CSI – we’ve got a new laser for you!

Crime Scene

qutbluebox and crime scene investigation isn’t a link that most people would normally make. We’re hoping that will change thanks to QUT’s Dr Emad Kiriakous.

Dr Kiriakous is an analytical chemist and a lecturer in forensic science. Before his career at QUT he spent 10 years in forensics and homeland security. Knowing first-hand the dangers that confront forensic scientists in the field, Dr Kiriakous decided to develop a device that allowed unknown, and potentially hazardous substances to be analysed from a distance. He wanted something that was simple fast, easy to deploy outside the lab and cost-effective (that’s code for ‘cheap as possible’).

Working with two physicists, Dr Kiriakous developed a new laser device that can analyse concealed substances in normal light and from a distance. He’s optimistic the device will even work from 20 metres away.

Dr Kiriakous is using a proven technology known as Raman spectroscopy.

“Raman has unique features suitable to forensics,” says Dr Kiriakous.

“Working in forensics, you need to identify hazardous substances but you really want to be as far away as possible. “I realised I could work with Raman spectroscopy to develop a device that was very accurate and allowed you to analyse unknown substances remotely.

“What’s really great about Raman is that it can analyse substances dissolved or covered in water. Raman gives you a unique fingerprint technique for each component. Each material has it’s own profile.”

There’s a UK company also using Raman and they’ve got products on the market. However, the big difference from the QUT device and everyone else’s is that Raman normally only works in the dark and up close. QUT is the first to get it to work in daylight and without the laser touching the surface of the container it’s analysing.

qutbluebox was impressed by Dr Kiriakous’ research and we’ve already put $128,000 into developing the device. It came through initial proof-of-concept trials but it’s still sitting on the bench. So we’re talking with industry and potential investors to try and get the laser into the market.

If we’re successful, it won’t be just forensic scientists looking to use the laser.

Our analysts believe the device has a range of applications:
• Medicine – to scan patients for conditions such as cancer
• Mining – determine the metals in soil/rock profiles (to mine or not to mine)
• Security – easily scan packages, suitcases and bags for drugs or explosives
• Pharmaceutical & Food industries – remotely monitor the quality and composition of products without having to stop production.

Read our full media release.

Social Media we’ve got you analysed

Darryl Woodford & Katie Prowd.jpg

If you’re serious about building your brand and your business, you’ve got to have skin in the social media game. There’s no question about it. But, and there’s always a ‘but’, leveraging this beast to your commercial advantage can be challenging to say the least.

That’s why the qutbluebox team was immediately interested in QUT’s Dr Darryl Woodford and Katie Prowd’s research into social media analytics. Our Board recently approved a second proof-of-concept investment for the pair to build a next generation social media analytics tool. We’ve now invested around $100,000 in the technology.

Darryl and Katie are now madly developing a website dashboard for the tool, which has the potential to deliver crucial consumer intelligence. Their new platform will combine academically grounded methodologies and algorithms to take social media analytics to the next level. While still delivering all the basics we’ve come to expect from social media analytic tools, it will allow businesses to better understand their audience and the ways they engage with brands accounts and content, and can serve as a social media control room for real-time monitoring of major events and campaigns.

The website could be open for business as early as 2015. In the meantime, Darryl and Katie are having discussions with several companies interested in trialing the platform.

Read our full media release.

Innovation Challenge winner, Tanda, to fast track R&D

After winning first prize in the 2014 qutbluebox Innovation Challenge, start-up Tanda is planning to reinvest the money into fast tracking R&D to give them a better shot at the international market. Tanda co-founder Tasmin Trezise explained what the company has in store.

“We’re stoked to win the Innovation Challenge. The $60,000 prize money is going to make the world of difference to Tanda. In short, we’re going to reinvest the money into R&D and technical development. This includes developing an app, which will allow us to take our product to a global market. This will give us a real shot at shaking up the entire industry.

“Technology ages quickly and if it wasn’t for bluebox and QUT, we wouldn’t have been able to put this into motion until early 2016. We’re already growing Tanda at an incredible rate, but now we’ll be able to scale a lot faster.

“To put this in perspective, less than two years ago we were all studying at QUT. In the 18 months since launching Tanda, we now have 5000 employees in Australia clocking in every day using our software.

“Aside from the benefits to Tanda, winning the Innovation Challenge also meant a lot to us as QUT alumni. To have this level of endorsement from QUT has been incredibly encouraging. We all met at QUT and the early stage development for Tanda happened while we were still at university. What’s more real world than developing a solution and taking to market? We wouldn’t have been able to do that without QUT.

