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Validator Challenge Series 2023-25

16 September 2023

Prove the potential of your ideas. Learn more about the Validator Challenge Series!


This series of Challenges aims to stimulate innovation and the commercialisation of new ideas in key economic sectors in Waitaha Canterbury and beyond.

Over the 2023-2025 period there will be seven Validators, each targeting a priority industry sector. We are looking for innovative individuals to discover whether your idea, research or non-commercialised product has the potential to be developed further.

Participating is a valuable opportunity to access high quality content and coaching, make industry connections, link into Waitaha Canterbury’s amazing innovation eco-system and gain exposure.

The Validator Challenge Series is powered by ChristchurchNZ, delivered by the University of Canterbury’s Centre for Entrepreneurship (UCE) and partnered by key industry players. Success will result in the creation of new startups, implementation of in-house innovations, job creation, and GDP.

A Validator is a structured programme that equips entrepreneurs and researchers to systematically and objectively establish if a viable market exists for their idea – before resources are spent on full-scale product development, commercialisation and market entry.

This reduces the failure rate of new ventures and in-house innovations by confirming whether or not a product or technology actually solves a problem, meets user needs, and that there is a market prepared to pay for it.

At the end of a Validator, you should be able to decide whether or not to PARK your idea, PIVOT it to achieve a better product/solution fit, or PERSEVERE and continue to spend effort and resources – perhaps as part of an incubator – to develop the product further.

We are looking for 20 industry specific ventures to be part of each of the seven Validator programmes.

Each Validator is open to any team or individual living in New Zealand at the time of the entry submission deadline with a venture idea, research project, or a non-commercialised product, that could transform the future of the Waitaha Canterbury region and beyond.

A pool of relevant and experienced judges is used to select participants into the programme and to determine the finalists who compete for the cash and in-kind prizes.

Each Validator runs for eight to ten weeks  culminating with a finale showcase where 10 selected ventures pitch their solutions in front of a wide audience with the chance to win prizes.

Structured content is delivered by the UCE team and industry experts, and participants are further supported with one-on-one mentoring, individual coaching, and connections to relevant industry players.

The Validator is primarily delivered in-person, with an online option for those living outside of Canterbury. Three key events are compulsory to attend in person – the Launch, the Industry Day and the Finale event – as this boosts the cohort learning effect and introduces the ventures to key industry players, supporters and potential funders.

 Topics covered include:

  • Problem definition
  • Customer identification
  • Market validation
  • Value proposition
  • Business model
  • Financials, financing introduction
  • Pitching skills

You will need to set aside five hours per week for the twice-weekly sessions with your Validator cohort, and about five hours of additional time (recommanded) to action what you learn.

You will receive the necessary knowledge and techniques needed to determine whether or not an idea, product or technology actually solves a problem or meets user needs, and if there is a market prepared to pay for it.

This will allow you to confidently define your idea’s value proposition to customers, product/solution fit, high level product specification, estimate the total addressable market and choose a first target market/customer segment.

Additionally, you will connect with, and learn from, like-minded individuals within Waitaha Canterbury’s amazing innovation eco-system, who will challenge, teach and support you on your validator journey and beyond.

With a cash prize pool and in-kind support on offer, access to valuable content, mentors, funding sources, industry exposure and key connections, this is the perfect opportunity to turn your idea into a successful venture.

Ōtautahi Christchurch is a city where businesses flourish – especially those just beginning their journey.

Home to high-growth startups, the city’s startup eco-system is globally ranked in the top 250 cities and you can access tailor-made support that is dedicated to shaping your business and taking it past start mode. The validator programme is part of that robust startup eco-system.

The city also boasts a strong economy and a wealth of talent. So take your business idea from go to grow in Ōtautahi Christchurch and get involved in the Validator Challenge Series 2023-25.

About the Validator Challenge Series

Each “Challenge” of the series is a competition that identifies and recognises innovative and impactful ideas, products and services related to a specific sector (eg. the HealthTech Challenge identifies innovative solutions for the health sector) or focus areas (e.g. Sustainability, Smart Cities). Each Challenge asks Entrants to address one of the following focus areas: 

  • What new products can we make to grow the value of or improve outcomes in the sector? 
  • What new data, process or technology solutions can we implement to improve the efficiency and output of the sector? 
  • What new commercial ideas or emerging research will have a beneficial impact on the sector’s sustainability goals? 

Challenges may include other specific focus areas relevant to that Challenge.

