$1 Million Entrepreneurs' Challenge launches tonight

24 June 2010

The University of Auckland Business School Entrepreneurs' Challenge, which helps proven businesses break into overseas markets, is being launched tonight by Prime Minister the Hon John Key.

Created last year, the Challenge grants loans on favourable terms to companies to help them expand their operations overseas.

The Challenge also provides companies with mentoring from highly qualified business professionals and an increased profile in New Zealand and overseas.

Last year's winners - Coffee roasters Allpress Espresso, smart water meter technology developers Outpost Central, and hot water heating control technology company, Senztek - were picked from 108 companies, representing 40 different industries.

Business School Dean Professor Greg Whittred says all three companies were exceeding expectations.

"Allpress Espresso is due to open a new café and coffee roasters in London this August, Outpost Central is increasing its presence in Australia, and Senztek is in the process of ramping-up its presence in Britain."

The Challenge was made possible because of a major $3 million gift from expatriate Charles Bidwill who was associated with Ceramco and Baycorp in the 1980s and 1990s.

"Our benefactor Charles Bidwill is very happy with what his gift has achieved in its first year. Charles's goal was to foster entrepreneurship in New Zealand so the prosperity of the country increased, and although it is early days, the Challenge is doing just that," says Professor Whittred.

"The Challenge is important to the Business School because it is another way in which we are supporting the growth of promising small and medium-sized enterprises with an entrepreneurial psyche," he says.

A seven-strong Investment Committee will decide which company or companies get funded: It comprises Chairman Brian Hannan, the Business School's Sir John Logan Campbell executive-in-residence; Kim Crawford Wines co-founder Erica Crawford; science and technology investor Neville Jordan; former Forsyth Barr executive director Don Turkington; Ross George, the founder of venture capital firm Direct Capital; Andrew Clements, chairman of Orion Health and director of Ryman Healthcare; Business School Dean Greg Whittred.

Investment Committee Chairman Brian Hannan says the challenge is looking for promising entrepreneurial companies with a competitive advantage and a turnover of $1million or more.

Companies can apply online from June 25. Entries close at 5pm on 19 July and the winners will be announced in November.

For more information please visit the Entrepreneurs' Challenge website.