App aims to ease pain of building projects

“Over time” and “over budget” are two phrases well known to anyone working in construction, so a couple of industry veterans have seized on these perennial pain points to create a high-tech solution they believe has global potential.

Antonia and David Speight are the entrepreneurs behind Acuite, a cloud-based web application that provides real-time visibility into the performance of construction projects.

It’s designed for those managing large-scale commercial jobs, helping them assess critical metrics as they are happening, such as time, cost, quality, health and safety, and relationships with subcontractors.

The Speights know first-hand about the risks involved in managing commercial construction projects, with David’s experience on the building contractor’s side and Antonia’s on the client side.

“If you look into industry statistics you’ll find about 75 per cent of projects go over budget and 90 per cent are delayed,” Antonia said.

David said current solutions did not allow users to access information with the kind of timelines needed in the fast-moving environment.

Early last year the couple decided to test their idea, joining business growth centre The Icehouse’s business incubation and market validation programme.

The process gave them confidence there was a market for their concept and in October last year they came up with a visual concept for Acuite.

They presented it to three major construction companies, convincing them to come on board as trial customers and have since been developing the software with those industry partners.

The pair have been working full time on Acuite since October.

The company also recently gained $500,000 of seed investment from the Auckland early stage investment group the Ice Angels and the national female investor-led group the ArcAngels, allowing them to grow their team and push ahead the development of the product, which is due for official launch this year.

First published on Nzherald.co.nz 20th August 2015

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Small Business: Brand partnerships – Unovent

One of the most powerful things angels can do for a venture is provide commercial introductions. In this terrific story by Caitlin Sykes, John Wadsworth of Unovent provides a terrific example of this…

John Wadsworth is the inventor of home ventilation system Unovent, which launched on the market last year. Unovent has a brand partnership with Showerdome – a company that produces a moisture reduction product for bathrooms.

How did you first connect with Showerdome to form a brand partnership?

In August last year I decided I needed to get some serious investors on board for Unovent, so I did a presentation to the Enterprise Angels angel investment group in Tauranga.

From that experience I ended up connecting with Maurice O’Reilly and Dan Keller – people who I thought could make a big difference to the business, not only as shareholders but in terms of contributing their skills and experience to the development of the company.

Maurice was already a shareholder and director of Showerdome, and he could see we were chasing the same customers, so he and Dan came on as shareholders of Unovent, and Maurice also came on as a director.

Because we had this common shareholder and director, and we had this market link with Showerdome, it just made a lot of sense for us to listen very carefully to what Maurice had to say about how they had developed the Showerdome business, and to look at their business plan.
Showerdome is in the business of moisture reduction in the bathroom to reduce mould and other nasties, and we’re in the business of reducing moisture in the other living spaces like bedrooms, lounges and dining areas so the complementary nature of what we were doing was obvious.

What kinds of things do you do to work together?

The first is that at the bottom of certain pages of our website we’ve got the Showerdome logo, commentary about putting in a Showerdome and a link to the Showerdome website that opens in a new window. They also do the same on their website, and we know from Google Analytics that around 8 per cent of the people who look at our website have come there from clicking that Unovent link on Showerdome’s website.

Also, throughout the country Showerdome has a network of resellers and in some parts of the country they’ll also have a master distributor who the resellers in that area draw from. From time to time we get asked by those people if they could also represent Unovent. We’ve only made a small start on following those leads, but that’s another way we’re picking up on their network and brand.

And thirdly, we both have a DLE promotional brochure for our product, and Showerdome will put one of ours in with their goods when they send them off and we do the same.

Given your company is young it must be a benefit to leverage off a more established brand?

Exactly. They’ve been around for 11 years or so and they’re a proven success story. A big part of their success is due to the way they’ve made advertising and marketing of the product the engine of the business, and today it’s pretty much a household brand name.

I don’t think it’s any secret that every Showerdome year has been a record year, and in the short time we’ve been operating every month for us has pretty much been the same. We’d definitely like to copy their record. Like any business they will have made some mistakes in their early years in terms of how they’ve promoted the business for growth, and by aligning ourselves with them we’re gaining huge benefit from their learning.

What are some future opportunities you’re looking to explore in terms of brand partnerships?

Throughout the year both companies have been running prize giveaways in various publications, and recently for the first time we completed the draw of a large prize comprising an Unovent system and a Showerdome. That’s a combined activity that we should develop further.

Also, for every house to be effectively made comfortable and healthy, there needs to be effective heating, effective insulation, and effective ventilation plus a Showerdome to get rid of moisture. If you take away any one of those three elements the overall result isn’t as effective. So there is potentially the opportunity for us to do a range of things with organisations that work in those other areas as well.

First published on nzherald.co.nz 12 August 2015

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Angel connections help ideas grow wings

This great story illustrates “the eco-system in action” with Enterprise Angels and WNT Ventures working together to create the angel food of the future…

The boss of Bay of Plenty startup funding group Enterprise Angels says it is working closely with WNTVentures.

“We’re able to refer opportunities that are at too early a stage for Enterprise Angels to WNTVentures, and we’re able in all kinds of ways to be able to give more certainty to that next round of funding at the angel stage,” executive director Bill Murphy said.

Enterprise Angels is a shareholder in the incubator through its sidecar fund EA1, and sits on its investment committee. That involvement could include providing expert guidance and appropriately qualified directors for the incubated company.

Mr Murphy said the Scion nanofibre research was at too early a stage for angel investors because the commercial possibilities were still being worked out.

“We’re really pleased to see Scion is able to take some of its really cool research into WNT and give us the opportunity to invest in it at a later stage.”
WNTVentures chief executive Carl Jones said the incubator to date had three companies that had received the full $600,000 available from a combination of Callaghan Innovation repayable grants and the incubator’s 1:3 matching funding.

Bay of Plenty-based Onesixone has developed a software-hardware solution, which bridges the gap between industry standard DJ software and entertainment lighting systems.

IPO, based in Dunedin, is developing a point-of-care bovine mastitis diagnostic test, which will guide antibiotic treatment decisions. The technology only requires minimal laboratory requirements through vet practice or on farm, a simple sampling procedure.

Mr Jones said he was not yet able to provide details of the third company, which was in the software sector, for reasons of business confidentiality. There was also an agri-tech company at the same pre-incubation stage as Scion’s nanofibre project.

