Failure is forensic: Investors’ views

Do investors run scared when they hear about a founder’s failure, or are battle scars seen as a positive? Is a good idea more attractive than an adaptable team? And are New Zealanders ‘failure tolerant’ enough? Caitlin Salter talks to the experts.

The three types of failure

Fervent Wellingtonian Chris Parkin wears many hats. He’s an entrepreneur, property developer, hotelier, former local body politician, art collector and patron.

His most famous investment was the Museum Art Hotel in Wellington, which he sold to Amalgamated Holdings in 2015 for a tidy sum of $28.5 million.


Kiwi start-ups invited to pitch to Chinese Angel Investors

It can often be a struggle for New Zealand start-ups to find the right partners and raise finance that can turn a business idea into a reality. However, a unique gateway has now opened for Kiwi businesses to access angel investment, manufacturing and distribution opportunities in China.

New Zealand based company has forged a relationship with a Chinese investor club with offices in Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen and Chengdu. The relationship provides the opportunity for 5-8 businesses a month from around the world to pitch in front of a selected group of 500-800 Chinese Angel Investors. Kiwi start-ups also get the opportunity to meet visiting venture capitalists who present at the summit each month.

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FACE VALUE: Rangatira Investment’s Phil Veal on investing in ‘beer, bacon and rollercoasters’

Private equity firm Rangatira Investments owns Tuatara Brewing, Hellers, and Rainbow’s End.

That makes Rangatira’s chief executive Phil Veal chief executive of “beer, bacon and rollercoasters”.

He started his career as an engineer. Now he’s a professional builder of companies who believes KiwiSavers should be given the chance to put more of their retirement savings into the medium-sized companies that are the engine of the economy.

Veal’s has been a career with few regrets. His biggest is not getting in on the groundfloor of Airbnb, which is now worth billions.

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Firms vie for slice of Enterprise funding

This week’s Enterprise Angels meeting saw funding pitches from three companies, including Bay of Plenty-based Balex Marine.

Balex is looking to close out its third funding round of $900,000 and has already raised $415,000 in a rights issue from shareholders in its latest round.

Enterprise Angels (EA) is also about to begin beta testing its new online funding platform, AngelEquity, which will allow any qualified investor in New Zealand to take part in an angel investment deal either originated by or syndicated through the early stage BOP funding group, said executive director Bill Murphy. EA has members from Tauranga, Rotorua, Taupo and the Waikato.

Balex Marine has been developing its production and distribution channels for its Automatic Boat Loader (ABL), which allows for remote controlled launch and retrieval of trailer-boats. The ABL is now being used in the NZ market, with 21 marine dealers, four trailer manufacturers and three boat manufacturers on board.

The company has also lined up a distribution deal with Forge UK for Europe and the Middle East, and is developing its Australian network.

To date, in addition to seed and early stage capital from founders and friends of the company, Balex has completed a first round of $600,000, a second round of $1.2 million, and is now almost halfway through its third round of $900,000, with $415,000 raised in a rights issue from existing investors, including Enterprise Angels members.

“The company is looking to raise funds from new shareholders, including EA members that are new to the deal,” said Mr Murphy.

Paul Symes, Balex’s chief executive and a major shareholder, said it was possible the company could complete the latest round through EA members.

“We’re continuing to work closely with Enterprise Angels,” he said.

“However, we are also going to be casting our net a little wider and will be working with other potential investors, including crowdfunding options such as AngelEquity when it goes live.”

Balex will be taking part in the Sydney International Boat Show where it will share a display with Sydney-based Watersports Marine, which is a key dealer for Dunbier Trailers, Australia’s biggest boat trailer company. Balex is currently in discussions with Dunbier on Australian distribution.

This week’s EA meeting also saw funding pitches from Agersens, a fenceless farming agri-tech startup developing a virtual shepherd, and Synthase Biotech developing a proprietary technology known to neutralise lipid peroxides, which could extend the life of bull semen used in artificial insemination.

Mr Murphy said Enterprise Angels had been busy this year with eight follow-on investments and a number of new deals under way.

First published –  NZ Herald 28 July 2016

This fintech start-up has raised $3 million to make cross-border payments much easier

Fintech start-up Airwallex has strengthened its Melbourne and Chinese development teams and accelerated R&D of its international payments platform following a recent US$3 million pre-Series A investment round led by Shanghai-based VC Gobi Partners.

Airwallex offers integrated solutions for business and personal cross-border transactions and facilitates international money transfers through a combination of payment collection, foreign exchange, remittance and security settlement.

