Te Papa’s innovation accelerator, Mahuki, welcomes this year’s technology entrepreneurs

Ten teams of technology entrepreneurs from across New Zealand have been selected by Te Papa to develop their innovations in this year’s residency programme at the national museum.

Now in its third year, Mahuki, the world’s first culture-tech accelerator, has a strong reputation for developing leading digital businesses for the culture and heritage sector.

A pōwhiri to welcome the teams was held at Te Papa’s Rongomaraeroa marae earlier today. Over the next four months the entrepreneurs will have exclusive access to Te Papa’s experts, resources, visitors, and wider cultural and business sector expertise to help develop and test their ideas.

Te Papa Chief Executive Geraint Martin, who was part of the welcoming party, said he was thrilled to welcome these future digital leaders to Te Papa.

“Te Papa is always looking at ways to enable new kinds of storytelling and connect New Zealanders with their taonga. We look forward to what they produce for the cultural, heritage, and learning sectors to enhance the user experience.”

This year’s entrepreneurs come from all over New Zealand, including New Plymouth, Dunedin, and Invercargill. The products range from creating technology to help visitors feel collection objects without physically touching object, event management software, and interactive maps to connect research data. For more detail on each team please see below.

In addition to access to Te Papa’s experts, teams will also be mentored by the hugely successful Ezel Kokcu, who was recently named Mahuki’s 2018 entrepreneur-in-residence.

In the last two years Mahuki has helped 18 teams develop their innovations, with 61% having gone on to secure 22 paid deployments in NZ’s culture sector, including within Te Papa.

Mahuki is supported by Callaghan Innovation, Morrison Kent, Deloitte Private and is a member of the INCO network. One of the benefits of the INCO partnership is that Mahuki start-up teams have access to INCO’s Jump Seat Express Program – where teams can have a one-week learning expedition to explore new avenues for growth in a foreign market.


The teams

Mimicry (Invercargill)

Using machine learning to encourage youth to create art in the style of well-known artists.

Mimicry is Mahuki’s first Invercargill team. This team first got in touch with Mahuki after the Southland Museum closed, and the team identified the importance of keeping culture and arts alive in lieu of their museum. CEO Louise Evans recently opened Invercargill’s first co-working office space called Cahoots.

The team saw that there is a disconnect between the younger generation and the art cherished and immortalised by generations past. GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums) institutions are in competition with entertainment venues and online content, and while contemporary art galleries are thriving, many traditional art galleries and museums need to find new ways to share their beloved works.

“We believe by using machine learning and cutting-edge technology we can shrink the disconnect, and engage young people in a way they haven't before. We'll create a program that will use machine learning to ‘read’ a sketch as you draw it, and bring it to life in the style of artists the program has studied. For example, as you start drawing a curve, the program may read the line as a hill, and overlay styles of Colin McCahon. Giving the audience a hands-on approach to studying works often beyond reach or considered untouchable,” says Louise.

Showmode (Wellington)

A multi-platform app that takes the stress out of running events.

During the days of an event, many elements can be out of the organiser’s control. One of the biggest things to combat this is to structure the day. Showmode CEO Aaron Blackledge should know. He has operated as theatre technician and producer for the last ten years. He has also co-produced Fringe at the Gryphon in 2017 and 2018.

“Most processes in the entertainment industry have ‘industry standard’ programs, but not this. Organisers are still using phone alarms or countdown timers as a quick fix. These don’t allow for synchronisation across multiple devices or adjustments to timing that might be needed,” says Aaron.

The Showmode team will create and further develop their multi-platform app that keeps track of programming and deadlines in real time, prior to and during an event, preset by the specific event management team.

Town Square (Wellington)

An app that provides a one-stop solution to find and bookmark events in your city.

Town Square first started when co-founders Katy and Mohit were in a foreign country and struggled to find activities to fill their spare time. They came up with Town Square to solve their problem of finding local events and activities more easily.

Town Square’s vision is to use technology to help people make the most of their leisure time and to also help event organisers and artists reach and connect with audiences.

“We remove barriers to going out by simplifying the process of finding good events and organising people to go with. This makes people more likely to actively choose what they do in their free time and not resort to unsatisfying default options like browsing social media,” says Katy.

Town Square also makes it easy for event organisers and artists to reach relevant people through a targeted search function and machine learning algorithm. They also enable event organisers to create better events with their data-powered B2B solutions, which help organisers understand what people in their city are looking for.

Upto (Taranaki)

An online platform to encourage rangatahi (youth) to become more engaged in their community.

Angela Dellow, CEO of Upto and a mum, is passionate about inspiring rangatahi to engage in more events and activities in their communities.

“In this digital age, it is easy for our future generations to spend their ‘growing-up’ in front of a digital screen,” says Angela.

The Upto team want to provide more engaging options for rangatahi to spend their time. Using social media influencers, event organisers, and tourism sites to engage youth to create relevant video content to encourage others to participate and engage.

Fishhook (Wellington)

Science workshops and events aimed at adults to encourage lifelong learning.

