An all-female team who created a solution for mobile phone users suffering from colour blindness have won this year’s coveted Peter Farrell Cup.
The $10,000 first prize was awarded to eXsight for creating phone screen covers that help colourblind people differentiate between commonly confused colours. The screen cover is held in place using a specially designed phone case.
Emma Casolin, founder of eXsight, said she was inspired by the experience of members of her family.
“My brother has colour blindness and I noticed he has many problems at school and in his daily life,” Casolin said.
“I was sitting on the bus one day and thought, 'Why isn’t there a filter to put on a phone for those who suffer from colour blindness?' And with help from my team, mentor and family, here we are.”
The Peter Farrell Cup (PFC) is UNSW Sydney’s longest running and biggest startup idea pitching competition, founded in 2001 and run annually since. The Cup celebrates entrepreneurial students, giving them practical skills and linking them to industry mentors to help with real-world traction and assisting them in developing persuasive pitches.
UNSW Business School Dean Chris Styles explained the significance of the PFC for students.
“Competitions like the Peter Farrell Cup are very important to what we do at UNSW. Yes, it’s a competition, but it’s also an incredible learning experience," he said.
"Firstly, it helps students develop an entrepreneurial mindset. The second aspect of the Cup is that it hones their communication skills. Thirdly, it’s wonderful for students to get the insights and experiences from all the mentors and the judges - overall it’s a fantastic learning experience.”
The rise of the female entrepreneur
It was a substantial year for the female entrepreneur at the 2018 Peter Farrell Cup. A total of 45 teams were shortlisted from over more than 100 applicants. This year 50% of the shortlisted teams had at least one female co-founder.
Director Entrepreneurship, Dr Elizabeth Eastland said: “On a diversity front, I’m really amazed by some of the strides we’ve made here at UNSW. Through New Wave Founders, our female entrepreneurship program, we’ve seen a significant rise in women shaping and leading companies.
"In the finals, seven out of 10 teams had a female co-founder, which is proof a woman in your team will get you further ahead. It’s fantastic that our commitment to female entrepreneurship initiatives, boosted by the Faculty of Business, is really showing results.”
New Wave Founders, an initiative of the UNSW Founders Program, aims to address the gender gap in entrepreneurship by raising the level of female participation on campus and in the ecosystem. Of the 10 PFC finals teams, two were formed during the New Wave Incubator this year.
Karin Sanders, Head of School of Management and Director for the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship explained: “This year I was really pleased by the means of funding from the business school and management team, the New Wave program.
“It’s so important, research shows that males are more eager to become entrepreneurs, however, when females begin startups they are more successful. Males and females see the world differently, therefore importance is placed on different things and focus on different ideas and products differently. So, it’s incredibly important to foster the female talent just like we do the male talent.”
Finding a solution
YellowBox were the runners-up on the night. Their idea to create smart lockers and an app which could be accessed at multiple sites around the city received a $5000 award.
It was a special night for Snack, a web-based platform that lets users instantly create and share bite-sized educational videos. They were presented with third place and walked away with the People’s Choice award, along with $20,000 worth of prizes from prize sponsor Brandcube.
The 10 finalists in this year's competition pitched their business ideas at NSW Parliament House to a judging panel of industry experts, inventors and investors – in front of an audience from the Sydney start-up community, UNSW students and staff.
NSW Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation, Matt Kean, said in his keynote speech: “Technology is changing every aspect of our lives, from how we communicate with friends, to how we do our shopping. Disruption really is the new normal. Innovation is all about finding solutions to age-old problems that we haven’t been able to solve before.
"The innovation agenda is also about how Australians continue to grow, continue to create jobs and make sure this country remains the best place to live in, to have a family and to run a business.”