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The Icehouse welcomes new leaders with diverse expertise to its governance

The Icehouse announced the appointment of new directors to its board, in addition to welcoming new trustees to its owner, the International Centre for Entrepreneurship Trust which is a charitable foundation. Greg Tomlinson, Jonathan Reid and Kerry McIntosh are the three new directors to join The Icehouse board, with Simon Bennett, Craig Carr and Franceska Banga joining as trustees of the Foundation.

Their appointments come at a time when The Icehouse is undertaking a review and refresh of its goal to 2020 of enabling a 10% lift in the country’s GDP while the Foundation starts to broaden its charitable reach within New Zealand.

With backgrounds ranging from construction to agribusiness, investment banking to mussel farming, and technology to recruitment; Chairman of The Icehouse Board, Chris Quin, says these entrepreneurs and experts bring a diversity of approach and thinking to The Icehouse which will be critical for its ongoing performance and contribution to New Zealand.

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Done Deal: A collation of recent fundings secured, contracts inked and deals did, for the tl;dr crowd

A network of New Zealand angel investors has helped launch iPug into the US market at the BIO International Convention in San Francisco. iPug, an Australian company now based in San Francisco, is the world’s first mobile-friendly platform that transforms the way research is conducted and how public health campaigns are delivered. The investors, led by Hamilton-based property developer Zane Beckett, have provided seed capital and Series A funding.

SparkTank chief executive Rachel Kelly and Augen Software group director Mitchell Pham are among four new board members who have been voted to the board at NZTech.

Microsoft managing director Barrie Sheers and a Callaghan Innovation business group manager Erin Wansbrough have also been approved as board members.
A new chair to replace outgoing chair Bennett Medary will be appointed at the board meeting next month.

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Employment Law Considerations

Lowndes-logoColourThis is general information on employment law in New Zealand. It is not employment advice, nor does it constitute legal advice. If you need employment law advice on a specific matter, please contact us for assistance.

1. Both employers and employees are under a statutory duty of good faith in all dealings.

2. It’s important to get written employment agreements in place. Not only is it a legal requirement, it aligns expectation and provides certainty on terms, including trial periods, notice periods, redundancy compensation, confidentiality and intellectual property obligations, restrictive covenants, etc.

3. Founders are usually employees too – they can also bring a personal grievance against the company for unjustified disadvantage or unjustified dismissal – an employer’s actions must be both substantively and procedurally fair. Where the employer’s actions what a fair and reasonable employer could have done in all the circumstances at the time the dismissal or action occurred?

4. An employee does not have a right to continued employment if a business can be run more efficiently without that position. The key question is whether there is a genuine commercial reason for determining that the position is redundant. Evidence of the rationale (e.g. detailed analysis of the proposal and commensurate savings) should be prepared and maintained to provide evidence of the genuine commercial reason for a restructuring proposal.

5. Without limiting the duty of good faith, an employer is required to give an employee access to relevant information and an opportunity to comment on that information before making any decision that will, or is likely to, have an adverse effect on the continuation of their employment.

6. Consultation requirements and timetable will depend on the nature of the workplace (number of staff, etc.) and context in which any restructuring is to take place (e.g. full business closure? Or individual redundancies?).

7. It is useful to provide affected employees with a written copy of the restructuring proposal – they often will not take in all the information during a first meeting.

8. Keep the costs of terminating the workforce in mind. In a redundancy situation where you’re looking to close the door tomorrow, even if no redundancy compensation is payable each employee remains entitled the notice period set out in their employment agreement, together with all outstanding salary and leave entitlements. (Accrued sick leave has no cash value and will not form part of any benefit payable on termination.)

9. Consider the impact of termination of any employee on your shareholder arrangements. Is there an employee share scheme in place? Do shares vest in the employee on termination? Is the employee required to sell shares back to the Company on termination?

10. Employee vs Contractor. It’s not as simple as claiming a party is one or the other. The real nature of the relationship is important – substance over form. If a “contractor” is determined to be an employee, that party may be able to make a personal grievance claim, claim for unpaid holiday, leave, etc., and tax issues will arise. Relevant matters include the actual operations of the parties, the level of control and integration, supply of own materials and ability to work for others and intention.

Aussies poaching our firms – NZX boss

The boss of New Zealand’s stock exchange has compared local companies listing across the Tasman to “welcoming Australians into an All Blacks training camp and allowing them to take our best players”.

Speaking at a Trans-Tasman Business Circle panel event in Auckland this afternoon, Tim Bennett called on Kiwis to be more nationalistic about this country’s sharemarket.

