Plans to expand Junior Venture Partners programme by tapping into other universities around country.

The man at the helm of the country's largest angel investor network says an overwhelming response to the organisation's annual intern take led him to wonder if there was a better way of nurturing the influx of aspiring entrepreneurs.

Ice Angels chief executive Robbie Paul, 29, said he was overwhelmed by the quality and quantity of the response.

"I couldn't quite figure out how to leverage all the talent that showed up, obviously I can't hire all of them."

The idea led him to found the Junior Venture Partners (JVP), a group of students who dedicate spare time to conducting due diligence on start-ups, also gaining rare access to business leaders, such as American entrepreneur Craig Elliot.


"Fundamentally, the Ice Angels is a network of incredibly experienced, but incredibly busy people and so if you can pair them up with incredibly brilliant people who have some time to give, it's a pretty powerful combination," Paul said.

The first intake was a hand-picked group of seven University of Auckland students (which the Ice House has a working relationship with) who were selected in April from 50 applicants vying to join the internship programme, Paul said.

He too joined the angels as an intern (in 2008) and the network will continue to take on two interns a year alongside the JVP programme, he said.

Managing the network of members, $40 million in investments across 80 companies, and 50 events a year required immense administrative grunt and the interns provided an essential support role, he said.

"Clearly the types of interns we employ are mad about start-ups, so they bend over backwards for opportunities to support our start-ups, engage with investors, and learn from our international VIPs."

The JVP members were not chosen on their academic prowess, but on their passion and enthusiasm, Paul said.

"There's probably plenty of people who could better compete to get a job at a law firm, but this is a different approach - they're sort of guinea pigs - we're looking for people who can work well in that environment."

There are plans to expand the programme beyond Auckland and tap into universities across the country, he said.


One of the Junior Venture Partners, Sam Jaffe, 22, is a fourth-year bachelor of arts and bachelor of commerce student, who said he heard about the internship programme through a previous intern, Jamie Beaton - who went on to found education consultancy Crimson Consulting. Beaton told him that his internship was engaging and "opened up a lot of doors", he said.

Jaffe said through the programme he had attended investment conferences and conducted due diligence for Angel investment deals.

"At the moment we're doing due diligence on a company as a collective, but in the future we hope to be doing it as individuals."

He said one of the most valuable aspects to the programme was the access it gave to major players in the New Zealand investment scene.

The partners had also established a competition, the University Start-Up Challenge, which gives university students, or recent graduates, the opportunity to present their "rocket pitch" to the New Zealand Angel Investment Showcase this year.

At last year's showcase, 10 of the 14 start-ups present secured a total of $5.2 million in funding.

Paul said he was also establishing a New Zealand version of the Dorm Room Fund - an American initiative which works as a student-run venture firm that invests in student-run companies.

"The dilemma in the venture world is that to raise the [funds] you have to have had a fund," he said.

"I'm sort of back-dooring that process by saying, 'I will and I'll bring along some others', and seed $50,000 to $100,000 to enable the Junior Venture Partners to invest that across three of the showcased companies.

"The start-up side of the ecosystem has been very well serviced in universities, but aside from the one or two ... who manage to work with Ice Angels each year, the opportunity is just not there for young students to get exposure to the investment side of the start-up world."