First published on nzherald.co.nz 12 August 2015

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Lean 15

Tags: Creative HQ

The Lean Startup Canvas has become very popular as a model of validating business ideas and opportunities. Steve Blank one of the early promulgators of this approach spoke compellingly at the recent American Angel Capital Association conference about its application for investors. As investors we need to recognise that often all the entrepreneur has in reality is a hypotheses and we need to ask for evidence or at least what the plan is to collect the evidence to validate this and create a stunning business. To learn more about the Lean Canvas you might like to consider attending the Lean 15 conference being held in Wellington 5-7 October.

More information

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ADMA Global Forum introduces beacon technology

Angel backed ShowGizmo is kicking on driving sales and business opportunities in new technologies adding value for event organisers.

The Association for Data-driven Marketing and Advertising (ADMA) will use new beacon technology as part of its upcoming Global Forum.

Event app company, ShowGizmo, and location-based marketing company, iProximity, have teamed up to integrate iProximity’s technology into ShowGizmo, allowing ADMA Global Forum attendees to experience location-based interactions.

Beacons placed throughout the Forum will allow delegates to receive in-app notifications, ticketing on arrival, and seminar specific information when delegates arrive at certain locations.

“ADMA Global Forum is the largest data-driven marketing conference in the Asia-Pacific region and we have to have the latest data-driven technology to showcase at our event,” said ADMA CEO, Jodie Sangster. “We hope the new ShowGizmo app will deliver on providing a fun, engaging, relevant and personalised experience for our delegates – one that really walks the talk.”

Read more on www.cmo.com.au

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Govt extends underwrite to start-up investor, NZVIF, to 2022

The Government’s decision to extend it’s support for venture capital is enthusiastically welcomed by the Angel Association. We are passionate believers that this end of the capital markets is the engine room for the country’s future economic success.

The government is extending its underwrite of the Crown-funded start-up investor, New Zealand Venture Investment Fund, through to 2022 and allowing $12 million to be transferred to the investor’s cash-constrained seed fund, but the level of support will drop from 2018.

The Crown’s $100 million underwrite facility will be extended until 2018 and then reduced to $60 million until 2020, as returns to NZVIF from earlier investments become available for reinvestment. The move, along with a $470,000 increase in operational funding, allows the fund to make co-funding commitments to new venture capital funds and partnerships.

NZVIF hasn’t yet called upon the underwrite, even in the depths of the global financial crisis, but chief executive Francescka Banga said it was a useful safety net that gave other investors confidence in dealing with the fund.

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce said the NZVIF played an important role in developing the start-up and growth capital markets for New Zealand companies.

“It has been instrumental in building up New Zealand’s angel and venture capital investor markets from small beginnings to the point where private and public venture capital investment since 2003 has reached $1.1 billion,” Joyce said.

“The angel investment formal market has provided a further $353 million since it started in 2006.”

Joyce said the government expects NZVIF to become self-sustaining over time and the extension of the underwrite guarantee gives the fund time to make that adjustment.

Banga said there had not previously been a deadline for the fund to become self-sustaining but that would now likely happen within the next four years as returns grow.

The $260 million Venture Capital Fund, which invests in start-up young growth companies through privately-managed venture capital funds, is already self-sustaining, she said.

But the $40 million Seed Capital Investment Fund, which invests in early-stage companies with angel investors, still had a way to go, she said.

Banga said it was NZVIF’s idea to get government approval to transfer $12 million from one fund to the other as the SCIF, set up in 2006, was in danger of running out of money to co-invest at the levels it had been.

Many of the 115 companies the seed fund has invested in are still at an early stage – averaging four years of investment – and it takes on average seven to eight years for returns to come through.

Banga said the fund will gradually modify its level of investment as the time draws nearer for it to become self-sustaining so it could withstand the fluctuations in the market which can alter expected returns and cash flow.

Since its establishment in 2002, NZVIF has invested $147 million, alongside private investors, into 187 of New Zealand’s most promising growth companies including Xero, Orion Health, PowerbyProxi, Vend and Booktrack.

It said in a report last week that it had broken even or made money on 21 per cent of its exited investments, which is said was in line with early-stage investment expectations.

The fund manager has exited 62 investments to date, of which 13 have broken even or produced a positive net return.

Eight returned between 1.0 and 1.99 times the total invested, one was between 2.0 and 3.0 times investment and another four realised more 3.0 times the total invested.

The seed fund has broken even or made money on five exits out of 26 while the Venture Investment Fund has had eight successful exits out of 26.

Banga said she was satisfied with returns to date given New Zealand is still a relatively young market for this type of investment.

“We’d always like to see more success, faster, but that’s the nature of the market. It has taken time.”

First published NZHerald 13 July 2015

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Start-up investment rewarding but takes time and money

Don’t miss out on NZVIF’s snapshot or our market…  just released today.

It contains a raft of fascinating insights into the NZVIF portfolio. Franceska’s press statement is below and the report is attached. It includes such things as:
•    for every dollar of initial investment 2-4 times is needed for follow-on investment
•    20% of exits have earned the level of investment back or better
•    average hold times for investments are 3 years for angels
•    $1 of public investment leverages $9 of private capital
•    57% of the portfolio (131 angel and 66 venture) were valued under $1m at investment and 27% under $500,000.

Investing in start-ups and young technology companies can be rewarding but investors should not hold high expectations of fast turnarounds in investment gains, according to a New Zealand Venture Investment Fund report released today.

NZVIF’s Snapshot Report says that speedy profitable exits occur occasionally but, in general, investors should take a portfolio approach, be prepared for the long haul, and be well provisioned for follow on investments.

As an example of the latter, the report says that investors making an initial investment of $20,000 into a young technology company should typically expect to make follow-on investments taking their stake to between $40,000 and $80,000.

NZVIF CEO Franceska Banga said that while early stage investing is a high risk investment class – at least four in 10 companies fail – it is enjoying a period of marked growth.

Read more on www.scoop.co.nz

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Boat launcher can help keep marriages afloat: inventor

Remote-controlled device avoids the hot water of loading and unloading vessels

Spend any time sitting at a boat ramp observing the bustle of boaties launching and retrieving their vessels and inevitably, excruciatingly, it won’t be long before something goes awry.

These boat scratching moments are the bane of any owner’s day, but they’re also the motivation behind a Kiwi innovation – the Balex Automatic Boat Loader.

A self-powered, remote controlled device for loading and unloading boats onto trailers, the ABL2500, made by Balex Marine in Tauranga, eliminates the need for manual winches, wet feet and, crucially, requires just one person to get a boat into and out of the water.

