Wellington will be home to New Zealand's first tech startup accelerator from next year, and the capital's entrepreneurial scene is also set to get a boost with the launch of Victoria University's newest programme.
The one-year Master of Advanced Technology Enterprise, commencing in January 2013, will bring graduate students together to build advanced tech startups in a team environment, and culminate with teams pitching their business plans to an expert panel of investors.
Graduates from science, engineering, design, commerce, law and other disciplines will build their businesses with mentoring and support from academic supervisors. They will also work with some of Wellington’s leading companies including Baldwins Intellectual Property, Creative HQ, Deloitte, startup firms Magritek and Mesynthes, and technology investors Movac and No 8 Ventures.
Kate McGrath, professor of chemistry at Victoria University and director of the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology, instigated the programme and says it's a unique opportunity for students with a creative, entrepreneurial streak to come together and work intensively on a commercial project.
“This is the only programme of its kind in New Zealand where students from a wide range of disciplines can come together and work in an essentially real-world environment, to develop an advanced technology business concept.
“We’re hoping that a new generation of entrepreneurs and innovators will be able to cut their teeth on this programme and that successful companies can be forged through the process."
The first part of the programme includes an intense four-week development course to learn the practical and theoretical frameworks necessary to develop an advanced technology startup, along with collective brainstorming, team development, collaboration and communication skills.
In the next part of the programme, students will undertake individual research within the team environment. Towards completion of the course, each team will present their business plan to an expert panel, with attracting funding being an integral part of the qualification.
Tech commentator and investor Ben Kepes says the concept is similar to an applied MBA but believes it's rare for a New Zealand-based entity to have the specific knowledge to offer significant value to companies as most technology opportunities he encounters have global relevance.