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Entrepreneurship is a mind-set, not an activity

March 5, 2014 / 0 Comments / 126 /
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Link to the online pdf version here: http://ebooks.auckland.ac.nz/2013-business-school-2013-annual-report-for-donors-and-partners/#/22/

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Talk with any corporate sponsor these days and uppermost in their mind is how to explain the ROI on their annual marketing spend to the board. So, being brave and supporting an initiative such as the Spark Entrepreneurship Challenge that has had an ROI measured in decades is always going to be a hard call. However, fronting up with a business plan to directors to justify sponsorship is a bit easier when you have results like these to sell.
In the past decade, students and faculty at the University of Auckland who have been through Spark, the entrepreneurial student-led competition, have delivered more than 100 new ventures to New Zealand’s economy which between them have:

  •  Secured NZD143million in funding
  •  Sold new products into 30 countries
  •  Created more than 300 new jobs

“When we started Spark ten years ago we had dreams, and a vision that our programmes would help set New Zealand on a path to prosperity by transforming the nation into a knowledge-based economy, by helping create the new high value adding companies and the new breed of graduate that such an economy requires. They are innovative, entrepreneurial, business savvy, and globally connected,” says Geoff Whitcher, Director of the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “We are now in a position
where New Zealand companies nurtured by Spark are starting to get traction on the world stage, forming powerful relationships with leading global businesses – they are succeeding, making money, creating value-add products and putting New Zealand on the map. It’s very exciting.”

One of Spark’s inaugural finalists and runner-up Fady Mishriki is a product of the entrepreneurial ecosystem. PowerbyProxi, the company Fady co-founded, is a ground-breaking technology company commanding the attention of some of the world’s consumer electronic giants. Originally designing wireless power solutions for wet and dirty industrial environments where traditional cables and connectors are difficult or dangerous, the company has developed wireless charging for consumer devices including smartphones, tablets and television remotes. In September 2013, PowerbyProxi secured NZD4 million in funding from Samsung Ventures Investment Corporation, the South Korean technology company’s venture capital arm, and announced a strategic partnership with Samsung Electro-Mechanics, a maker of integrated components for electronic devices sold by global brands. The deals followed a NZD5 million investment by New York-listed TR Connectivity and Wellington-based investment fund Movac.

Spark is proud of the fact that it is still working with long-term believers and supporters, UniServices and New Zealand Trade and Enterprise which have been with Spark since the very beginning. The more recent additions to the sponsor stable include ANZ, Fonterra, Return on Science, EY and Hudson Gavin Martin. Each brings their skills and financial support to a vital aspect of the Business School’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Lion and Delegat’s provide product support for the many events that Spark hosts during the year.

“Spark was, and still is, a big idea,” says jon Hooper, Director of EY. “We agree with the Business School, that you don’t change an economy by doing the same things only faster. We need to think differently, and any transformational change like this stems from risk taking and developing a culture of creativity. It’s more than the no.8 wire mentality. That was about ‘making do’, this is about creating real value at the higher end of the market.”

Annette and Neal Plowman, who through the Hutton Wilson Charitable Trust supported the inaugural Chair in Entrepreneurship, have that long-term vision and appreciate that developing an entrepreneurial mind-set and the required entrepreneurial ecosystem takes time. This has been invaluable; their belief in the ecosystem has given the school the strength and scope to persevere.

“This is a race without end, where progress is measured in decades,” says Geoff, “We have learnt from the best in class, and they have shown us the time and commitment it takes to get established – Silicon Valley has been seven decades in the making, Boston six decades, and Cambridge in the UK has taken five decades. We have just celebrated our first decade birthday, and our colleagues from overseas think we can be enormously proud of our progress.”

“We are ambitious for New Zealand. People and ecosystems take time to evolve and develop and we are still at the toddler phase but already the results are tangible and our Spark alumni are connecting New Zealand to new markets and international innovation hotspots. We have learnt we need to be marathon runners, this is not a sprint.”

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