Royal invitation caps off stellar year for OneBeep

20 December 2010

2010 Spark winner Vinny Kumar has just returned from the World Innovation Summit for Education in Doha, where he was a guest of the King of Qatar after a sensational third place at this year's Imagine Cup worldwide final in Poland.

The University of Auckland engineering student - third equal in the Spark $100K Entrepreneurship Challenge with his company Team OneBeep - was the only person invited from the Asia-Pacific region to join 20 students from all over the world at last week's summit, along with 1000 prominent education, corporate, political and social leaders.

The King's invitation came after Vinny and his Team OneBeep colleagues Chanyeol Yoo, Kayo Lakadia and Steve Ward attracted international attention with their technology that sends educational data over radio waves to poverty-stricken communities.

Their innovation won the New Zealand round of the Imagine Cup at the Business School in April and went on to place third in the software design category at the worldwide final in Warsaw four months later. The company then achieved a similar ranking in the Spark finals in October, where they learnt how to generate a business model from their idea.

Fresh off the plane from Doha, Vinny is still buzzing about the three-day summit, which looked at the future of education, and focused on improving education systems and exploring innovation trends.

"We had a pretty intensive programme with guest speakers, lively debates, inter-disciplinary exchanges, networking, creative thinking and action," he says.

Vinny also went to the Learners' Voice pre-programme before the summit with other students to discuss new ways to learn and how they can make a difference in education systems.

"We developed our ideas through group discussions and interviews with summit speakers and delegates. I was able to interview people from all over the world and meet business leaders, including the director general of UNESCO, the president of Nokia, the CEO of ExxonMobil and many more."

At the end of the pre-programme, he was chosen by the other students to give the final presentation on stage at the summit to show a student's perspective of the event.

Now back in New Zealand, Vinny's focus has already turned to next year's Imagine Cup, where Team OneBeep is hoping to surpass this year's success in Poland.

"We have just made the top 20 in New Zealand for the 2011 Imagine Cup and this time we're aiming to bring the Imagine Cup back to its new home in New Zealand," he says.

It's been a whirlwind year for Team OneBeep, which won $2,000 and the top engineering award in the Spark Ideas Challenge before being awarded third equal and a prize of three months' incubation at The ICEHOUSE.

The team has had extensive mentoring, education and network support from Spark this year, and through the Launchpad process under the guidance of two Spark-provided mentors, learnt how to commercialise business ideas. The company is now looking to roll out a trial of its technology in the Solomon Islands.

Team OneBeep was also privileged to have dinner with Governor-General Sir Anand Satyanand last month at Old Government House.

"I was actually seated next to the Governor-General himself, so we had some very good discussions on the importance of innovation in New Zealand and where OneBeep is headed," Vinny says. "He called ventures like OneBeep 'the future of New Zealand'."