In Founder Focus we introduce entrepreneurs and change-makers working on innovative startups, social enterprises and SME’s around Aotearoa New Zealand.

At a glance

Founder: Kate Ricketts

Business: ISpy Nit Detector

Founded: 2022

HQ: Auckland

Can you tell us a bit about your business?

Discover, detect, and defeat! At ISpy Nit Egg Detector® we have formulated a special coloured glow powder which adheres to nit eggs making them illuminate under UV light.

Any parent will know the pain, cost and time involved in recurring nit infections, not to mention how difficult it is to identify nit eggs on unwilling wriggly kids. With each nit louse able to lay between 50-150 eggs during a lifespan of around 21 days, removing every egg becomes the key to reducing reinfection.

With the ISpy Nit Egg Detector® glow powder, even eggs that have been missed during treatment (e.g., medicated shampoo) can be seen and removed before another cycle begins.

Best of all, say goodbye to wriggly kids who will love their new temporary hair colour, playing with the UV finger lights and spotting any pesky ‘glow in the dark’ bugs – bringing fun and science to a process often lamented by parent and child alike.

What’s the backstory for your business idea?

I’m a single mum of two boys and groaned each time a “Nit Alert” email was sent from school. A nit infection meant money for shampoo (on each of us twice), daily pleading to let me check hair and a general fear that I had missed an egg and would be repeating it all a few weeks later.

My oldest boy is neurodiverse and hypersensitive so absolutely hated the shampoo and sitting still while I checked his hair.

A year ago, I had stumbled across an article which had found anti-theft powder fluoresced insect exoskeletons and I wondered if something similar would happen with nits and their eggs.

A bit of experimentation later and my boys are quite excited if we suspect nits – the product means I can quickly confirm if we are dealing with nits, remove as many eggs as I can, treat and then recheck to grab any stragglers and our reinfection rates are way down as a result!

What programmes, learning or mentoring, or resources have been of assistance so far?

I work at the University of Auckland in the schools engagement team and was so fortunate to enter the idea and win an United Nation Sustainable Development Goal prize in their innovation challenge last year. That win allowed ISpy to compete in the Velocity $100K Challenge and we took out the Social Category for 2023.

The team and I are just about to complete our time in the Venture Lab Business incubator and have been so fortunate to have amazing mentors and workshops around areas such as IP, governance, and market validation. I couldn’t recommend these programmes highly enough and if one of your project team is a staff member or student at the university, you are eligible to enter.

Off the back of these competitions, I have also presented at the Momentum and Return on Science committees, and it has blown us away how supportive people have been about the project.

With ISpy on a bootstrapping model, the best tip I have had to date was to save some legal costs and use the site to obtain trademarking – a huge help on a startup budget!


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