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What is it?

The Challenger Series is Startup Dunedin’s annual business acceleration programme.

The Challenger Series brings together a cohort of early-stage startups and project teams. Each team is coached through the unique challenges they face with bespoke mentorship and support.

This year (2019) up to five startups will be selected to complete the programme. These startups will gain access to a large network of experts, startup mentors and a pool of $50,000 in services including: credit with Deloitte, credit with Gallaway Cook Allan, credit with Stripe, credit with Amazon Web Services and cash support from Startup Dunedin.


  • 25 March Applications Open

  • 15 April Applications Close

  • 1 & 2 May Selection Panel Interviews/Pitch

  • 6 May First Phase Begins

  • 9 May First Phase Ends and Final Teams Selected

  • 15 May Accelerator Begins

  • 30 October Demo Day

Programme Structure


Complete our application form - LINK TBD

Pitch/Interview #1:

Twenty applicants will be selected to pitch and build their case to a panel of proven entrepreneurs and business minds.

First Phase:

The first phase of the accelerator is the final part of the selection process. Up to ten teams will be invited to work with Startup Dunedin for a month to refine their case for being selected and prepare for the rest of the programme.

Pitch/Interview #2:

All ten teams will get another chance to pitch to our panel.


Up to five teams will continue through the rest of the accelerator programme. They will gain access to a pool of $50,000 in services and spend six months working with our team of experts, mentors and coaches.


At the end of the accelerator, those deemed ready will receive twelve months of advisory panel services from Deloitte, Gallaway Cook Allan and Startup Dunedin – valued at over $50,000 p.a.

Who is it for?

Startups that apply for the Challenger Series should be:

  • Dunedin based or able to relocate to Dunedin.

  • Consisting of two or more co-founders.

  • Be willing and able to work full-time on the opportunity.

  • Post-revenue or otherwise well validated.

Selection Criteria:

  • We look at the composition, domain expertise and experience of the team. We consider skills and expertise to sell and execute on the idea, as well as your ability to take on board feedback.

  • We look at how well your team understands its customers, your ability to define and validate your problem and solution.

  • We look at the size of the opportunity for each venture in their specific industry. We consider global potential, scalability and investability.

  • We look at how each team fits in with the programme themes and the overall cultural fit for the programme.

Ideal Team Characteristics

  • Your team should have all the key roles covered. This may vary for each venture, but some typical key roles include: someone who has the vision and can be the driver of it, someone who can sell and market your product/service, and someone who can develop the necessary technology to implement your solution.

  • Your venture should be in a life stage where acceleration is appropriate and can have an impact. Our best applicants should be looking to grow and scale.

  • You are focused on building a business that can scale globally.

  • You are open and receptive to feedback and different perspectives. In particular, we’re keen to learn:

    • How you are building your team (attracting the business, technical, marketing and other talent you need to be successful).

    • What are you doing in order to understand the market you’re operating in.

    • How you are achieving key milestones (customer feedback, sign-ups, sales etc…).

Frequently Asked Questions

If you have any questions that aren’t included in the below please contact Angus at

I can't submit my form. What should I do? 

  1. Write your answers in another document so you can copy + paste your answers if the form fails again.

  2. Try submitting the form through a different browser e.g Google Chrome.

  3. If the form still fails, email with:
    - Your answer document
    - The browsers you have tried
    - Your operating system
    - Screenshots of the error message

We can manually input your entry. 

Once I fill out the form have I applied?

The initial form is the first part of the application process. We will then select up to 20 candidates to pitch to our panel.

How will I find out if I have been selected?

We will get in touch with you via email after each stage of the application process.

When will I find out if I’ve made it through?

You should know if you’re in phase one by the start of May 2019.

When will I need to be available for the Challenger Series? 

You will need to be available from now through to the end of October 2019.

Where do I work from?

Your team will receive free workspace at the Distiller for the duration of the series. You can occasionally work remotely, providing you can travel for key dates and meetings.

How many startups get through?

The Challenger Series will accept up to ten startups into phase one, which will be narrowed to up to five startups for the accelerator programme. 

Do I need to give up equity?

No, you will not give up any equity in your startup for participating in the Challenger Series.

Do I need to write a business plan?

Not for us. We make decisions based on your application form and pitch. We love demos, but we don't request business plans.

Will you sign an NDA?

Your application is confidential to the Challenger Series team, and will not be shown to anyone else. This article gives a good insight into why we don’t sign non-disclosure agreements.

Our group has two ideas. Can we submit two applications?

We don't recommend it. Pick your favorite idea and apply with one.

I have a great idea for a startup, but I don't have technical skills. Will you still accept me?

It's important for the founding team to have the skills to build their product themselves, rather than outsourcing it to someone else. For most businesses, that usually means you need a technical co-founder.

We've already been working on our startup for a while. Is The Challenger Series appropriate for us?

Yes, absolutely.

What if we're doing something expensive?

We'll still help you.

Do we need to incorporate before applying?



Applications Have closed for 2018

Expressions of Interest for 2019 are Open

Programme Partners

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