Imagimation and the University working together to provide practical education opportunities

16 January 2020

Imagimation, a social enterprise based in Hamilton, aims to use technology for good by building digital businesses that positively impact the community.

Founded just over two years ago, the company is a mix of young people in the first few years of their career, and industry experts with more than 20 years’ experience. This mix is based on one of the core values for the company, a philosophy of continuous learning, also reflected in the company name which is a combination of the words ‘imagination’ and ‘animation’.

When the company began, the founding members went through the process of establishing software “building blocks”, using artificial intelligence, machine learning, optical character recognition, facial recognition, and gesture recognition.

Taking these building blocks, they looked at their collective business ideas and decided which ones had the highest chance of success. Fortunately, some of these have been quite successful, including one business which they have sold on and is still running in the Waikato.

One of their core businesses, stemming from the experts’ existing knowledge base, is electricity. Imagimation have set up several power companies and can create fully automated electricity companies in less than a week.

“One of the first things we built was a fully-automated power company, that has reduced the cost of power in the Hamilton by about 26%,” says one of the company founders, Rob Johnson.

As Imagimation has grown, it’s been a team effort to establish the company values, which centre on creating a learning working environment so those who come to Imagimation learn how to grow businesses into the future.

“When we set out with the aim to provide this learning environment, we engaged with a range of key stakeholders in the region, including the University of Waikato who were keen to find new opportunities for their students to undertake work-integrated learning,” says Rob.

“Fast forward to today, Imagimation has taken more interns from the university’s Master of Information Technology programme than any other employer – more than eight now which is sizeable for a smaller company like ours.”

Rob says that finding a mentor who knows students well enough to provide targeted and tailored feedback is incredibly rare.

“For me, I wanted to provide the opportunity for young people in the Waikato to come somewhere where mentors are available to them, to get to know them as a person and provide career development advice.

“I felt the Imagimation ‘school’ was needed, so young people could get the practical experience needed to learn about how to run their own business.”

Rob says that when an individual comes to Imagimation, they try to understand what their interests are, to see where they’ll fit within the businesses they have.

“We shape people’s roles around their talents, rather than going by particular job descriptions.”

Imagimation is one of a growing number of tech companies in the Waikato, and Rob says the technology industry here is growing quite quickly compared to other areas of New Zealand.

“When new people come here and see the software building blocks we have, they often have lots of ideas to adapt our software to create new businesses,” says Rob.

Looking to the future, Rob is keen to take more University of Waikato interns and graduates, as Imagimation focuses on international markets for their software.

“We’ll continue to evolve and change, it’s just what we do. We’re aiming to reduce the cost of power globally - if we can save money on power for those in New Zealand, why not for those in Canada, the US or the UK?”

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