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On a fast track

30 April 2014

On a fast track

The morning after Hannah Faesenkloet graduates with a Bachelor of Design Innovation, the 21-year-old will be back working in the start-up company she’s founded with three other former Victoria University of Wellington students.

Hannah is the youngest person, and the only woman, to currently be part of Wellington’s Lightning Lab—New Zealand’s first digital accelerator programme to help fledgling companies prove, build and launch their offering.

Hannah’s company, Cogo Digital, has developed a management tool that maps knowledge resources. Called Co-Operly, the system gathers information about employees’ knowledge and roles, helping to reduce the impact when staff members leave and improving efficiency in how knowledge is distributed through an organisation.

But the idea wasn’t what got Hannah and her co-founders—Marcelo Hudson, Joseph Milsom and Dale Galloway—into the Lightning Lab. The team started the accelerator programme with a health and fitness app designed to get people off the couch.

“After one terrible day in the first week, we knew it wasn’t going to work,” says Hannah. “We went out for an ice cream and realised you have to be really passionate about something and believe in its potential, to take it through an intense programme like the Lightning Lab.”

After their “ice cream epiphany”, Hannah says the four members of the group spent the weekend forming a new idea.

“My personal motivation was frustration with having to troll through 45 minutes of a video to find the two minutes I wanted or seeing our developers trying to find succinct answers to programming roadblocks.

“It was one of our mentors at the Lightning Lab who pointed out the potential to adapt our idea for the corporate world.”

Hannah, who moved from Auckland to Wellington to enrol at Victoria’s Design School, is no stranger to innovation. During her three-year degree at Victoria, majoring in media design, she created a piece of novel wearable technology called TacitLanguage that helps people with impaired hearing to communicate in low light situations by illuminating the user’s hands and face.

She was part of a Victoria University team that developed the Forager mobile phone app, which highlights sources of wild food growing on public land around Wellington and, last summer, took part in a Digital Futures programme where she helped create the health and fitness app her team initially took to the Lightning Lab.

“I was always the creative one, even as a child,” says Hannah. “If someone had to draw, it would be me.”

Hannah says her degree has equipped her well. “We were really encouraged to think out of the box, go that little bit further and not to hand in anything we weren’t proud of. We also had a lot of projects on the go at University and that’s helped me learn to move quickly and multi-task.”

Those skills are proving essential at the Lightning Lab which Hannah describes as “an inspiring environment where everyone is hugely driven to do well”.

“I never expected to be the founder of a company going through an accelerator programme at the age of 21 but I have absolutely no regrets.

“Even if this business idea doesn’t fly, you can’t put a price on the experience and business knowledge I’ve gained.”

Hannah graduates with a Bachelor of Design Innovation on Wednesday 14 May at 6pm.

Joseph Milson graduated from Victoria with a Bachelor of Music in sonic art in 2013 and will graduate with a Graduate Diploma in Science with a computer science endorsement this year. Marcelo Hudson will graduate with a Bachelor of Music in sonic art this year and Dale Galloway will also graduate this year, with a Bachelor of Commerce and Administration in Marketing and a Bachelor of Science in Psychology.

To view some of Hannah’s designs, visit: http://faesendesign.dunked.com/

To find out more about Cogo Digital, visit: www.cogodigital.co.nz

To find out more about the Lightning Lab, visit: http://lightninglab.co.nz/

ENDS

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