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Glassjar seeks spark from Lightning Lab

26 May 2014

Two University of Canterbury graduates are pitching their software programme Glassjar to Lightning Lab in the hope of receiving follow-on funding to assist their product’s growth in the global market.

The Glassjar software, developed by Duncan Keall and George Smith, allows people living together in a flatting situation to create a web-based flat profile that can also be accessed via a cellphone app. It is now used by hundreds of student flats throughout New Zealand and around the world.

"Years ago most flats would have a bench top glass jar that everyone put money into and that all of the expenses were paid from,” George Smith says.

“Nowadays, student flats are far savvier and have replaced the bench-top glass jar with internet banking and automatic payments."

The glass jar aproach inspired a simple software programme that took control of their flat account, interpreted transactions and showed a ledger of the central flat account of the amounts owed, who they were from and what they were for.

"It allowed us to confirm everyone's contributions, to start noticing when people didn't pay rent or used the flat card for their own purchases,” Smith explains. “All the flatmates could log on and see the state of the accounts, which gave great transparency.”

The Glassjar proposal will be presented at the national Lightning Lab competition in true Dragon Den style. The competition, held on 28 May, provides a combination of seed investment funding and an intensive business start-up accelerator programme.

Ten teams will be competing for the Lightning Lab’s investor funding that is provided by a growing set of New Zealand business investors to help start-up entrepreneurs.

The team are hoping to build on their success of last year, when they commercialised the concept and won the University of Canterbury student-run entré competition’s Most Market Ready Venture and Best Pitch awards.

The prize money was invested in further software development, and Matthew Galloway, another Canterbury student, was brought in as a developer. Working on Glassjar full time during the summer resulted in the team being accepted into the Lightning Lab.

"The combination of the entré competition and the UC Innovators programme run by Dr Rachel Wright sets the University of Canterbury apart as the most supportive environment for student start-ups,” Smith says. “It’s exceptionally good.”

The Glassjar team have always been commercially clever and motivated in their approach, says Dr Wright.

"It’s great to see our graduates take exciting strides in the commercial world after leaving the University of Canterbury with a distinctive graduate profile."