Melissa and Jeremy Banks have created a family business named Plink. Together, they create beautiful kaupapa based software that enables positive cultural outcomes for Māori organisations and individuals. The software utilises modern technology to solve traditional issues: learning Te Reo Māori, learning and accessing your whakapapa, accessing demographic data about your own people and connecting Māori to their Iwi organisations.
We sat down with Jeremy and Melissa to talk about their apps, their growing business and what the future holds for them.
Here is our Interview.
Plink has had an incredible start. You recently were nominated as a finalist for the New Zealand Innovation Awards, in the Excellence in Social Innovation category and also the Innovation in Māori Development category where you received a Highly Commended award for Tipu. Can you explain what Tipu is and where we can find it?
Tipu is a mobile app to help people learn Te Reo Māori and is available on iTunes and Google Play. There are two key innovations in Tipu. Firstly it understands the grammar of Te Reo Māori. It doesn't have a canned set of static example sentences, it creates sentences on the fly for the lesson you are on, randomly selecting the nouns and verbs that you have already encountered to present you with constantly unique sentences.
The Second innovation is what we call a Personalised Progression Memory, which enables Tipu to supplement new material with re-tests on those words and sentences that you are struggling to learn. So it is all aiming to make the learning process fun and effective, and also able to be undertaken in small chunks when you find a spare minute to jump on your phone.
What's something exciting your working on?
We have a Software as a Service offering called Te Ao Hunga, which allows Iwi Organisations to manage data for their members, including their genealogy. Te Ao Hunga allows Iwi organisations to manage their member information using a modern, custom-built, best practice piece of software (SAAS, Cloud-based, subscription license), but it also allows their members to access and learn their own whakapapa online. In the modern world where so many of our whānau are dispersed to the four corners of the globe, Te Ao Hunga provides an opportunity for them to remain connected to what Māori consider the fundamental aspect of identity, whakapapa.
We are also really excited about our Tipu in Schools project, which is about making TIpu available as a resource to assist teachers as they teach tamariki Te Reo Māori. We have set up a Portal for teachers and parents to follow the progress of tamariki using Tipu to learn Te Reo and have supplemented this with complimentary in classroom resources.
Prior to our tamariki coming along, I (Melissa) owned a photography business. It has been really satisfying for me getting back into photography and it is complimenting a lot of the work that we are doing with Iwi organisations like Ngāti Kuia and Ngāti Rārua
What's something challenging that Plink has overcome?
Plink is constantly faced with all of the normal pressures and stresses that face most startups. Creating software from scratch is hugely exciting and provides a significant opportunity, but it also requires building the supporting systems from scratch as well, such as marketing material and channels, sales pipelines and customer relationships, to ensure that there is sufficient cash flow to keep the wheels spinning.
And lastly, because you are such a huge part of the Collective family, what has been the best part about joining the Collective?
The Collective has been fantastic and so welcoming. It's full of like-minded people and we have both created a whole range of commercial and personal relationships. It has also allowed us to scale up from a single, shared full-time membership to three full-time memberships very seamlessly and affordably. I'd reccomend to anyone who works from home in Nelson to join.