Entrepreneurs' Challenge shortlist announced for 2010

22 September 2010

Businesses from across the country have been shortlisted by The University of Auckland Business School to claim a financial chunk of NZ$1 million offered in the Entrepreneurs' Challenge for 2010.

The industries of water management, biotech software, fashion and food are represented in the line-up of 10 companies looking to win capital funding from the challenge to expand into overseas markets.

Challenge investment committee chairman and the School's Executive-in-Residence Brian Hannan says this year's applicants have been top-class, hence the lengthy list of 10 finalists chosen to battle for their portion of funding from a NZ$3 million endowment offered by ex-pat financier Charles Bidwill for the first time last year.

"It has been particularly hard to separate the cream from the milk this year, as all of the companies selected for the shortlist have a great story to tell," Mr Hannan says.

Last year's inaugural winners – coffee roasters Allpress Espresso, smart water meter technology developers Outpost Central and hot water heating control company Senztek – have enjoyed success overseas with funding from the Entrepreneurs' Challenge.

Finalists will undertake a due diligence process before presenting to the investment committee next month. The winners will be announced in November.

The 2010 finalists are:

From Wellington

Mesynthes Ltd
Aiming to become the leading global supplier of regenerative tissue substitutes for reconstructive plastic surgery, Mesynthes is firmly targeting worldwide markets which exceed US$1 billion in annual sales. One of the company's products is Endoform, a regenerative tissue substitute which encourages quantifiably superior blood vessel in-growth, important for affecting the rate and quality of tissue repair and helping to prevent implant failure and infection. Mesynthes Ltd received a FDA 510(k) clearance for their first product Endoform Dermal Template in January this year, and a United States launch is planned for surgical use in dermal reconstruction and chronic ulcers where there is a high risk that impaired healing may lead to serious complications or amputation. Also in the pipeline is Endoform Infection Control which integrates the regenerative properties of Endoform with anti-microbial drug delivery.

Piako Gourmet Yoghurt
Very simply, Piako Gourmet Yoghurt wants to take what it believes is the best yoghurt in the world to New Zealand and global markets. In the past two years, the company has become a phenomenon in New Zealand, and has redefined the yoghurt category in the domestic market. "We believe that with Kiwi know-how and the can-do attitude, that same success can be replicated across the world, one small factory at a time. With this in mind, we have put in place research and contacts that should allow us to be producing overseas by the end of 2010."

From the South Island

Symansis (NZ) Ltd
Aspiring to be a significant player in the field of supplying biochemical research tools to cell biology researchers worldwide - particularly in the areas of drug discovery and stem cell research – Symansis operates in two very significant markets. The scientific expertise the company holds at its disposal is world-class, with input from world renowned scientists and their rich network of contacts. Symansis has already developed a range of novel products, and its growth now depends upon its ability to reach the worldwide market as effectively as possible. "A cash injection right now would allow us to accelerate the expansion of our product menu and to invest in the development of worldwide sales infrastructure and capability," the company, based in Timaru and Blenheim, says. "This, together with the financial support of its committed shareholder base and cash from its growing sales will, we expect, develop it into a high growth, profitable company that is building a new skill base in New Zealand and creating high value jobs in biotechnology."

From Auckland

Greentide Ltd
A bio-agritech company researching and manufacturing biological-based pesticides striving for environmental responsibility and food safety, Greentide is based in Pukekohe. Concentrating on the global development of bio-control solutions, the company brings together scientists with vision and the credentials to develop new products and break new ground in the provision of reliable and sustainable solutions in the global pesticide market. "New Zealand's micro organisms, climate and diversity in horticultural activity make it an ideal testing ground for state of the art biological control agents," the company says. "Greentide is in the process of building the largest commercial production centre for fungal-based entomopathogens and natural metabolites in the Southern Hemisphere."

