It takes a special kind of talent, lots of dedication, a dose of hard work – but most importantly – a brilliant idea to turn a ‘brainwave’ into a successful start-up business. And with the launch of Microsoft’s Innovation Centre South Australia (MICSA) this week, innovation and talent has proved to be alive and well in South Australia.
The MICSA will act as a hub of innovation for people to exchange ideas, share resources, be mentored and build on each other’s strengths, taking their idea on a successful start-up journey. Microsoft believes young technology start-ups are the engine room of innovation, so it’s no surprise that five of its foundation members are a testament to the power of ideas: myEvidence, Codies, LASH, Makers Empire and Jemsoft.
Tung Tran is a Police Criminal Investigation Branch investigator, as well as the Director and Co-Founder of myEvidence. Successful entrepreneurs often talk about the moment they had a ‘light bulb’ moment where their idea was born. This moment came for Tung, when he and a co-worker were driving around on patrol, sharing their ‘pain points’ of the job.
Tung and fellow co-founder Jerome Lienert knew there had to be an easier way than the time consuming and fiddly use of notebooks and digital cameras to document criminal evidence. Having been a victim of crime himself, after he was ambushed and shot whilst on duty, Tung has seen firsthand the true value that myEvidence can give to victims in Court.
“We knew there had to be an easier way to gather information, which is where myEvidence comes in. The application allows police to capture information digitally, simplifying the whole process, and we don’t have to duplicate processes by writing up written evidence when we get back to the office.
“Microsoft has helped us to bring the idea to life, through business training, mentoring, and marketing – as well as connecting us with industry experts, who have been invaluable in getting myEvidence off the ground,” said Tung.
“Microsoft has helped us to bring the idea to life, through business training, mentoring, and marketing – as well as connecting us with industry experts, who have been invaluable in getting myEvidence off the ground”
myEvidence will soon run across all three platforms Windows, Android and Apple, and Tung is also hoping to expand myEvidence to anyone who is required to conduct investigations in their role, from police and security officers to any one of the government departments which have such a work requirement. Initial feedback from peers has been excellent, proving a real need for the application in the market and Tran is looking forward to getting it in the hands of government agencies. “We hope to be presenting to police departments in Australia this year, with an operational trial by the end of the year.”
Jon Soong is one of the four founders of Makers Empire, the world’s easiest to use 3D printing software – developed specifically for primary schools and tested extensively by classroom teachers and students.
Makers Empire is the first of its kind anywhere in the world – providing a primary or middle school teacher with everything they need to become confident teachers of 3D design and printing technology, engaging and exciting students whilst achieving real learning outcomes.
“Traditional 3D design software is made for engineers and architects – the software has to be easier to use for wide spread consumer adoption to really take hold – that’s why we’ve tested our software with five and 65 year olds. We believe that at the moment 3D printing is where computing was in 1983 – it is set to have a huge impact on the world and skills in 3D printing will soon be considered essential. Students with an understanding of the technology will have a clear advantage over their peers in terms of future tertiary education and career prospects,” said Jon.
“Students with an understanding of the technology will have a clear advantage over their peers in terms of future tertiary education and career prospects”
“Microsoft’s BizSpark program has helped Makers Empire considerably over the past few months – we use Visual Studio and OneDrive as well as the awesome Azure Cloud Hosting for our servers. It is one less thing we need to worry about. There has also been a lot of support from Chris Bernard at Microsoft in the US, who’s a start-up and product evangelist – and his support and advice has been invaluable over the last couple of months.
“There has been a lot of interest around the world, and we’ve just started a pilot in New York State public schools. Our next hurdle is to roll Makers Empire out to a number of key markets, who we believe will be the first movers in 3D printing – this includes Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, China and the United States,” he said.
Lend A Skilled Hand (LASH) is a not-for-profit organisation that connects skilled volunteers with local and international community projects in need of their expertise. The idea was first pitched at a start-up weekend in Adelaide, where the co-founders, all passionate about volunteering – worked together to bring the idea to life.
“We saw a great opportunity to connect skilled workers with volunteer organisations – so they can add real value and share their knowledge and expertise. We just had a team, lead by co-founder Sam Lim that went to Cambodia, with professionals from various fields including architects, accountants, doctors, and dentists – and we sent them into communities that need them most,” said Nick Hayden, Co-Founder and Director of LASH.
Lend a Skilled Hand is a web based product, that details the volunteers, listing the skills they have, which can then be mapped to an organisation. Anyone can sign up for free, and LASH, even though it is in its very early stages, already has ten organisations and around 100 volunteers – with numbers continuing to grow.
