Visiting angel investor Rob Adams says the money start-up companies want and need is there for the taking, entrepreneurs just need to know how to get it.
At the launch of the 2011 University of Auckland Business School Entrepreneurs' Challenge, Adams said start-ups could work towards success with a simple formula.
"Find the market problem, make sure that problem is urgent, pervasive, and that people are willing to pay," he said.
However, Adams, who has founded or financed more than 40 companies and raised more than a billion dollars of capital, warned any success would still be based on hard work.
"The next thing is to understand it's a lot of hard work. If entrepreneurship was easy everyone would do it, everyone would be successful and there wouldn't be that wealth potential and economy building potential that people in New Zealand see," he said.
Now in its third year, the Entrepreneurs' Challenge aims to help small-to-medium businesses expand overseas by investing up to $1 million in their operations in the form of a low-interest, three-year loan.
The winnings can be scooped up by one business or shared between up to five.
The Dragon's Den-style challenge was founded with a $3 million endowment from New Zealand expatriate and former member of the Business Roundtable Charles Bidwell.
Winners are selected by a committee that includes Kim Crawford Wines co-founder Erica Crawford and science and technology investor Neville Jordan.
Business School dean Greg Whittred said, three years in, the contest was beginning to make a name for itself.
"Pretty much everyone I speak to from whatever business walk of life seems to know of its existence," Whittred said.
Whittred said there are plans to expand the contest's winnings, but could not reveal who was lined up to foot the new investment.
"We are conscious that there is room to expand the initiative but it does require additional benefactors, like Charles, to come on board. We have had preliminary discussions with some people, but at this stage it's nothing we can announce publicly," he said.
Piako Gourmet Yoghurt, a previous winner, is now stocked at luxury British department store Harrods and has also signed a deal with Fonterra that will put its yoghurt in supermarkets around New Zealand.
Allpress Espresso, which won in 2009, used the money to build a cafe and coffee roastery in East London.
Entries for this year's challenge must be in by July 25.By Hamish Fletcher @hamishfletcher Email Hamish