WSU Paddl Games: Energy Usage - First Place Winners: Thrive Refugee Enterprise

August 29, 2019
By Aaron O'Farrell

Team “” and Thrive Refugee Enterprises takes top prize

On July 10th, Paddl Co. launched the Western Paddl Games series. In partnership with Western Sydney University, Paddl Co. will roll out 5-7 Paddl Games Challenges across each of Western Sydney University’s campuses. Our first challenge of the series took place on Western’s Parramatta South campus with EnergyAustralia.


“Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.”

This quote has been attributed to many people, from Benjamin Franklin to Roy Keane (former Manchester United captain.) But who said it first? It doesn’t matter, the message is clear: If you don’t set yourself up to succeed, and put in the work, you will not succeed.

The inaugural challenge of Paddl Co.’s innovation challenge series at Western Sydney University took place in the spacious and modern Ian and Nancy Turbott Auditorium on Western’s Parramatta South Campus. 11 businesses and 60+ students came together for the launch of the WSU Paddl Games series. Our corporate partners for the day were EnergyAustralia, who chose the challenge focus: “How can EnergyAustralia assist your business to achieve greater control over your energy usage both now and in the future?”

Team “” represented Thrive Refugee Enterprises, a not-for-profit company that helps micro-finance refugee entrepreneurs in Australia. From a few days before the event, were introducing themselves to each other via Slack (an online communications channel available to every team in order to meet each other and their business before Challenge day), researching Thrive and how the company operates. The Paddl Crew made note of’s early conversations and preparation efforts via the Slack channel which is usually a good indicator they were going to be contenders for the top prize on the day of the challenge.

Every Paddl Co. innovation challenge follows a schedule of three “Sprints.” These sprints are designed to help teams structure their process of creating a solution for a specific issue affecting their business participant.


Sprint 1: Problem Framing and Ideation

This sprint kicks off the day, with each of the teams warming up to each other through discussion and gaining greater understanding about the business and what they might be struggling with under the umbrella of the day’s theme. While a business might have many “problems” or issues they are interested in solving, having the team identify one issue that is relevant to the theme of the day as well as important to the business and one that is worth solving is critical before moving to the next step of creating a solution. In this sprint, the business has to be heavily involved and open to discussing their company with their brand new team.

Thrive Refugee Enterprise was unique to the other businesses in the room at the WSU Paddl Games in that they specifically had very little energy usage. However, through the Problem Framing and Ideation sprint, they were able to convey to their team that many of their clients used large amounts of energy and often had little understanding of what energy supplier options were available to them as they opened their business. This helped lead the team to identify and agree upon a Problem Statement that fit well within Thrive’s needs as a micro-finance institution.


Sprint 2: Concept Design and Development

The second sprint is also very relevant to the business and crucial to have them involved and in agreement with the team’s decision. After coming to an agreement on the Problem Statement, the team is now tasked with creating a solution that not only addresses the Problem Statement but that is feasible for the business to implement and something they would consider implementing. 

Team Z.Dot had a clear Problem Statement in front of them, how to enable Thrive to educate their clients about energy efficiency and support them in finding affordable energy solutions for each of their unique businesses, however, designing a solution that was feasible for Thrive to implement as a small microfinance firm was a different challenge.  On top of that, the judges want innovative solutions, so handing out brochures wasn’t an option.

The answer lies in the Challenge Labs. These Subject Matter Experts from EnergyAustralia from various backgrounds are ready and available to all the teams in order to help them discover NextGen Energy solutions, gain a deeper understanding around pricing and tariffs or help them mine data in order to support their theories or understand if their solutions are sound. Connecting with the Challenge Lab EnergyAustralia experts allowed Team Z. Dot to discuss the option to partnering with EA to help Thrive educate their clients about energy options.


Sprint 3: Storytelling and Tuning

This sprint is focussed on the team members being able to put together their story into a succinct 5 minute presentation. Pressure is on as heads are down in laptops, frantically trying to pull together powerpoints, practice speaking or rehearsing some role plays to spice up their presentation. Businesses are usually given a breather during this sprint where Paddl Co. offers a business networking session to allow each of the participating businesses to step away from their table and learn a bit more about each other, sharing stories and swapping business cards.


The Presentations

By the time Challengers are ready to pitch their solutions to the judging panel, everyone has had a long day of hard work. Energy levels can dip.

The order in which teams take to the stage to present is chosen at random. were one of the final teams called to present. Presenting towards the end can be an obstacle or an opportunity for any team. Challengers can choose to let fatigue influence them, or they can lift the room with an energetic approach and capture everyone’s attention. After all, with just five minutes to pitch a day’s worth of innovation, why not just go for it? That’s what did.’s presentation brought a high energy level and displayed how passionate they were about helping their business, Thrive Refugee Enterprises. Each challenger spoke up throughout the presentation to present the initiative that they all had created, an initiative the team had named “Powering Dreams.”

The “Powering Dreams” initiative proposed by would see EnergyAustralia partner with Thrive Refugee Enterprise with the goal of “empowering refugees through education to minimise overhead costs and ensure stability” through free consultation to entrepreneurs and help them make their business dreams a reality. This sort of partnership would only benefit the lives of everyone involved in the refugee enterprise, told the judges, and therefore boost Australia’s economy.

After prolonged deliberation, the judges returned to the auditorium and declared as the winners.  The judges commended Z.Dot for the passion they displayed for their business participant and the carefully thought-out solution they proposed. duly celebrated their victory with Thrive and took to the stage to applause from everyone in the room. For their efforts, the team won the top prize of $2,000 energy credits for Thrive, which will be used to help the first businesses Thrive and EnergyAustralia will work with as part of the “Powering Dreams” initiative. Each challenger took home a Google Home device, a first place certificate and bragging rights until the next event!

Congratulations again to for their excellent efforts on behalf of Thrive Refugee Enterprises! They were well deserved winners on what proved to be a very successful launch of Paddl Co.’s WSU Paddl Games series in partnership with Western Sydney University!

Our next challenge in the series will take place on September 26th and will be supported by Westpac. The challenge focus, set by Westpac, will be: “How might Westpac assist you to overcome inhibitors to growth in your business?”

Paddl Co. takes pride in the positive experiences everyone walks away with from Paddl Games. If you’re looking to build your Experience Profile and expand your professional network through Paddl Games and many other great volunteer, internship, casual or full time opportunities, get started with your profile on today! If you are a small business interested in participating, please reach out to for further information.