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Kiwis in the running for global startup awards

Innovative Kiwi startups are being offered the chance to spend four days on Necker Island picking the brains of one of the world’s foremost entrepreneurs, Richard Branson.

Two budding entrepreneurs will win the ‘trip of a lifetime’ as part of this year’s Talent Unleashed Awards, where Branson is among a star-studded line-up of judges.

The third annual Talent Unleashed Awards, entries for which close next week, are a global technology awards program for start-ups, entrepreneurs and ‘visionary leaders’. Five winners from Asia Pacific will be selected, along with two from the United Kingdom.

Run by IT recruitment company Talent International, this year’s awards feature a judging panel that includes Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and EY New Zealand Entrepreneur of the Year, Dan Radcliffe, alongside Branson.

Richard Earl, Talent International managing director, says the awards have received plenty of Kiwi entries.

“We’re trying to kickstart a few heroes of the tech sector,” he says.

Last year’s awards saw Kiwi companies – The Mind Lab and Little Lot – win two of the seven categories.

“Locally the start up industry is vitally important to New Zealand’s economy and long-term future,” says Earl.

“Some of New Zealand’s neighbours, such as Hong Kong and Singapore, are running some interesting programs in terms of the support provided to their start up sector.

“One purpose of the awards is to tap into synergies between these communities and share creative ideas across the region.”

Branson, who will be presenting the awards in Sydney in September, says the technology sector will continue to transform and disrupt the global economy for many years to come ‘and importantly can make the world a better place’.

“We must encourage more talented individuals to become bolder and more active and in the process help drive innovation, invention and more efficiency and change across many sectors,” Branson says.

Entrepreneur school and funding for start-ups planned

Earl’s plans for the New Zealand start up arena extend beyond just the awards. He’s keen to set up a Tech Entrepreneur’s School in Sydney, with Kiwis invited to attend the training.

“I think there’s an opportunity for a real hub to be established.

“We have great infrastructure and great academic institutions. John Key and his government have been reasonably progressive on this topic.”

Earl says discussions with Virgin for the launch of the new Tech Entrepreneur’s school are well underway, with a centre expected to be up and running by the middle of next year.

Earl says the two companies are also looking to invest in five to 10 businesses in each region that Talent International operates in – New Zealand, Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong.

“We’ve got a lot of interest for that,” Earl says.

“There’s a lot of conventional teachings they get already – how to read a PNL, how to write a business plan and so forth. But I think there’s a lot missing in the emotional support side.

“Having been there myself and having worked with a lot of people, it’s an emotional roller coaster ride to get there and I think coaching and mentoring in that area is important.”

He says it’s an area Branson and Virgin are also keen on.

“We’re hoping these awards will turn into a feeder system for the entrepreneur school.”

Earl says he gets he gets frustrated with the get rich quick mentality of many investors, and believes a longer term view needs to be taken to investing in startups and helping them reach their full potential.

“A lot of people in this space are a bit speculative and opportunistic. It’s like a casino for some investors. They place a few bets, see which ones come off, collect their chips and disappear again.

“I mentor quite a few people and I get mad at the ones who cash in before they’ve even done anything. Build a proper company first.”

The 2015 Talent Unleashed Awards categories are:

Best Start Up – Community or Social Impact, which recognises start ups which have used technology to solve a social or community issue

Best Start Up – Environmental Impact, which recognises the work of people and organisations confronting difficult environmental problems

Best Digital Consultancy, for SMEs in the digital services and enablement sector

Most Disruptive CIO/CTO, recognising the tech chief who has achieved ‘amazing’ results at their company through a disruptive or transformative approach to their technology strategy

Best Tech IPO/Venture Capital Raising: recognising a game changing technology related business which has achieved a successful listing or capital raising in the past 12 months.

Applications for the awards close on Monday 17 August, and Earl says entering ‘isn’t arduous’.

“We’re encouraging people to have a go.”

Head to to enter.