The first batch of finished units is due to ship to customers in spring. However, the story of how Balex got to this point began 10 years earlier in the garage of Tauranga realtor Lex Bacon.

Bacon, following a suggestion from his wife that inventing an automatic method of launching and retrieving boats would save many a marriage, spent years building early versions in his shed.

n 2013, mutual interests brought Bacon together with businessman Paul Symes who had just spent eight years in the Philippines building a CAD-based engineering company which he’d sold before returning to New Zealand.

A keen boatie and sailor, he brought his family to the Bay of Plenty and met Bacon and his fledgling automatic boat loader.

Sensing an opportunity to fold his hobbies and his penchant for investment into a single business, Balex Marine was founded in late 2013.

What followed was an intensive period of research and development in the hope of creating a product that Symes believes has the potential to become as commonplace as automatic garage doors.

“I spent the latter part of 2013 doing my own due diligence,” Symes says.

This involved employing product development consultancy Locus Research to conduct market research.

“By late December 2013 we’d brought all of those findings together and ultimately decided to develop, in 20 weeks, an advanced prototype as part of a market validation programme,” says Symes, who put up $300,000 to fund this first phase.

The finished prototype was showcased to the 2014 Auckland Boat Show’s 34,000 visitors.

With an advanced prototype and plenty of market validation under their belts, the company now needed capital.

Government-backed Callaghan Innovation provided about $100,000 to continue the R&D programme and after a successful pitch the Bay of Plenty-based early stage investment group the Enterprise Angels invested $700,000 to get the first boat loaders out the door.

During the Enterprise Angels’ due diligence process another key figure, Paul Yarrall, joined the team. The relationship clicked and in January 2015 Yarrall joined Balex’s board as sales director.

Even as the launch draws nearer, the company is busy preparing for a second, larger round of capital raising. This money will enable the company to set in motion its ambitious plans for a worldwide launch, beginning with Australia, then North America and Europe.

Produced in conjunction with the Angel Association of New Zealand.

Balex Marine
Remote controlled device for loading and unloading boats.
Developed an advanced prototype in 20 weeks.
Received $800,000 in funding and investment.
Planned to launch this spring.

As first published on NZHerald

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Inside Wellington’s thriving startup scene

Rod Drury and Stefan Korn from Creative HQ promote Wellington as the place for startups, including a thriving angel community!

The land drives development

Wellington is surrounded by hills which limit urban sprawl and is built around a bay which is too cold to swim in most of the year. Rather than brave the icy wind which lashes the region, entrepreneurs instead prefer to build software indoors.

It’s a geography which Drury says smashes everyone together into a small area, creating a “petri dish” of talent and creativity.

Throw in a significant amount of buy-in from all levels of government and you’ve got yourself a tech community which can hold its own against some of the best in the world.
There are talent issues

However, it’s still a small city so recruiting talent, with the likes of Trade Me and Xero hoovering up all the bodies they can get their hands on, means the country is “shamelessly” recruiting Aussies to jump across the ditch and get involved, Wellington Councillor Jo Coughlin says.

Read more on www.businessinsider.com.au

 

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Award for Business School academic behind UK’s £750m annual angel investment phenomenon

A wonderful award made recently to Professor Richard Harrison, Chair in Entrepreneurship and Innovation at University of Edinburgh recognising the role he played promote angel investment in the UK.
The academics credited with introducing the ‘business angel’ phenomenon to the UK, and stimulating more than £750m of entrepreneurial investment each year, have been recognised with an award for their outstanding contribution to business research during the past 25 years.

University of Edinburgh Business School’s Professor Richard Harrison, and Adam Smith Business School, University of Glasgow’s Professor Colin Mason received the award for Outstanding Impact in Business, at the Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC) Celebrating Impact Awards.

The award recognises the crucial role their research has played in stimulating business angel investment and ensuring government support for this key source of entrepreneurial finance.

Unheard of in the UK before 1990, ‘business angel’ is now a commonly used term to describe wealthy individuals who invest their personal wealth in start-up, or early-stage ventures, in return for an equity stake.

The researchers’ proposals for business angel networks (BANs) was first adopted in 1991 by the UK government in five pilot projects, before going on to play a pivotal role in the Department of Trade and Industry’s best practices guide for the formation of BANs.

Read more on www.business-school.ed.ac.uk

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Small Business: Eyes on the US

In this insightful article, angel-backed Fuel50 talk about the really nitty gritty aspects of entering the US market and have some lovely accolades for angel investment.

Small Business: Eyes on the US – Business – NZ Herald News
In October last year the folks behind Kiwi company Fuel50 won big in Las Vegas – but the source of their winnings wasn’t the roulette or blackjack tables.

Instead the company’s offering was awarded as one of the best new human resources technologies at the HR Technology Conference, which is held annually at the desert resort mecca.

Fuel50 creates career path software, typically aimed at companies with a high concentration of knowledge workers and with 1000 or more employees, and its CEO Anne Fulton says the win opened the door to coverage in the Wall St Journal and other US publications.

It all helps when you’re a tiny Kiwi company targeting major US-based customers in a competitive landscape that includes the likes of technology giants Oracle and SAP.

“In the US there are 11,000 companies in our target market versus 100 in New Zealand and 444 in Australia.

So there’s no question that’s the market we want to be in,” says Fulton.

“We’re trying to build a really big business brand, so our marketing has been critical to us acting like a bigger company. We talk about being David and Goliath; we’re a micro business down here in New Zealand, but we market like we’re a large enterprise.”

Like Fulton, many New Zealand small business owners making inroads into the US cite the scale of opportunity as a reason for their focus on the market, but the sheer size of the US also means small Kiwi companies need to direct their efforts carefully.

“We’re such generalists and in the US you really need to narrow your focus, and even as you keep narrowing it you find you’re still dealing with opportunities far greater than you could ever get here,” says Ben Ridler, CEO of business management software firm Results.com, which has a San Francisco office with around a dozen staff.

Ridler says hiring Americans is helping mould the company’s thinking.

Ben Ridler, CEO of Results.com.

“I think they’re the most advanced society when it comes to sales and marketing. Both our head of US sales and our head of marketing are American, so they’ve knocked the Kiwi thinking out of us a bit. But I think Kiwis have a lot to offer too. We’re very good at delivering a product or service to a client need and we innovate really well, so I think between us it’s a really nice mix.”