“Mostly, I really want to celebrate and encourage more QUT students connecting with others to flesh out their crazy ideas. There’s no better opportunity than uni to meet like-minded people and give it a go, you’ll never know where you are going to end up.

“We’re always happy to help any aspiring entrepreneurial QUT student. If there are any developers or business students looking for work experience in a growing start-up, definitely drop us a line.”

Tanda wins 2014 qutbluebox Innovation Challenge

in Brisbane, Australia,October 16, 2014.  Picture- Patrick HAMILTON

Start-up company TANDA is the winner of the inaugural qutbluebox Innovation Challenge.

The Innovation Challenge winner was announced a ceremony on the 16th October, following a 10-minute pitch presented by each of the five finalists before a live audience and an external judging panel.

Founded by four Queensland University of Technology (QUT) graduates in 2013, TANDA is marketing a time and attendance automation tool for ‘turning payroll chaos into clockwork’.

Company co-founder, Tasmin Trezise captivated the judging panel with his drive and vision for TANDA during his pitch, to take out the $60,000 first prize.

Boardcave co-founder and QUT alumni Ryan Mets also impressed the judging panel, to secure the $30,000 second prize. Boardcave is Gold Coast based company, that utilises a new online technology platform allowing surfers to buy boards from surfboard manufacturers worldwide.

The crowd vote, of $10,000 went to Haystack, who impressed the public with their technology for storing, updating and sharing business cards directly from your phone.

qutbluebox Director of Innovation and Engagement Brent Watts said the quality of finalists in the Innovation Challenge was extremely high, and the judges faced a difficult decision in choosing the winners.

“All three prize recipients plan to use their prize money to further develop their innovations, with TANDA looking to take their business solution to international markets” said Brent.

“qutbluebox established the Innovation Challenge encourage and foster the transfer of business solutions into reality, and following the success of the event this year, I believe it will play a key role in helping QUT alumni, students and staff have a significant economic impact through their innovations.”

You can read more about the winners’ innovations and the other finalists at the qutbluebox blog: http://blog.qutbluebox.com.au/

qutbluebox Innovation Challenge Finalists: 5 minutes with Boardcave

Boardcave bluebox 2
Boardcave
is a Gold Coast based start-up company, bringing together surfboard manufacturers and retailers to provide the largest selection of surfboards and surf accessories online. High school friends and QUT graduates, Ryan Mets and Chris Greben, founded the company while living together and working in technology companies.

Ryan tells us more about Boardcave.

What is Boardcave?

Boardcave bridges the gap between surfboard shapers (manufacturers) and surfers.  We’re the first to provide surfers with the technology to find, compare and buy the best surfboards from the leading manufacturers in the world.

We built the patented Boardcave technology and online systems to help surfboard and surf hardware manufacturers facilitate orders directly with surfers online. We’re continuously refining our systems, and the more data we gather the easier it becomes for our customers to find, compare and buy the best surf equipment.

Our goal is to improve the buying experience, helping surfers find the right surfboards and surf hardware to match their surfing needs.

How long have you been operating as a business?

We incorporated at the end of 2011 and the website has been live for about 18 months.

Are you looking to expand into international markets?

We recently licenced the Boardcave software in the multibillion-dollar Brazilian surf market and we’re also incorporating in the US, as ‘Boardcave USA’ is ready to launch.

What did you study at QUT and when?

Ryan: Bachelor of Mass Communication between the Business and Creative Industry faculties. I finished my degree in 2008.

Chris: Bachelor of Information Technology, graduating in 2010.

What gave you the idea for Boardcave and when?

Working full-time and trying to find the right size, shape and model surfboards was an inconvenience. Both Chris and I worked for tech companies and knew the first place people go when researching products was online, but there was very little information available and a lot of grey area around buying the right size and shaped surfboard online.

We’ve developed a solution that takes the guess work out of buying surfboards, and the more data we gather the better the systems become. You can visit Boardcave.com.au, research all the different surfboards and their specifications in depth, then order your custom board online directly from the manufacturer.

Do you have any experience in start-ups or business?

Both Chris and I have worked for software and web companies that grew from start-ups into national and global businesses. These experiences helped us identify the opportunity and put the steps in place to works towards the commercialisation of Boardcave. We have both always had an interest in technology and been actively involved in the start up community.

What would it mean for your business to win the Innovation Challenge?

Winning the innovation challenge would provide us with the funding to manage our growth and expand into the US market. Winning would provide the funding needed to expand our team, providing the much-needed resources to manage our growth into global markets.

qutbluebox Innovation Challenge Finalists: 5 minutes with Haystack

The Haystack Team

The Haystack Team

Three brothers, Ran, Matan and Nir Heimann are behind Haystack, a new Brisbane-based start-up. When their new app launches, they promise it will help you say goodbye to your stack of paper business cards.

