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Vodafone and BNZ team up to boost tech for Kiwi SMEs

Bank of New Zealand and Vodafone New Zealand have entered into a partnership agreement in a bid to deliver a joint business accelerator programme, aimed at helping scale and grow Kiwi startups that have a digital offering for small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

The Vodafone xone Partner Series is a revamped version of the Vodafone xone programme, which has been running since 2016.

"For over three years now Vodafone New Zealand has been delivering an accelerator programme that has seen us support 29 start-ups to grow and develop their business over a six month period," says Vodafone NZ CEO Jason Paris.

"We are incredibly proud of the successes that have come out of Vodafone xone, the New Zealand businesses that have gone on to take their products and services global, win awards and build thriving enterprises," he says.

Previous xone participants include businesses such as Aware Group - an artificial intelligence business; virtual sportscasting studio Spalk; and Wine Grenade. a wine oxygenation device winning national agritech awards.

The new format of Vodafone xone sees the digital services company working with its key corporate customers as industry partners to deliver each round of the new accelerator programme.

"With the combined knowledge and expertise of Vodafone and its partner, each Vodafone xone Partner Series rounds puts three to five tech startups through an intensive three-month programme of mentoring, workshops and unique testing environments to develop the product or service offering to the point a corporate partnership or commercial deal is possible," explains Paris.

"Vodafone and Bank of New Zealand are coming together to find the best digital solutions aimed at helping our SME customers connect, grow and thrive in our digital world," he says.

This is not the first time the Vodafone and Bank of New Zealand have aligned on initiatives - in August Vodafone announced the launch of its 5G network set for December 2019, and confirmed BNZ as one of its three co-creation partners it was working with to innovate with 5G.

Bank of New Zealand CEO Angie Mentis says she is thrilled that the bank is the first of Vodafones partners to co-deliver the xone programme.

"We have a very strong relationship with Vodafone built on mutual trust and respect, shared vision in customer focus and a real drive to grow NZ Inc.," she says.

"At BNZ we absolutely know that SMEs are the backbone of New Zealand and were delighted to be aligning with Vodafone on this important initiative to really accelerate the growth of early stage businesses and connect them with the markets that matter to them." Mentis explains.

The Vodafone xone Partner Series has opened applications for the January intake. Applications will be open until the end of November. A shortlist of applicants will be invited to pitch to a combined Vodafone and BNZ panel of experts. The successful three to five businesses will be announced before Christmas and will start the programme in January.

"We are so excited to meet the innovative entrepreneurs that will join our xone whanau," says Paris.