Hiring locally has also been important for Spotlight Reporting, a software as a service (SaaS) company that produces business intelligence add-ons to online accounting software platforms Xero and QuickBooks Online.

The firm has one US-based staff member – sales director Leslie Riggs, a Californian – who Spotlight’s CEO Richard Francis says “already has great knowledge of different ecosystems in the US”.

But it’s still crucial for Kiwi company leaders to regularly get on a plane to the US, he says, and that all efforts in the market are adequately resourced.

“The main thing that’s distinguishing the companies who make it in the US and the ones who aren’t is investment,” says Francis. “If you’re going to go there, you’ve got to do it seriously, and for investors, particularly in the SaaS world, you have to have a US market play.”

Q&A: Anne Fulton, Fuel50

Anne Fulton is the CEO of Fuel50 / Career Engagement Group, which creates career path software and has offices in Auckland and New York.

When did Fuel50 first start engaging with the US market?

We took on our first angel investment at the end of December 2013, started looking at establishing our US operation in January 2014 and had appointed and trained staff by April that year. So we’ve been going for about 15 months in the US. We’ve learnt a lot.

Why is the US market such a focus for the company?

The US market for HR tech is the most sophisticated in the world; it’s valued at $14 billion a year and it’s still growing. We work with enterprise clients who have a high concentration of knowledge workers and typically with 1000 or more employees – so banking, finance, health care, higher education, technology companies. In the US there are 11,000 companies in our target market versus 100 in New Zealand and 444 in Australia. So there’s no question that’s the market we want to be in.

The US really leads the way when it comes to thinking around HR technology. The companies are so sophisticated and they use multiple HR technologies to support their people strategies, plus the HR technology landscape up there is super exciting. Our product fits a niche in the market – currently there’s very little dedicated technology to support career pathing – so that’s our opportunity, to become the leading career pathing technology in the US and globally.

What’s the current state of your business in the US, and some of your goals for growth there?

We have a goal to have 100 US clients by the end of next year; we have five now, but that includes some big names and some Fortune 100 companies and 100 best places to work in the US. At the moment everything is trending in the right direction. Last year we doubled our recurring revenue, and we’ve doubled that again in the past six months.

What do you think has helped you get your foot in the door of that market?

We’re trying to build a really big business brand, so our marketing has been critical to us acting like a bigger company. We talk about being David and Goliath; we’re a micro business down here in New Zealand, but we market like we’re a large enterprise. In our competitive landscape we’ve got Oracle and SAP, so we’re playing into that space and we look carefully at their marketing and try to emulate or do better than anything they’re doing, particularly in the career pathing research and thought leadership space.

Underpinning our marketing is a foundation of research. We’re aiming to be thought leaders and providing research and insight into what best practice ‘career enablement’ looks like. We’re regularly invited on to the conference speaking circuit, particularly in the employee engagement industry. We were fortunate enough to also get noticed by picking up the award for being one of the best new technologies at the HR Technology Conference in Las Vegas last year, and that opened us up to coverage in the Wall St Journal and other publications, which all helps credibility.

The other thing is engaging with the HR community in the US, so really having quality conversations and building strong relationships with our prospects. We work really hard on what we call our ‘Fuellie’ culture – to be fast, fun and fantastic as a team – so everyone has fun together but they also have aspirational performance objectives. Our US team have some big goals, but they’re incredibly high performing.

How about things that haven’t worked as well? What have been some of your major learnings so far in the US?

Because we’re about the people proposition we really have to live our business values. What’s been interesting in the US is people are more prepared to come and go quickly, so you’ve got to be really focused on engaging them, keeping them motivated and have a good pipeline of talent.

How have you grown that pipeline?

The same way we’ve found our clients – through contacts, relationships and attending events within the HR industry. Having a strong board has also helped us attract great talent and the angel investment community behind us has been outstanding. We wouldn’t be doing what we’re doing, or have achieved what we’ve been achieving without their backing. Being able to tap into people like the ex-chair of Xero, Sam Knowles – who’s one of our investors – has been incredible.

As first published NZHerald 22 June 2015

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Seeing the light led to law career

A wonderful article on Enterprise Angels member, Murray Denyer who totally personifies what it means to be an angel investor.

MURRAY Denyer’s eureka moment came part way through his double major in commerce and law at Auckland University in the early 1990s.

Supported by a scholarship from a major accounting firm, he had been leaning towards a career as an accountant. Then he stumbled across a Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade recruitment presentation.

“I saw the light – it absolutely appealed to me,” said Mr Denyer, a partner with law firm Cooney Lees Morgan, chairman of Tauranga economic agency Priority One, and an active angel investor.

The prospect of an international career tapped into a travel bug developed as a teenager, when he and a mate headed off straight after finishing at Waitakere College for three months’ backpacking around Europe.

“It was a major formative experience that opened my eyes to the world and cemented my interest in languages,” he said.

Mr Denyer, who was born and brought up in West Auckland, where his father was a chemist and his mother a GP, now set his sights on a diplomatic career.

He refocused his degree on international law, graduating with a Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Law, and joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s 1993 graduate intake as a legal division policy officer.

A major highlight of his diplomatic career came while he was serving on a short-term posting with the New Zealand mission to the United Nations in 1994, when he was on hand to observe Nelson Mandela deliver his first speech as president of South Africa to the General Assembly.

Soon afterwards, he was posted to The Hague as second secretary, looking after New Zealand interests in The Netherlands and Scandinavia. His brief also included international organisations based in The Hague.

Mr Denyer said he was proud to have played a role in working on the New Zealand case brought in the International Court of Justice which eventually forced the French to stop nuclear testing at Mururoa.

A French speaker, he spent a lot of time travelling in southern France. His blue-blooded, Paris-trained, French diplomatic peers found the Francophone Kiwi’s ability to swear like a Marseilles sailor hilarious. “I’m a strong believer in encouraging children to learn languages,” said Mr Denyer.

It was in The Hague that he met his wife Lisa, an Australian-trained lawyer who was travelling in Europe. After a whirlwind romance, she ended her travels and started work at a Dutch bank in nearby Amsterdam.

In 1998, the couple returned to Wellington where he served as a senior legal adviser and worked on international trade law disputes, travelling frequently to the World Trade Organisation in Geneva.

