The First Cut Startup Challenge finds New Zealand’s next great young founder and puts them on the country’s biggest investment stage.

First place will receive the opportunity of a lifetime for a young startup: taking the stage at the ICE Angels Annual Showcase in September – NZ’s largest investment evening – to pitch in front of over 400 investors. Spots are highly competitive and last year the 12 companies there raised over $6 million. To prepare you, the winner will also receive extensive support and pitch training from the First Cut team as well as connections to investors and mentors from NZ’s largest angel investor and entrepreneur network.

Entrants must be under 30 years old.

Last year’s winner – IoT farming solution Halter – raised over $300k from investors when they presented.

2015 winner Spalk raised over $150k and has subsequently raised a further $500k.


Entries open August 1st; you can apply below. Entries close at 12:00pm on Monday 21st August.

We’re looking for startups that will attract investment from some of the top angel investors in New Zealand. When you enter you’ll have to submit a 2-minute pitch video. To put it simply, you’ll need to sell us on what makes your startup unique, exciting and viable.

You can begin to address and answer some of the questions that will come through in your entry:

  • What is the customer’s pain point, and how do you solve it?
  • Why is the timing right for your start-up? Is there a trend emerging that gives you a first-mover advantage?
  • Do you have unique intellectual property or know-how that puts you ahead?
  • What is the addressable market and who are your early customers?
  • What is your business model?
  • How are you going to scale?
  • Who is the competition? How can you beat them?

If you’ve just started your business or are still very small, work on building up your company to impress investors. This could mean hunting down early customers or continuing to develop a killer product.

If your startup is already established, think about ways to grow, pushing up revenue, customers or the defensibility of your offering.

If you’ve got any questions or want to get some quick feedback on your application before you send it in, please get in touch with us to book a 15-20 minute Skype session with First Cut Ventures. We’ll be happy to answer any of your questions and give you a hand.


Your application requires you to submit a short video pitch.

The video pitch must be under 2 minutes. You should be aware that the final judging round will require you to prepare an 8-minute pitch that expands on this introductory presentation. You may include static slides and infographics if they assist in making your case. However, we are more focused on the quality of your content and the underlying opportunity than the production quality of your pitch. 



Halter creates electronic GPS-enabled collars that will one day allow fenceless farming for cows. Founded by two University of Auckland engineering, it won the Startup Challenge in 2016 and raised over $300k at the ICE Angels Annual Showcase. Rocket Lab founder and NZ Entrepreneur of the Year Peter Beck has joined the board.


Spalk is seeking to redefine sports commentary, crowdsourcing and bringing it into the internet age. Founded by three University of Auckland undergraduates, it won the inaugural USC in 2015 and raised over $150k at the ICE Angels Annual Showcase. It has subsequently raised a second round of $500k and are expanding into the United States. 

The USC gave Spalk the exposure to progress to the next level as a company. The funding, investors and connections developed from the opportunity to pitch have been crucial to achieve our milestones to date.

– Ben Reynolds, Co-Founder and CEO of Spalk


Some of our team are under 30 but others aren’t – are we still eligible to enter?

So long as at least half of the team are under 30, you are eligible to enter.


What stage of development does my start-up need to be at for us to enter?

There are no restrictions on how developed your start-up must be as such, however, the winner will be pitching for investment from some of the country’s top angel investors – they have to believe that your company is ready to be funded. If you’re currently pre-revenue, then showing evidence of things like a validated market or a validated product is important.


What should my pitch look like? Are there examples of pitches? What quality does my pitch need to be?

Your pitch is simply a way for us to get an idea of what your startup does and why it’s great. Think of it like you had two minutes to explain your startup to Bill Gates. We suggest using pictures or infographics if they add clarity to your pitch, otherwise feel free to just talk into the camera or over Powerpoint slides. 

First Cut Startup Challenge Application Form

Disclaimer: By entering the First Cut Startup Challenge, your name and start-up may be used in First Cut Ventures’ promotional, sponsorship and media coverage.

If you’re unsure about any part of your submission or would like to ask a question, please email us at contact@firstcut.vc