Expo 2020 Dubai: 'Dragon’s Den'-style event to reward New Zealand’s young entrepreneurs

Five finalists will pitch their products to a panel of experts and business leaders

High school pupils Robert Donohoe, Abby Green and Alex Livingstone are behind Abalro Health, which created a supplement to tackle acne. New Zealand Expo
High school pupils Robert Donohoe, Abby Green and Alex Livingstone are behind Abalro Health, which created a supplement to tackle acne. New Zealand Expo

New Zealand at Expo 2020 and the country's Young Enterprise group will host a Dragon’s Den-style pitch event to chooseyoung entrepreneurs to showcase their product to a global audience in Dubai.

The Global Kaitiakitanga Project, a sustainability-focused programme, invited submissions from New Zealand’s schools for innovative business ideas based on the theme of the country's Expo pavilion: kaitiakitanga, or care for people and place.

Kaitiakitanga, the Maori term for stewardship, is a belief that humans have a responsibility to care for and protect the land, sky and water.

The five finalists are in the middle of a seven-month programme of workshops and mentoring that will help develop and scale their businesses.

These 16-year-olds come up with most amazing ideas and some of them have already got profitable businesses

Clayton Kimpton, New Zealand Expo 2020

The ideas include a supplement made of barberries to reduce acne, an olive leaf supplement designed to boost cardiovascular health, a company focused on keto meals, teaching aids for children with intellectual disabilities and a housing programme that looks to help end homelessness.

In September, the finalists will pitch their products and field questions from panels of experts and business leaders, but they will not face the similar type of grilling that contestants endure on the hit TV show.

“Each participant or group will present to us their business, the impact on care for people and places, sustainability and how that could be reflected in the export market,” Clayton Kimpton, New Zealand's commissioner general to Expo 2020, told The National.

The winner will be the business that “has got the most promise and the most adherence to our theme at Expo”, Mr Kimpton said.

The prize is a trip to Dubai in January next year, where they will have a chance to present their product to a much wider audience.

The competition was launched last year to coincide with the original dates of the Expo.

Clayton Kimpton, New Zealand's Commissioner-General to Expo 2020 said the care for people in place theme is shown throughout the visitor experience. New Zealand Expo
Clayton Kimpton, New Zealand's commissioner general to Expo 2020. New Zealand Expo

Last year's winner created an edible plastic wrap alternative and while she was not able to travel to Dubai, she received $1,000 to go towards developing her product.

“We decided it was such a positive experience for the young people involved we're doing it again,” Mr Kimpton said.

“I was on the panel last year and these 16-year-olds come up with most amazing ideas and some of them have already got profitable businesses. It sort of blows you away just how creative and entrepreneurial some of the young people are."

The competition is run in conjunction with New Zealand Trade and Enterprise – the country’s trade and development agency.

The five finalists are taking part in a mentorship programme to help broaden their business acumen and introduce them to challenges such as putting together market strategies, forecasting budgets and branding.

“What these young people get is that type of training, insights and guidance that these experts are giving to New Zealand companies, which are already out there exporting. They're getting the richness of that experience,” Mr Kimpton said.

New Zealand Expo will put a programme in place for when winners travel to Dubai in January, which will include connecting with other pavilions and their youth programmes.

“We have already been reaching out to other Expo participants to see who else is bringing young people, in terms of an entrepreneurial focus at that time,” Mr Kimpton said.

“We'll look at other pavilions and see what the displays and exhibitions there are from different countries, but we will also do some workshops and a visit to the innovation centres in Downtown Dubai, just expand their horizons.

“The one thing we know for sure in Dubai is you do get your horizons expanded.”

Five shortlisted companies

Abalro Health

Harnessing the power of raw barberries, the company has created a supplement to help those suffering from acne, using locally sourced products and reusable packaging. Studies show that barberries reduce acne by 43 per cent in four weeks.

GreenKiwi Supplements

It developed the world’s first bioavailable olive leaf supplement, called OliveXtract. The company says it has a variety of health benefits, including improved cardiovascular health. GreenKiwi Supplements use olive trees that have been grown without artificial fertilisers, irrigation or synthetic chemicals.


The company offers complete keto meal solutions without the emphasis on traditional meat and dairy products, which could reduce the effects of carbon dioxide, other greenhouse gases and polluted water from the agricultural industry. KetoSak said the products also helped to tackle obesity.

Neurodiverse Learning Resources

The company creates resources designed to aid and develop vital life skills for children with intellectual disabilities. The resources use simple wording, a soft colour palate and high-quality illustrations that have been specifically brought together for the neurodiverse community. It hopes its resources will be translated for global use.


Created to support and rehabilitate the homeless population in New Zealand, TaiWhenua is a housing ready programme providing sustainable homes in the form of recycled shipping containers. The company is aligned with the UN drive to end the international homelessness crisis by 2030.

New Zealand launches Expo 2020 Dubai plans

Published: June 4, 2021 08:00 AM


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