What is Haystack?

Haystack is business cards, without the paper. It stores and updates the business cards you receive and lets you share your own business card directly from your phone.

How is Haystack different to other digital business card solutions?

Unlike existing solutions, Haystack can:

  • share your card with anyone (they don’t need the app or phone); and
  • automatically updates your phone when people’s contact details change.

Are you hoping to launch the android, Google and Apple versions of the app at the end of October?

Oct 21st 2014 is our ‘go live’ date for both iPhones and androids.

When did you found the company?

While we originally started working on it as a side project about three years ago, we only founded the company in February 2014.

Have you raised any investment to date?

Yes, we have raised a seed round, which helps us employ an amazing team of seven (with six QUT degrees between us).

You’ve already founded another company, ShliX Ice Cream, in Fortitude Valley. Did that give you experience vital to running Haystack?

Definitely. Many of the fundamentals of starting a business off the ground are similar. Funnily enough, it was a conversation about how to connect with physical ice cream customers online that led us to the idea behind Haystack.

Both Ran and Matan are QUT alumni. What did you study at QUT and when?

Matan – Bachelor of Fine Arts, Creative Writing major

Ran – Bachelor of Business, Banking & Finance major, and an MBA (Strategy & Entrepreneurship)

What would it mean for your business to win the Innovation Challenge?

Winning the Innovation Challenge, would allow us to progress our idea from ‘the best business card in the world’, to ‘the first wearable business card in the world’ – and truly break new ground, right here in Brisbane.

qutbluebox Innovation Challenge Finalists: 5 minutes with Tanda

Tanda

In March 2014, The Sydney Morning Herald listed Tanda as one of the top 10 hot Australian start-ups to watch. The start-up is marketing a time and attendance automation tool for “turning payroll chaos into clockwork”. The company was co-founded by four QUT alumni: Tasmin Trezise, Jake Phillpot, Josh Cameron and Alex Ghiculescu.

We spoke with Tasmin to find out some more about Tanda.

What is Tanda?

You might not believe it, but Tanda is actually making timesheets exciting. We automate the repetitive processes (rostering, timesheets, and payroll calculations) which helps employees get paid right and employers can stay on top of their costs. Tanda is about making life easier for small and medium sized business and the people they employ.

Being in the cloud means we can do this all without the expensive setup and installation fees, it’s so easy to get started.

What gave you the idea for the technology?

As the student leadership team [Tasmin, Jake and Josh] of the 2012 QUT Student Guild, we were getting frustrated because our time was being spent figuring out payroll instead of concentrating on the increase of student services. We wanted something intuitive and easy to implement that didn’t cost a small fortune to get started. We quickly found out that there was actually nothing out there that we would feel good about rolling out.

After hearing us complain, our friend and fellow QUT student, Alex, built a very basic system and let the Guild use it (at no cost) to automate some of the data collection. We were surprised at the savings and realised there were plenty of other businesses out there facing similar problems. It was the birth of Tanda.

We love that every dollar Tanda saves the Guild is a dollar that can be invested into critical student services. That’s the passion we take to every business we have the opportunity to help.

How long has your product been on the market?

We had our first paying user about 18 months ago. It’s hard to pinpoint a date on the product creation date because it’s constantly improving and we’re adding to our product mix. It’s constantly being updated because we know everything we do can be done better.

When was the company founded and where is it headquartered?

We were registered on February 18th 2013. We’re based in Brisbane and have no plans to change that. I visited San Francisco in April and we’re excited to prove that there’s no reason you can’t build a high functioning, high quality product here at home. Besides, it would be too difficult to hire QUT graduates if we were based anywhere else.

You have some big name Australian clients already, including Telstra Retail. Is your short-term focus domestic or are you hoping to expand into overseas markets?

I recently returned from a reconnaissance trip to the UK, US and Canada to investigate market opportunities. That’s definitely our goal. However, we think there are plenty of users that we haven’t had the opportunity to talk to yet in Australia. It’s a massive market and we’re having a good crack at taking on the big guys.

All four co-founders are QUT alumni. What did you study at QUT and when did you graduate?

Funnily enough, the four of us graduated with a knowledge mix that entirely comprises the traditional payroll occupation. Accounting and finance is an obvious ‘must have’, but you also need a background in law if you’re working with collective agreements or federal pay rules and a bit of IT if you’re working with payroll programs or systems like Tanda. We had all graduated by the end of 2013. Typically, it was the accountant, the most risk averse, who was the last to leave his ‘real’ job.

