New Zealand-based educational 3D printing business MindKits has taken out first prize in the second ever Mercedes-Benz “Hack My Van” competition, claiming a brand new Vito van to expand its potential after a “really tough” pitch.
But less than 24 hours before the business was set to present to a panel of esteemed business leaders, business owners Tim Carr and Fay Cobbett thought they might not be able to participate.
“We were heading over from New Zealand, and the one bag that got lost by the airline was the one that had everything for our pitch in it,” Carr told SmartCompany at the event.
“And then when they were looking for our bags they asked for my passport so I gave it to them, but then they kept my passport. So we had to hire a car yesterday and drive back to the airport to pick up my passport.”
After recovering from that ordeal, Carr and his business partner took the competition by storm, blowing away the judges with their pitch for a portable educational 3D printing workshop to benefit schools who don’t have the resources to create their own printing labs.
The judges for this year’s competition were LaunchVic chief executive Kate Cornick, Blackbird Ventures partner Nick Crocker, award winning chef Shane Delia, stylist Megan Morton, and Mercedes-Benz Vans Australia and New Zealand managing director Diane Tarr.
Entrepreneurs were tasked with explaining how a van would add to their business growth in hopes of securing the new vehicle to take their ideas on the road.
Other businesses competing for the top prize included a business offering silent discos for school children, a health professional delivery service, and a business offering VR tours of tiny homes.
MindKits has been running educational workshops in New Zealand since 2008, but Carr says it “always occurred to me” the only schools who could do their workshops were the ones with the funds and resources to purchase 3D printers.
“So I got thinking, what about the other schools?” he says.
“There are plenty of keen kids that are out there in lower socioeconomic areas without the resources and funds to participate, so this is a way we could take what we’ve been doing and totally democratise the technology and make it available for everyone.’
As the winner of the competition, MindKits can now refurbish the Vito van so it can travel across the country visiting schools. Carr says they’ll be able to run 120 kids through a workshop in one day.
The pitch itself was tough, with Carr explaining the teams all had the added challenge of illustrating how they were going to deliver their concept with the use of the van on offer. He and Corbett had the added difficulty of shipping their equipment over from New Zealand.
“We simulated everything with boxes and life-size tables. We had just five minutes to set up so we were running drills every weekend to make sure we could achieve that,” he says.
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“I was just finishing my pitch while Fay was in the van finalising the setup.”
Upon winning the competition, Carr said the two had tears in their eyes, with the recognition and achievement for the business being a “long time coming”.
“We always had the idea, but we never had the vehicle – quite literally – to deliver on. It was never quite there,” he says.
“This converts it all into something doable.”
Looking forward, the MindKits team are focused on delivering on their promise, wanting to prove their concept back home in New Zealand before hopefully expanding across the country and over the Tasman.
“Congratulations to Tim and Fay from MindKits who are already providing such a valuable service to school children in New Zealand by delivering hands-on STEM learning experiences,” Mercedes-Benz Vans Australia and New Zealand managing director Diane Tarr said in a statement.
“We cannot wait to see them achieve their dreams of taking their workshops on the road to more kids and more schools.”