Business student sails away with Go Innovate prize

Erica Dawson after winning the 2015 Go Innovate competition.

A third-year business student’s idea for revolutionising the coaching of water-based sports has taken out this year’s Go Innovate competition at Massey University’s Auckland campus. Erica Dawson impressed both the judges and the audience by also winning the People’s Choice Award for HeadCoach, a waterproof headset for coaching sailors.

“The sailor wears the headset and the coach is able to talk to them while they are out on the water through a UHF radio. Currently nothing like this exists on the market,” Ms Dawson says.

A keen sailor herself, Ms Dawson is now working with researchers at Massey’s School of Engineering and Advanced Technology through Go Innovate’s mentoring programme.

“The engineers are confident that the technology that’s needed is there and it’s possible to make this product,” she says, “We are starting to work on the prototype now.”

Winning Go Innovate netted Ms Dawson a place on the ecentre’s Sprint Programme to help develop her idea, $1000 worth of seed funding, tickets to Auckland Startup Weekend and free web hosting from Zeald.

The former Albany Senior High School student says “it feels awesome” to have won the Dragon’s Den-style competition and she is looking forward to developing her idea into a viable business at the ecentre, Massey University’s startup business incubator.

“I feel it’s going to be a huge help in getting this idea to market. I’m really excited to be working with the ecentre,” she says. “I love the idea of being an entrepreneur and I’m really passionate about sailing. This product is only going to help my own sailing so I’m really excited to see where it goes.

The potential to 'go global'

Competition judges – ecentre chief executive Steve Corbett, Professor of Economics and Innvoation Christoph Schumacher and digital marketer Olivia Willard – congratulated Ms Dawson for her scalable business model, which could see HeadCoach rolled out for other water-based sports and tourism activities.

“We chose HeadCoach because it was really innovative and has the potential to go global,” Ms Willard said. “It had a clearly identified target market, but with a lot of additional markets to expand into.”

The other finalists included a balloon that acts as a beacon for lost trampers, insurance for students who fail university papers, a retractable cellphone case and safety alarm and a smartphone app that allows the exchange of unwanted gift cards and vouchers.

The Go Innovate competition, which is run by the Business Student Group at Massey’s Auckland campus, is now in its seventh year. It aims to encourage entrepreneurship and is open to any student with an innovative idea that has real business potential.


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