AI-DAY Speakers and Panelists

Thought leadership to Ignite Local Capability

Michelle Dickinson - AI-DAY - MC.png

MC - Dr Michelle Dickinson

Dr Michelle Dickinson (MNZM) is a passionate researcher and teacher with a love of science and engineering.

Author of No 8 Recharged and The Kitchen Science Cookbook, Michelle has made it her life mission to make science and engineering accessible for all.

Her background in Biomedical and Materials Engineering have combined her interests to give her a unique insight into how nature and technology can learn from each other for scientific developments.

Awarded Member of New Zealand Order of Merit Michelle was winner of the Women of Influence award for science and innovation in 2016, was awarded the Sir Peter Blake Leadership in 2015 and was winner of the Prime Ministers Science Media Communication Prize and the New Zealand Association of Scientists Science Communicators Award in 2014.

Steve Guggs - AI-DAY - Speaker.jpg

Steve 'Guggs' Guggenheimer - Corporate Vice President - AI Business - Microsoft

Steve Guggenheimer is the corporate vice president of Microsoft's AI Business. In this role, he is responsible for helping to build a new generation of AI based solutions along with moving the broader AI conversation and platform forward.

Over his 20+ years at Microsoft, Steve held leadership roles in strategically important areas including close to a decade helping to build Microsoft’s hardware and software ecosystem as the head of Developer Evangelism (DX) and the OEM division. He has also worked on the product teams for Microsoft’s Application Platform, Windows, IE, MSN, SQL Server, Visual Studio and more. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his family, watching rugby, playing golf and cheering on his hometown Seattle Seahawks.

Before coming to Microsoft, Steve was at Spectra-Physics Inc., where he worked with lasers and helped develop and market new products. Steve Guggenheimer received a bachelor’s degree in applied physics from the University of California, Davis, and a master’s degree in engineering management from Stanford University.  He also serves on the board of Muzik and with his wife leads the Guggenheimer Family Foundation.

Dawie Olivier - AI-DAY - Speaker.jpg

Dawie Olivier - CIO - Westpac New Zealand

Dawie was appointed to the role of Chief Information Officer for Westpac New Zealand Limited in April 2015. 

With 15 years’ experience in financial services technology and several appointments as CIO, he is currently #5 in the CIO100 2017 list in New Zealand.

Dawie has led a culture transformation since joining Westpac and has worked with the team on building a new culture based on the principles of Ownership, Achievement, Integrity, Collaboration, Growth and Fun. 

Under Dawie’s leadership, Westpac ICT team won the best ICT team culture in the New Zealand CIO Awards in 2016. Dawie’s favorite quote is: “Do or do not, there is no try!”


Panel - Developing Capability 

  David Leach - CEO - Qrious

David Leach - CEO - Qrious

  Eduard Liebenberger, Head of Digital, Jade Software

Eduard Liebenberger, Head of Digital, Jade Software

  Frances Valintine - Founder - Tech Futures Lab

Frances Valintine - Founder - Tech Futures Lab

  Asa Cox - CEO of Intela AI

Asa Cox - CEO of Intela AI

  Brent Franich- Regional Sales Manager Flashblade

Brent Franich- Regional Sales Manager Flashblade

Guy Littlefair - AI-DAY Speaker.jpg

Professor Guy Littlefair – Dean for AUT’s Faculty of Design and Creative Technologies

Professor Guy Littlefair is a Pro Vice-Chancellor and Dean for the Faculty of Design and Creative Technologies at Auckland University of Technology. 

The DCT Faculty has a unique interdisciplinary focus on innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship, which connect the core themes of design and creative technology.

Previously Professor Littlefair had been the Dean of Engineering in the Faculty of Science, Engineering and the Built Environment at Deakin University in Australia since 2011. Combined with an academic spanning 25 years Guy has also had the opportunity to spend time in industry, most recently at Navman where he oversaw the integration of the Mercury Marine business when the company was acquired by the Brunswick Group.

Professor Littlefair is internationally regarded as an expert in the field of machining, having lead teams of researchers in England, New Zealand and now Australia focusing on the machinability of materials. In these leadership capacities, Professor Littlefair has worked with some of the world’s most innovative research-led manufacturing organizations, including Rolls Royce, DeBeers, Toyota and Land Rover.

Alayna Van Dervort.jpg

Alayna Van Dervort - Manager of Team for Social Good - Amazon

NZ born Alayna Van Dervort attended university at SFAI and Bard University in America. After an extensive career Directing major international projects in the Non-For-Profit, & Contemporary Art industry, Alayna joined the Artificial Intelligence team at Amazon in 2016.

As Manager of the Tech for good team, Alayna works with organizations on the front lines of AI/ML Positive impact projects in Education, Environmental Advocacy, Accessibility, Healthcare, Child Sex Trafficking and Global Crises.

