Kiwi tech firms get Branson bump

TOM PULLAR-STRECKER
Last updated 23:00, July 31 2014
Kiwis behind The Mind Lab and Littlelot jetting off to Sir Richard Branson's Centre for Entrepreneurship.
Press Association

Kiwis behind The Mind Lab and Littlelot jetting off to Sir Richard Branson's Centre for Entrepreneurship.

Two Kiwis will be jetting off to Sir Richard Branson's Centre for Entrepreneurship in South Africa after winning international awards.

Auckland's The Mind Lab was named best start-up at the Talent Unleashed Awards, which were set up by Australian recruitment company Talent International to recognise Asia-Pacific technology talent.

Founder Frances Valintine has won a week at the Branson centre.

The judges of the awards included Branson and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak.

The people's choice award went to David Hillier, of Littlelot, who won one of the six prizes of a week at the Branson centre.

Littlelot lets people download computer and mobile screensavers that are sponsored by businesses that want to promote their brands and which pay a small amount to charity in return for the exposure.

Valintine set up The Mind Lab last year to educate students and teachers in digital technologies such as robotics, film-making and 3-D modelling. It runs a variety of courses and holiday programmes.

Unitec has formed a joint venture with the business and uses it to offer a postgraduate certificate in digital and collaborative learning.

The chief executive of industry body NZTech, Candace Kinser, who was also a judge, said The Mind Lab was replicable and had hit a sweet spot in how its courses were run and their format.

"They are addressing a gap in the education system, getting young kids through to teenagers fully immersed and engaged in the use of technology and learning," Kinser said.

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"Unfortunately, we have a long way to go in the public education system in getting kids interested in robotics and programming and those sorts of activities."

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