The Spark $100k Entrepreneurial Challenge is billed as New Zealand’s premier business planning competition. This competition is open to all ventures where at least one of the team is either a staff member or a student of Auckland University. And up for grabs is $100k in cash and kind, which is a bit of a motivator!
The competition is run jointly by the University of Auckland and The ICEHOUSE. This year, close to 100 entries were received, and the 12 finalists were announced at an event at the Auckland Business School on Friday night.
The driving force behind the Spark $100k Challenge is Geoff Whitcher, Commercial Director at the University of Auckland – and a Board member and Trustee of the ICEHOUSE. Unfortunately there is only one Geoff Whitcher, because I have a feeling that if there were 100 of him spread around New Zealand, this country’s budding entrepreneurs would be taking the world by storm. That’s a big comment, but Geoff is one of those guys with seemingly limitless energy for the cause who is constantly connecting people – and inspiring those around him to move and shake a little bit harder.
So back to Spark. Spark is a bootcamp for entrepreneurs that is equal to anything I have seen, and I have spent some time in similar initiatives in Bangkok, San Francisco and Boston over the past few months. The 12 finalists in Spark are given intensive training in the practicalities of bringing a start-up to fruition – and are put in front of some smart folk with battle scars and gems of wisdom.
Out the other end of it, in October, the 12 finalists are put through their paces in a Dragon’s Den style pitching session which decides how the $100k is divvied up. Nerve wracking stuff. I know, as along with Dr Yvette Ahmad I was one of the 12 finalists in 2008 with the BrightMind LABS venture, and we were lucky enough to take the overall runner’s up prize for Spark 2008.
Spark is fantastic for New Zealand. They boast that 35 companies have been formed from the Spark ranks over the past seven years. These companies now employ 160 plus people and sell into 18 countries. That’s worthy of a boast, I would say.
Imagine the difference if we had 100 Spark Challenges operating around New Zealand?
Fraser Hurrell is one of three directors of Elevate CA Limited, Chartered Accountants & Business Advisors in Whangarei, New Zealand.
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