Entrants, particularly those with research drive ideas, might be interested in the relevance of Vison Mātauranga a, MBIE’s policy framework designed to assist research funders, researchers and research users when they consider research of relevance to Māori – see Vision Mātauranga Policy



A Challenge has three parts: 

  • An application process deciding who enters the programme,
  • An eight to ten-week Validator programme, in which:

o   the entrants’ proposals are objectively and systematically probed and tested,

o   the market opportunity is evaluated,

o   the target market is understood,

o   the required product/service features are specified,

o   a business model is developed before time and money is spent in full scale product development. 

  • A Final Round where the finalists compete for awards and cash and in-kind prizes. The Finale event, where finalists will present their ideas, will be specific to each Challenge.

A group of Judges will decide on:

  • Who enters the programme,
  • Who are the Finalists who will present at the Finale, 
  • Who are awarded cash and in-kind prizes. 


Purpose of a Challenge 

Each Challenge is designed to provide financial resources, in-kind support, and expert advice for teams with an ambitious vision about the future of Canterbury. Through a Challenge we aim to: 

  • Identify new innovations from the sector that have the potential to add value and have an impact locally, nationally, and internationally. 
  • Create an opportunity for existing industry players to discover novel ways to tackle problems. 
  • Accelerate the development of technology startups with global potential. 
  • Increase the impact of research performed in CRIs and tertiary institutions. 


We will strive to ensure every team that engages with a Challenge will be able to grow their capabilities and at the same time, accelerate the development and deployment of their ideas. 



The Validator Challenge Series is organised by the University of Canterbury Centre for Entrepreneurship (UCE) and ChristchurchNZ (the Organisers). The primary contact for each Challenge is UCE Challenge Lead -


Information Website and Terms & Conditions 

Each Challenge has its own webpage under the Validator website. A Challenge webpage contains all the relevant information, key dates, the deadlines for submissions, and may contain additional rules or limitations. .

By entering a Challenge, all Entrants agree that they have read, understood, and agree to comply with and be bound by the following Terms and Conditions (T&Cs) for the Challenge. 

The Challenge Organisers reserve the right to amend these Terms and Conditions by posting such amendments to the Challenge website. Entrants and Participants are assumed to agree and consent to the amended Terms and Conditions if they continue to participate following the publication of the amendments to the Challenge website. 

  • The Challenge Organisers reserve the right to suspend or cancel the Challenge at their sole discretion, at any time, for any reason, and without notice. 
  • The Challenge Organisers reserve the right to exit a participant from the Challenge on any reasonable grounds. 
  • The Challenge Organisers retain the right to, at their sole discretion, determine if an Entrant, team, or submission complies with these Terms and Conditions. 



A Challenge is only open to participants living in New Zealand at the time of the entry submission deadline. All Entrants must be based in New Zealand for the duration of the Challenge. While content will be recorded and livestreamed, the maximum benefits will be achieved in a cohort setting. Therefore, participants are strongly encouraged to attend sessions in-person at the University of Canterbury and other industry locations. At a minimum, in-person attendance at the launch, industry event and the Finale event is required. 

Entrants can apply to enter a Challenge individually or as a team (there is no restriction on team size) by completing the online application form. The application form must be completed in English. A team can only enter a Challenge once. An individual may enter a Challenge as part of multiple teams. No team or individual can assign or transfer their rights of participation to others under any circumstances.  

A Challenge is only open to products or services that are in a pre-commercial or earlier stage. To be eligible the entrants must not be obtaining any revenue from the product or service they are entering in the Challenge. 

You may only make submissions on your own behalf. Entries submitted through third parties, agencies or by automated means (such as scripts and macros) will not be accepted. 

All entrants (including all individuals on a team) warrant that all personal information submitted is true, current, and complete. 

The Challenge Organisers reserve the right to reject or disqualify an entry, team, or individual at any time. This right may be exercised without prior warning and without giving any reasons. The decision to disqualify an entry, team or individual is final and conclusive. Entrants have no claim or remedy with respect to being disqualified. 

Entry dates to a Challenge are notified on the Challenge webpage. Entries received after the Challenge application deadline may not be considered. 

Entrants may withdraw their entry at any time by emailing the Challenge Organisers stating that you wish to withdraw. 

Submissions may not contain illegal or discriminatory content and may not advocate for or support unethical behaviour (as determined at the sole discretion of the Organisers). 

The Organisers reserve the right to verify an individual’s eligibility to participate in the Challenge.  



There is no fee to enter a Validator Challenge.   



In all activities associated with a Challenge, all Entrants agree to conduct themselves in a manner that is professional and respectful of (and not disruptive to) the other Challenge participants, Challenge Organisers, and others involved in the Challenge. 


Conflict of Interest 

Entrants must declare any potential conflict of interest as soon as they become aware of a potential conflict. Failure to declare any potential conflict of interest may result in disqualification and forfeiture of any prize awarded. This declaration must be made in writing to the Challenge Organisers by emailing


Intellectual Property 

Entrants warrant that, unless expressly stated otherwise, they own or have the right to use all of any of the intellectual property rights associated with their submissions to the Challenge.  

