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Blackbird Ventures’ Samantha Wong talks what it takes for a company to be investment ready ahead of NZ Startup Bootcamp

Get ready: one of New Zealand’s only 48-hour start-up bootcamps is back for another year. NZ Startup Bootcamp is taking place in March 2020 and will feature 20 teams and 25 mentors coming together in one fast-paced weekend to develop some brilliant business ideas. We have a chat to one of the judges, Blackbird Ventures founder and partner Samantha Wong, about the importance of start-up bootcamps to the business ecosystem.

NZ Startup Bootcamp is happening again in 2020 and will be taking place from 27 until 29 March.

The action-packed weekend gives participants the chance to test their entrepreneurial qualities, validate their business ideas and get feedback and exposure on a start-up they’re building from a cross-section of business legends and talented mentors.

Judges confirmed for the event include Blackbird Ventures founder and partner Samantha Wong, CEO and founder at Valocity Global and Data Insight Carmen Vicelich and Idealog founder and head of entrepreneurship at AUT University, Martin Bell.

Alongside Wintec, the event’s other key partners, ASB and Gallagher, have jumped on board to sponsor the two categories – Best Startup and Best New Idea – which both have cash prizes of $10,000 for the winning teams.

Over the weekend, the judges will select the top six teams to pitch their business ideas to a crowd of 300 or more, all in the hopes that they’ll get their hands $10,000 to supercharge their business idea.

Read about one of the 2019 NZ Startup Bootcamp’s winners, Chameleon, here.

Blackbird Venture’s Samantha Wong says start-up weekends are immensely important to develop the business ecosystem, so she tries to get involved with them where ever she can.

“It’s so hard to form a team and to know ahead of time you can work together on something and have shared interests and values and are equally committed to the pressure cooker of start-up life,” Wong says.

“These start-up weekends are an amazing way to battle hard in yourself, test ideas rapidly, and meet people who are potential co-founders.”

She says the 48-hour format is especially effective at testing everyone’s capabilities and resilience.

“Start-ups aren’t a clock in clock out thing. When you’re trying to get a start-up off the ground, it’s pretty intense days and nights and really, at the end of those long stretches, you see how people perform under pressure, what their resourcefulness is, and how a team dynamic works under stress. That 48 hour weekend duration is pretty good for testing that in a team.”

Blackbird Ventures is an Australian venture capital firm that recently opened up an Auckland office due to the high calibre of New Zealand companies they have been funding.

She says the people they look to invest in that she’ll be keeping an eye out for at NZ Startup Bootcamp are those with the “wild hearts”.

“We look for the crazy dreamers who think really big and aren’t afraid to look beyond what might seem weird or too hard on the surface. You see that in companies like Rocket Lab, Soul Machines, Lanzatech and Sunfed. We’re excited to meet the founders following in their footsteps.

“We also look for companies that are attacking global markets from the very beginning.”

In terms of industries or problems being solved, she says she’s looking for mission-led businesses that will have a positive impact on the world.

“That leads itself to sustainability, healthcare and wellness, productivity and the future of work,” Wong says. “Beyond those, the best founders teach you about problems you haven’t considered yet. We try not to be too prescriptive around markets or problems and let the best founders lead us to the ones that need solving.”

Her advice to contestants when putting a team together is to think about diversity.

“Don’t just go for people you feel comfortable with because they’re like you – you’re missing an opportunity to build out a broader insight and skillset to make a product people want in a short period of time,” Wong says.

In terms of pitching, Wong says the best tip she can give people at NZ Startup Bootcamp is to write three bullet points that you want the judges to take away.

“There’s so much research showing that it doesn’t matter how long you speak for – humans aren’t capable of remembering more than three things. So pick the strongest three points up front and build the whole pitch around that,” she says.

Applications for NZ Startup Bootcamp are open now, so don’t be shy!


27 – 29 March 2019 // The Atrium, Wintec House, Hamilton


Gallagher Best Idea = $10,000 cash prize // ASB Best Startup = $10,000 cash prize

APPLY HERE: www.nzstartupbootcamp.co.nz/apply


Live in the Waikato? If you live in the Waikato applications close 5pm 13 March 2020.

Live outside of the Waikato? To give you enough time to organise travel and accommodation for the weekend, we will close applications for those that live outside of the Waikato at 5pm Feb 24th 2020.

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