“When we aim to solve big problems, we need to have the right tools to be successful. Artificial Intelligence has the capability of being the most powerful & important equalizer of our time."

Aaron McDonald - Centrality.AI CEO.png

Aaron McDonald - CEO - Centrality.AI

Aaron is a 20 year tech industry veteran with experience leading teams across all aspects of a technology company. Aaron has held leadership positions in large technology companies managing portfolios over $1b in value across engineering and architecture, product management, product development, marketing and sales.

adam cutler cropped lo res-2.jpg

Adam Cutler - Distinguished Designer, Artificial Intelligence Design - IBM Design

Adam Cutler is a founding member of IBM Design and one of the first three Distinguished Designers at IBM.  He was responsible for the design and build out of the flagship IBM Design Studio in Austin, TX. He was also responsible for the competency, culture and practices of design and designers at IBM. This includes IBM Design Thinking, the IBM Design Language and IBM Design Research.

For his Distinguished Designer mission, Adam is driving development of IBM’s point of view on the practice of AI Design. He recently gave a TED talk on creating meaningful human/machine relationships.

Previously while at IBM Interactive Experience, he was the Director of User Experience Design and helped to guide clients and internal initiatives in the creation of valuable, dynamic and effective user experiences.  He has worked with many clients including OpenPediatrics for Boston Children’s Hospital, Nordea, The JFK Museum & Library, Liberty Mutual, Bank of America, Nationwide, Wachovia, L.L.Bean, State Street, American Express, IBM, Segway, Chubb Insurance and Tiffany & Co. among others.

Prior to joining IBM, Adam worked with Michael Jordan while at an advertising agency in Chicago, and helped to pioneer the first e-commerce transaction from outer space.

Greg Cross - AI-DAY Speaker.jpg

Greg Cross - Chief Business Officer - Soul Machines

Greg is one of the original tech nomad’s, who has spent his career travelling to and living in every major tech market in the world. He now lives in New Zealand but creates businesses that compete on the international stage using Cross Ventures his own Venture Development business to build companies like PowerbyProxi and SLI Systems.

In 2016 Greg teamed up with Dr Mark Sagar to create Soul Machines a company focused on humanizing the next generation of computer technologies. By combining a human face with brain models we literally bring computers to life in a very human like way. Whether we are delivering digital humans as virtual customer service and sales agents or human like characters that can engage, direct and teach in an interactive and/or immersive AR/VR experience there is every chance you will end up conversing with a “soul machine” in your future.

He is the Sir John Logan Campbell Executive in Residence at the University of Auckland Business School.


New Zealand Business Showcase Talks

Kurt Janssen - AI-DAY Speaker.jpg

Kurt Janssen - Founder - Orbica


Sean Lyons - Director of Technology - Netsafe

Mahmood Hikmet Ai-Day.jpg

Mahmood Hikmet - Research and Development Coordinator for Ohmio Automotion. 

Grant Ryan - AI-DAY Speaker.jpg

Grant Ryan - The Cacophony Project


Panel - The Impact of AI On People and Society

  Angie Judge - CEO - Dexibit

Angie Judge - CEO - Dexibit

  Dr. Mahsa Mohaghegh  -  Lecturer, AUT - School of Engineering, Computer and Mathematical Sciences

Dr. Mahsa Mohaghegh - Lecturer, AUT - School of Engineering, Computer and Mathematical Sciences

  Lillian Grace - CEO and Founder of Figure.NZ

Lillian Grace - CEO and Founder of Figure.NZ

  Olivia Erdelyi - Lectuer at Canterbury University Law School

Olivia Erdelyi - Lectuer at Canterbury University Law School

  Alistair Knott - Associate Professor in the Computer Science department at the University of Otago

Alistair Knott - Associate Professor in the Computer Science department at the University of Otago

Eduard Liebenberger - AI-DAY Panelist.jpg

Eduard Liebenberger, Head of Digital, Jade Software

Eduard is passionate about driving the adoption of Artificial Intelligence and leveraging the possibilities of this wide-ranging technology.

Leading a team of individuals with expertise across all aspects of software, including development, user experience design, product design, and data science, he takes great pride in finding ways to create, develop, and launch functioning AI solutions in under 8 weeks.

More specifically, he and his team have already launched several AI initiatives, such as a recent machine learning initiative that can accurately predict university students’ likelihood of dropping out, then pass the information on to the institution to take action.

With a background in Computer Science, and experience leading digital transformations in multinational organisations, including William Hill a global bookmaking company, Eduard brings a technical understanding and strategic vision to the application of AI.