The Challenge Organisers reserve the right to disqualify any entry and exclude the Entrants immediately if there is reason to believe that the entry breaches, or potentially breaches, a third party’s legal rights. 

Plagiarism, copyright violations, and other forms of dishonesty are prohibited. Such acts of dishonesty and intellectual property violations will be grounds for immediate disqualification from the Challenge and forfeiture of any prizes awarded. 

Nothing in the Terms and Conditions of the Validator Challenge Series allows any Entrant to make a claim with respect to ownership of any intellectual property created by another Challenge Entrant.  

Any IP contained in materials provided to Entrants shall remain the property of the Challenge Organisers or Challenge Partner providing those materials. 

Sharing confidential IP provided in the Challenge to 3rd parties is prohibited. This includes, but is not limited to, selling, giving, or distributing IP. 

Entrants may not include in their submissions any content in which another person or organisation has a proprietary interest unless prior, written permission is obtained. 

Entrants warrant that, except as disclosed in their submission, the Entrant owns all rights, titles, and interests in and to the content of the submission. 

Entrants warrant that neither their participation, nor the participation of any team members, nor their compliance with these T&Cs will infringe, misappropriate, or violate the rights of any third parties, or will breach any agreement that has been entered into, or will enter into with any third party, including without limitation any agreement to keep any third party’s proprietary information confidential.  

Entrants acknowledge that ChristchurchNZ is the lawful owner of the name, “ChristchurchNZ” and its associated trademarks and service marks. Entrants agree that without advance written approval from a senior manager of ChristchurchNZ, Entrants will take no action inconsistent with ChristchurchNZ’s ownership of its names, trademarks, and service marks, including without limitation any incorporation of any of the foregoing into a longer name or other logo. For the avoidance of doubt, Entrants expressly agree not to use the logo or other trademarks of ChristchurchNZ on any product being offered for sale, any promotional material or for any other commercial purposes whether in a physical or online format. 


Entrants must not enter into any written or oral agreement that conflicts with these Terms and Conditions. 



The main sponsor of the Challenge is ChristchurchNZ 

ChristchurchNZ’s principal office is located at: 

PO Box 2962, Christchurch 

BNZ Centre, Level 3, 11 Cashel Street, Christchurch 8011 


Additional sponsors of each Challenge are listed on the Challenge Webpage. 


Acceptance into a Challenge

Entry into a Challenge will be decided upon by an internal committee of industry and commercialisation experts (Judges). Up to 25 entries will be selected for the Challenge. It is at the Judges' discretion as to the final number selected for the Challenge. 


Progression to the Finals rounds of a Challenge

At about Week 8 of the Challenge, up to ten participants will be selected by the Judges to enter the Finals round of the Challenge. Finalists will be required to present their idea at the Finale event. 


Finalists will be required to present their proposal to the Judges in a format to be decided, but which may require a written submission, attendance in person or remote delivery of information by the participant. The requirements for this round may differ from the criteria for entry into each Challenge but the overarching judging criteria will not change. The Judges may solicit additional information from entrants in order to determine the Finalists. 


Awards and Prizes 

A panel of up to 8 Judges will select, from the Finalists, who receives awards and prizes. 

At the Judges’ discretion, in consultation with the Challenge Organisers, one or more of any special prizes may be determined before the final round of judging. 


Claiming Prizes 

To claim the Challenge prizes (cash and/or in-kind awards), the winning team member(s) must meet all the Challenge application and eligibility requirements. 

Both cash and in-kind prizes are personal to the winning team member(s) and are non-transferable. Any attempt to transfer the prize may result in forfeiture of the prize. No cash alternative is offered for the in-kind awards. 

Entrants are responsible for any and all taxes which may be payable as the result of the receipt of any prize. 

All prizes must be redeemed or forfeited by the 20th December of the year of the Challenge. 

The Challenge Organisers reserve the right to not award prizes if there are no suitable submissions. If a particular cash prize is not awarded the cash may be redistributed to the other cash prizes at the discretion of the Challenge Organisers. 

If Entrants do not acknowledge acceptance of any prize, are unwilling or unable to attend the Awards event, or are unwilling or unable to comply with the Terms and Conditions of the prize, or if any Entrants claim any prize, but are later determined to be ineligible for the prize, then the Entrants will forfeit the prize and will not receive any alternative prize. In any of these instances, the Challenge Organisers may choose whether to award the prize to another Entrant. 


Judging Processes and Confidentiality 

All applications to enter the programme and any information submitted thereafter will be treated as confidential by the Challenge Organisers, sponsors and judges.  