Gabriela Perez, CEO of Fishhook, did not engage with science education when she was a kid at school. She dropped out of all science and maths classes when she was 13. At the age of 23, she decided to teach herself physics and mathematics – and thrived in a self-taught, self-discovery environment. Now she has created tools to also help others to learn about science outside of an academic format.

“Science underpins every facet of our lives and the decisions we make every day that can have long-term effects on our planet. We have a responsibility to understand more about the scientific world around us. All that’s needed is a hook to spark curiosity in the sciences and prompt an enthusiasm for lifelong learning,” says Gabriela.

“Our products offer that ‘hook’. Through our immersive workshops and events you can extract DNA in a cocktail glass, build a star, or become a human cell mechanic. Fishhook will give you a taste for experimentation and of the processes and models behind science and how easily you can access them and an understanding of how the world works.”

JIX Limited (Christchurch)

Sensory experiences for collection objects in GLAM institutions using mixed reality.

JIX are a team of award-winning developers (winners of MYOB IT Challenges, regional winners of NZ Space Challenge 2018, and Singularity U NZ Tech Demo Presenters). They recently created a Mars augmented reality experience which engaged at least 2,000 people at the NZCareersExpo 2018.

JIX are creating a mixed reality experience that allows visitors to feel like they are touching collection objects and art. This is possible through their haptic driven museum experience which utilises virtual reality, hand gesture and location detectors, and haptic generators.

Hiamo (Wellington)

An augmented reality app that recreates historical gun emplacements.

Hiamo are a team of Software Engineering students from Victoria University who want to extend their creative innovations into the world of business.

Using augmented reality, Hiamo recreates historic sites and replicas of lost or damaged parts of the site. We are creating an augmented reality mobile application that users can bring to the sites themselves. This application allows users to see long-gone aspects of the site and interact with them in new ways.

At this time Hiamo is focussed on recreating the guns at Wellington’s coastal defence sites. Using the application users can view the guns on the bases where they were once placed, and visualise actions, like the gun firing.

Merge Creative Agency (Dunedin)

An augmented reality game that engages youth to explore museums more deeply.

Merge Creative Agency is a team of Otago Polytechnic students who worked with Otago Museum on a project to engage more millennials in the museum.

When talking with their peers, Merge found that many millennials aren’t interested in museums and if they are, they don’t really take in the information. Young people, they found, were looking for experiences not information and valued peer social engagement over individual reflection.

To encourage rangatahi to value taonga too, Merge Creative Agency will develop live game narratives in the museum context to engage a broader audience with these precious treasures.

Merge Creative Agency will use augmented reality technology in a game app to bring people into the museum, and move these visitors though the exhibits to complete tasks. Their app will help create a fun learning environment that people can come back to time and time again.

Take Me Back (Nelson)

Creating a linked data cloud-based service to increase access to collections across museums.

Take Me Back first started at Hack Nelson Hackfest in November 2017. The product they developed at this event engaged Nelson Provincial Museum’s photography collection – enabling the museum to tell stories of the people of Nelson across multiple photographs.

Take Me Back believe that historic artefacts become more engaging when they illustrate a clear story that relates to the visitor. For instance, capturing all the images of a particular individual throughout their life helps bring the character to life, as illustration to that person’s story. Using this baseline Take Me Back can discover more relationships and stories by capturing links to other artefacts, e.g. family members, places of importance to them, and documented events. These links will be captured through a variety of mutually reinforcing means, including AI, expert knowledge, and crowdsourcing.

Take Me Back will create a linked data cloud-based service, accessible via mobile and web applications, that could be easily replicated and modified to support any number of collections. Being built on open web standards, it would also have the ability to link collections together across museums that implement similar solutions.

Litmaps (Auckland)

Creative interactive maps for connecting research data to aid academics.

Kyle Webster is CEO of Litmaps and is also a PhD candidate in bio-nanotechnology and the National Development Manager for Chiasma.

Litmaps aims to empower people to interact directly with scientific literature through a game-like interface that connects directly to research data with no third parties in between.

The interface will take the form of interactive and engaging maps on research into controversial and societally relevant topics such as climate change, vaccination, genetic engineering, the connection between cancer and smoking, and nuclear technology.

Article summaries produced by academic experts will act as ‘translations’ of abstracts, which can otherwise be full of technical jargon.

Litmaps differ from other attempts to communicate a scientific consensus (or lack thereof) as it would map the entirety of peer-reviewed published literature of a field (including dissenting opinion) across time.

2018 Entrepreneur-in- residence: Ezel Kokcu

Ezel is well-known in both the entrepreneur and the culture-tech circles.

In 2012 she co-founded STQRY, a consumer-facing discovery app that enabled visitors to navigate and find more content in museums and other cultural institutions. This startup raised $5.5million of funding from one of the most reputable venture capital firms in the US, and has now gone on to sell to more than 500 organisations over four countries under its rebranded name Area360.

Following the sale of STQRY, Ezel then founded Non-Stop Tix, a ticketing startup that then sold to a NZ private investor after 18 months.

Since then, she’s turned her energy to her next business venture, Passphere, which is about to launch. Passphere is a ticketing platform to help event organisers understand their event attendees more.