The clock is ticking for companies interested in grabbing a slice of $1 million in business funding.

Companies have until the end of today to file an initial application for the University of Auckland Business School Entrepreneurs' Challenge.

On offer is $1 million in funding, available to one or more companies, business support and mentoring from business leaders.

Now in its second year, the Entrepreneurs' Challenge - funded by a $3 million endowment from expatriate businessman Charles Bidwill - aims to boost New Zealand companies set on becoming a local or international success story.

One of three companies that last year shared the $1 million spoils, Outpost Central, said the Entrepreneurs Challenge had helped speed up the execution of its business plan.

Outpost Central co-founder James Riddell said growth up until that point had been organic but having the extra cash meant bringing forward expansion plans.

Co-founder and Riddell's university mate Jedd Forbes is to head to Australia to establish a new branch office.

Three quarters of business comes from the Australian market but Riddell and Forbes are casting the net wider to increase sales for the company's water metering technology, including Africa, North America and Europe.

The company's cornerstone product, a device which attaches to water meters, sending real-time information over the mobile phone network to a website, is well suited to Africa where mobile networks dominate telecommunications infrastructure.

The company is running pilots involving 30 to 50 devices - not big, Riddell admits, but a good-sized trial for the new markets. The company is partly relying on agents in each of its overseas markets to establish deals, combined with Riddell and Forbes travelling several times a month.

Outpost Central intends to add a support office in another time zone in addition to the Australian expansion.

"We do service them through those local partnerships and through a lot of flights but that's no way to dominate a market."

Growth has not just been driven by overseas expansion.

Regulations introduced at the beginning of the month by Environment Minister Nick Smith will require water takes of more than 20 litres a second to be metered by 2012, water takes of more than 10 litres a second to be metered by 2014 and water takes of more than 5 litres a second to be metered within six years by 2016.

Five litres a second is the combined water usage of 250 households.

Although the low-cost loan has been the main benefit of the challenge, Outpost Central has also tapped into the university's student talent.

Four students in the final year of degrees are working on a project with the company.

Regular meetings with the company's mentors has seen the introduction of stricter reporting requirements, said Riddell. "We now have to report externally and that's helped us with our processes."