“Close your eyes. Now think of a smiling face. Think about how that makes you feel warm and happy, and makes your day better. Now imagine an entire website full of lovely smiling faces all working together to make you, or your family or friends, or a stranger happier. Ladies and gentlemen that is my Startup Weekend idea.”
Bhavesh Bhuthadia’s pitch for this year’s Auckland Startup Weekend was simple, to the point, and light hearted - so much so that not only did it win the People’s Choice Award, but also took out the top prize as winner of this year’s event.
Startup Weekend is a series of events held in cities around the world which brings together people with ideas, and people with skills. Over the course of 54 hours people pitch their ideas, form teams, develop a minimum viable product, validate their product, and pitch again to a panel of judges.
Bhuthadia’s idea evolved and took on a charity focus over the weekend. The final product, Smile Today (smiletoday.co), pitched by himself and his six-strong team is a website which would let charities accept donations in return for a smile.
The smiling photos are uploaded by people as a way to support charities or to cheer up other people.
Bhuthadia is no stranger to 'out there' ideas. As a part of BizDojo’s Collaborators initiative, the industrial designer created a cassette-shaped laptop bag called a “cassatchel”, and although it did not reach its funding goal on Kickstarter Bhuthadia is still working on new ideas.
For its efforts, Smile Today gets a space at Massey University’s eCentre startup programme (valued at $4500), a MYOB startup services package (valued at $1000), legal services from Lowdnes Jordan (valued at $2000) and a $500 cash prize awarded upon company formation.
Although Smile Today won the top prize, it did not receive the Catapult Prize which includes a four week mentoring and marketing trip in San Fransisco hosted by the Kiwi Landing Pad. Instead this prize was won by Herepin, a localised messaging system that connects businesses and organisations to people in their area in an ad-hoc way without giving out the end user’s personal details.
The Catapult Prize is awarded to the team with the venture that is the most scalable in US market, and can make good use of the resources available at the Kiwi Landing Pad. Herepin will also receive a place on the eCentre programme.
Judges for this year’s event were Candace Kinser, CEO of NZICT; Brett Roberts, CEO of Wharf42; Nick Gerritsen, owner of Crispstart; and Misti Landtroop, country manager at Pitney Bowes.