He said New Zealand would never allow Australia to take members of a national sports team.

“But we seem quite happy to do that with some of the companies that we promote for listing in Australia,” Bennett said, adding that the NZX needed to be viewed as a “national asset”.

In recent months New Zealand tech firms Volpara Health Technologies, 9 Spokes and Powerhouse Ventures have announced plans to skip the NZX and list on Australia’s ASX.

That followed Christchurch-based jetpack maker the Martin Aircraft Company’s decision to list in Australia last year.

Meanwhile, jewellery retailer Michael Hill received shareholder approval this afternoon to shift its primary listing from the NZX to the ASX.

Such moves have generated a lot of media commentary and Bennett’s comments suggest the sharemarket operator is taking to heart the loss of potential local issuers to the ASX.

That’s particularly understandable given quiet state of New Zealand’s listing and initial public offering market.

Only one IPO, chicken producer Tegel, has taken place on the NZX this year, while there have been 27 floats and listings on the ASX in the past two months alone.

But Bennett said caution was needed when comparing the NZX with its vastly bigger counterpart in Australia.

“There’s a lot of discussion about NZX versus ASX and I’d just like to put it in a bit of context,” he said. “The market capitalisation of the Australian market is about 15 or 16 times the New Zealand market.”

Bennett said ASX’s growth had not only been driven by the size of the Australian economy but also other factors such as a strong sense of nationalism around that country’s capital markets and compulsory superannuation.

The NZX did well when put up against more comparable exchanges such as those in Denmark, Turkey, Norway and Israel, Bennett said.

New Zealand Superannuation Fund head of investments Fiona Mackenzie, who also joined the panel, said the $30.3 billion fund was concerned about a lack of liquidity growth in the local market.

“We think some of the key areas to focus on there would be diversity in terms of market participants [including] brokers, fund managers and listed issuers,” Mackenzie said.

She said New Zealand was a “Goldilocks market” when it came to IPOs, which was a challenge for increasing the number of listed issuers.

“Absolutely everything has to be right [to get an IPO completed],” Mackenzie said.

She said there was much room for improvement when it came to corporate governance in New Zealand.

“We’re engaging with companies both individually and via the Corporate Governance Forum,” Mackenzie said.

Gareth Morgan Investments chief investment officer Simon O’Grady said a concerted effort, including through tax policy, was needed to improve access to this country’s capital markets.

“There’s going to be at some point in the next few years … a London or New York of Asia somewhere and we need to be part of that environment,” O’Grady said.

First published – NZ Herald 23 June 2016

Ask the expert: where to go for funding

OPINION. Q: I need to raise funds to upgrade the IT infrastructure for my small business. What’s available and how do I access it?

A: That depends on a range of factors such as your current finance structure (are you in debt, highly leveraged, debt-free?), what stage your business is at and how much you need.

But, before you explore external capital raising options, ensure you’ve covered off any internal sources such as savings you can access or surplus assets in the business that could be liquidated to raise funds.

Once you’ve done that, you then need to calculate how much more funding you’ll need by preparing cash flow forecasts.

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NZ Startup secures Investment ex Japan

Expectations of consumer electronics development are nowhere higher than in Japan. Tokyo-based Start Today owns ZOZOTOWN, the largest online retailer of apparel and accessories, and WEAR, the largest fashion coordination app. So no wonder that Start Today has made a strategic investment in StretchSense, a leading enabler of wearable technology. StretchSense makes soft stretchy sensors and generators for wearables. The products are ultra-soft and precise, making them ideal for sporting, AR/VR, animation, and healthcare applications.

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Preparing the ground to grow strong companies

The confirmation that new Tauranga-based private equity fund Oriens Capital is on track for a $30million first close is great news for the region’s business sector.

Oriens Capital’s executive team have noted it will not focus exclusively on the Bay, with other regions also likely to be targeted.

But a key driver of setting up the new fund was to help close the gap in the Bay’s entrepreneurial and funding ecosystem.

The reality is that no other region outside the major metropolitan centres has the supportive infrastructure of experienced investors to pull together a $30 million-plus private equity fund.

The Bay has long been the home of the country’s largest angel investor group, Enterprise Angels, with 200-plus high-net-worth members from Tauranga, Rotorua, Taupo and the Waikato.

Tauranga is also the base for WNTVentures, the only regional entity to get the nod from Callaghan Innovation when it backed a series of new technology business incubators 18 months ago.

Oriens Capital will be focused on lower mid-market companies with enterprise values of $10 million to $50 million and potential investments ranging from $3 million to $10 million.

