Judging Panel

Trent Bagnall

Trent Bagnall

Trent has enjoyed a remarkably successful career in business, having been involved a senior level in the growth of a number of companies, including his role as founding Managing Director of ASX listed QMASTOR Limited at the age of just 29.

As the founder of startup accelerator Slingshot, he has incubated 160 new startup companies over the last seven years.

Trent has recently launched The Melt in the Hunter. The Melt provides the funding, tools and services to help growing companies build great hardware products, launch successful businesses and importantly reduce the risk associated with building complex engineering products.

Alexandre Mendes

Alexandre Mendes

Dr. Alex Mendes completed a Bachelor of Applied Mathematics and Computing, and a Master and PhD in Electrical Engineering with emphasis in Automation. He has been an academic with the University of Newcastle since 2003.

As an academic who specialised in the general area of Artificial Intelligence, he published 84 research papers in conferences and scientific journals, and his work has been cited over 1800 times.

In his career, Dr. Mendes has secured 15 research grants and direct industry research funding from the Australian Research Council (ARC), CSIRO, Hunter Valley Coal Chain Coordinator, Energy Australia, Cisco Australia, the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI), the Brazilian Government, and from The University of Newcastle, totalling over AU$ 1.5 million.

More recently, Dr. Mendes became the Program Convenor for Computer Science and the coordinator for the Computer Science and Information Technology Work Integrated Learning. In those roles, he increased his contacts with the local industry in Newcastle and region, organising placements for final year students and bringing industry best practices to the curriculum of those programs.

Sophie Eland

Sophie Eland

Last year’s Start It Up Pitch Competition winner Sophie Eland, is a Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Commerce student at the University of Newcastle.

Sophie is striving to help bring an end to period poverty through her social enterprise, Box Beyond Borders. Box Beyond Borders was established to sustainably address inadequate female hygiene in developing countries. Their commitment is convenience and comfort whilst at the same time you're genuinely changing the lives of less fortunate women.

Sophie’s business has seen commendable success within its first year of operation and has received widespread publicity within the Newcastle community and beyond.

The University of Newcastle acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands within our footprint areas: Awabakal, Darkinjung, Biripai, Worimi, Wonnarua, and Eora Nations. We also pay respect to the wisdom of our Elders past and present.