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In the news: Xylo Systems Awarded Highly Commended at UNSW Sustainability Awards

Featured article in UNSW Founders Program: UNSW's platform to embed entrepreneurship on campus. We support students, staff and alumni to build entrepreneurship skills, and found and grow real companies.


Eight teams recently went head to head in a pitch night showdown for a good cause: finding innovative solutions to sustainability challenges. Startups competed for a top prize of $2,500 as part of UNSW Founders’ Sustainability Pitch Night, held in partnership with the James N Kirby Foundation to award the Sir Rupert Myers KBE AO Sustainability Prize.

Eight teams face off to win Sir Rupert Myers KBE AO Sustainability Prize

Twenty-two early-stage teams applied for the opportunity. Sixteen made the shortlist, competing in a pre-qualifying pitch off event to select the top eight teams.

Sustainability Pitch Night, held on Wednesday 15 September 2021, was attended by 130 people, including the Myers and Kirby families. Run entirely online due to COVID, all pitches were filmed in conditions designed to simulate a live event.

“Each founder was given a twenty minute pitch session before two representatives from UNSW Founders,” said Fi Tschaut, Senior Manager of the Michael Crouch Innovation Centre. “We filmed each pitch twice, and used the best of the two takes, with no fancy editing. Effectively, it was a minimum viable production.”

Following their pitch, each team faced three minutes of live Q&A with the judges.

The final eight teams were a diverse affair, and included five all female teams, with two currently participating in UNSW Founders New Wave program, and one New Wave alumni. Four were Peter Farrell Cup alumni, and one came from the Taronga Hatch program.

Competition on the night was so intense, a new category (Highly Commended) was created to honour the high calibre of startups present.

Charopy, which uses smart bin technology to prevent non-recyclable items from contaminating non-kerbside bins, took first place. Xylo Systems, a cloud-based platform using AI to turbocharge threatened species management, took out the new Highly Commended category, while the People’s Choice award went to New Wave and Peter Farrell Cup Alumni, Bronte Abrahams, the founder of Scrunch Plastic.

“Martin Collings, founder of Charopy, is a regular in the UNSW Makerspace,” said Gregory Davis, Prototype Manager at the Michael Crouch Innovation Centre (MCIC). “Key components of Charopy’s smart bin technology were made in our Makerspace.”

Sustainability innovators seize chance to collaborate

What set the night apart was the level of collaboration between founders in the sustainability space.

“Of all our areas of focus, sustainability is where collaboration shines the brightest,” said Gregory. “People working in sustainability want to work with others in this space, so events like these really help to bring them together. One of the highlights for me was seeing our teams in the breakout rooms exchanging details, so they could build collaborative projects in the future.”

Indeed, the event attracted founders from beyond UNSW Founders, such as Xylo Systems, led by animal bioscientist and University of Sydney MBA Student, Camille Goldstone-Henry.

“The next generation of founders fully understand the ramifications of our unsustainable economy and it’s fantastic to see their energy applied to solving the great sustainability challenges of our time,” said David Burt, UNSW Director of Entrepreneurship. “It reflects what we aim to achieve by embedding entrepreneurship at UNSW - that is, to see startups drive innovation throughout our economy and across every industry.”

“We’re proud to support sustainable innovation at UNSW through events like these,” James Kirby, director of the James N Kirby foundation. “It was wonderful to witness the depth and breadth of talent on the night, each eager to forge a more sustainable future.”

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