But Enterprise Angels executive director Bill Murphy says Oriens Capital could still potentially provide backing to some companies emerging from the angels funding system.

While Enterprise Angels’ investments typically top out at around $2 million, Mr Murphy notes electric offroad bike company Ubco is targeting $2.5million in its current round.

Meanwhile, WNTVentures is focused on identifying innovative companies at the very early stage.

“We are about the development of intellectual property,” says chief executive Carl Jones.

WNTVentures has backed four companies with investments ranging up to $600,000, with two more currently going through due diligence.

First published on 21 June 2016

The face of NZ’s brave business future in the world? Men, men and more men

A recent international “innovation mission” was predictably and overwhelmingly dominated by men. To help organisers remedy such absurd and damaging imbalances, Anna Guenther and Jessica Venning-Bryan have produced a list for next time

A 50-strong trade delegation of New Zealand’s finest innovators and business people headed off recently to Israel. Their plan? An “innovation mission”, to learn from a land that has inspired entrepreneurship on many levels and to share our own knowledge as a scrappy start up nation.

Fifty of our finest: but where were the women? Judging by the NZ Herald story previewing the trip, there weren’t any. While the article was written by a woman, no women were mentioned as being part of the heavy-hitting delegation. (Let’s not even start on why, again, we’re Israel gazing.)

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UniSA’s improved cancer detection technology a magnet for commercialisation

Researchers at the University of South Australia’s Future Industries Institute will join forces with New Zealand based nanoparticle specialist Boutiq Science and major IP investor, Powerhouse Ventures to develop an improved system for cancer detection that relies on magnetic rather than radioactive tracers.

While traditional radioactive tracers have been a mainstay for detecting the spread of both breast cancer and melanoma in lymph nodes, they have proved less effective in other cancers such as head and neck, gastrointestinal and oesophageal cancers, where nodes are closely packed or clustered.

Still focused after all those years

In 15 years The Icehouse Business Growth Hub has morphed from one owner manager programme and an incubator to a full suite of services for businesses, including an investment arm. CEO Andy Hamilton reflects on a satisfying journey.

After a career spanning law, marketing and corporate investment, one winter’s day in June 2001 Andy Hamilton found himself standing in leased premises in Parnell’s landmark Textile Centre, with two months to organise a programme for owner managers. The BNZ would help source the 20 business owners, but meantime the programme had to be sorted, premises fitted out and start-ups found for the incubator. Working out of Auckland University, Andy was grateful for the support of the University’s Business School, and Geoff Whitcher and David Irving in particular.

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How the queen of Silicon Valley is helping Google go after Amazon’s most profitable business

The first thing to understand about Diane Greene, the woman Google acqui-hired in November to transform its fragmented cloud business, is that she has the mind of an engineer.

Cool technology, elegantly designed and built, lights her up. Even her jokes tend to be geek oriented.

(A lifelong competitive sailor, she was a mechanical engineer who built boats and windsurfers before she became an iconic Silicon Valley computer scientist.)

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Bay private equity fund targets regions

A new region-focused private equity fund, Oriens Capital, has been launched in the Bay of Plenty and expects to hit its first closing target of $30 million within the next month. It is understood to be the first regional fund of its type in New Zealand.

The Tauranga-headquartered fund has been in gestation for a couple of years and is aimed at filling a gap in regional funding sources. The Bay already has WNTVentures, focuses on incubating extremely early stage tech companies, and the country’s biggest angel investor group, Enterprise Angels.

“There is a gap in the market,” said James Beale, who is chief executive of the new fund’s management entity.

Peter Tinholt will serve as chief operating officer of Oriens Capital, which has also lined up a strong, well-connected board (See story below).

“We will be targeting profitable mid-market companies that have growth opportunities. The biggest problem for all these businesses right now is that there is no formal source of capital, so we are going to fill a really niche space.”

The fund is aiming to complete up to eight investments in companies with an enterprise value of from $10 million to $50million during its initial five-year life, with individual stakes of $3 million to $10 million. Oriens Capital plans a second fundraising round to bring the total up to $60million.

The new fund has a distinctive structure in that investors in the Limited Partnership will also receive a stake in the ownership of the General Partnership, providing full alignment of interests and reduced costs, Mr Beale said.

Mr Tinholt said the fund had been getting good support, with commitments from Quayside Holdings, TECT, iwi and high-net-worth investors.

Scott Hamilton, chief executive of Quayside Holdings, the investment arm of the BOP Regional Council, said Quayside was approached by many private equity funds.
“Oriens Capital opens up the opportunity to achieve the same return profile through having something focused closer to our own backyard. Genuine growth in businesses is genuine capital growth and that’s what we want to see. It grows jobs, salaries and exports.”

