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During his 15 years as a primary school teacher, Martin McGauran had made some great contacts. The problem was that most of them, like him, worked in education. iAwards success helped change that.

From iAward to APICTA success

Martin (second from right) with Inform & Empower team members Bess and Laura (third and fourth from right).

Five years ago Martin McGauran began to step back from teaching. He and his sister Carly, who is a psychologist, started to build Inform & Empower, a small business that delivers online safety education to primary school children. It was likely a time when being able to access people with tech, innovation and small business nous would have come in handy.

But entering last year’s iAwards helped Martin and his team to build these networks. First by winning merit certificates in the start-up category (for Victoria and at the Nationals) and also picking up the Inspiration Award at the Nationals. Martin and the team then went on to receive international recognition with a merit at the Asia Pacific ICT Alliance (APICTA) Awards in Hong Kong.

 iAwards drives new connections

“My biggest take away from my iAwards experience would be the ability to establish network connections,” Martin says. This includes the excellent opportunity to chat to judges at the National Ceremony. “They bring a wealth of their own experience, and it was great to have follow up conversations with them.”

“I actually clicked with one judge who has offered some informal mentorship, insight and support going forward around building high performing teams and culture,” Martin says. “This could literally not have happened without going through this process.

“Then the APICTA experience on Hong Kong was unique in that myself and two other team members were representing Australia and got to enjoy the camaraderie with the other Australian participants,” Martin says. “It was really exciting as a small start-up to be in that environment throughout the week.”

Easy entry process and a chance to perfect the pitch

Martin gives the simple iAward entry process a tick of approval. “As a small business it’s hard to put too much time and energy into lengthy award submissions. Yet the entry process was also “a great opportunity to pause and reflect on what we were doing” he notes. “It was a really exciting little moment.”

Meanwhile, the APICTA experience helped bring even more “clarity” to their pitch. “It was a fantastic opportunity to really nail our ‘why’ and the way we talk about what we do and how we do it.”

The solution: A new take on existing technology

Inform & Empower’s innovation ­was to move its face-to-face online safety incursions at schools to live stream incursions. “Our innovation was about using existing technologies in a way that hadn’t been done before,” Martin explains.

This meant pairing up YouTube live streaming with a third-party quizzing platform, interactive graphics and live streams.  “We were able to show that technology doesn’t have to be a brand new invention to be innovative.”

Martin says Inform & Empower wanted its live stream incursion solution to address two problems. “Number one, we wanted to make an engaging virtual digital product that schools could access throughout the whole school year and not just as a one-off [through a visit to the school].

“The other one was being able to reach kids from schools that we hadn’t previously been able to because they were located in regional and remote areas of Australia.”

They’ve succeed. Students from across the Torres Strait Islands and the Outback, and from the Katherine School of the Air right down to the southern tip of Tasmania, have accessed the live stream incursions, enjoying the same important educational experience as their city counterparts.

Enter the 2024 iAwards 

Note: Western Australian innovators enter the iAwards National competition through the state-based INCITE Awards. Entries close Tuesday 2 April.
Tasmanian innovators enter through the TasICT Awards.