Showcasing Pacific innovation through start-up competition in Papua New Guinea – Seedstars Port Moresby

The first of three events, being held in the Pacific region by Seedstars, in partnership with the GSMA and supported by the Australian Government, began on 16 July in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. There were two days of a bootcamp for local start-ups, followed by a pitching competition. We’d like to share our experiences from this new event, which will soon be followed by another in Fiji, in August.

Collective achievement through competition

Kaung Sitt from our Ecosystem Accelerator team had the honour and opportunity of moderating a fireside chat with Rosie Keller of Seedstars World and Gary Seddon of Kumul Consolidated Holding. The discussion illustrated that, if we look to the insights from other emerging tech ecosystems, there are some that can be applied to help that of Papua New Guinea grow and prosper. Rosie explained that often, the ecosystems and teams who are competing against each other in pitching, are actually collaborating with each other as well, learning and sharing with their peers. Ultimately, this means that when the opportunities arrive, the entire ecosystem will be collaboratively lifting each other up to higher places, through their shared experiences.

Participants share their learnings and journeys during the bootcamp.

Papua New Guinea solutions for Papua New Guinea problems

In addition, and prior, to the two-day bootcamp, we also ran an ideation day at the University of Papua New Guinea for their students, faculty, Australian Award Alumni and the Business Coalition for Women. Across both, a clear theme presented itself – the ideas shared are uniquely Papua New Guinean. Examples were a drone transport solution for remote regions, an on-demand delivery service for fresh meat and vegetables and a citizen engagement platform for government to allow for feedback and as a result, provide more responsive public services. It was clear that these solutions were designed to respond to very specific, country-focused challenges, that would not necessarily make sense in other parts of the world.

Christopher lived in a part of Papua New Guinea where Tabu (shell-currency) is still a legal tender and found them more receptive to tokenised economy and the concept of blockchain compared to people from other parts of the world.

It’s time for Papua New Guinea to make its mark

The third day of the event was pitching day. 7 start-ups presented their solutions on-stage:

  • The third prize went to Agri-tech Organics (PNG) Limited, working on a blockchain based financial services solution, which would best serve those communities still using shell-money as legal tender.
  • Second prize went to an all-female start-up, Kumul Garden, which has been providing working housewives with the convenience and security of home-delivered fresh produce from the market and farmers in the remote areas of the country. The team’s dedication and presentation won them their second place.
  • The first place prize went to Niunet, a start-up built by a self-taught, full-stack developer and a strategist, who happen to be married. Niunet have created a WiFi box which supplies cached educational content, for which their clients pay a monthly subscription. The users of the service, however, can access the content free of charge and also provide requests for other content if it is not available. Once available, this new content is downloaded to these boxes via 4G routers at the time of the day where data rates are the cheapest.

All participants should be recognised for their energy, enthusiasm and willingness to learn and grow, separately and together.

What’s next for these start-ups and Papua New Guinea?

By the end of this year, a new sub-sea internet cable should be arriving that will open up new opportunities for these start-ups to extend their services and more generally allow for further digital and financial inclusion of the population. This may also then open the doors to new possibilities for the tech ecosystem and continue Papua New Guinea’s move towards a digital economy.

Roadside vendor lays out her products on a street of Port Moresby.

This event (Seedstars Port Moresby) and all of the activities supported by Australian Government such as TechLab PNG, and funding of Pacific Ads Group’s through the GSMA Ecosystem Accelerator programme have come at the right time to ride this new wave of connectivity. Niunet, given their educational solution, business acumen and revenue model are truly a suitable winner here, carrying the Papua New Guinea flag to the Seedstars Regional Summit in Cambodia and then the Seedstars Global Summit in Switzerland.

In the word of the winners, Niunet, “a rising tide lifts all boats”, and so with an elevated ecosystem, everybody wins.

The GSMA Ecosystem Accelerator team will be looking forward to seeing what the start-ups from Fiji and Samoa will be presenting at the Seedstars events in those respective countries. To learn more, read our previous announcement blog for these events, or apply to attend.

The Ecosystem Accelerator programme is supported by the UK Department for International Development (DFID), the Australian Government, the GSMA and its members.

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