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WaikatoLink opens up venture incubator

WaikatoLink opens up venture incubator to local entrepreneurs

Hamilton, New Zealand – 8 October 2008 - Entrepreneurs with an idea or early stage venture will be able to increase their chances of success by engaging with the WaikatoLink Venture Incubator which has just been opened up to local entrepreneurs.  WaikatoLink, the commercialisation arm of the University of Waikato, has operated its venture incubator for a number of years for ventures based on University of Waikato science and technology.

The incubator, which focuses on high growth technologies in the AgBio, biotechnology and ICT sectors, will provide entrepreneurs and start ups access to the expertise, networks, resources and environment that WaikatoLink has built up through successfully incubating their own high growth ventures

Through the incubator industry partners will provide valuable expertise and services to entrepreneurs.  University of Waikato, NZ Incubator Association, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise and the Hamilton City Council will also provide key support.

WaikatoLink’s chief executive Mark Stuart says, “Early stage ventures need a lot of assistance and the creative talent of our entrepreneurs needs to be nurtured and given the best chance to grow.  Our venture incubator has provided a great deal of value to our own start up companies and we are excited to now make it available to other entrepreneurs. As part of the University’s commitment to innovation and regional economic development, we have opened up the WaikatoLink Venture Incubator to make our expertise and processes available to local entrepreneurs wanting to accelerate the development of their new and emerging venture.”

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“We have built up the expertise, partners and networks to help entrepreneurs assess their business ideas and market opportunities, and to develop business models and robust business practices.  We can also help incubator tenants find strategic partners, raise capital and access markets such as China and the US.  All these things dramatically increase a venture’s chance of success.”

WaikatoLink currently has a number of its own ventures under incubation ranging from Novatein, which creates bioplastics from animal processing waste, to Solenza, a novel building integrated solar technology product.  Khipu Systems, an IT company in the next stage of development, recently received a $1M cash injection from Endeavour Capital, which has invested in six other WaikatoLink early stage ventures.

WaikatoLink has successfully moved a number of ventures out of incubation.  Successes include Ectus, which was successfully exited in 2005, and rapidly growing biotech company ZyGEM which is pursuing the billion-dollar market for DNA tests.

Business incubators are a proven international model, US statistics show that 87% of businesses survive post-incubation, compared with an average small business survival rate of 40%.  

New Zealand incubator results have been equally positive and last week Economic Development Minister Pete Hodgson announced a $1.8 million funding boost for the incubator support programme.

“Evaluation of the programmes has found those businesses taking part had a better chance of survival and growth than those that did not”, Mr Hodgson said.

New Zealand Trade and Enterprise’s incubator development manager Richard White said, “It’s very encouraging that a university with the proven commercialisation record that Waikato has through WaikatoLink, is extending their activities into the incubation of other start up and early stage companies.  It will help ensure that the high quality research and innovation within the region is converted into commercial success.”

With the opening up of the WaikatoLink Venture Incubator, WaikatoLink and the University of Waikato are keen to make an even bigger economic impact on the region, a goal they share with the Hamilton City Council.

Waikato University Vice-Chancellor Professor Roy Crawford says the university is very aware of its location in the centre of Waikato, which is at the heart of New Zealand’s research and development.  “WaikatoLink provides a wonderful opportunity for robust academic thinking to be translated into commercial opportunities and we are very pleased to be able to open up the opportunity for others to tap into that expertise.”

Hamilton Mayor Bob Simcock says, “We want to encourage more entrepreneurial activity in the Waikato. The incubator will make a significant contribution to job and wealth creation in the region. It will drive innovation that will help to create new types of businesses that will diversify the New Zealand economy. We’re very pleased to be supporting a local initiative that will have an impact not only in the Waikato but around New Zealand.”

Applications are now open for entrepreneurs who wish to join the WaikatoLink Venture Incubator programme.

“We’re keen to hear from any interested parties who have a high growth opportunity they want to develop.  It may be a great idea, a prototype, some research or a fledgling venture”, says Darren Harpur, WaikatoLink’s Venture Manager who is the key contact for the incubator.

A pre incubation process will allow entrepreneurs to get assistance to develop a workable business plan.  Incubator tenants will be chosen based on the strength of the business idea.  The first incubator tenants are expected to be in residence by the end of the year.

Information and contact details for the WaikatoLink Venture Incubator can be found online at http://www.waikatolink.co.nz

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