This article was published on 5 August 2020
Callaghan Innovation is proud to sponsor once again the NZ Hi-Tech Kamupene Māori o te Tau – Māori Company of the Year award. Ahead of the awards announcements on 21 August, we are checking in with the four finalists (who happen to be Callaghan Innovation customers) – Kiwa Digital, Emergency Q, NZ Trade Group and Plink Software – to find out how they’re making their mark as Māori innovators.
Plink Software, uses technology to connect Māori to their identity through language and whakapapa (genealogy).
Chief executive Jeremy Banks has a lofty end goal for the business founded in 2015: “I want to see te reo Māori return to being a living language. We’re a long way from that, but that’s the aim.”
Being announced as an NZ Hi-Tech finalist is a huge boost for the hard-working Plink Software team, Banks says, adding it’s great to be recognised among other inspiring Māori tech startups.
“For me, the journey has been very personal. My wife and I decided we wanted to grow our three daughters in a home where te reo Māori was their first language. That’s where this started, and this goal has effectively led to Plink Software.”
The business has been working with schools to help students learn te reo Māori through its free app, Tipu. This fun, accessible and personalised way to preserve te reo allows users to create sentences using the words and phrases they’ve learned throughout the lessons.
From the classroom to the home, Plink Software changes tack
With all students suddenly out of the classroom due to COVID-19, Plink Software identified an opportunity and a need to remarket its learning app to families at home.
“We used to work really closely with teachers to onboard new users. But, in this situation, we needed the onboarding process to be so easy and intuitive that parents and kids could manage it themselves at home. There are so many competing pressures on a family’s time, especially when home schooling and working from home for the first time, that this actually encouraged us to fine-tune the process to make it as simple as possible.”
Banks is hugely motivated to preserve the language he loves but says learning a language can be a difficult challenge for many, including children.
With the support of Callaghan Innovation’s R&D Experience Grant, Plink Software was able to bring on an intern to focus on how to improve the Tipu app to increase engagement from tamariki. As a result of the findings, the business is now developing the ‘gamification’ aspect of its learning tools, as a way to ‘incentivise’ learning.
COVID-19 opening up new conversations
Another focus for Plink Software is supporting Iwi organisations, and members, to stay connected to their whakapapa through Te Ao Hunga, a Software as a Service (SaaS). Te Ao Hunga helps Iwi manage their members’ data and enables these members to access information to learn about their whakapapa from anywhere in the world.
During the COVID-19 crisis, Plink Software made unexpected progress with Te Ao Hunga; Iwi groups who had earlier shown an interest suddenly wanted to restart the conversation.
“Based on the need to find new ways of working together, Iwi started to see the huge value in bringing the data together in one place.”
Make sure your mahi feeds your wairua
Banks says running a small tech startup is not easy and takes a lot of time and energy. His advice to anyone considering the same path? Make sure it’s a personal passion: “Do something that you love – Make sure that your mahi feeds your wairua (spirit). You need that to keep enough energy to keep going.”
Find out more about Plink Software on its website.