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Helping Young Guns Through Business Minefield

Media Release
8 September 2003

Helping Young Guns Through Business Minefield

Four of New Zealand’s hottest high growth technology companies are to provide business horsepower for 10 young entrepreneurs in the process of creating and running new businesses.

The connector* programme, developed by the ICEHOUSE (the business accelerator of the University of Auckland), has already attracted Navman, Argent Networks, Esphion and TVD and is on the verge of signing more partner companies.

The companies will mentor the 10 qualifiers of the University’s student-lead entrepreneurship challenge ‘spark*’, introducing them to commercial contacts in industry who can assist them in converting their ideas into viable businesses.

Navman was first off the blocks to partner with connector and its president, Peter Maire, says good ideas should lead to good businesses, but often fall through the cracks because of a lack of commercial know-how.

“Navman jumped at the chance to be involved with helping create tomorrow's young companies, not only because of the lessons we learned through trial and error over the years, but also because co-operating with each other is one of the fastest ways to grow sound businesses,” he says.

“From our association with The University of Auckland over several years, we have been amazed by the awesome spread of talent and bright ideas; unlocking them and creating businesses from them makes sound economic sense.”

Chris Jones of Argent Networks agrees. “Budding entrepreneurs will benefit from industry experience and contacts, while we gain exposure to new ideas and talent within the University. It's a win-win initiative”

According to ICEHOUSE CEO Andy Hamilton, the connector* link between smart business and budding entrepreneurs should provide start-ups with a better chance of success than most.

“Working alongside successful, hard-nosed companies brings these students up sharp against commercial realities and whilst the learning curve might be a big one, they have top quality help that some of their mentor companies may have wished they had. Orion and Peace have also joined forces as supporters to connector*. ”

Hamilton says partner businesses benefit too, through closer relationships with the University and exposure to a range of research ideas and projects. He believes the connector companies will provide energy and inspiration not only for this year’s winners but also encourage the next intake of entrants keen to be associated with high achieving companies.

Greg Cross, of network intelligence supremos Esphion, says this is a new role for the company. “Like many NZ companies, we're very focussed on the day to day work, but being involved in this initiative gives us an opportunity to nurture new businesses ideas through the vulnerable stage.”

Cross says it's a two way win, with Esphion providing the mentoring support that new businesses need, and at the same time developing links with the University.

Andrew Thompson of TVD (a utilities and operations management company) says the altruistic reason that TVD is involved is because the company believes it has information of value that it can pass on to people coming through. “However”, says Thompson, “We also see a huge amount of resource and depth of knowledge within the university which can be commercialised, and this will give us a better understanding of what’s in the University and how we can leverage this to help us at a technical or commercial level.”

He says it has potential to spin knowledge out of the University, for commercial benefit. “We could envisage taking their technology ‘rough diamonds’ and helping to turn them into commercial products.”

- -ends

The ICEHOUSE (The International Centre for Entrepreneurship) was established in 2001 by the University of Auckland Business School, alongside BNZ, Boston Consulting Group, Carter Holt Harvey, Telecom, Chapman Tripp, Deloitte, HP & Microsoft. A Business Accelerator, its sole focus is growing Kiwi companies into successful international companies.

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