Applicants are not expected to provide or reveal proprietary information regarding their products, processes or services. 

Judges will be required to sign non-disclosure agreements and will be required to securely dispose of all electronic and paper copies of an entry as soon as judging is completed. 

Judges will be required to declare any conflicts of interest. Potential conflicts of interest will be managed at the sole discretion of the Challenge Organisers. 

Judges’ scores and comments will remain confidential, and no correspondence will be entered into regarding the outcome of the selection of the participants at each round nor in the selection of prize winners. 



Contact information provided to the Challenge Organisers will be used to contact the entrants throughout the Challenge for the purposes of organising and coordinating participation in the Challenge. All teams will be asked to designate one person as the primary contact for the Challenge. 

It is the responsibility of the Entrants to provide up-to-date and accurate contact information to the Challenge Organisers. If accurate contact information is not provided to the Challenge Organisers, the Entrant shall forfeit the opportunity to participate and have no claim against the Challenge Organisers or sponsors.  

ChristchurchNZ will keep records of all winning team members for at least two years after the prize is awarded. For a period of at least six months, ChristchurchNZ will display the winning team members’ names and photos on the Challenge website. 

Entrants acknowledge that the Challenge Organisers, ChristchurchNZ and its agents may photograph and/or record any Challenge-related events. Entrants grant to ChristchurchNZ, the non-exclusive, royalty-free, fully paid, irrevocable, sub-licensable right and license (but not the obligation) to use, modify, publish, republish, publicly display and copy any Entrants’, name, alias, and biographical information provided to the Challenge Organisers, and any voice recordings, photographs, quotes and excerpts, or any other likeness whether captured before, during, or after the Challenge (hereinafter collectively referred to as the “Likeness”), and the ‘Public Domain Section’ of any submission, for any lawful purpose and for advertising, publicity, marketing, promotion and fundraising efforts of ChristchurchNZ and its various programmes, products, and events, and all allied ancillary and subsidiary rights therein and thereto (including without limitation merchandising and commercial tie-in rights), without separate compensation to you. 

By entering, all entrants understand that the Likeness and ‘Public Domain Section’ of the submission may be copied, reproduced, and distributed by means of various media, including without limitation video and audio recordings, television, radio, news releases, mail-outs, emails, billboards, signs, brochures, websites, online and other digital and electronic delivery including social media, publication, display, or promotion on any and all other media. The Likeness and ‘Public Domain Section’ of the submission may be subject to reasonable modification or editing. Entrants will have no right to review the modified Likeness or ‘Public Domain Section’ of the submission before it is used and ChristchurchNZ’s decisions with respect to the use of the Likeness and ‘Public Domain Section’ of the submission will be final. Entrants relinquish and give ChristchurchNZ all rights, title, and interest in and to the Likeness and ‘Public Domain Section’ of the submission in materials prepared by or on behalf of ChristchurchNZ, including all copyright therein. 

To achieve the outcomes of the programme the applicant/s authorise UCE to provide relevant information with Partners such as ChristchurchNZ, Judges, Mentors.



Entrants agree to release, discharge, and hold harmless the Challenge Organisers, ChristchurchNZ and Sponsors from any liability, claims, losses, injuries, and damages arising out of or relating to or that you may sustain as a result of participation in the Challenge or the acceptance, use, misuse, or possession of any Prize. In no event shall ChristchurchNZ have any liability to you for any indirect, special, incidental, consequential, cover, or punitive damages however caused, whether in contract, tort, or under any other theory of liability, and whether or not the party has been advised of the possibility of such damages. 

An Entrant’s participation in a Challenge does not create a partnership, franchise, joint venture, or employment relationship between you and ChristchurchNZ or the Challenge Organisers or Sponsors. Entrants agree not to represent themselves as an employee, agent, servant, partner, fiduciary, or joint venture of ChristchurchNZ. Entrants shall not purport, through social media or otherwise, to speak on behalf of ChristchurchNZ in an official capacity. Entrants shall not represent ChristchurchNZ, act as its agent, or otherwise enter into any contractual agreement or attempt to bind ChristchurchNZ. 

Entrants’ participation in a Challenge and these Terms and Conditions are governed by New Zealand law (without regard to its conflicts of law provisions). 

Upcoming Challenges

Past Challenges

What Participants Say:

“Go for it. If it’s your first venture, it’ll open your eyes”

“I really enjoyed the collective cohort energy and to challenge my assumptions” 

“You get to meet so many knowledgeable people in such a short time” 

“I came to UCE for the energy, experiences and progress”


More information

If you have any questions about the Validator Challenge Series 2023-25, please email us.

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