Mohammed Hikmet, founder of intelligent transport systems developer and manufacturer, HMI Technologies, has been named EY Entrepreneur Of The Year for 2019.
Hikmet will now represent New Zealand at EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year competition in Monaco next June, with winners from more than 50 countries for the top award.
Hikmit was chosen from a field of five category winners and received his award at a gala banquet in Auckland this evening.
Along with his brother Ahmed, Hikmet started HMI Technologies after migrating to New Zealand with his family after the 1991 Gulf War.
After starting a computer repair business, Mohammed identified an opportunity in the manufacture of electronic road signs. Following that, he saw an opportunity in the field of autonomous vehicles, after he quickly recognised that these types of vehicles will reduce the need for road signs and visual communication with drivers.
Competing for the award were:
• Grant Taylor (Rascal and Friends NZ Limited), Products
• Murray Holdaway (Vista Group), Master
Brianne West (Ethique), Young
• Mohammed Hikmet (HMI Technologies), Technology and Emerging Industries
• Gavin Yang (Trademonster Ltd), Services
• Judging panel chairman Bill Day, the founder of Seaworks and the New Zealand • Entrepreneur of the Year winner in 2000, says Mr Hikmet personifies the grit and determination required to turn an idea into reality.
"Mohammed left war-torn Iraq in the early 1990s for the safety of New Zealand. As a result, he had to start from scratch. He had to re-sit the same tertiary education that he had already completed in Iraq while delivering pizzas to support his family," Day said.
"Determined to give back to the country that had given him a home, he was determined to use his talents to export the best of New Zealand to the world.
Awards director and EY partner Darren White said each finalist should be praised and they all gave the judges something to think about.
"The beauty of EOY isn't just the people. It's their stories – the two are inextricably linked and highlight the colourful and often bumpy journey they have been on to get here today," White said.
"Aotearoa is fertile ground for budding and established entrepreneurs. Coupled with diverse investment opportunities in the likes of family capital and angel investment, this creates the perfect environment to establish, grow and pivot."
Andy Hamilton from The Icehouse was announced as the ASB Exceptional Services to Entrepreneurship Award, while the Barfoot & Thompson families were announced as winners of the Family Business Award for Excellence.
ASB executive general manager business banking Nigel Annett said the company is proud to sponsor an event that recognises the country's most entrepreneurial and innovative Kiwis.
"Every year we hear amazing stories from business leaders across the country who are doing incredible things on both a New Zealand and international stage, and this year is no exception," said Annett.
"The talent pool that has come out of the Entrepreneur of the Year awards continues to inspire us, and we're particularly excited to congratulate Andy Hamilton as the winner of the ASB Exceptional Services to Entrepreneurship award.
"Over his 18 years at The Icehouse, Andy has helped shape the path of hundreds of New Zealand businesses, many of which are now familiar names in the business community. Andy's work in this space and his dedication to supporting the country's entrepreneurs has been invaluable. We couldn't think of a more deserving recipient for this award."