Carl Jones, chief executive of WNT Ventures, said Oriens Capital was a fantastic addition to the region.

“You’ve got the full flow-through from the early and seed stage we do and Enterprise Angels and now on to the mid-market,” he said.

“That’s something that hasn’t been here before.”

Enterprise Angels executive director Bill Murphy said the new fund would provide access in the region to funding for all the critical stages of a company’s growth.

“It’s a tremendous outcome for us as a region and very positive for the business community.”

Tauranga MP Simon Bridges said the new fund would be valuable for business and the wider community.

“It’s also a sign of the growing maturity of our area where we are starting to see new financial tools that weren’t around before.”

Bay of Plenty MP Todd Muller said the fund’s promoters had been smart in seeing the opportunity in the mid-market, and the regional pipeline.

“The fund is a great addition to the regional economy of New Zealand and I have every sense it will be successful.”

Colin McKinnon, executive director of the New Zealand Venture Capital Association, said the fund’s focus was unique.

“NZVCA welcomes the opportunity for new investors to get involved in private equity. And it’s interesting there’s been enough interest in a regional fund to lead to its establishment.”

The challenge was going to be around ensuring diversity of the portfolio and deal flow, he said

“But it’s very positive for the asset class.”

Bay of Plenty’s New Funding Ecosystem:

* WNTVentures – incubation

* Enterprise Angels – early stage

* Oriens Capital – growth capital

Experienced executive team at helm of Oriens Capital
Oriens Capital will come into operation with a very experienced executive team and the support of a well-connected board that is expected to help drive deal flow.

Chief executive James Beale has 20 years of experience, including 14 years at Craigs Investment Partners, where his roles included chairing the investment committee.

Most recently, he has been running his own firm, meeting a need in the region to assist private companies in raising capital.

Chief operating officer Peter Tinholt was a management shareholder in successful exporter Taura Natural Ingredients and left after the company was acquired late last year.

Oriens Capital has also identified a chief financial officer who has extensive experience in private equity. All three key executives will also be investing as LPs.

The founding board of the GP will be chaired by John McDonald, a director of Pohutukawa Private Equity, and a former executive of Fletcher Challenge.

Other directors include Neil Craig, founder and chairman of Craigs Capital Partners – who has been a key supporter of the new fund – and Michael Smith, a director of Port of Tauranga and Quayside.

Once the fund is established, Mr Smith and Mr Craig will be replaced by representatives of the three largest LPs, and Mr Craig will move to the LP board.

Other LP director designates include Colin Groves, a former director of M&A for global packing giant Tetra Laval, Richard Hughes, a director of WNTVentures, as well as Mr McDonald and another GP to be determined.

The investment committee will consist of the executive team, plus Colin Groves, Neil Craig and Richard Hughes.

Also designated are Bob Major, who has significant executive experience with Fonterra, and Dallas Fisher, a shareholder/director of NDA Group.

One other committee member will also be appointed. The focus of the new fund will be very much on regional cornerstone investors focusing on regional New Zealand capital growth opportunities, with specific flow-on benefits from within the BOP-Waikato triangle.

“One of the really important features of the new fund is the network of people appointed and the LPs,” said Mr Beale.

First published on on 15 June 2016

More women need to tell their investment stories

Successful women investors and entrepreneurs need to stand up and be counted if diversity is to be encouraged in the heavily male dominated field of private equity and leveraged transactions the 2016 New Zealand Private Equity & Venture Capital Association’s (NZVCA) Workshop on Women in Growth Capital was told (23rd May).

Chania Rodwell, director, Helmsman Capital, Sydney says: `We do have to drive recruitment to private equity. It can appear less attractive than some of the other alternatives open to female applicants. It helps if women working in the industry build recognition to break down the misconceptions and help others to see the opportunities.’

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Queen’s Birthday Honours: Investor committed to start-ups

Franceska Banga

Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for services to business and the community

Franceska Banga says she is honoured to be recognised for her role in state sector venture capital investment in New Zealand, which she sees as crucial to developing technology and innovation in this country. She has been made an officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

Queen’s Birthday Honours list 2016

Banga this year stepped down as chief executive of the New Zealand Venture Investment Fund. The fund’s founding chief executive, she left after 15 years of steering some $150 million of taxpayer money into more than 200 start-ups and early-stage companies. She has overseen partnerships with 10 venture capital funds and 15 angel investment networks.

