From nanotechnology to children's television creators, more than a dozen companies are in the running to receive a major funding boost through the University of Auckland Business School Entrepreneurs' Challenge.

Now in its fourth year, the Entrepreneurs' Challenge awards up to $1 million in funding to companies looking to grow their business.

Investment committee chairman Brian Hannan said it was extremely satisfying to have three out of the 16 short-listed entrants come from outside Auckland.

"This year we made an effort to reach into the regions to assure them that, whilst we are Auckland-based, the business school is a national institution that's within reach of all New Zealanders, particularly entrepreneurs wanting help to go global with their products and services," Hannan said.


The challenge was instigated and seed-funded by ex-pat businessman Charles Bidwill, with the vision of turbo-charging the growth plans of New Zealand companies and fostering links between the university and the business community.

James Riddell, a director of past winner Outpost Central, said the cash injection came at a good time for his company, allowing it to focus on future growth and product development, rather than worry about how to finance it all.

"We needed a bit of growth funding and it was easier than going to the bank and probably much easier than getting another shareholder on as well, and so much more beneficial in terms of the publicity and those extras you get out of it," he said.

The company's core product is water management devices that attach to water meters, sending real-time information over the mobile phone network to an internet-based reporting system, which it sells through business partners.

Even in the current tough business environment, Riddell said the company is in its best shape ever.

"Our partners haven't lost a tender for our product in a while so we feel like we've got a big jump on our competitors."

Riddell, who founded the company with university friend Jedd Forbes, said the past three years have seen Outpost Central double its revenue, push into new markets and diversify the product.

"It's definitely satisfying to feel like we've got a product that is better than anything we've seen in the world," said Riddell.

At the end of the year, Outpost Central and fellow 2009 winners coffee business Allpress Espresso and hot water heating control technology company Senztek, officially finish the three-year tenure of the Entrepreneurs' Challenge with the repayment of the funding under the terms of their loans.

* 1Above - travel drinks.
* Aura Redeye Security - website security.
* Booktrack - e-book soundtracks.
* Career Analysts - human resources software.
* Cossiga - food display equipment.
* Electropar PLP - telecommunications and electricity industry hardware.
* Konnect Net - insurance and health sector technology.
* Manuka Health New Zealand - natural health products.
* MedRecruit - medical recruitment advisers.
* Neat Meat - retail and food service meat suppliers.
* Pacific Rubber - rubber recycler.
* Pack & Company - restaurant, bar and cafe operators.
* Pukeko Pictures - entertainment production house.
* Revolution Fibres - nanofibre manufacturer.
* SIMTICS - web-based e-learning technology.
* Teknique - video technology.