Please configure

Spark announces panelists who will award more than half a million dollars for 5G Starter Fund

Spark has announced the line-up of panellists who will be selecting the winners of its 5G Starter Fund - a four-month programme aimed at finding and bringing to life the most innovative 5G ideas that could have the biggest impact on New Zealand. 


The five panellists are local and international industry leaders, and have been selected for their expertise in 5G, innovation, entrepreneurship and thought leadership. Panellists include: 

  • Serhad Doken, Executive, Technology Innovation, 5G Labs & Ecosystems, Verizon (USA)
  • Frances Valintine (CNZM), Founder and CEO, The Mind Lab & Tech Futures Lab
  • Ido Leffler, Non-Executive Director, Spark and co-founder and CEO, Yoobi
  • Mark Beder, Technology Director, Spark
  • Tessa Tierney, Product Director, Spark 


Serhad Doken joins the panel through Spark’s collaboration with USA’s largest telco Verizon. As the head of 5G Technology Evaluation and Partnerships at Verizon, Serhad supports the growth of Verizon’s 5G products and services in the United States. He brings a global perspective to the panel that will help shape, guide and inspire the winners of the 5G Starter Fund.  


“New Zealand is known as a country of innovators. The 5G starter fund is a perfect way to take your business idea to the next level and prepare for a 5G future,” he says.“


Having worked closely with successful start-ups, accelerators, incubators and research labs in the States, I can tell you that now is the time to ideate, brainstorm and experiment. I’d encourage all Kiwi businesses to get that idea ready, show how it can be scaled up and take advantage of this chance to really help move New Zealand forward.”


Melbourne based, Yoobi co-founder Ido Leffler says the 5G Starter Fund presents an amazing opportunity for businesses who want to innovate and grow. As an entrepreneur, Ido is constantly thinking outside of the box and has been involved in several start-ups including Yes To Inc., Cheeky, and Beach House Group. 


Ido has a keen understanding of our small, highly competitive market and believes Kiwi innovators should use it to their advantage.


“New Zealand is in a unique position – your size, cultural make-up and creativity means Kiwi businesses have a global edge. 

“It’s important, now more than ever, for companies to embrace the impact they can have in their own backyard, and on the world. As New Zealand emerges from this pandemic in a much better position than other countries, Kiwi entrepreneurs have an opportunity to use 5G to make a real difference to our future - those who will be successful will be passionate and willing to take a leap of faith, believing that their idea is the next big thing for New Zealand,” says Ido. 


While Serhad and Ido bring global expertise to the panel, as a Kiwi, Frances Valintine is invested in the future of New Zealand. She is a founder of successful technology education organisations developing talent and capability. Frances is also an active advocate for getting more women into tech.“


5G has the potential to reshape New Zealand’s major industries and it definitely has a big role to play in our economic recovery. Most great innovations come about from trying to solve contemporary problems. I can’t wait to see what inspiring solutions our applicants have been busy developing for the 5G Starter Fund,” says Frances.  

Spark’s Mark Beder, Technology Director and Tessa Tierney, Product Director are also on the panel, providing expertise in their respective fields.


With just three weeks until applications for the Fund close, Spark is encouraging the country’s most innovative thinkers to take up the opportunity to harness the potential of 5G. 


Whether it’s autonomous medical drones that deliver emergency supplies directly to patients, or low cost, real time smart grids that support energy management and reduce consumption, these 5G enabled solutions could fundamentally change the way Kiwis live, work, learn and play. 


Applications for the 5G Starter Fund close on August 16. Please visit




The Fund will provide a pool of $625,000. The 1st prize winner will receive
$250,000 while the three 2nd prize winners receive $125,000 each. All winners
will receive business and tech mentoring from industry leaders, as well as
access to technology and equipment to test and build on Spark’s 5G network. 

8-Elle Dorset_HR1.jpg

Elle Dorset

Corporate Relations Partner
+64 21 238 9844 |

Please configure