and safety,” says team member Craig Squire.

Kara Education, an online educational platform that aims to deliver education material to deaf children using sign language, won the Social Enterprise category. “We plan to work with educational institutions and online material providers to become the Coursera for the hearing impaired,” says team member Arash Tayebi.

STOP Smart Sewer System, which offers data collection and/or round the clock monitoring for wastewater networks, won the University Research category. “Currently, wastewater authorities around the world struggle with monitoring sewer function and struggle with subsequent overflows and other network failings,” says team member Wei-Qin Zhuang. “STOP will offer a simple, cost effective, yet highly effective solution to provide insight into these complex and expansive networks.”

Augmented Reality (AR) tool Invoke, which summons real-world objects into an augmented experience, took out the New Ventures award. “AR is a rapidly growing industry that will completely change the way you consume and interact with media in the future. We’re working with a host of AR developers to showcase this tech soon,” says team member Geoff Zink.

Velocity is a student-led entrepreneurship programme delivered in partnership with the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, based at the University of Auckland Business School.

“This year we have had over 2,000 students and staff involved in our programmes at the centre, representing a 30 per cent increase from 2016,” says Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship Director Wendy Kerr.

“This massive increase represents not only the rich array and quantity of ideas we have, but also the growing desire of students to acquire entrepreneurial capabilities as part of their university journey.”

FMA has decided to grant an exemption to enable personalised robo-advice (also known as online or digital advice), and is aiming for providers to apply rely on the exemption early next year. The providers must be able to meet competence, capability, and good character requirements.

Rachel Strevens, Founder CEO of online financial and investment platform Ilumony, says that this is a huge step forward for New Zealand.

“We’ve been providing a basic level of online financial advice for the last six months, and the feedback from customers has been great. However, we’ve been significantly restricted in what we can do due to the regulation that exists in New Zealand, which has acted as a bit of a handbrake.

“This decision will allow us to go into a lot more detail with our customers, and provide them with much more valuable and beneficial personalised advice via our online platform,” says Strevens.

Robo-advice platforms globally have proven popular with millennials and investors with smaller amounts of money to invest who would generally not have access to other financial advice channels.

Ilumony founder and chief executive Rachel Strevens and co-founder and chief technology officer Abhy Singla.

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