How to next level your start-up overnight: Win BNZ's Start-up Alley


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The darkened auditorium of Wellington’s St James theatre is an unusual place to start the journey of growth from start-up to success.

But that’s how it happened for start-ups Banqer and Ravebuild, the winners of BNZ’s Start-up Alley at Webstock 2015.

Six finalists pitched their digital business ideas in a bid to win the support needed to take their business to the next level.

The judging panel consisted of start-up experts, Lance Wiggs, BNZ Head of Small Business Harry Ferreira, independent music supporter and philanthropist Derek Sivers, and crowdfunding maven Anna Guenther - no doubt a nerve-wracking experience for every person who crossed the stage.

Banqer, an interactive financial literacy tool aligned with the New Zealand Curriculum Levels 2-4 (primary school), was described by the judges as having “amazingly fast traction” and “something governments and educators are trying to solve, you’ve really found something here.”

Rave Build, a system for managing construction and building businesses combines CRM, project management, contractor communications, materials handling, document storage and more, was described by the judges as having “real traction that’s hard to beat,” and praised for it’s “natural virality.”

Harry saw potential in a third finalist, Syngency, which provides a cloud-based system for modeling and talent agencies to manage their models, bookings and day-to-day operations. So he decided to send them to San Fran too. 

Banqer and Rave Build won cash prizes and a trip to Silicon Valley to meet big names in the web industry, along with a place in a programme at the Kiwi Landing Pad co-working space in San Francisco.

About BNZ Start-up Alley

BNZ Start-up Alley is a celebration of New Zealand start-ups. We want to celebrate start-ups seeking to scale rapidly, those doing social enterprise work and those seeking to establish themselves as long-term, sustainable businesses.

The competition is an opportunity to take your start-up to the next level. It might just be the helping hand you need and it’s certainly a promotional opportunity you won’t get anywhere else.

6 Start-ups. 2 winners. There’s 6 opportunities at Webstock ‘15 at the BNZ Start-up Alley. If your start-up is chosen you’ll be able to tell everyone at Webstock what you’re about and pitch your start-up to our panel of expert judges in front of a live audience. The winning start-up will receive $20,000 and more!

The prizes

Each of the 6 finalists received:

  • A $1,000 cash prize.
  • Two free tickets to Webstock ’15.
  • The opportunity to promote themselves to Webstock attendees and speakers.
  • The opportunity to have a 30min meeting with the Start-Up Alley judges.
  • The opportunity to have coaching for their pitch at Start-up Alley via NZTE.
  • The opportunity to be part of the BNZ Start-up Alley event with 3 minutes to pitch themselves to judges. Ten minutes to answer questions. All in front of a live audience.
  • A BNZ “health check” – a chat about their business with one of BNZ’s specialists.

The runner-up received:

  • A $10,000 cash prize.
  • Return trip for 2 to the USA to further their business
  • Programme place at Kiwi Landing Pad
  • Icehouse Programme place (Business Fundamentals 1 day course)
  • Support through NZTE’s Better by Capital Programme to refine their business growth, capital plan and prepare their business for international growth (Up to $5,000 worth of Specialist Engagement)

The winner received:

  • A $20,000 cash prize.
  • Return trip for 2 to the USA to further their business
  • Programme place at Kiwi Landing Pad
  • Icehouse Programme place (Business Fundamentals 1 day course)
  • Support through NZTE’s Better by Capital Programme to refine their business growth, capital plan and prepare their business for international growth (Up to $5,000 worth of Specialist Engagement)

The Finalists

The 6 finalists were:

  • Banqer
  • FactorFree
  • Moxiee
  • Rave Build 
  • Syngency
  • Trailblazer

The Judges

Lance Wiggs
Lance is the founder of Punakaiki Fund, which raised $4.1 million in 2014 to invest in growing internet, technology and design-led companies. Punakaiki Fund’s first four investments in April 2014 included two former Webstock Start-up Alley finalists, Timely (who won in 2013) and InfluxHQ (a 2014 finalist), along with Wellington’s own Mindscape and Auckland’s Vibe Communications. We suspect, and Lance confirms, that there will be more Start-up Alley related announcements as they are in the middle of investing their latest rounds of fund raising.

Lance is one of the four external NZTE Better by Capital practitioners, helping over 35 companies (including one Start-up Alley graduate) so far become more investable through Challenge Workshops. He is a co-founder of My Tours and an investor in and director of Lingopal, 200Square, Pocketsmith, My Tours, and Define Instruments, amongst others. He tried to put something humorous here.

Derek Sivers
Originally a professional musician and circus clown, Derek Sivers created CD Baby in 1998.

It became the largest seller of independent music online, with $100M in sales for 150,000 musicians.

In 2008, Derek sold CD Baby for $22M, giving the proceeds to a charitable trust for music education.

Anna Guenther
Anna Guenther is the co-founder and Chief Bubble Blower of PledgeMe, New Zealand’s first crowdfunding platform. Since launching 3 years ago, over 740 creative, community and entrepreneurial projects have raised almost $3.5million through PledgeMe.

Anna has also worked for the New Zealand Government, MIT and Harvard, and completed her Masters in Entrepreneurship with a focus on crowdfunding.

Harry Ferreira
Harry is the Head of Small Business at the Bank of New Zealand. He has held the reins as BNZ Small Business has won the Canstar Award for Best Small Business Bank in New Zealand for the last three years running. Outside of BNZ he has started and run successful business of his own in both South Africa and New Zealand.

And the MC for the evening

Nat Torkington
Nat ran the first web server in New Zealand, wrote a bestselling programming book, chaired the biggest open source programming conference in North America, and was a trend spotter for O’Reilly Media. He returned to New Zealand in 2005 and started Kiwi Foo Camp, a gathering of influential New Zealanders. He is currently Head of Partnerships for Hapara, an education startup based in Palo Alto and Auckland. Somewhere in there, he finds time to play bluegrass banjo.