Forty-eight contestants, eight teams, 15 experienced business mentors, one weekend.
Those were the ingredients of last weekend's Innes 48-hour business startup competition, named after pioneering Hamilton entrepreneur Mary Jane Innes, at which art collective Draw Inc was crowned Most Viable Business overall.
It was a satisfying result after two days of intensive research and development, concept critique, idea interrogation and commercial collaboration from industry icons hosting specialist seminars, providing tailored tutoring and giving informal advice, culminating in a five-minute pitch in a Dragon's Den-style finale.
The Draw Inc team receive six weeks' pre-incubation sessions from SODA Inc, $3500 cash, a one-year company membership to the Waikato Chamber of Commerce and three hours' business strategy mentoring from Bold Horizon.
Judge Neil Richardson said they were looking for viable investment ideas from passionate people, and the creative collective definitely qualified.
Deborah Duffield led a heartfelt pitch promoting philanthropic investment and speculative purchase and or lease of fine art.
“It means we are actually going to make this happen,” she says.
Fellow member Stacey Robertson says it's validation of what they're doing and will empower them to take it much further. "It's day one for a dream come true."
Adds Craig McClure: “Passion is one thing but it’s a flame that starts to burn out. Points like this on the journey act like a catalyst. Watch this space."
Petr Ademek, regional economic development consultant at SODA, said this was the first event of its type in the Waikato and he was keen to maintain the momentum with a bigger and better event in 2013.
“We didn't know whether it would work,” Ademek says. "We know that worldwide these competitions happen ... We felt we could pull it off. But we never expected the level of enthusiasm, participation and quality."
Team Web NV with Waizen.co secured the prize for best use of technology. Team co-leader Elisabeth Soffe, sales and marketing manager at WebSpring, received the award after presenting a service business model offering HR executives and employers a manageable employee engagement industry benchmarking tool.
Awards were also handed out to to team Last Minute Innovations with Boxed Through who won the Most Innovative Team Award, promoting male grooming products via subscription.
Other notable business pitches included live tracking of outdoor advertising engagement, portable café cottages, loyalty card smartphone apps and service-related ideas.
Wise words from the old hats
Seeby Woodhouse, Orcon founder
Woodhouse dropped out of university to start Orcon (a name he made up that sounded techy), registered the company, and created a logo. He then proceeded to buy up other small internet companies - 40 ISPs in 48 months - and grew Orcon into a serious player.
He shared a few gems with the crowd:
· It takes three generations to create sustainable company growth. The first generation merely works hard to get out of poverty, the second generation loses all their parents’ money and the third generation has what it takes to do it the right way.
· Don't be afraid to reinvent your business.
· When you plan for a small business you will build a small business. Set big goals from day one
Matt Currie, from service design consultancy Divergent
· Don't get lost in ideas. Make something. Make a prototype. Words are not everything
· Get customer input. Your idea is only good if it is loved by your customers
· Draw story boards and play. Do not just talk; talking is like walking in circles.
· It may be tempting to go for a hole in one, but one version typically does not get you there
· Generate and explore lots of different ideas - especially the weird ones
· Use an iterative approach to test, refine and keep repeating until you nail it. Or not.
· Don't overuse technology. Technology is not everything. Starting with technology ensures you will be overlooking your customer; it may be technologically superb but if it forgets the user it will not fly
Brett Roberts, Wharf42
· Investors are hard to find. The money is there but convincing the money to jump will not be easy!
· Doing global business from New Zealand is bullshit - if you want to do it well and do it big, you need to jump on the plane and go to markets. You can do a lot here - you can even live here - but the growth is offshore.