But after almost eight years with MFAT, he decided it was time he entered private practice and joined Minter Ellison Rudd Watts in Wellington as a senior associate. He became a key member of the firm’s state-owned enterprises practice, and also gained broad corporate and commercial experience. In addition, he founded and developed a high-profile international trade law practice, with clients including Fonterra, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Ministry for Primary Industries and New Zealand Winegrowers.

It was that export experience which brought him to the attention of a headhunter seeking a new general counsel for kiwifruit export marketing company Zespri. Mr Denyer knew the company well, but had never been to Tauranga, so he and his wife decided to check out Mount Maunganui.

“We left on one of those filthy cold Wellington days,” he said. “But when we got out in Tauranga it was 21 degrees and the sun was out.”

His wife, pregnant with their first child, took a walk on the Mount Maunganui beach while he interviewed for the job. By the time he returned, the decision to take the job and raise a family in Tauranga was a foregone conclusion for the couple.

“It’s paradise and we’ve never looked back,” he said.

Mr Denyer spent almost six years with Zespri, his role growing to include global management accountability for legal, government relations and industry regulation, and human resources, in addition to serving as secretary to the Zespri board. He was also deeply involved in the global licensing of kiwifruit varieties.

“It was enormously satisfying and incredibly busy, but towards the end I was doing a ridiculous amount of travel,” he said.

His wife had by then been working for some years with Cooney Lees Morgan, which advises Zespri, and he knew the team there well. In 2009 he came on board the firm as a consultant, and was elected to the partnership in 2010.

Mr Denyer works with the commercial practice group, servicing clients including large corporates like Zespri and Norske Skog, local government, Maori trusts and incorporations, and a wide range of small and medium-sized companies.

He has served as Priority One chairman for the past three years and praises the organisation for bringing the council and local business together to help plan the city’s economic development.

Priority One chief executive Andrew Coker said Mr Denyer had been a strong supporter of the agency’s s goals.

“As chair he’s made a major contribution to the organisation’s direction and it’s success,” said Mr Coker. “Murray’s strongly community-focused, and has been extremely generous with his legal and commercial expertise, as well as what is a precious commodity to him and his family, his time.”

Mr Denyer and fellow partner Paul Tustin are also closely involved in Cooney Lees Morgan’s advisory work for Tauranga’s Enterprise Angels, which invests in start-up companies.

Mr Tustin said his colleague was a very good lawyer who brought a valuable perspective to the firm from his corporate and diplomatic experience.

“Murray’s got a really good handle, at a governance level, on organisations, which has been very helpful as well,” said Mr Tustin.

As first published NZHerald 19 June 2015

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Equity crowdfunding’s strong start

A strong start for equity crowdfunding platforms reflects a genuine appetite to support inspirational NZ businesses. It’s important that these companies get more than just support in the form of capital but also with value and market growth strategies.

Fifteen young firms have raised a total of $8.7 million through three equity crowdfunding platforms since the low-strings fund-raising mechanism got the green light from regulators last year.  The sum may be small compared to the $55m that well-heeled “angel investors” pumped into high-growth businesses last year and to the $4.7b bigger businesses raised through the NZX stock exchange in 2014.

It looks even tinier when compared with the current value of bank loans to businesses, which stood at $80b in April, according to the Reserve Bank.

But Chapman Tripp corporate lawyer Bradley Kidd says the start is encouraging.

More platforms have been set up than he expected to support equity crowdfunding and there have been some “really good offers”, he says. “I’d say it has gone a bit better than I’d of expected.”

Read more on www.stuff.co.nz

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Twista Interview

 

TWISTA – an online radio station based in Australia – talks to Chris Twiss, of the New Zealand Venture Investment Fund. Then, Nick Sherwing and Jonah Merchant of BizDojo talk about creating a co-working space that helps startups in Auckland and Wellington thrive. Then visits the offices and factory floor of Auckland startup, StretchSense. What’s it like to be the first employee at a startup growing like mad?

Read more and listen the Twista interview here

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Icehouse Lightning Lab start-ups pitch to 300 investors

More wonderful ‘angel food’ being delivered by Lightning Lab. Congratulations to all those involved and best of luck to the companies for successful first rounds.

More than 300 investors are being offered the opportunity to invest in their choice of nine Auckland technology start-ups.

Auckland’s first Lightning Lab programme comes to a head at Spark’s headquarters on Thursday night as start-ups in a Dragon’s Den-style pitch their businesses to investors in the hope attracting funding.

The start-ups in the programme are Wearit, BrokerBetter.com, Justly, Roll, Designer Wardrobe, Logicore, Preno, Future Insight and Estimeet.

All up they were looking to raise a combined total of about $2 million, MacLeod- Smith said.

Lightning Lab gives selected start-ups $18,000 equity in exchange for an 8 per cent stake in the business.

The Lightening Lab is a digital accelerator programme run in partnership with incubation hub The Icehouse.

Founded by Wellington incubator Creative HQ, Lightning Lab mentors digital start-ups over 12 weeks, providing them with the skills and support to launch their businesses.

Auckland Lightning Lab programme organiser Mark MacLeod- Smith said each start-up was given eight minutes to stand up and sell their company, during which time investors were not able to ask questions.

After all the pitches had been presented the start-up owners networked with investors who then carry out due diligence over several weeks before deciding to invest in any of the companies, MacLeod- Smith said.

Read more on www.stuff.co.nz

 

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Manuka Health mulls capital raising options

Former AANZ Chair Ray Thomson provides some insights on the next steps for angel-backed Manuka Health.

Manuka Health, the functional food and dietary supplement company, is reviewing capital-raising options to help fund a global roll-out of new products said to boost the antibacterial qualities of manuka honey and its pipeline of research and development.
The private company has ruled out a public listing at this stage but chief executive Kerry Paul said it was considering other options including new investors who bring more than just capital to the table.

Manuka Health was founded in 2006 and exports 90-plus products based on propolis, royal jelly, bee pollen, and manuka honey to 45 countries. It has annual turnover of more than $50 million, 80 staff, and is owned by a number of private shareholders including Paul and family interests associated with chairman Ray Thomson, and institutional investors, Milford Asset Management and Waterman Capital.

Manuka Health holds the worldwide licence and pays royalties on sales to Kobe University of Medicine in Japan for the new technology, which combines encapsulated manuka honey with plant-derived cyclodextrin, “creating a free-flowing powder that can easily be added to foods and beverages for ease of delivery of health benefits,” according to a report on the company’s website.

Read more on www.scoop.co.nz

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How Should You Value an Early Stage Company?

Ralph Shale provides some interesting insights for angels on how to value an early stage company.