[bluebox: Tasmin graduated with a Bachelor of Finance; Jake with a Bachelor of Business; Josh with a Bachelor of Law and Business; and Alex with Bachelor of Business and Information Technology.]

 

What would winning the qutbluebox Innovation Challenge mean for TANDA?

We’ve got some really exciting plans for our platform on mobile. Most importantly, winning the Innovation Challenge would allow us to take this global. We would invest the prize fully in development, to create a platform that helps process payroll from your phone, in five minutes. If we can pull this off, it would save our clients thousands of hours and allow them to focus on the things that make them great.

 

qutbluebox Innovation Challenge Finalists: 5 minutes with Pablow API

iStock_000026015779LargePablow is a B2B global market place for niche travel Insurances. It provides a cloud-based platform that matches niche/micro travel insurance suppliers to travel sellers and facilitates all aspects of the transactions for a small fee. Local suppliers can now easily reach new distribution channels while sellers can access relevant and global content with just a few clicks.

What is Pablow API?

Pablow helps the David’s of this world compete with the Goliaths! For example, the website AirBnb.com enables private and unique accommodation providers from around the world (the David’s), to group together as a marketplace and compete with the established hotel industry. Similarly, Pablow enables local and niche travel insurance providers to group their services together online to compete with multinational insurance giants.

When did you found the company and where is it based?

Pablow is an Australian company, founded in 2012. We have offices on the Gold Coast and in Berlin, Germany. The European base is important to the company’s growth. It means we can easily meet with the dozens of travel insurance providers that will use the Pablow platform. We also have access to the larger scale capital markets and the larger population: 740 million versus Australia’s 23 million.

Has the product launched or is it about to launch?

We’ve launched two parts of the product. We have our own niche travel insurance product, which sells car rental excess insurance. It’s called Tripcover.me. Allianz agreed to create the product for us, and we trialed it in 2012. So far its working pretty well with more than 10,000 polices sold, generating more than half a million in sales. The second part of the product is the Pablow API platform. We initially created Pablow to scale the distribution of Tripcover. However, in the process we realised that there are literally hundreds of small to mid-sized travel insurance sellers who also needed a platform to reach the global market, we pivoted and Pablow was born. The insurance products for Australia and New Zealand have been loaded into the Pablow platform and it is now powering the Tripcover retail websites.

What gave you the idea for the product?

The initial idea of Tripcover, came about after many years in the online car rental business, we saw an opportunity to offer a disruptive alternative to the car rental company’s expensive rental insurance. The idea for the Pablow API platform came from our desire to scale up and distribute the Tripcover product globally via third party websites such as airlines and online travel agents. We quickly realised that without a truly global product offering we had little chance to be considered by global travel sites. By creating the Pablow platform – where we can combine our product offering with other insurance providers from around the world – we can offer a much more robust and global footprint.

What is an API?

In normal language, an API is a database that other websites can access and use seamlessly on their own sites. It means thousands of websites can one data source, rather than each website needing its own database. In geek language, API itself is an acronym for Application Program Interface. It allows software to successfully plug together like an iPhone recharger plugging into a compatible power point.

Have you raised any investment to date?

We secured a $40,000 Startup Chile grant (no equity) from the Chilean Government in November 2013 to build Pablow API from scratch. We also received an $80,000 offer from 500 Startups Accelerator in San Francisco, though declined the offer preferring to initially be based and funded by a European Venture Capital firm. We’re now in talks with several VC firms, both in Berlin and London.

Who are the founders?

Pablow’s founders are Steve Sherlock, Desmond Sherlock and Andrew Blake. Steve and Des are brothers who worked for six years together on a previous start-up, Oodles.com. Steve and Andrew met while working at Virgin Australia in Brisbane, as part of the eCommerce projects team. After receiving the Start-up Chile grant, Andrew came on board as CTO and a co-founder.

Have you had prior experience in developing new technologies and creating start-ups?

Steve has been involved in the online start-up space since 1997. In 2001, he founded VroomVroomVroom, Australia’s leading car rental comparison site. In 2006, he founded Oodles.com with his brother Des, for which over $2million in investment was raised. Both of these businesses used web services and API’s as an integral part of their technology platforms.

Stephen and Andrew are QUT alumni. What did you study at QUT and when?

Steve studied International Business and German for his undergraduate degree, which he completed in 2002. In 2010, he started an MBA on a part time basis and after completing two thirds of the course, he put it hold to pursue his latest venture. Andrew Blake completed his Advanced Masters of IT at QUT, graduating in 2006.

What would it mean for Pablow to win the Innovation Challenge?