She has just returned from the Simon Moutter-led Innovation Mission to Israel and says it has reinforced her commitment to the sector and working with high-growth companies.

Banga grew up in Christchurch and trained as an occupational therapist. In the 1980s she grew more interested in economics, initially in the health sector.

She studied economics at Auckland University and earned a post-grad degree at Victoria University on a Reserve Bank scholarship.

After time at the Reserve Bank and in the private sector, she moved to Treasury where she was director of the national health budget.

She was appointed chief adviser on strategy at the Ministry of Research Science and Technology in 1999 before moving to the NZVIF role when the organisation was founded in 2001.

Banga has also contributed her expertise in forums such as the New Zealand Capital Markets Development Taskforce and she chaired the New Zealand Private Equity and Venture Capital Association Board.

She is a member of the International Public Policy Forum on Venture Capital and a trustee of the International Centre for Entrepreneurship Foundation.

Banga has also used her expertise to benefit charity and not-for-profit organisations; she is a trustee for the Fred Hollows Foundation and was an independent director for the Royal New Zealand Foundation for the Blind.

First published on 6 June 2016

NZ tech firm raises funds, wins award

A local agri-technology company is on a high after raising $4.5 million for product development and research and being named the best AG-Tech start up in a Silicon Valley technology competition.

Engender Technologies has worked with two Centres of Research Excellence – the MacDiarmid Institute and the Dodds-Walls Centre – to develop technology to allow dairy farmers to manage the sex make-up of their herds.

It opens the way to a leading position in what’s estimated to be a $3.5 billion market.

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CropLogic Secures New Licence for Global Growth

Precision agriculture firm CropLogic has signed an exclusive agreement with the New Zealand Institute of Plant & Food Research to expand the marketing of its patented technology to corn, wheat, soybean and cotton farmers in the United States.

The technology — developed over 30 years out of Plant & Food Research, a New Zealand Crown Research Institute, and guided and shaped for international markets by IP investor Powerhouse Ventures — enables growers using the firm’s predictive modelling systems to pinpoint the best times to apply nutrients and to conserve precious water for maximum plant yields.

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Hutt’s Technology Valley renewal dependent on crowdfunding

Crowdfunding and crowd lending will play a major role in the success or otherwise of the Hutt’s rejuvenated Technology Valley initiative that is to be relaunched on June 9.

“For Technology Valley to grow it will require a great deal new investment and this can be achieved through new developments in crowdfunding and crowd lending”, says Professor Gary Mersham, a digital business technology researcher based at the Open Polytechnic.

The reason, he says, is that start-ups, accelerators, angel investing, crowdfunding and crowd lending are increasingly becoming part of an interlinked, newly emerging ecosystem for funding businesses at various stages of growth as they turn away from traditional funders like banks.

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Innovators to rub shoulders with investors

The Fieldays Innovations Centre should be at the top of visitors’ lists this year, say the organisers.

This is where inventors – from backyard to established companies – present their latest innovations on a global stage.

Fieldays has announced a new element to the 2016 Innovations line-up – the Fieldays Innovations Capital Event, partnered by Enterprise Angels.

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WNT Ventures partner with Angel HQ

WNT Ventures Management Ltd are delighted to announce an investment has been secured from leading members of Wellington based Angel Investment group, Angel HQ. Angel HQ have a strong portfolio of companies and is the second SCIF Accredited partner that has invested into WNT Ventures Fund 1.

The strength of this group, their investment knowledge and their Wellington location broadens both our networks and access points for IP driven technology to gain early investment capital and experienced advisers. With our hands-on investment approach and the capital intensive nature of early stage investment, our technology incubator structure is an obvious and positive fit for these Investors.

Manager of Angel HQ Dave Allison states “Our club has always demonstrated wide interest and has invested broadly across industries and life stages over the last 6 years. Investing in WNT Ventures was a great way for our members to support a number of teams and a range of IP in one very well packaged opportunity.”

WNT Ventures existing shareholders and Investors warmly welcome this Wellington based Angel Investment Group and the added depth of connections, skills and industry expertise Angel HQ brings to our shareholding.


Entrepreneur wants Kiwis to join him

New Zealanders have great ideas, but the commercialisation of them was “near zero”, says Israeli entrepreneur Isaac Bentwich, whose latest venture, CropX, is based on technology from Landcare Research.

“It reminded me of where Israel was 30 years ago,” he said.

Bentwich is the founder and chief executive of CropX, an agritech company formerly known as Verigate, which licensed research from the New Zealand crown research institute. Its first funding round was with New Zealand angel investors including the New Zealand Venture Investment Fund and last year it raised US$9 million in a series A funding round and then a further US$1 million last month.

