Australian first program champions new entrepreneurs

A wheelchair-mounted robot arm for people with quadriplegia is one of six ingenious projects that will become a startup company in 2013 with the help of the Melbourne School of Engineering’s Melbourne Accelerator Program (MAP).

Engineering student, Robogals founder and 2012 Young Australian of the Year, Marita Cheng (pictured), started her company 2Mar Robotics with software developer Hok Shun Poon. They have already developed the prototype of their wheelchair-mounted robotic arm and now, with the valuable support of their MAP fellowship, they hope to take it to market as early as January next year.

The 2Mar robot arm works in sync with a user’s iPad or iPhone, controlled either by voice or with the device. Marita said that she was inspired by the way that the decreasing cost of mobile platforms was making the production of robotics cheaper and more accessible.

“I’ve been really inspired over the past few years by advancements in the robotics industry. I thought, I want to be involved – I want to make something that makes a huge difference in somebody’s life.”

Marita said she was excited to have been selected for MAP.

“I think it’s a really great program. It encourages people who are entrepreneurial and does so in a way that fosters learning.”

“I think the thing that will help the most will be having the community around me that will be encouraging me to hit my goals. I’ll see that they’re all working hard on their projects and I’ll be inspired to work harder on mine.”


An early prototype of the SwatchMate

MAP team SwatchMate, comprised of recent Electrical and Electronic Engineering graduates Paul Peng , Djordje Dikic and Rocky Liang, has designed a useful colour matching device, which allows users to easily and economically match a surface’s colour to an existing colour in digital form – such as a paint database. The teamdeveloped their project as part of their final year electrical engineering project in 2011. Read more about them here.

MAP is the first entrepreneurial program of its kind in an Australian university, building on innovative ideas that are sparked by passion and interest.

The Melbourne School of Engineering, which is hosting the program with the support of the Faculty of Business and Economics, joins only a handful of leading institutions globally providing an entrepreneurial program to students, staff and alumni.

MAP aims to help entrepreneurs across the University community maximise their chances of success through access to resources and mentoring. It also aims to accelerate the progress of participants’ start-ups and create a culture of entrepreneurship at the University.

Rohan Workman, Manager of MAP said the program would help translate ideas into practice and increase opportunities for staff, students and alumni to develop successful entrepreneurial careers.

“By supporting these budding entrepreneurs and providing office space, funding, and mentoring, our students, academics and alumni gain phenomenal exposure to a range of experts who can guide, advise and support them through the journey of innovation. He said.

“Who knows, we may see innovations that can revolutionise new tools for people with quadriplegia come out of this program.”

Six teams have been selected to receive entrepreneurial fellowships which provide funding, shared office space and mentoring for start-ups. The teams come from a variety of backgrounds including students, staff and recent alumni from the engineering, IT and business schools.

The 2013 MAP fellows are:

The Price Geek

The Price Geek is a search engine for anything you want to buy online. It takes data from eBay, Amazon and Craigslist to information analytics to guide consumers in their buying decision. To date, they have acquired 50,000 users and have generated more than $15,000 in eBay sales. The team consists of the holy startup trinity – hacker, hustler and designer.


Ebla is an online publishing platform that allows legal practitioners to contribute expertise and cite cases and legislation. Founded by former legal researcher Joseph Valente, experienced legal technologist Adam Neumann, and the venture capital experienced Jason Lim, the company is working closely with a number of universities, barristers and law firms to bring Ebla to relevant market.

Client Catalyst

Client Catalyst is a program that assists small businesses by delivering inbound phone calls to local businesses. They have created mobile websites that convert mobile traffic into phone calls from customers. Client Catalyst together with MAP is looking forward to developing a market leading solution for local businesses.


SwatchMate makes it easy to capture beautiful colour in the real world, allowing renovators to match colour to paint, photographers to calibrate their monitors, designers to digitise colour values and for the visually impaired, SwatchMate opens up the world of colour with audio cues, making it easy to tell a $10 bill from a $20 bill. SwatchMate will retail for under $50, helping to make the world a more colourful place.

By using the SwatchMate device, colours on any surface can be matched to a database to ensure colour consistency.  It can be used anytime colours need to be matched.

2Mar Robotics

2Mar Robotics designs, manufactures and sells wheelchair-mounted robot arms for people with quadriplegia. The arm is voice-controlled ,can learn movements and can be loaded with third-party applications. The team includes Marita Cheng, the 2012 Young Australian of the Year and founder of engineering outreach organisation Robogals, and Hok Shun Poon, a software developer who holds a Master’s degree with first-class honours from Imperial College London.

Cortera Neurotechnologies

Cortera Neurotechnologies, Inc. designs implantable medical devices aimed at revolutionising the diagnosis and treatment of incurable neurological conditions as well as enabling cutting-edge neuroscience research. The company has more than half a decade of experience in NeuroEngineering and aims to be at the forefront of the rapidly growing $4.5 billion neurodevices industry.  Co-founder and CEO Dr  Rikky Muller holds a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from UC Berkeley, co-founder Dr  Simone Gambini is a Lecturer in Electrical Engineering at the University of Melbourne and co-founder Peter Ledochowitsch is a Ph.D. candidate in BioEngineering at UC Berkeley.


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