Investors should try to use a range of methods to validate what is a reasonable valuation. The only certainty in any valuation is that it will be wrong, in hindsight either too high or too low.

Valuing any business is an art not a science, with a lot of room for personal interpretation. There are a number of valuation approaches that investors can use. The best advice is to cross-check several before determining what is or not a reasonable valuation. My own approach:

Value invested to date
Although this is probably the crudest approach, it is interesting to understand how much has been invested to date to get the company to its current position. This should include both cash and an allowance for time (sweat equity). This ‘replacement’ cost can then be adjusted for the following:

  • What are the barriers to entry for competitors, such as intellectual property rights?
  • How long would it take a competitor to replicate the opportunity?
  • Has the investment to date been 100% effective? If money invested is going down the wrong path, the opportunity should be excluded.
  • What is a reasonable return on the investment, given the risks taken by the entrepreneur and investors?

Read more on www.wholesaleinvestor.com.au

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Snapchat gurus get big bucks for US mission

The power of the eco-system, including accelerators and angel investors is powerfully illustrated in Mish Guru’s story.

After one accelerator programme, a spell in a start-up incubator and a tonne of two minute noodles, digital venture Mish Guru has a springboard of nearly half a million dollars to break into the US market.

It’s the place to be for founder Tom Harding and his team, because their software is designed to help businesses get bang for their marketing buck on Snapchat. And a big chunk of Snapchat’s hip, young user base is in the US—by late last year, 14 percent of mobile internet users were active Snapchat users, matched only the UK.

With work for music festivals like Rhythm and Vines, sports teams like the Breakers, Bigpipe Broadband and the band Jupiter Project on the company’s CV, Harding’s moved to the Big Apple to seize the growth opportunity.

Read more on www.idealog.co.nz

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New blood a boost for biotech firm

Congrats to Breath Easy in securing a high profile Chairman, demonstrating the power of angel investment to provide critical connections and contacts.
Tech industry veteran Gary Pace appointed to lead board of Breathe Easy Therapeutics.

New Zealand’s Breathe Easy Therapeutics has made a high-profile addition to its board as it advances plans for medical trials of its cystic fibrosis therapy.  The company, which is in the middle of a Snowball Effect equity crowdfunding campaign, has appointed Gary Pace – a more than 40-year veteran of the technology world – as independent chairman.

Pace, a San Diego-based Australian, also sits on the board of ASX-listed medical device maker Resmed and Nasdaq-listed pharmaceutical firm Transition Therapeutics.  Breathe Easy’s Citramel therapy is administered via inhaler for the treatment of cystic fibrosis, a genetic illness that affects the lungs and digestive systems of about 75,000 people worldwide.  The drug is being positioned as a core therapy to improve lung function and potentially enhance the effectiveness of other therapies such as antibiotics.  Citramel’s potential market is estimated at US$1 billion ($1.33 billion).

The Snowball Effect campaign, which had successfully raised $374,818 by yesterday afternoon and closes on Monday, is part of a $2 million funding round.  In addition to the crowdfunding cash, more than $1 million has been raised from local angel investors, investment firm Pacific Channel, and the Government-backed New Zealand Venture Investment Fund.

“With that [$2 million] capital we should be able to demonstrate the clinical feasibility of the product,” Pace said.  “It would take it through the initial clinical trials [in New Zealand].”

Early signs of efficacy have been shown in a patient who has been on Citramel for close to two years.  Pace said it would cost at least $50 million to get Citramel to market.  “We’re designing the [clinical feasibility] study to make it attractive to potential larger groups that could fund it or buy it, such as a venture capital company or a mid to large-sized pharmaceutical company that’s active in the cystic fibrosis area.”

That next stage of investment would probably come from the United States, Pace said.  New Zealand was well placed to run clinical trials of locally developed therapies, but moving into the US market was key to success.  “There’s been a strong resurgence of investment in the biotech industries in the US with last year showing the highest levels of investment in 14 years,” Pace said.  “Kiwi companies are known globally for their ability to innovate and while they seem to understand that US commercialisation in life sciences is key to success, I haven’t seen many make any real impact in this space.”  He said the US biotech industry received US$8.6 billion in investment last year.

“It’s the US’ second biggest sector for investment so this market is key for any New Zealand firm with international aspirations,” Pace said.  “What Kiwis need is a clear US focus from a clinical, regulatory and business perspective, and for that you need people on the ground here with experience. Breathe Easy has that potential.”

Paul Tan, the former chief science and medical officer of ASX-listed Living Cell Technologies, has also joined Breathe Easy as chairman of its scientific advisory board.  Living Cell’s treatments for diseases including Parkinson’s involve transplanting pig cells into humans.

As published in NZ Herald 16 May 2015

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Garden shed start-up digs for feedback

Another brilliant example of the aspiration and energy angel backed companies have for growth and value creation. Congratulations to Ice Angels and John O’Hara who are leading this deal.

Auckland company AskNicely has launched an immediate, email-based feedback system to help companies know whether their customers are driving away happy.

Aaron Ward and John Ballinger launched AskNicely from their Parnell garden shed in November and have since seen customer growth double monthly to 1000 clients, with no signs of slowing, according to the pair.

Ward, who has a background in corporate marketing, said net promoter score systems had become a key barometer for measuring customer satisfaction in a lot of companies, ranking service and product based on ratings from questionnaires, but often by the time feedback had been received it was a few days or even weeks down the track, and the lengthy questionnaire often put customers off placing feedback.

“Everybody hates answering surveys so what we’ve done with AskNicely is break all of the conventions around traditional surveys,” Ward said.

“So instead of having multiple custom questions we’ve got one question and instead of putting it on to a website we embed the question directly into the email so that customers just have to click the zero to 10 button on the email so we’ve made it really light and fast and respectful of the user’s time.”

According to Ward, the biggest difference between AskNicely and other surveys is the response time, with results from AskNicely collated and reported immediately so that any issues or feedback can be resolved.

“The immediacy is absolutely core to our proposition,” Ballinger said. “So typically after you’ve had an interaction with a brand – so after you’ve bought something or called through to a support desk – what we do is automatically trigger that survey out so while that experience is fresh in the customer’s mind their opinion is going to be strongest, and because we make it really easy for the customer to respond, they’re happy to provide that feedback.”

Ballinger said time was particularly important when it came to negative feedback for a brand or company, where leaving an issue unresolved could result in further complaints from customers and potential damage to a brand or firm’s reputation.