Investors include Google chairman Eric Schmidt’s venture firm Innovation Endeavours and US-based Finistere Partners which includes a Kiwi, Arama Kukutai, as a partner.

CropX aims to help farmers produce more food with less water and other resources. It makes soil sensors and irrigation controllers for use on commercial farms and an app to help farmers interpret the data they gather.
Bentwich says more global entrepreneurs need to be attracted to the country to help build the innovation eco-system.

Bentwich is a medical doctor by training and serial entrepreneur whose efforts with his previous three companies led to a Nasdaq initial public offering and two acquisitions worth about US$50 million. He discovered the CropX technology while living in Nelson a few years ago and has since migrated the company to Tel Aviv.

“It’s really a co-production of New Zealand technology, Israeli technology, and the US market.”

Speaking to the first-ever New Zealand innovation mission to Israel, Bentwich said, when he was in New Zealand, he was blown away by two things – the quality and quantity of innovation.

Israel is known as the start-up nation with more start-ups per capita than any other country and the second highest level of investment per capita in start-ups behind the US.

Bentwich was initially refused residency in New Zealand because he didn’t meet the immigration criteria and only got approval through special intervention by senior officials.

“You had to have a PhD in biochemistry or biotech. I only employed hundreds of people with these PhDs but that didn’t matter,” he said.

Bentwich said his advice to government officials during his two and a half years in New Zealand was that local entrepreneurs needed access to global serial entrepreneurs who could help them learn the necessary skills to build a successful business.

“Training the local ones is key and then the money will follow. The capital which is critical to a company is secondary to the entrepreneurs,” he said.

With his first company, Bentwich got overseas funding from US venture capitalists in Silicon Valley – their first investment in Israel – and they helped him learn the ropes.

New Zealand’s government recently introduced a new Global Impact Visa aimed at attracting global entrepreneurs to live and start up businesses in New Zealand. The tender process for a private sector partner to run the four-year pilot programme goes out next month.

Bentwich said there’s a lot of potential alignment between New Zealand and Israel which both had small populations, and were “islands” with small populations far away from their markets, having to rely on their resourcefulness. “New Zealand is in a sea of water and Israel in a sea of hostility”, he said.

He’s a fan of the two countries setting up joint funding initiatives to commercialise technology, which would “bring together the mellow Kiwi nature with the caffeinated Israeli one and great things will happen”.

– Disclosure: Fiona Rotherham travelled to Israel with support from the Trans-Tasman Business Circle.

First published on 1 June 2016

R9 Accelerator Demo Day – 2 June

It would be great if NZ angels could get along to the R9 Demo Day to show our support for the large swathe of public servants in our community who are also aspiring to innovate and create ventures which are disruptive and scaleable….

We’re excited to announce that R9 Accelerator is having its second Demo Day on Thursday 2 June from 2:30pm – If you’re interested in attending please email Edd Brooksbank.

You’ll have the opportunity to invest in teams who are pitching their innovative solutions to improve public service for business customers, meet the teams and find out how they could help you. You will also hear what our panel of experts have to say and know why the R9 Accelerator is important to businesses across New Zealand.

Event details

  • Thursday, 2 June 2016, doors open at 2:30pm for a 3pm start
  • The Embassy Theatre, Kent Terrace, Wellington
  • Presentations will finish by 5:30pm with light refreshments and an opportunity to meet the teams from 5:30pm onwards

Any questions, please email Edd Brooksbank.

More information on R9 Accelerator

R9 Accelerator is a real life example of making it Better for Business when interacting with government. The teams are each working on an opportunity to make it better for businesses to interact with government.

The R9 Accelerator is led by the Result 9 Better for Business programme and delivered by Creative HQ to power better public services to business customers.

The R9 Accelerator brings together teams of entrepreneurs, developers, private sector specialists and government experts to work on projects to help solve major pain points for New Zealand businesses and reduce their effort in dealing with government.

The process takes just 14 weeks to generate a customer-validated prototype – ready for further investment. It takes a learn-as-you-go, fail fast approach to develop and test new products and services.
One of the teams – CoHelix. Dan, Nicole, and Alex are helping businesses be compliant by improving the fieldstaff services from regulatory agencies. Find out about the other teams and what they’re working on.

R9 Accelerator Demo Day – 2 June

It would be great if NZ angels could get along to the R9 Demo Day to show our support for the large swathe of public servants in our community who are also aspiring to innovate and create ventures which are disruptive and scaleable….

