I have spoken many times in the last 12 months about how impressed I am by the New Zealand startup ecosystem. There are a number of initiatives and programs being rolled out there that I feel we should be launching in Australia. One of those programs is Venture Up, a youth entrepreneurship accelerator specifically for 16 to 24 year olds.
Now in its second year, Venture Up is targeted at kids who have just finished high school, with the school yard grapevine having the younger kids lining up to take part as soon as they finish their final year at school. The program brings together a group of hand selected young individuals from right across the country during the school summer break to get them to come together and build a business in six weeks.
The process for choosing the group of students is quite a lengthy one. The program works very closely with the Young Enterprise Trust, a New Zealand trust that works alongside high schools instilling the same kind of entrepreneurial skills taught in the Venture Up program while they are completing their studies.
“Often they will be building a business while they’re still in school through Young Enterprise,” says Nicola Mitchell of Creative HQ, the organisation that runs the program. “That is where most of our applicants come from – they hear about Venture Up through their business studies teachers or their Young Enterprise mentors or now via alumni from last year’s program.”
After the applications have come in, they are shortlisted down through a series of phone calls and intensive back and forth communication until 40 participants are then chosen; this year two pulled out at the last minute and so the program ran with 38 participants.
Creative HQ is partially government funded and receives additional funding from a number of different sponsors to run the program. That means the students don’t have to pay anything to be part of the program – other than travelling to get to Wellington at their own costs, others things like accommodation and food are all provided for.
Another important part of the program is diversity. First, selections take place from a broad range of locations across New Zealand, not just from Wellington and major city centres. Last year’s program ended up being 63 percent female heavy – Venture Up told Startup Daily the focus was on choosing the best talent for the program, not on filling quotas – so this is a major coup for the New Zealand education system on bucking the global trend when it comes to female students and STEM subject interest.
In line with other acceleration programs run by Creative HQ, the program ends in a showcase where the young participants with their groups present their business ideas in a showcase to investors and other prominent people involved in the Wellington startup ecosystem. The program is set to finish up later this month.
Featured image: The Venture Up class of 2015 | Source: Provided