According to Ward, response rates from customers using AskNicely were also up to five or six times higher than using regular net promoter score (NPS) systems, and the platform filled a previously vacant market niche for small to medium companies that could use the software as a service model on the scale they wanted from a free service for less than 100 surveys a month and scaling up in cost for larger companies sending out up to 100,000 surveys each month.

“Beyond any other marketing tool, positive word of mouth has become the holy grail of business success,” Ward said.

“Until now, businesses unable to afford the six-figure price tags for NPS have put up with conventional survey platforms that get poor response rates (less than 10 per cent) and deliver feedback too late,” he said.

“We knew the timing was right to launch an affordable, cloud-based solution that will deliver regardless of scale, sector, region or language.”

The pair had always aimed to be a global company and with 80 per cent of new customers coming from overseas and more than half of these in North America, where Ward said the NPS market was particularly strong, they saw the company’s success internationally as a good sign for New Zealand start-ups in general.

“We’re both very passionate about the idea of New Zealand tech start-ups taking on the world and while we’re effectively going global from a garage,” Ballinger said.

“We’re quite committed to growing a business that’s really small on the inside but can scale very large on the outside with customers.”

As published NZ Herald 7 May 2015

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The idea: Ken Erskine of The Icehouse

The wind beneath the wings of New Zealand’s angel community, Ken Erskine talks about what makes a compelling, investable business.

You’ve seen lots of ideas for startup businesses come and go over the years. What factors have you observed make for a good business idea?

A good business idea can often be one that initially you’re not really sure if it’s a great idea or a really bad one – it’s usually one that is something in between. What I mean by that is if something’s a really great idea then the obvious question is ‘why hasn’t someone done that before?’.

The opposite scenario is also true – if it’s a really dumb idea, then there’s a good reason why no one has done it. So it’s that area in the middle where I generally see the best ideas coming from.

Often those ideas are also inspired by people’s insights gained from working in or around a particular industry or market. The mad inventor-style ideas – the random ones that just pop into someone’s head in the middle of the night – are generally the ones that are really hard to commercialise without that previous understanding of how the existing market behaves and operates.

When asking people to adopt any new idea you’re asking them to change their current behaviour, and getting them to do that comes down to how compelling a proposition you have to meet their unmet need or want.

The other thing about ideas is you have to understand the time and money it takes to get a new idea to market.

Therefore having an innate knowledge of what the latest trends and developments are in the marketplace, and trying to move ahead of the curve to where the market is going to be – not necessarily where the market is today – is really important.

What are the key factors for taking an idea and turning it into a viable business?

The key thing first of all is to validate the idea and establish if there is true a market need. One of the typical things that people who haven’t started a business before will say is ‘first I need to patent my idea’ and they can spend a fortune doing so.

My suggestion for non-research intensive ideas is, before you invest money on patenting your idea, first of all establish if there is a real market opportunity for it. You don’t need to say what your invention is – you can go out and ask open questions about the market or the need – but there’s no better time to establish if there’s a real opportunity than before you actually build or develop the thing.

Also, an idea on its own is never enough. Very rarely does anyone have a unique idea that no one has had before, so part of the challenge is doing something with it in an appropriate manner. As an entrepreneur it’s really about keeping that balance between dogged determination and resilience, and knowing when to say ‘I’m not getting enough traction, let’s move on to the next idea’.

What I really like to see is a business that’s trying to move towards break-even or commerciality as quickly as it can. You may be commercially sustainable on day one, but it’s important to always have a keen eye on how you get to a point of being cashflow positive. Because without customers and money what you can have is a really expensive hobby. And there’s nothing wrong with having a hobby as long as you realise that’s what it is.

Some entrepreneurs have really interesting back stories to their ideas. What role do you think having a great ‘story’ behind an idea makes?

Every startup needs to have its own story and that story has to resonate. So I think it’s fundamentally important as a way to communicate between the founder and potential partners or customers. People love stories, but a key thing to understand is you have one mouth and two ears; you want to use your story to engage in a dialogue, so you can bring others along on the journey.

What’s a key piece of advice you’d have for anyone looking to turn their idea into a real business?

While the idea is key and a catalyst to get you started, it’s what you do with the idea that makes the difference. Thousands of people have a millions of ideas every day; it’s what you do with that idea and how you bring it to life that’s most important. In business, that involves relating your idea to potential customers and markets and allowing others to join in your idea and share it and help you develop it to meet their needs.

Coming up in Your Business: Etsy is a massive global marketplace to buy and sell all things homemade. So what are some of the great Kiwi businesses making a living out of selling on this platform? If you’ve got a story to tell on growing a small business through Etsy, drop me a note: [email protected]

As published NZ Herald 6 May 2015

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Equitise raises $211k in first campaign

Equity crowd funding closes another deal in NZ. Equitise, together with PledgeMe and Snowball have now raised $8m for their ventures. It was clear at the recent Angel Capital Assn conference in San Diego that these platforms are bringing valuable additional funding into the early stage funding market. We need to be sure we keep reminding those taking part of the risk inherent in these investments.

Equity crowd-funding platform Equitise has closed its first campaign after successfully raising $211,000 for Tourism Radio NZ.

The company, which provides location-specific digital travel guide commentary through mobile devices in motor homes and rental cars, says it will use the cash to develop technology, expand its sales force and prepare the business for expansion into Australia.

The 30 investors that took part in the crowd-funding campaign, which valued the firm at $1.2 million, now hold a combined stake of 18.2 per cent in Tourism Radio.

The company, which had revenue of over $950,000 last year, said the investment would drive future revenue growth of 50 per cent year-on-year.

Equitise managing director Jonny Wilkinson said the platform had received a lot of interest from potential issuers since completing its first campaign.

“People have obviously seen that out first deal has closed [successfully] and that has provided some certainty and surety in people’s minds,” he said.

Equitise gained authorisation to operate from the Financial Markets Authority in December.

Wilkinson said Equitise expected to announce its second campaign within the next few weeks.

Equity crowd-funding, which became possible in New Zealand last year through a once-in-a-generation overhaul of securities legislation, allows companies to issue shares to the public through online platforms.

More than $7 million has been raised by three local equity crowd-funding providers – Snowball Effect, PledgeMe and Equitise – since August.

As published  NZ Herald 6 May 2015

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World Cup Tech Challenge: Silicon Valley 2015

The deadline is fast approaching for applications to present at the “World Cup Tech Challenge: Silicon Valley 2015.”

