Companies urged to enter Entrepreneurs’ Challenge

20 July 2012

Entrepreneurial Auckland businesses on the cusp of global growth are being urged to enter this year’s University of Auckland Business School Entrepreneurial Challenge but are being warned that regional entrants could offer fierce competition for a share of up to $1 million in funding on the line.

Business School Dean Professor Greg Whittred says judges of this year’s competition – the fourth since the Challenge was set up with funding by ex-pat financier Charles Bidwill – are very keen to see regional businesses put their best feet forward for some of the money.

“Nine out of the ten successful companies that have won funding within the past few years are all based in Auckland and are very deserving as well, but we are keen in 2012 to see some of this year’s money go to high-growth entrepreneurial companies from places outside of the main urban areas,” Professor Whittred says.

“We have had entrants in the past from Wellington and Christchurch, but this year there will be great emphasis put on urging entrepreneurial companies from places like Southland, the West Coast, Nelson, Bay of Plenty, Eastland and Northland on the verge of global growth needing some help with capital funding to check out the website or contact the Business School for further information.

“We would be thrilled if a company from outside Auckland was chosen later in the year.”

The Challenge, set up to offer winners the chance to secure funding to go global, has been won by a wide diversity of companies since inception in 2009. Past winners have included tourism operator JUCY Group, food manufacturer Piako Gourmet Yoghurt, coffee company Allpress Espresso and Senztek, a hot water heating control technology company.

The competition has been so successful that Mr Bidwill, who lives in Britain but retains a strong interest in Kiwi entrepreneurship, has increased his initial $3 million foundation gift by a further $1 million this year.

Professor Whittred says entry requirements might seem daunting to entrants at first, but going through the process is valuable as it forces companies to think about where they want to go, who their competition is and what they are aiming to achieve.

“We are determined this year to attract the right kinds of companies from the regions who are, let’s face it, the literal edge of entrepreneurship in this country. It would be fantastic to announce a winner or winners from outside of Auckland, which would make this remarkable competition truly national.”

Entries, once received, are vetted by teams of bankers, lawyers and accountants tasked with ensuring due diligence to make sure entrants are viable enough to expand internationally. Finalists identified through the screening process will then undergo further scrutiny from four Challenge partners – the BNZ, Ernst & Young, AJ Park and Simpson Grierson – supported by The ICEHOUSE.

Finalists are then invited to present to the Investment Committee at the Business School.

“As you can see, this process is thorough and imposing, and entrants must know their business and its potential inside and out,” Professor Whittred says.

Winners are given a share of the $1 million funding for three years, along with mentoring from experienced entrepreneurs and business executives. They also enjoy access to the Business School’s networks and entrepreneurial ecosystem and priority consideration in its internship, consulting and experiential learning programmes.

This year’s competition has an entry cut-off on July 31.

For more information, visit the Entrepreneurs’ Challenge website.