Looking toward the future, Eduard sees AI as an opportunity to free people from everyday mundane tasks, and, in turn, free up human thinking for complex and creative tasks. In particular, he views AI as assisted or augmented intelligence, as a means to allow highly trained people to focus on solutions to complex problems rather than wasting their time on clear-cut cases.

Frances Valintine - AI-DAY Panelist.jpg

Frances Valintine - Founder The Mind Lab

Frances Valintine (CNZM) is a thought-leader in emerging and disruptive technologies and has 20 years’ experience across business, technology and education. 

In 2013 Frances founded The Mind Lab to bring contemporary knowledge and practical skills to students and teachers around New Zealand. In 2016, she launched Tech Futures Lab to navigate the new world of technology enabled businesses, as exponential technologies impact on every role, every sector and every economy.  

Frances has worked with and advised 250+ organisations from every sector in New Zealand, from agriculture to finance, retail to law, and has gained a reputation as an expert in leading change initiatives.

Frances sits on the boards of Callaghan Innovation, KEA and the NZ Artificial Intelligence Forum. She sits on a US Board of Talentnomics, committed to the empowerment of women in developing nations.

Grant Ryan - AI-DAY Speaker.jpg

Grant Ryan - The Cacophony Project

Grant is a hopelessly addicted inventor. He has founded a number of companies including (sold to NBCi), Real Contacts (sold to Intel), SLI Systems (listed NZX) and Eurekster, YikeBike and PurePods.

He is now having fun trying to help make NZ predator free with The Cacophony Project. AI is a key part of the project for identifying predators from heat videos and learning audio lures.

He has also served on the board of the New Zealand Government's Venture Investment Fund, Foundation for Research Science and Technology and ChristchurchNZ.

Grant has a degree in Mechanical Engineering and a PhD in Ecological Economics from the University of Canterbury.



Sean Lyon - Director of Technology - Netsafe

Sean Lyons is the Director of Technology for Netsafe and has been with the organisation since 2006. Sean’s extensive experience in the online safety, IT, Education and Science sectors gives him a unique knowledge set in the space of online safety. 

He spends much of his time working with national and international organisations in the development of online safety focused projects. In recent times this has included collaborative work with The UK Safer Internet Centre, Facebook, Google, The Office of the Australian eSafety Commissioner, The INHOPE Network and The NZ Department of Internal Affairs, amongst others.

Sean is particularly passionate about the role that technology plays in the reduction and mitigation of harm online.


Mahmood Hikmet Ai-Day.jpg

Mahmood Hikmet - Research and Development Coordinator for Ohmio Automotion. 

Based in East Auckland with global aspirations, ohmio Automotion Ltd has an R&D team of 20 creating the operating system and a complete scalable eco-system for connected autonomous vehicles. ohmio are on track to have their first commercial vehicle, an electric 12 seater self-driving shuttle, deployed by May 2018.   

Mahmood coordinates and oversees the research and development efforts of ohmio’s autonomous vehicle and infrastructure. The team is focused on a flexible connected autonomous vehicle platform rather than an end product of one vehicle. 

Development for ohmio requires coordination between teams of AI, Embedded, Hardware, Software, Mechanical, and DevOps engineers who’s work culminates in a fully integrated mobility platform. AI is a key enabler for ohmio as it allows for smarter and more complex decisions to be made about whatever data is present.

Mahmood has a degree in Computer Systems Engineering and is in the examination phase for a PhD in Electronic and Electrical Engineering from the University of Auckland.


Angie Judge - AI-DAY - Panelist.jpg

Angie Judge - CEO - Dexibit

Angie is a technology entrepreneur bringing artificial intelligence into the world’s cultural institutions. Angie founded award winning company Dexibit, working with museums across Asia Pacific, North America and wider Europe; recognized as the market leader in data science for the cultural sector.


Kurt Janssen - AI-DAY Speaker.jpg

Kurt Janssen - Founder - Orbica

Kurt is a geospatial entrepreneur and founder of Christchurch-based location data intelligence company Orbica. 

He has a BSc Hons (Geography) from the University of Canterbury and a wealth of experience working for central government and private companies in New Zealand and California, U.S. 

Kurt is passionate about geography and has developed a talented team of disruptive thinkers around him who apply their cumulative experience and knowledge to solve tough problems with cost-effective, location data enabled solutions. Orbica is leading the geospatial sector with its investment into artificial intelligence and its ability to automate traditional business workflows to improve accuracy, efficiency and value for clients.


Dr. Mahsa Mohaghegh - AI-DAY - Panelist.jpg

Dr. Mahsa Mohaghegh - Auckland University Of Technology

Dr. Mahsa Mohaghegh is a computer engineer with a background in artificial intelligence and natural language processing. Since 2013, Mahsa has been involved with Google’s Computer Science for High Schools initiative, and has run these workshops in Auckland for the last 4 years. Mahsa is also the founder and director of the women’s technology group She# -, a platform aimed at promoting STEM to the next generation, and creating networking opportunities for tertiary students and industry professionals in the digital sector. 

