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Student-led investment committee Momentum is moving New Zealand forward

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An unconventional approach to supporting early-stage projects developed at the University of Auckland has expanded nationwide, and is turning heads internationally.

Momentum is an investment committee programme which provides access to world-class advice, connections, and investment opportunities to students and their start-ups across New Zealand. Its services include providing multi-disciplinary feedback and advice, connecting technology and project teams with strategic management, top-tier advice and funding support. Its point of difference is that it is thought to be the only national student-administered investment committee of its kind.

Having peers in investment advisory positions makes the experience of starting out as an entrepreneur less intimidating for students and researchers. For those who are new to entrepreneurship, experiences such as pitching to a panel can be daunting. However, presenting to the Momentum Investment Committee starts and ends with encouragement and support. The Investment Committees provide participants with constructive feedback and guidance on how they should move forward. “Project teams come to committees with what they believe they want and leave with what they actually need,” explains Return On Science Programme and Commercialisation Director, Graham Scown.

Momentum was founded by the University of Auckland’s research commercialisation company UniServices as a sister programme to Return On Science, its national investment committee programme supporting research institutions and businesses. In building Momentum, a strong foundation has been created through partnering with experienced and well-resourced leaders in commercialisation. Each region’s Momentum Investment Committee consists of representatives from local universities as well as other organisations such as KiwiNet. Momentum currently operates in Auckland, Wellington, Canterbury, Otago and is about to open in the Manawatū.

In the three years that Momentum has been running, it has supported the development of hundreds of students. Return on Science Programme Analyst Vivek Kumar points to the example of Griffin Lilley. “Griffin had an idea in the shower of helping micro-influencers work with streetwear businesses in the Wellington region. He had very little documentation and just talked to the Investment Committee about his idea and how he was planning to move forward with it. The Investment Committee was impressed with his passion. They helped him on his journey by connecting him with a few digital marketing agencies in LA and New York. He is now the Growth Director with JUV Consulting in New York”.

Momentum has supported many of the students who have honed their venture ideas through involvement with the University of Auckland’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Luxor Astronautics was first developed through its Velocity programme and then its VentureLab incubator. Vivek explains “Fia was a first year student at the University of Auckland. She had an idea of powering satellites in space so they last many times longer. With Momentum’s support, the project has received support and they are on their way to building their first prototype right here in New Zealand. The Auckland Momentum Investment Committee also put her in touch with engineers from around the world. She and her team are now working closely with the New Zealand Space Agency on building entrepreneurs for the next frontier”.

The entrepreneurial activity supported by venture development programmes such as Velocity and Momentum is a core reason that the University of Auckland was named 2020 Entrepreneurial University of the Year. This is ahead of contenders such as the modelled Tel Aviv University. Vivek says “Just like Israel and the United States have their famous models, we believe that Momentum can be New Zealand’s model for other countries to learn from. The level of responsibility and autonomy given to students on the committees seems to be unique. We  believe today’s students have the passion and urgency to innovate in ways that will positively impact on their own and future generations. Although we make no secret of how it works and other places have shown interest, we haven’t seen the Momentum model and its values anywhere else in the world – a testament to the number 8 wire approach New Zealand takes to innovation and entrepreneurship.”

Momentum welcomes your interest. Find out more about meeting with the committee and other ways to get involved at www.momentum.ac.nz

James Hutchinson
James Hutchinson

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An unconventional approach to supporting early-stage projects developed at the University of Auckland has expanded nationwide, and is turning heads internationally.

Momentum is an investment committee programme which provides access to world-class advice, connections, and investment opportunities to students and their start-ups across New Zealand. Its services include providing multi-disciplinary feedback and advice, connecting technology and project teams with strategic management, top-tier advice and funding support. Its point of difference is that it is thought to be the only national student-administered investment committee of its kind.

Having peers in investment advisory positions makes the experience of starting out as an entrepreneur less intimidating for students and researchers. For those who are new to entrepreneurship, experiences such as pitching to a panel can be daunting. However, presenting to the Momentum Investment Committee starts and ends with encouragement and support. The Investment Committees provide participants with constructive feedback and guidance on how they should move forward. “Project teams come to committees with what they believe they want and leave with what they actually need,” explains Return On Science Programme and Commercialisation Director, Graham Scown.

Momentum was founded by the University of Auckland’s research commercialisation company UniServices as a sister programme to Return On Science, its national investment committee programme supporting research institutions and businesses. In building Momentum, a strong foundation has been created through partnering with experienced and well-resourced leaders in commercialisation. Each region’s Momentum Investment Committee consists of representatives from local universities as well as other organisations such as KiwiNet. Momentum currently operates in Auckland, Wellington, Canterbury, Otago and is about to open in the Manawatū.

In the three years that Momentum has been running, it has supported the development of hundreds of students. Return on Science Programme Analyst Vivek Kumar points to the example of Griffin Lilley. “Griffin had an idea in the shower of helping micro-influencers work with streetwear businesses in the Wellington region. He had very little documentation and just talked to the Investment Committee about his idea and how he was planning to move forward with it. The Investment Committee was impressed with his passion. They helped him on his journey by connecting him with a few digital marketing agencies in LA and New York. He is now the Growth Director with JUV Consulting in New York”.

Momentum has supported many of the students who have honed their venture ideas through involvement with the University of Auckland’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Luxor Astronautics was first developed through its Velocity programme and then its VentureLab incubator. Vivek explains “Fia was a first year student at the University of Auckland. She had an idea of powering satellites in space so they last many times longer. With Momentum’s support, the project has received support and they are on their way to building their first prototype right here in New Zealand. The Auckland Momentum Investment Committee also put her in touch with engineers from around the world. She and her team are now working closely with the New Zealand Space Agency on building entrepreneurs for the next frontier”.

The entrepreneurial activity supported by venture development programmes such as Velocity and Momentum is a core reason that the University of Auckland was named 2020 Entrepreneurial University of the Year. This is ahead of contenders such as the modelled Tel Aviv University. Vivek says “Just like Israel and the United States have their famous models, we believe that Momentum can be New Zealand’s model for other countries to learn from. The level of responsibility and autonomy given to students on the committees seems to be unique. We  believe today’s students have the passion and urgency to innovate in ways that will positively impact on their own and future generations. Although we make no secret of how it works and other places have shown interest, we haven’t seen the Momentum model and its values anywhere else in the world – a testament to the number 8 wire approach New Zealand takes to innovation and entrepreneurship.”

Momentum welcomes your interest. Find out more about meeting with the committee and other ways to get involved at www.momentum.ac.nz


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