Huffer Direct Ltd
An iconic fashion brand in New Zealand, Huffer clothing was formed in New Zealand in 1997 by Steve Dunstan (a retail working snow surfer) and Dan Buckley (a skateboarding design school student) who came together to build a brand that today has a depth of three ranges consisting of 150 garments which are distributed in the United States, Australia, Japan and New Zealand. Huffer represents a new aesthetic for sportswear, and the company pride itself on being known as "board sports inspired fashion" and on having a design style that is created with functionality in mind. "Our values, passion and commitment are based on the development, sustainability and success of our brands," the company says. "Great emphasis, dedication and enthusiasm are invested in its wholesale business and its relationships with retailers, distributors and suppliers."

3i Innovation Ltd
With more than 500 traffic applications sold in 16 countries and regarded as one of the world's leading suppliers of on-road lighting solutions, 3i Innovation has tapped into escalating interest and acceptance by traffic authorities around the world seeking more dynamic traffic management to reduce traffic congestion and improve safety. 3i's traffic applications are used in some of the most influential and important traffic infrastructure in the world, including the Golden Gate Bridge, Los Angeles' oldest and busiest freeway I-110, and the iconic Elbtunnel in Hamburg. "Our future begins with our ability to apply our technologies to a broader array of safety, transportation and architectural applications, including marine, pool and outdoor lighting," the company says. "3i is continuing to focus on turning innovation into businesses through strategic alliances with brands that have the potential for significant growth."

AWT New Zealand Ltd
From its beginnings in 1998, AWT has always held true to its commitment of providing specialist water technology services. "We believe this level of commitment comes from being an employee-owned company," it says. "We answer to our clients and ourselves, not to remote investors. The future is banding together with a vested interest to take water technology services to the next level." A fast-growing reputation for being a leading water consultancy in New Zealand, AWT immerses itself in the science and engineering of water, the environment and its practical application. "We only employ engineers and scientists who are equally passionate about distributing their H2 know-how, and we support them with leading-edge technology. In-house skills are supported by specialist sub-consultants to ensure that we can provide best for project teams. The proof of this strategy can be seen in the successful outcomes of our projects and the satisfaction of our clients."

Biomatters Ltd
A privately-held company with headquarters in New Zealand, Biomatters boasts a highly-skilled board and management team across science, software development and business. The company combines expertise in genetics and bio-informatics software development to create a unique blend of Kiwi ingenuity and global savviness that has positioned Biomatters at the forefront of computational biology internationally with its flagship software product Geneious. Having established Geneious as a leading software application used in more than 900 universities and institutes in more than 60 countries across the globe, Biomatters now plans to launch an enterprise version of Geneious later this year to extend its business reach into the pharmaceutical and biotech markets. "To support this major product release, we are planning to significantly increase our sales and support presence in North America, initially with the opening of a full-time in-market office on the east coast of the USA."

Optima Corporation
Optima's strength comes from the experience of its founders - University of Auckland engineering science members Professor David Ryan, Dr Andrew Mason and graduate Dr Paul Day – in implementing advanced operations research techniques for companies such as Air New Zealand, enabling dramatic reduction in business costs while concurrently improving operational effectiveness. "Our team of people are globally recognised for their industry expertise and ability to provide leading edge and innovative solutions," the company says. "Optima's solutions have quickly forged an international reputation as market leaders with a rapidly growing customer base in Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand. We now have close to 30 implementations across six countries, we have doubled our sales revenue from $2m to $4m over the past two years and anticipate ongoing strong revenue growth for our products." The company's focus is to invest in a sales distribution model to support aggressive revenue growth targets.

Unimarket
The global leader of SaaS Collaborative eProcurement networking - providing software on demand to streamline procure-to-pay operations and achieve cost savings within and across organisations – Unimarket tailors user-friendly buying portals that become a one-stop-shop for all products and services for large decentralised purchasing organisations. Buying portals then drives compliance to selected suppliers from Unimarket's network of global suppliers, where quote requests, supplier maintained catalogues and punch-outs are routinely accessed to locate and buy the most cost-effective goods and services. "A distinctive feature of the Unimarket solution is the ability for customers to collaborate on their common purchases, thereby increasing economies of scale and driving down unit costs," the company says. "Initially started in New Zealand and now also in the United States, Unimarket is experiencing rapid growth from a focus in the higher education sector. With its recent entry into local government and healthcare, we look forward to continuing rapid growth."