$1m at stake as five firms face dragons

By Helen Twose

Competing companies making their pitch to investors urged to be focused and bold.

Former investment banker turned dog food manufacturer Calvin Smith agrees the network created among past winners has been beneficial to his business, K9 Natural. Photo / Natalie Slade
Former investment banker turned dog food manufacturer Calvin Smith agrees the network created among past winners has been beneficial to his business, K9 Natural. Photo / Natalie Slade

Five companies are set to put their business plans to the acid test in front of a panel of shrewd business investors.

It's the final stage in the University of Auckland Business School Entrepreneurs Challenge, with a Dragons' Den-style pitch standing between the selected firms and the $1 million business funding prize pool.

A range of companies intent on boosting their business success have made the final cut, including lingerie brand Rose & Thorne and stock feed producer Eco Stock.

Brett Ammundsen, chief executive of past challenge winner Biomatters, says his advice to those lining up before the investment committee in this year's round is to be focused and bold in their ambitions.

"And to make use of the network of like-minded entrepreneurs among previous challenge winners for moral support and sharing of experience and 'war stories'," he adds.

Biomatters, one of 13 companies to have benefited from the funding and support since the competition began in 2009, has channelled its cash injection towards making inroads into the American market.

The technology firm, which creates software to help students and scientists manage data from biological research, now has a US subsidiary company with four fulltime staff focused on key customers and partnerships.

"Having a permanent presence in the US has enabled deepening and strengthening of important business relationships and has opened up opportunities that would not have been otherwise accessible," Ammundsen says.

Former investment banker turned dog food manufacturer Calvin Smith agrees the network created among past winners has been beneficial to his business, K9 Natural.

K9 Natural was a challenge winner in 2011 and since then has focused on growing the international market for its unique dog food blend based on the natural diet of wolves. Links in Australia with Pet Barn, the parent of Animates, has been a boost.

"At present Japan is our fastest growing international market," Smith says. "The Japanese embrace quality in food more than any other culture, so it's a natural fit."

Smith's tip for those facing the investment committee before the winners are announced in late October: "If you have a unique offering and a strong business case, just back yourself".

Entrepreneurs Challenge finalists
*Eco Stock: Produce high-quality stock food from food manufacturing waste.
*MoleMap NZ: Imaging and teledermatology healthcare solutions for early and accurate detection of skin cancers.
*OOB Organic: Grow, pack and distribute organic berries and manufacture organic icecream.
*Rose & Thorne Design: Lingerie brand producing ultra-comfortable everyday lingerie at affordable prices.
*World Wide Access: Combine exporting, logistics, e-commerce, and advanced software engineering and automated operations to sell New Zealand products to overseas shoppers.

- NZ Herald

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