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Vanguard programme

Each year in late August and early September a cohort travels to Silicon Valley for one week. The opportunity to apply for this programme is by invitation only. The seven day tour includes visits to startups, investors and iconic companies like Google and Facebook, a tour of the Stanford campus, and connecting with the Silicon Valley start-up eco-system. 

About the Vanguard programme

The Vanguard programme is made possible through the generosity of philanthropist and entrepreneur Tony Falkenstein, who believes in the power of business to positively impact on people’s lives. The Onehunga-raised chief executive of Just Water believes passionately in business education. “I would love to see a day where every university student would spend a semester overseas, whether it be experiencing another university, working in a large company or start-up, or seeing the collaboration of ideas in Silicon Valley. The Vanguard Programme gives that privilege to a few, and hopefully the start of a programme for many,” says Falkenstein.

Philanthropist encourages future entrepreneurs

Tony Falkenstein


Tony Falkenstein

Who is it designed for?

Selected, high-achieving, entrepreneurial students receive an invitation to apply to the Vanguard programme. After a competitive selection process, a small group of 14-16 students from across the University receive their confirmation to join this free once-in-a-life-time experience. 

To be eligible for the programme you must be being a current undergraduate or PhD student at the University of Auckland, based in New Zealand. This means that you will be enrolled to study in the first semester of 2023. 

Programme structure

The trip will be designed so participants can see, try, reflect, share and discuss during the week.

The trip will include visits to places such as:

  • Global innovative and entrepreneurial companies such as Facebook, Google, Tesla (with, where possible, a strong emphasis on a ‘kiwi’ connection) 
  • Universities such as Stanford, Berkley, UCD 
  • Innovation labs/accelerators/co-working spaces such as Mercedes and Auto desk 
  • Venture capitalists 
  • Networking opportunities with University of Auckland and Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship alumni working in the Valley and or presentations on the Silicon Valley’s ecosystem, and how these lessons can be applied to New Zealand. 


Timing and commitment

Each participant commits to all prework, travelling with the cohort and creating a reflection of their learnings from the trip.


First pre-workshop  13th July, 4-6pm 
Second pre-workshop  3rd August, 4-6pm 
Study Tour – San Francisco and Silicon Valley  26th August – 4th September 
Presentation to stakeholders  20th September, 5.30-7.30pm 


Application is by invitation only (please note applications for 2023 are now closed). A select group of students is selected to apply by email. For more information, please contact

Application form

Vanguard Code of Conduct contract