Hmm a couple of things, but most importantly for us being involved and having the chance to pitch is a terrific way for us to refine and better articulate our business model and what we are trying to achieve and why. Regardless of the outcome we’ll be in front. If by chance we were to win the Innovation Challenge, the recognition from a prestigious university such as QUT would boost our profile and support our efforts to raise venture capital. Additionally, the prize money would give us more run way to gain further traction and build the value of the business, prior to raising venture capital.

Qutbluebox Innovation Challenge Finalists: 5 minutes with Outfound

Business vision

 

What is Outfound?

Outfound offers a new and efficient way for SMEs to find and sort the best people for the job. And we believe it’s also sorting out the recruitment industry in the process.

Our recruitment platform is a groundbreaking combination of social media, smart matching and incentive-based referrals.

We established Outfound in 2013 and are headquartered in Brisbane.

When are you hoping to launch your product? Will it be a website or an app?
We’re using the Innovation Challenge as an opportunity to officially launch the beta version to the public. Businesses will be able to access our web site and use the online application from around the 16th of October 2014.

Future versions will see a mobile app launched with features targeting both business and applicants.

Who are the founders? Mathew Myers and Max Holman

What gave you the idea for the business?
The idea was a culmination of ‘real world’ pain using Seek, recruiters and my inbox as a method to find, sort and recruit talent.

I think recruiting staff had always given me a sinking feeling. It’s the idea of having to post a job ad, use a hack filtering method or rely upon a recruiter to charge you big dollars for a hopeful handshake with a prospective hire. The process is long, time consuming and can be costly.

In 2012 we began asking ourselves if there was a better way to recruit people. However, after much research, we discovered there was little on offer to effectively solve the pain of recruiting for an SME. We decided to do something about the problem and build a fresh, new platform.

Have you raised any investment to date?
We have bootstrapped the company with funds from several shareholders, but as yet have not had an official funding round.

Mathew, you’re a successful Brisbane-based entrepreneur, having also co-founded Vision6 (delivering marketing power to e-messaging). With experience, does it get easier to bring innovations to the market?
The experienced gained in bringing one company to market should translate to a better path for the next one. Aside from a solid concept, I would say that it’s mostly dependent on the people you have involved in your startup. Taking a leaf from Jim Collins – it’s about getting the right people in the right seats and then you can drive the bus almost anywhere.

What did you study at QUT and when?
Bachelor of Business, completed 2002, and an MBA (BGSB), completed 2007.
credibility when seeking further funding, partnerships and attracting talent to work in our company. We would use the prize money to continue the product build and help facilitate further funding.

Innovation Challenge Application Tips

Thinking about entering the qutbluebox Innovation Challenge? To give you the best chance of being selected as a finalist in the Challenge, we’ve put together some tips to help make the process easier for you.

What does it take to be selected as a finalist?

Each finalist in the qutbluebox Innovation Challenge will have two things in common: an innovation with commercial potential, and an entrepreneurial mindset.

What type of innovation are the judges looking for?

The judging panel don’t have any guidelines to the type of innovation other than it must be commercially-relevant new to world. You can enter a novel product, process or service, or business model. However, your innovation must be more than just an idea. You need to spend some time assessing your idea and demonstrate that there is a reasonable market for your innovation and that you have a realistic vision for commercially developing your innovation.

What information do the judges want about my innovation?

You really need to ‘sell’ your innovation. Provide the judges with enough information so that they understand what your innovation is as well as its value. When explaining your innovation, keep your description free of jargon and if possible technical terms.

Why do you want to know what problem/solution the innovation is addressing?

The commercial value of your innovation is largely dependent on the issue/problem/gap in the market your innovation will address. So clearly explain why it is significant and why it should be taken to market.

How much information do you need about the market?

At a minimum, you need to explain who will benefit and therefore potentially “buy” your innovation. These are the end-users or customers.
Once you understand your customer-base you can start profiling the potential market size and value. Consider also the geographical location of your market. If possible, put some figures and values to your market estimates. If relevant, include demographic information about your customers.

What else is already in the marketplace addressing this issue? Who are your potential competitors? It may help to explain the current market for your competitors.

Money, resources & development

The three questions about money, resources and development are to help the judges understand what needs to be done to develop your innovation to the point where it is a viable product. Consider time frames, resources (financial, physical and human), and barriers to entry. Explain where your innovation is at in this development process and the impact winning the Challenge would have in progressing it to the next stage.

When addressing the resources questions, it’s important to ‘sell’ yourself and your team / company if you have one. No one invests in an innovation unless the individual or team behind it has the skill, zeal and determination required to take the innovation to market. The quality of your application form should reflect your own qualities.

Applications close on Friday 15 August so enter now before you miss out!