We’re excited to announce that R9 Accelerator is having its second Demo Day on Thursday 2 June from 2:30pm – If you’re interested in attending please email Edd Brooksbank.

You’ll have the opportunity to invest in teams who are pitching their innovative solutions to improve public service for business customers, meet the teams and find out how they could help you. You will also hear what our panel of experts have to say and know why the R9 Accelerator is important to businesses across New Zealand.

Event details

  • Thursday, 2 June 2016, doors open at 2:30pm for a 3pm start
  • The Embassy Theatre, Kent Terrace, Wellington
  • Presentations will finish by 5:30pm with light refreshments and an opportunity to meet the teams from 5:30pm onwards

Any questions, please email Edd Brooksbank.


More information on R9 Accelerator

R9 Accelerator is a real life example of making it Better for Business when interacting with government. The teams are each working on an opportunity to make it better for businesses to interact with government.

The R9 Accelerator is led by the Result 9 Better for Business programme and delivered by Creative HQ to power better public services to business customers.

The R9 Accelerator brings together teams of entrepreneurs, developers, private sector specialists and government experts to work on projects to help solve major pain points for New Zealand businesses and reduce their effort in dealing with government.

The process takes just 14 weeks to generate a customer-validated prototype – ready for further investment. It takes a learn-as-you-go, fail fast approach to develop and test new products and services.
One of the teams – CoHelix. Dan, Nicole, and Alex are helping businesses be compliant by improving the fieldstaff services from regulatory agencies. Find out about the other teams and what they’re working on.

Government earmarks $15m towards commercialising hi-tech developments

The Government’s $15 million investment into initiatives supporting Kiwi start-ups is a step in the right direction but there’s still more to be done, a Massey University economist says.

The Pre-Seed Accelerator fund is aimed at developing “cutting-edge” research into viable start-up businesses.

Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce said hundreds of savvy hi-tech Kiwi companies were succeeding on the world stage.

“These programmes are all about filling the pipeline with the next generation of quality Kiwi start-ups.”

Read more

New VC fund hits NZ$38m

The Global from Day One (GD1) Fund II has raised NZ$38 million – NZ$5 million more than its first close target.

The New Zealand Venture Investment Fund (NZVIF) is a cornerstone investor in the fund, committing around NZ$11 million (US$7.5m), alongside its Taiwan counterpart, the National Development Fund. The remainder has been raised from foundation investor Sparkbox Investments, the fund’s management team and private investors in New Zealand, Taiwan, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, and the USA. New Zealand investors include Sir Stephen Tindall’s K1W1, Diligent founder Brian Henry, and a range of private investors with technology and finance backgrounds.

Read more

ArcAngels Investment Evening

The next ArcAngels investment evening will be on May 25 at Ernst & Young.

More details of the event will be available shortly, however, the highlights will be:

– A discussion on the key points to consider when making an angel investment
– A report back from Jo Mills of Fuel 50, one of our portfolio companies
– Presentations from at least one company raising a further round of investment
– Presentations from up to two companies looking for angel investment for the first time
– A report back on the Lead Investor Forum from the day before


There have been a number of developments for the ArcAngels group.

Firstly, Cecilia Tarrant has been asked by the Committee to step into the Chair role.  Bridget Coates, while still very keen to be involved and very committed to the success of ArcAngels, has found that her work and travel schedule has been such that she hasn’t been able to give ArcAngels the time she wanted to and also feels it deserves.

Secondly, Alex Mercer, who was doing all the day to day running of ArcAngels, has similarly been snowed under by work.  Accordingly, Arc Angels have contracted the ICE Angels administration to provide some recources to run the network.  Going forward, Kate Wightman, under the direction of Robbie Paul, the IceAngels CEO, will manage Arc Angels administrative functions.  ArcAngels are really excited by this change. Among other rings it means the network will hold more frequent meetings.

ArcAngels will also be able to access stronger and more robust deal flow by leveraging ICE Angels networks. They intend to offer more deals, many of which will be syndicated with other angel groups so that there will be a wider range of New Zealand’s great entrepreneurial investment opportunities.  The emphasis, however, will continue to be on supporting women entrepreneurs.

ArcAngels are keen to build their membership and so encourage you to get in touch, particularly if you are interested in attending the May 25 Investment Evening at [email protected].

Lead Partners

NZTE NZGCP PWC “NZX” Callaghan Innovation

Expert Partner

AVID “Jarden”

AANZ Summit Sponsors

“UniServices” Kiwinet “AWS” “BNZ” “Momentum” “Punakaiki” “MBIE” “GD1” “WellingtonUniVentures” “Movac”