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Spark alumni start-ups shine in entrepreneurship

Media Release
7 August 2008

Spark alumni start-ups shine in entrepreneurship awards

Alumni start-ups from The University of Auckland Business School’s annual entrepreneurship challenge, Spark, won a number of awards on Tuesday evening at the Gen-i New Zealand Incubators Awards in Wellington.

The awards highlighted the growth of New Zealand’s incubation industry, with the winning companies representing everything from robotics and GPS tracking, through to wireless power solutions and mobile banking.

This year’s winners from among Spark alumni are as follows
Start-up of the Year: INRO Technologies Ltd
Innovation of the Year: PowerbyProxi Ltd.

Both start-ups are resident within well-known Auckland incubator and Spark foundation partner, The ICEHOUSE. The University of Auckland Business School is a founding partner of The ICEHOUSE.

Three other start-ups from The ICEHOUSE won the following awards:
Start-up Entrepreneur of the Year: eBUS’s Carmine Masiello
Hall of Fame Award: Joint winners Mobile Mentor and M-Com.

At the awards, Gen-i Australasia CEO Chris Quin said: “The range of exciting companies showcased demonstrates the pivotal role of incubators in providing the right environment for start-ups to succeed.”

In presenting the awards, Minister for Economic Development Pete Hodgson said:
“Business incubation can help diversify economies, commercialise technologies, create jobs and build wealth. I’m therefore confident that the businesses represented at these awards can provide New Zealand with a source of innovative, high growth companies for the future.”

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Separate from the awards, other Spark alumni are also making valuable contributions to New Zealand's start-up triumphs. These include NEXX and Anomymouse.

NEXX, a group of University of Auckland students who won the 2007 Spark $40K Challenge with an idea which was basically "an eBay for Loans". Twelve months later, they have just closed their first Angel fundraising round (through the ICEANGELS) for a significant amount.

Anonymouse, a confidential job-seeking service, was the Spark Challenge winner in 2006. Two years on, it has just been bought out by QJumpers.

Spark is proud to have supported all of these teams, as they illustrate how University of Auckland staff and students can start their own company using the excellent entrepreneurial eco-system infrastructure within the University. Opportunities still exist to get involved with Spark for 2008 and over $20,000 of prizes are still available. See the website below for more information.

Linden Tierney, Spark Administrator
Ph: 09 373 7599 ext. 82042 or 0210 643 627

Further information for editors:

Start-up of the Year: INRO Technologies uses robotics to automate customers’ existing vehicles, autonomously moving products within warehouses and cold stores. In the past year, the company has grown from volunteer staff to over 20 full-time staff and has received one of the largest angel investments ever in New Zealand. INRO Technologies is a resident of The ICEHOUSE in Auckland.

Innovation of the Year:
A spin-out from the University of Auckland, PowerbyProxi is a pioneer in the design and development of turnkey wireless power solutions, which eliminate the need for a physical or frictional power connection to electronic devices. Their first product, Proxi-Ring, a completely contactless slip ring, is ready to be launched after a 12-month development effort with John Deere. PowerbyProxi is based in The ICEHOUSE incubator in Auckland.

Start-up Entrepreneur of the Year:
Carmine Masiello helped turn eBUS into a success story. eBUS developed cutting-edge software that allows production teams, creatives and their clients to access and work on the same piece of video footage at the same time no matter where in the world they are. The original TradeMe angel investment company Movac, and TradeMe founder Sam Morgan, have recently invested $1.25 million in eBUS, which has over 50% market share in New Zealand and promising signs from markets in South East Asia and India.

Hall of Fame Award: This award was shared by ICEHOUSE graduates Mobile Mentor and M-Com.

Mobile Mentor, started just four years ago, set out to help New Zealanders unlock the potential of their increasingly complex mobile phones. With 140 staff worldwide Mobile Mentor has now trained over 25,000 customers in New Zealand, has 5-year exclusive contracts in Australia and Brazil, and is expanding into China, USA, UK and Europe.

M-Com is the leading provider of mobile banking solutions in the Asia Pacific region. With Fortune 500 customers such as ANZ and Westpac, M-Com enables retail banks to reach consumers through their device of choice – the mobile phone. Securing one of the top US banks, Washington Mutual, as a client has led to the establishment of a US office.


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