Her passion for promoting careers in technology to young women has been widely recognised, and she has received a number of nominations and awards for her efforts, including the Emerging Leader Award at the NZ Women of Influence Awards, and is also a semi-finalist for New Zealander of the Year 2018.


Asa Cox - AI-DAY Panelist.jpg

Asa Cox - CEO of Intela AI

Asa Cox is CEO of Intela AI, a Wellington based data science company.

Intela's team of PhD's is working on number of machine learning solutions to impactful problems across data cleansing (, machine vision and NLP.

Asa is an AI optimist; believing AI is the 21st century's electricity and that it will transform organisations of every type and size. 



Lillian Grace - CEO and Founder of Figure.NZ

Lillian Grace is the CEO and Founder of Figure.NZ, an organisation that sees numbers as a language that hold our stories – whether it be that there are 42,000 registered labradors in NZ, 24 mushroom farms, or 60,000 births each year. Figure.NZ is the first organisation in the world to make numbers truly accessible for everyone, not just the experts. Lillian believes everyone will benefit when we can all better understand our context, and shift from debating about what is – to where we want to be and how to get there.  

Lillian has previously been on the Data Futures Partnership Working Group, Open Government Partnership Expert Advisory Panel, and the boards of the Innovation Partnership and of Centre of Research Excellence Te Punaha Matatini. Over the last year Lillian has resigned from these positions to focus on two things: Figure.NZ and learning Te Reo Māori. Previously, Lillian was also at Academy Award-winning Massive Software, and think tank The NZ Institute.



Alistair Knott - Associate Professor in the Computer Science department at the University of Otago.

Ali has been an AI researcher for over 20 years, working on models of language and brain function. He has over 100 publications in these areas, including the book 'Sensorimotor Cognition and Natural Language Syntax’ (MIT Press, 2012). He has given many public talks on his research, including talks at TEDx Auckland (2012) and TEDx Athens (2013). 

Ali has been interested in the ethical and social implications of AI throughout his career. In January 2016 he co-founded the AI and Society discussion group at Otago. Last year he talked to the Royal Society Te Apārangi on ‘How should society prepare for advances in Artificial Intelligence?’ He is currently coordinating a project funded by the New Zealand Law Foundation on 'AI and Law in New Zealand', together with Colin Gavaghan (Law, Otago) and James Maclaurin (Philosophy, Otago), which examines uses of AI in criminal justice, and impacts of AI on employment, in each case with a New Zealand focus.  


Dr Olivia Erdelyi - AI-DAY.jpg

Dr Olivia Erdelyi - Lecturer at the University of Canterbury Law School

Olivia is a lecturer at University of Canterbury, School of Law. 
Benefiting from a multidisciplinary background in artificial intelligence, economics, law, and political science, she is primarily specialized in AI & law and has a keen interest in studying AI's societal impacts. She has been participating in interdisciplinary research projects and publishing in leading AI venues on topics ranging from fundamental theoretic AI research with a predominantly computer scientific focus to more applied issues revolving around the nowadays increasingly central question of how society should deal with the emergence of ever more pervasive AI technologies. 

Prior to this role, she worked with several international law firms and European Institutions, such as the Court of Justice of the European Union and the European Commission, in the areas of corporate law and international financial regulation. As part of the worldwide efforts to revise financial stability frameworks in the aftermath of the latest global financial crisis, she contributed to European financial services and corporate group law policies. Using the insights from this
regulatory policy experience, she now focuses on the daunting challenge of developing consistent international AI regulatory and governance policies in collaboration with various international stakeholders from academia, industry, and government.


Pure Storage - brent.jpg

Brent Franich - Regional Sales Manager Flashblade

Brent has more than 20 years’ experience in technology sales. His knowledge extends across the full spectrum of applications: computer through to networks, data storage and cloud storage. His experience is in dealing across many industry verticals from finance, manufacturing & healthcare. For the past decade, Brent supported multi-national data storage firm EMC's clients across Asia Pacific through the development of the company's unified storage business.

With the last 3 years of his time specifically owning and developing the regional markets in next generation storage solutions, targeting performance applications and scalability with specific product sets into finance , analytics across multiple verticals  & healthcare in the areas of imaging & archive. 

Brent then moved to the regional management role for a leading-edge cloud File & Storage Company, successfully introducing the product into Asia Pacific. 

This has culminated in his current role with Pure Storage, specialising in unstructured data, developing the next generation storage infrastructure Sales and strategy for the Asia Pacific, that mirrors’ industry trends of moving to real time data analytics, IOT, and Machine learning through to Artificial intelligence solutions.