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Room for next generation of entrepreneurs

Room for next generation of entrepreneurs

Information technology companies Optimal Decision Technologies (ODT) and Maxtiviti Solutions aim to continue the high success rate of The ICEHOUSE incubator programme for start-up ventures.

The two companies are the newest participants in the programme established by The ICEHOUSE, to house and foster the development of start-up companies. Incubator residents have experienced an average of 50 percent per annum growth in turnover and employment since the programme started two years ago, while also raising just over $4m in investment funding over the last year. Several have now established offshore distribution channels and substantial international markets.

Andrew Hamilton, CEO of The ICEHOUSE, says the two companies were selected on the basis of their business plans. Further vacancies for new applicants will shortly be available as successful residents exit the programme. The incubator accommodates up to 15 companies and most spend about 18 months building their businesses at the ICEHOUSE.

Jeff Meyer, CEO of Optimal Decision Technologies (ODT), said his company, which provides sophisticated software for solving business problems, had originated from an idea spawned in the University of Auckland engineering faculty. The company now wants to move from a service-oriented to product-based business. The ICEHOUSE, which works in partnership with The University of Auckland Business School and leading New Zealand corporations, provides a concentration of practical expertise for growing businesses. ODT will work in their Auckland based premises for a minimum of a year.

“Our goal is to grow domestic and international markets for our business solutions and the ICEHOUSE environment is the ideal way for us to get our business really rolling. We are good technocrats but now we want to become good business people.”

ODT has received Industry NZ and Technology NZ grants to assist in the development and marketing of their product SIREN (Simulation to Improve the Response of Emergency Networks) that optimises ambulance response times in emergencies.

Maxtiviti Solutions CEO Alex James applied to The ICEHOUSE incubator programme after learning about it from Todd Irving, the head of HP’s Innovation and New Ventures group. Maxtiviti has developed a next generation document management solution called XTend that it markets to professional services firms. Alex James says The ICEHOUSE’s mentoring skills and business direction is what the company needs to learn how to raise funds and to obtain access to major customer networks.

Businesses accepted into the incubator have to compete to get in, meet tough expectations to stay there and are expected to grow at speed into international companies.

“The ICEHOUSE role is to expose new entrepreneurs to the cold realities of growing a successful business,” says Andrew Hamilton. New Zealanders are good at starting new ventures, but less than half survive beyond three years. Research into small and medium enterprises has shown that they are often hampered by an inability to take potentially high-value businesses into substantial international operations. It takes more than a good idea to create an international company. You need the whole package of funding, knowledge, professional advice, understanding of markets, people management skills and the ability to compete. The ICEHOUSE partners can provide all those skills and the acid is on the residents to absorb them and apply them to grow their businesses at high speed.”

Companies chosen for The ICEHOUSE have access to partners’ international networks and consulting advice, access to networks that may provide capital and access to The University of Auckland’s knowledge resources including teaching staff, research, 19 libraries and extensive databases. They also receive assistance with recruitment of key personnel into venture management teams, introductions to key government business development and research funding agencies and access to an international network of business and academic leaders.

Companies seeking admission must demonstrate their potential as entrepreneurial ventures with high and rapid growth potential. Selection is based on a range of criteria, including the management team, an innovative product or technology, clear strategic plans, a feasible business model and the capacity for networking with other tenants. Companies targeted are those in high value sectors that have an inherent knowledge component including IT, telecommunications, software development, agritechnology, wireless technologies, biomaterials and materials sciences.

“In addition to supporting the residents in the incubator, the ICEHOUSE’s start-up business works closely with the wider business community and other venture development groups to address the challenges confronting start-up and early-stage businesses and contribute to New Zealand’s ability to create high-value international companies,” said Andrew Hamilton.

The ICEHOUSE is a collaborative partnership between Bank of New Zealand, Carter Holt Harvey, Telecom, The Boston Consulting Group, Chapman Tripp, Deloitte, Microsoft, HP and the University of Auckland Business School. Its focus is on creating, supporting and growing successful international New Zealand companies.

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