Four Kiwi businesses with global ambitions are set to gain a huge cash boost through the million-dollar University of Auckland Business School Entrepreneurs' Challenge.

Winners will be announced at an awards event on Monday evening at the University of Auckland Business School.

For the first time, the Entrepreneurs' Challenge is offering to fund a world-class mentor or director for a young up-and-coming business person through its EC-35 contest.

Coffee roaster and bakery Three Beans Coffee and online transcription firm Transcribe Me are both in the running for the EC-35 alongside Vensa Health and Stqry, who are both contenders in the main competition. Also running alongside the Entrepreneurs' Challenge is the CF+Fund which is making up to $150,000 available to match significant investment raised by entrepreneurs through crowd-funding platform Snowball Effect.


Finalist 1 - Vensa Health

A technology remedy for medical reminders is aiming for a healthy boost from a million-dollar business competition.

Vensa Health, which automates text messaging for health appointment reminders, immunisations, cervical screening, smoking cessation, heart checks and diabetes checks, is in the running to grab a share of funding in the University of Auckland Business School Entrepreneurs' Challenge.

Vensa founder Ahmad Jubbawey said while the firm had quite a chunk of the primary healthcare market the additional capital would give growth plans a shot in the arm.

In the pipeline is an upgrade to its existing TXT2Remind service, plus making the leap from a text message-based platform to an app to work on smartphones.

It comes at a time when primary health organisations are tasked with hitting new healthcare targets worth millions of dollars in funding.

"It means that working smarter and using technology for empowering nurses and doctors is going to be a very, very important piece and that's where we have got expertise and IP that has already been proven.

"It's just about taking it to the next level," he said.

Jabbawey is also seeking funding from the EC35, a competition run for the first time this year by the Entrepreneurs' Challenge that aims to give young entrepreneurs support from a board director or specialist adviser.

Jabbawey already has independent directors Denis Snelgar and Helen Cross to turn to for advice but is looking to attract a technology specialist with a track record exporting software to bring another viewpoint to the board table.

"Win or lose we know exactly what we're doing in the next 12 months; we know exactly where we're heading in the next five years. "It's about how quickly do we want to accelerate what we're doing."

Finalist 2 - Aura Information

New Zealand-based super heroes of the tech world, Aura Information Systems, are seeking an investor sidekick in the fight against global cybercrime.

The company has been protecting organisations and companies from dirty tricks played by hackers for more than a decade but is keen to get investment help to boost its campaign to grow the business.

Chief executive and founder Andy Prow said developing its leading edge website security platform has been very expensive with all the funding coming from the consulting side of Aura's business.

"Over the next 12 months we will be seeking external investment as well."

Aura is one of four finalists in the University of Auckland Business School Entrepreneurs' Challenge, a million-dollar business competition, which Prow said is a kick-start down that route.

It has a growing list of US customers for its website security software Red Eye, which scans websites and networks daily on the hunt for security breaches, and Red Shield, which protects vulnerable sites from hackers.

"The key unique differentiator that we have in the market is that we target 100 per cent vulnerability mitigation and that's a big step," said Prow.

Other IT security players offer low level protection that Prow likens to taking a paracetamol. It's fine if your website is a "bit sick" but not ideal if there is risk of a major breach or it's an older website and a proper fix is going to be an upgrade taking 18 months.

So many companies now rely on web technology to manage business critical systems in an environment where masses of online data is proving irresistible to hackers, which, Prow said, has created "technical debt" where security spending and upgrades have fallen behind.

"Every sector has critical systems with security holes that they can't fix."

Finalist 3 - Stqry

Getting lost in transit could become a thing of the past thanks to technology from a Wellington company.

Helping visitors to airports, government agencies and major art and cultural institutions find their way around has propelled along the fortunes of app maker Stqry.

The Stqry app - pronounced "story" the "q" represents the magnifying glass in the company's logo - began two years ago with the aim of revealing further content behind museum, art gallery, zoo and other exhibitions.

Rather than spend money creating and maintaining individual apps, multiple organisations can curate material on Stqry.

"The thing is most of these organisations actually have most of the content," says Stqry co-founder Chris Smith.

"They have video, they have great images, they have audio, they just didn't have a means to distribute it."

Clients range from Auckland Zoo and Motat to the Smithsonian, Philadelphia Museum of Arts and Walt Disney.

Now Stqry has developed the technology that can locate you inside a venue, like GPS does outside, and help guide you to your destination, from a specific painting in an art museum to the right airport gate to make your onward flight connection.

"We want to take it to the world quickly and at scale so that we can compete on a global level with all the other companies in the mapping world, and we're already doing that.

"We're winning bids over some very large mapping companies."

Smith said to help realise the potential of the technology in its global expansion into airports, retail malls and other organisations as well as its foundation art and culture clients the company is seeking some high-level help.

Its a finalist in the University of Auckland Business School Entrepreneurs' Challenge.

Finalist 4 - 90 Seconds

The power of New Zealand technology is bringing together several thousand freelancers, in close to 50 countries, to create more than 4000 videos for hundreds of brands.

The 90 Seconds cloud-based video production service acts as a matchmaker between companies needing video content and the video industry, managing the project from initial brief to the final finished frame through its technology platform and customer support service.

Founder Tim Norton said the demand for video content is going through the roof with most brands planning to spend more on video in the next year.

He said the message from brands is "we want a consistent service; we want it to be superfast; we want consistent pricing; we want you to be able to deliver multi-locations".

Norton said the system of companies directly engaging several production companies is fine if you're only knocking out a couple of videos but with some brands looking to produce dozens of videos it becomes a logistical nightmare.

Norton said he is also a fan of the distributed workforce, with freelancers working across a number of clients.

"I think it's the future.

"It's becoming hard to create companies where you have large amounts of fulltime jobs."

90 Seconds has offices in Auckland and London, with operations opened up this year in Tokyo, Singapore and Sydney, but Norton has his sights set on branches around the world.

After four years in business, over which time a high level of automation has been built into the platform, Norton said the timing is right to take on some additional investment.

He has turned to the University of Auckland Business School Entrepreneurs' Challenge, which offers up to $1 million in business funding and support, to provide the "really smart capital that can bring us reach".

It's not just his own business he wants to grow.

Norton said there is a great opportunity for New Zealand businesses to sell while they sleep using video.

"We can actually transport our people and our thinking and our proposition and our pitches to everywhere in the world through video."