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Ignite Innovation

Make your start-up idea a reality

About Ignite Innovation

Do you have a great idea but are unsure of how to transform it into a reality? Look no further.  

Ignite Innovation steps you through the journey from concept to creation. Our comprehensive programme empowers aspiring changemakers and entrepreneurs like you to navigate the complexities of turning ideas into a viable start-up.  

With a blend of expert guidance, tailored resources, and hands-on support, we’re here to equip you with the tools and knowledge needed to transform your vision into a reality. Whether you’re a seasoned innovator or taking your first steps into the world of entrepreneurship, our programme is designed to meet you where you are and propel you forward.

Ignite Innovation is free for all current students and staff of the University of Auckland. No prior experience with innovation, entrepreneurship or business is required – just an idea!

Programme overview

Ignite Innovation starts with a two-day entrepreneurial basics workshop session. From there, the programme is centred around moving from a starting idea to a more validated and intentional opportunity by focusing on what problem you are solving, and for whom, including having conversations with the potential users. Over a period of 10 weeks, supported by five evening workshops and with the guidance of a mentor, you’ll learn how to take steps on your journey to creating a viable start-up.

Topics include:

  • Product Market Fit, customer insights, and value proposition
  • Understanding your problem space
  • Identity and structure
  • Prototyping and feasibility
  • Scary numbers and funding basics
  • Communicating your opportunity   

The programme concludes with an opportunity to submit a robust and well-developed entry into the Velocity $100k Challenge. Get a competitive advantage on other entrants! The Velocity $100k Challenge offers winners seed capital, mentorship, legal advice, and a place in the Venture Lab incubator – which includes a paid intern to help you work on your start-up.

Key Dates*

Thursday 11 July – Full-day workshop (10am-4pm)
Friday 12 July – Full-day workshop (10am-2pm)
Tuesday 23 July – Evening workshop (6-7.30 pm)
Tuesday 6 August – Evening workshop (6-7.30 pm)
Tuesday 20 August – Evening workshop (6-7.30 pm)
Tuesday 3 September – Evening workshop (6-7.30 pm)
Tuesday 17 September – Evening workshop (6-7.30 pm)

Participants of the Ignite Innovation programme are well positioned to enter the Velocity $100k Challenge, with a submission deadline of midday Friday 20 September.

*All workshops are in-person, held in CIE’s Unleash Space


At Ignite Innovation, we understand that the path from idea to launch can be daunting. That’s why we’ve curated a unique programme tailored to the needs of aspiring entrepreneurs. Our team of experienced mentors and industry experts is dedicated to providing students, researchers and staff with the support and guidance needed at every stage of the journey.

Deborah Shepherd

Deb is a part-time Senior Lecturer at the University, designing and delivering some of CIE’s programmes that support innovators and early-stage start-up founders. She also has roles as a board member, advisor, investor, educator and business owner, including a board role with New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE), New Zealand’s international business development agency. Deb is also Advisor to the New Zealand Government’s Minister of Small Business, and Chair of Soul Capital, a social impact investment firm.


Mahesh Muralidhar

Mahesh is an entrepreneurial leader and community builder, currently focused on nurturing New Zealand’s startup ecosystem as the Founder and CEO of Phase One Ventures. Mahesh has also been instrumental in the success of various international and New Zealand tech businesses and has over a decade of experience in strategy, product development, and organisational growth. Passionate about giving back, he supports Kiwi startups through mentorship, investment, and active community involvement. 

Pre-programme information sessions

Find out more about what you’ll get out of Ignite Innovation. Register for one of our information sessions and have all your questions answered:



Ready to ignite your innovation? Join us on the journey from concept to creation. Whether you’re driven by a passion for innovation, a desire to make a difference, or the thrill of entrepreneurship, we’re here to unlock a world of opportunity for you.

Applications close 30 June.