“We first met the team from Microsoft at the finals of New Venture Institute, Venture Dorm program – where we won the ‘Microsoft Innovation Award’. Microsoft has been incredibly supportive through the whole process. Over the last four months, we’ve been given a BizSpark membership, access to office space and have had the opportunity to meet relevant experts in the industry,” said Nick.
“We’ve also been given Microsoft Azure credits, enabling us with hosting and cloud computing resources. The Azure platform has been really easy to use, allowing us to try new things, think outside the box, and be more innovative – without putting our whole business on the line.
“Lend a Skilled Hand is like online dating for volunteers. We’re excited to keep growing our business, and look forward to working with Microsoft to see where our start-up will take us,” he added.
“The Azure platform has been really easy to use, allowing us to try new things, think outside the box, and be more innovative – without putting our whole business on the line”
Jaewoong “Charlie” Mun is a 22 year old Adelaide-based developer, and CEO and Founder of Codies. Similar to other young developers, Charlie has always had a strong interest in new technology and started playing around with computer programming at a young age. Having spent some time being home-schooled, Charlie not only struggled to find the right information, but also information that was delivered in an engaging and interactive way.
Codies is an interactive learning platform that is tailored specifically to primary students. Codies uses Kinect for Windows Devices and in 2014 developed its first education motion sensing application. Although there were already a number of existing educational games on the market, through extensive research Charlie found these to be anti-social and not promoting collaboration.
“Children need to be motivated, and we found that the best way to do this is to raise the competitive stakes. Our soccer game, for example, allows students to compete in solving maths problems, so if a student answers correctly they progress in the game and score a goal and if they answer incorrectly, the ball moves closer to their own goal posts. We hope this type of active learning will change a student’s perception of maths, making the whole process much more fun and interactive.”
One of the features unique to Codies is the ability for the game to automatically adjust the settings according to how a student is progressing. “Traditionally, if a student is struggling to answer a question, they will adjust the settings to make it easier for themselves. Our platform automatically adjusts the settings to adapt with the child’s learning which means that if a child gets the answer right, the next question will become more challenging and if they get it wrong, the next question will becomes slightly easier.”
“As part of the Microsoft BizSpark Program, Codies is constantly evolving. Thanks to Microsoft we now have the ability to borrow mobility devices, and as our product relies on Microsoft Kinect we can test and debug our product without the financial outlay. These perks, along with our free MSDN subscription, mean we are saving costs, allowing us to invest our funds to other areas of the business” said Charlie.
“Thanks to Microsoft we now have the ability to borrow mobility devices, and as our product relies on Microsoft Kinect we can test and debug our product without the financial outlay”
Jordan Green’s start-up idea began in the most unlikely of circumstances. When Jordan was 19 years old he was working part-time in a liquor store where he and a female co-worker were confronted by two men with balaclavas and shotguns as part of an armed robbery.
Most individuals would find this scenario confronting, but Jordan, a problem solver at heart, immediately started thinking about the situation from a business perspective. He asked himself: “What skill set do I have to build a security solution to stop this from happening?”
Jordan saw the bigger picture, with shutdown time, security revisions and counselling for staff all dramatically impacting a business’s bottom line – which is how Jemsoft was born.
Jemsoft’s solution Portcullis, is a world-leading intelligent access control solution. How does it work? Individuals approaching a store will be analysed by Jemsoft’s software, and if deemed a potential threat will not be granted access – keeping staff safe and preventing loss.
Just 18 months down the track, Jordan and his co-founder Emily Rich are moving ahead in leaps and bounds and are already in conversations with major retailers, both in Australia and internationally.
“Our key markets are liquor, convenience and petrol stores but we hope to expand our reach later down the track – our focus at the moment is taking our software to market, which will hopefully be rolled out in stores in the next 12 months,” said Jordan.
“Microsoft has enabled us to access their network, access meeting rooms and we also have the latest technology on-hand. Jemsoft currently includes a dashboard which staff can access online at any time – analysing data that has been captured.
“Microsoft has enabled us to access their network, access meeting rooms and we also have the latest technology on-hand”
“As we expand our reach, the dashboard will be hosted on Microsoft Azure, so that the dashboard can be managed remotely, so retailers can monitor several stores at the same time. Microsoft’s international network will also open many doors for us, as meeting the decision makers of the retail industry will continue to be one of our biggest hurdles.”