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And the finalists for the Entrepreneurs’ Challenge are…..drum roll….a healthy range of New Zealand businesses looking for the capital funding prize to help expand into overseas markets.

Ten companies have been shortlisted to claim a chunk of $1 million in the 2010 challenge run by the University of Auckland Business School. Water management, biotech software, food and fashion are represented in their battle for a portion of funding from a $3 million endowment offered by ex-pat financier Charles Bidwill for the first time last year.

These finalists now have a due diligence process to go through and a presentation to the investment committee next month before the winners are announced in November.

The 2010 finalists are:

  • Mesynthes Ltd. (Wellington) – Regenerative tissue substitute suppliers for reconstructive plastic surgery

  • Symansis (NZ) Ltd. (Timaru and Blenheim) – provide tools to facilitate research in life sciences and biopharmaceutical industries, producing high quality reagents for cell biology, including cell signaling research and cell discovery

  • Piako Gourmet Yoghurt (Auckland) – since starting in Nov 2008, looking to replicate its NZ success across the world “one small factory at a time.”

  • Greentide (Pukekohe) – biological, reliable and sustainable control agents and solutions for the global pesticide market, and is currently building the largest commercial production centre for fungal-based entomopathogens and natural metabolites in the Southern Hemisphere

  • Huffer Direct Ltd. (Auckland) – formed in 1997, known for its board sports inspired fashion with functionality in mind, with “great emphasis, dedication and enthusiasm invested in its wholesale business and its relationships with retailers, distributors and suppliers.”

  • 3i Innovation Ltd (North Shore) – a leading global provider of in-pavement LED lighting solutions, 3i = illumination, induction, intelligence (according to its website)

  • AWT New Zealand Ltd. (Auckland) – provides H2knOwhow (according to its website), with specialist water technology services in monitoring, modeling, network infrastructure, treatment plant design and optimization and environmental engineering

  • Biomatters Ltd. (Auckland) – software creators in computational biology, with technology that converts raw genetic data into meaningful, visual information for researchers

  • Optima Corporation (Auckland) – optimization and simulation software solutions for select global markets, focused on emergency services, airlines and healthcare

  • Unimarket (Auckland) – operating in the ‘cloud’ for eprocurement, provides organisations with the ability to access a wide array of suppliers in the eMarketplace and better manage their purchasing process

In choosing the 10 finalists, “it has been particularly hard to separate the cream from the milk this year,” says Challenge investment committee chairman, and the business school’s executive-in-residence, Brian Hannan. “All the companies selected for the short list have a great story to tell,” he says.

Innovative and fast-growing companies line up for funding prize

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