Eleven companies are still in the running for up to $1 million in business backing from the University of Auckland Business School Entrepreneurs' Challenge.
Among the companies to have made the cut are some recognisable brands, which investment committee chairman and entrepreneur Greg Cross said shows the 5-year-old challenge is maturing into a competition seen as not only a source of funding but a coveted award that is considered a sign of quality and success.
"Some of the companies that have qualified from the scores of entrants this year are well-known brands, such as MoleMap NZ and Rose & Thorne Design," Cross says.
"That indicates this competition is moving beyond the initial establishment stage and into a prized competition, fiercely contested and ranked among the highest business competitions in the country."
The companies will now be put through their paces before a final few will appear before the high-powered investment committee with a Dragon's Den-style presentation, with winners announced in October.
Photography guru James Madelin knows what it's like to be in the hot seat, and the Entrepreneurs' Challenge win in 2011 was a game-changer for his company, Enlight Photo.
The entry process drove Madelin to deal with business issues he'd pushed to one side.
"I often joke that I entered the Entrepreneurs' Challenge because I knew it was going to force me to write a business plan and it's a bit of a joke but there is some truth to that."
Enlight Photo produces several accessories for the serious amateur and professional photographer.
Madelin said it wasn't just the growth funding available through the Entrepreneurs' Challenge that helped, but the connections, advice and fringe benefits that it opened up.
The professional photographer turned gadget guru has taken his high-growth company to its main market, shifting the business last year to a UK base.
For British-born Madelin the return home gave him closer connections to the European and US markets that are the mainstay of his consumer technology business.
"To achieve scale and to really grow your business that means you need to be here."