Just as startups pivot to adapt to market needs, Massey University's business innovation centre is doing the same, expanding its ecentreSprint programme to cater to a wider range of entrepreneurs.
The ecentre's previous market validation programme was a three-month course, but programme manager Sabrina Nagel says cost and time were the two most common hurdles for people, and so two new 'elite' tiers are being introduced for those who'd rather dip their toes in before making a major commitment.
Nagel has looked at incubation models overseas in both Germany and San Francisco, and says the restructure provides value while ensuring the programme's long-term sustainability.
The first level ($300 per month) gives aspiring entrepreneurs four hours per week of tutorials and workshops and access to ecentre networks and Massey University expertise either during lunchtimes or after hours.
"A lot of people have a full-time job and can't risk just quitting and concentrating on their idea so they need something quite flexible – a commitment they can make while they work."
The second version ($700 a month) bumps members up to qualify for coaching from programme managers and mentors, and the all-out version (the same as the original offering) is $1,200 a month, where businesses can base themselves full-time at the ecentre and enjoy all its resources.
Nagel says the ecentre wants to have a bigger impact and reach more people. This way, members can join at any time, for as long as they want, and dip in and out, downgrading or upgrading their membership as they like.
"Everyone in the ecosystem is pushing for those high growth companies," she says. "You have to make sure you have lots and lots of seeds planted to support that."
"If people don't necessarily have the ambition to grow a high growth company just yet but want to learn to run their existing business better they can learn that here. They are skills they can continuously apply going forward. If you upskill the people, the chance of them being successful is a lot higher ... rather than just trying to pick winners at an early stage."
To date about 24 people have been through the ecentreSprint programme.
“We really want to have an impact on New Zealand’s innovation ecosystem. Growing the entrepreneur’s capabilities is a lot harder than taking a business opportunity and matching it with experienced people to turn it into a successful business,” says ecentre chief executive Steve Corbett.
“But if we can develop entrepreneurial skills, there will be more benefits for the economy and the individual entrepreneurs.
“As the late Sir Paul Callaghan used to say, ‘In order to grow big trees we have to support the small ones as part of the ecosystem. In order to build high-tech companies, we have to support the grass roots.’ This is exactly where ecentre, a not-for-profit organisation, should sit."
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