Five of the country's most successful business leaders have been named as the final contenders for New Zealand's Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

Ernst & Young today announced the winners in five different categories from 18 shortlisted finalists.

Rod Drury, the founder of Wellington-based accounting software company Xero, took out the Technology category.

Xero has in the past 12 months increased its customer numbers from 100,000 to 193,000, and staff from 260 to 507.


The company's share price has surged from $4.85 a year ago to $16.12 today.

Dairy farmer John Penno was crowned winner in the Products category for the success of Synlait Milk.

Penno said his ambition had always been to make Synlait a global company.

"If you're going to start a business, start something that's going to have global scale. It's not harder to attack an international market than a local market."

Cecilia Robinson, the brains behind My Food Bag and Au Pair Link, beat the competition in the Youth category (under-35).

The 28-year old said she entered the Entrepreneur of the Year Awards because the programme threw a spotlight on the "huge value of entrepreneurship".

"New Zealand needs a million entrepreneurs and more. Only by acknowledging and celebrating those who take calculated risks to pursue their dreams and create jobs and value for the nation will New Zealand further grow to provide for the needs of its peoples," she said.

Ian Kuperus, from Tax Management NZ, won the Services category and Vista Entertainment's Murray Holdaway took out the Master Entrepreneur category, which recognises leaders of well-established businesses.

Awards director Jon Hooper said many of the finalists were running companies which already had global reach.

"They are no longer just New Zealand firms but are focused on being dominant global players. We are seeing businesses that are pushing the limits," Hooper said.

The shortlisted finalists gathered in Auckland earlier this week to meet up and face a judging panel.

Each entrepreneur was assessed based on their entrepreneurial spirit, personal integrity and influence, financial performance, and global impact.

Chief judge Greg Cross said the quality and scale of the businesses owned and run by the 18 finalists was extremely high.

"Overall, the size and scale of the businesses these entrepreneurs are building has gone to the next level in terms of revenue, profitability and the markets they are aspiring to," he said.

The five finalists will face a judging panel on October 16, with the winner announced at a gala dinner in Auckland on October 17.

The winner will travel to Monte Carlo in June next year to compete in the world event.

Ernst and Young started its New Zealand Entrepreneur of the Year programme in 1998 and last year's winner was Sky TV founder Craig Heatley.