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Reaching great heights: immigrant businesses taking part in the Zino New Kiwis Challenge

We all know how world-changing the likes of Google’s Sergey Brin, American fashion designer Liz Claiborne, and even Elon Musk have been. Similarly, we’re also mostly familiar with the fact that these people are all immigrants.

The folks at Zino know this too, which is one reason why the New Kiwis Challenge, a competition for New Zealand start-up companies with immigrant entrepreneurs and the potential to take on global markets, was launched earlier this year, and now the competition has whittled down its dozens of entries to just 10.

The ten companies will receive two months of mentoring and support as they hone pitches to vie for a prize package that includes trips to the innovation centres in China, opportunities to participate in offshore incubation, support from Alibaba Cloud, Xero and Uniservices, and – most importantly – the opportunity to pitch for investment from Zino and other early-stage investment groups in New Zealand. And there’s a history of success, as last year’s New Kiwis Challenge winner, Enring, received US$2.5 million in investment from Zino.

The 10 finalists from this year’s crop will be further whittled down to five, then to three, and then culminating in an event on 30 August where they’ll pitch to an audience of around 150 potential investors and advisors.

Debra Hall, chair of Zino Innovation Hub which runs the Challenge, says part of the reason for running the competition is starting a business is hard, and even harder for those who are new to Aotearoa.

“As investors in start-up companies, we regularly see talent being wasted because new migrants simply don’t have the connections, the access to capital and sometimes even the language to navigate the early stage of growing a business.”

She adds that investing in such businesses as those in the Challenge can “create new value” for New Zealand.

“We’re very much looking forward to finding the next Enring. All of this year’s companies to achieve their potential. It’s all about them having the ambition, the belief that they can succeed – and then helping them find the capital, the connections and the support to get them there. Our list of exciting challengers shows that there is indeed no limit to the innovation and ideas growing in New Zealand, and the ambitions to take them to the world.”


– Avice: Wearable tech to monitor muscle health, providing real-time feedback during weight training exercises.

– Veepa: Virtual reality tool measuring employees’ attitudes and behaviours to workplace hazards, reshaping their behaviours as it tests.

– Vdot: Integrated e-commerce platform, with offline/in-store capabilities as well, including point-of-sale machines.

– Geo AR Games: Getting kids off the couch and physically active through augmented reality games – educational AR gaming.

– GoGo Express: Logistics/delivery service – the largest online delivery platform in Auckland’s Chinese market.

– Manuka Emporium: Highly branded, small batch, single source manuka honey, or “honey sold like malt whisky.”

– Swibo: Gamification of rehabilitation/physiotherapy exercises to increase compliance and track progress through recovery.

– Ultrade: Global B2B trading platform, connecting traders together to trade with each other more efficiently.

– Wukong School: Online Chinese language tutoring for kids of immigrant parents who want their children to learn Chinese.

– You Just Go: Personalised international travel planning through online app and network of fellow travellers.



10: companies selected for the next round

16: countries represented in the founder teams

24: number of mentor volunteers

42: companies that entered

2018 Zino New Kiwis Challenge – The Prize Package:

All entrants receive:

– The opportunity to put forward their business to Zino Ventures as part of the application process.
– A one-hour feedback / advisory session with a Zino Mentor / Adviser to discuss their business challenges and opportunities

Top 10 entrants receive additional benefits:

– One month’s mentoring from a Zino Mentor / Adviser, and support from a Zino intern.
– Support to prepare their pitch document for the judges.
– Exposure as a Top 10 entrant at the Zino Innovation Hub Workshop in July (audience of 60– 80 investors and supporters of early-stage businesses).
– Introduction to a network of investors & market opportunities.

The top 5 semi-finalists also get:

– Specific / focused mentoring in areas of weakness.
– Exposure to a basic due diligence process to support investment-readiness.
– Opportunity to pitch in person at the Zino Innovation Hub Workshop in August, sponsored by Invest Hong Kong. 

The top 3 finalists also receive:

– Sponsorship to join the Zino 2018 China Trip in early November, visiting the entrepreneurial eco-system in Shanghai and Hangzhou, for one founder each.
– Alibaba Cloud Credits to the value of $10,000
– Two free one-on-one sessions with Alibaba Architect workshop on platform design
– Introductions to Alibaba Ecosystem partners in China & SE Asia
– Pitch presentation coaching for finals night.
– Pitch at a gala event to an audience of about 150 investors and supporters, where the winner will be announced.

The winner also receives:

– One additional place on the 2018 China trip, for a co-founder.
– Opportunity to pitch for investment from Zino Ventures Ltd, and its network of early-stage investors.
– Additional Alibaba cloud credits up to a possible value of $50,000 (depending on the company)
 – Three additional sessions with TAlibaba Architect workshops.
– Invitation to visit Alibaba Campus and/or Alibaba Cloud Conference in Hangzhou, China (not including flights and accommodation)
– A seat in Uniservices’ institute in Hangzhou for up to a month and the support of the team in the Institute to explore the market. – Introductions to local government, companies and local Chinese investors.
– Access to Beijing-based incubator partner ICI, a seat at the Beijing-based incubator for up to a month and the support of the ICI team. ICI will provide introductions to local government and companies and local Chinese investors.

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