This is the ninth year of this competition.  This year, the event will be held on June 4th, at the Microsoft campus in Mountain View.  (Mark your calendar!)   And this year, entrepreneurs will compete for a cash prize!

Tech Challenge 2015 is a great way for emerging technology companies to build buzz and generate visibility as they launch their product or service to the world.  It’s also a great opportunity to connect with an audience with hundreds of Silicon Valley’s top VCs, Angels, corporate executives, prospective customers, and media.

If you have a company that qualifies, or know any entrepreneurs with companies who can benefit from this opportunity, please pass this along!

For more information about the event, as well as guidelines for applying companies………..

Read more on www.worldcuptech.com

 

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Time For Women To Be Doing It For Themselves In Growth Equity

There is no doubt about the opportunities for women in angel investment. Some terrific inspiration in this article from Franceska Banga NZVIF CEO, Laura McKenzie from Scale in Australia and Marie Claire Andrews, co-founder of AngelHQ and CEO of ShowGizmo.

There’s never been a better time for women to be making their mark in growth equity, a meeting hosted by the NZVCA at the Auckland offices of Minter Ellison Rudd Watts heard this week.

The gathering of women with an interest in growth equity markets heard that women mentoring women, women investing in women and unprecedented opportunities brought about by changing technology were all key to a sea change in gender diversity in the sector in New Zealand.

Speaking at the Women in Growth Equity meeting on Wednesday 29th April, Franceska Banga, CEO of the New Zealand Venture Investment Fund says: ‘I can’t think of a better time to be a woman growth capital. The lack of women in the sector is itself an opportunity to step up and stand out. But a number of other factors such as the massive disruption caused by new technologies, including traditional industries and the favourable economic cycle, means there are opportunities for experienced business women to step up, including at director level, within growth companies. It’s time for women to stop taking calls and start making calls and be successful in venture capital.’

Read more on www.nzvca.co.nz

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Angels flock to networks

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AANZ Media release: 1 May 2015

The number of angel investors who have joined networks and funds has risen dramatically in the past two years, says the Angel Association of New Zealand Executive Director Suse Reynolds.

“While it’s not easy to be definitive about these numbers we estimate the number of eligible angel investors represented by our members has grown from around 370 to 730 in the past two years.  Interest in this asset class is showing growth worldwide and in New Zealand this has coincided with a campaign we have been running to attract new investors.

“We are thrilled with the impact this has had. New activity and networks are emerging from one end of the country to the other – in Northland, Bay of Plenty and Southland, in addition to the major metropolitan centres.

“This growth in investor numbers is helping to fuel the increase in investment activity.  This year angel networks and funds recorded their second consecutive year of more than $50 million of investment. The level of annual investment is almost triple what it was a decade ago.

“Having more angel investors participating in deals is good for the sector. It helps active angels diversify their portfolios reducing the risk associated with angel investment. If there are 10 angel investors contributing to a $250,000 investment in a start-up rather than five, then each investor’s contribution is smaller and they can spread their capital across wider portfolios, thereby increasing the potential for return on investment and giving them more capital to put in other startups.

Last year particularly was a fabulous year in early stage investment in New Zealand with some impressive statistics about the number of deals done and money invested, says Suse. “What’s really exciting is that across the country the dramatic increase in our capability and capacity in the last year means more high-growth, startup companies having a much better chance of accessing much needed capital.

“We are very aware our data does not tell the full story as it is only representative our members’ activity. We also applaud and champion the large number of early stage investors outside this community, such as those launching and investing through crowd funding platforms and others who prefer to operate more independently.

“One of the most inspiring aspects of angel investment is that studies show that the majority of net job growth in the economy comes from new companies. So angels are doing great things for the economic and social development of their communities.”

2015 is shaping up to be even bigger than last year, says Suse. “Canterbury Angels are now formally constituted and have held their first investment evening and. “Angels of the North” held their first event just before Christmas in Whangarei, which included a taste of what the region has to offer in early stage investment.

“Our aim is to grow numbers to more than 1000 angels and we’re well on the way to doing that, making New Zealand a really exciting place to be an entrepreneur or an early stage investor.”

 Media contact:

Angel Association: Suse Reynolds  021 490 974 [email protected]

Download media release pdf

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Calfsmart: Hi-tech cattle stall aims for better herds

Agritech is an increasingly popular destination for angel investment capital. Congratulations to CalfSmart and MIG Angels. More inspirational Kiwi IP cracking global markets.

Calfsmart is the brainchild of Ben Neal, a 35-year-old mechanical engineer who grew up on a dairy farm in Dannevirke.

After discovering shortfalls in calf-feeding operations while on holiday in Denmark seven years ago, Neal set about producing a “more efficient system” to help New Zealand’s dairy sector rear their calves more successfully.

“Due to my dairy background I was keen to learn how the industry was working over there. I was seeing these European products being imported into New Zealand in an attempt to fit New Zealand farming practices – which they did not do well.”

Calfsmart is a four-stall feeding system designed to produce better-quality herds, faster. An ear tag antenna identifies each calf as it enters the stall and the Calfsmart system automatically dispenses a custom feed recipe.

Farmers can measure the progress of their herd or any individual calf and alter their feed portions throughout the day to ensure all their calves get the nutrition they need.

The confidential and secure data is collected and delivered wirelessly to a smartphone or home computer.

“It’s all about animal welfare. With the data we get from each machine we can really build a picture of the health of an individual calf and chart its progress through the rearing period,” says Neal.

Automated feeding also reduces labour time and feed costs and, ultimately, ensures no calf is left out, he says.

“Our machines are Kiwi engineered and robustly designed for New Zealand’s farms and weather conditions. The technology is ours and the system is basically a league above what’s currently out there.”

Calfsmart is also designed for larger-scale rearing operations – scalable up to 2000 calves – whereas most other systems only feed up to about 200 calves, says Neal. Neal explains each dairy farmer has a different strategy for rearing calves and believes the technology can advance best practice.

It’s taken 18 months to get the system to market, but it’s now available and the fledgling company is gearing up for an official launch.

Helping Calfsmart every step of the way has been Building Clever Companies (BCC – formerly The Bio Commerce Centre) in Palmerston North, which supplied office facilities, mentoring and marketing training. It also arranged pre-seed and seed investment funding of $160,000, after Neal received a no-obligation government grant of $25,000 to assist with building a prototype stall.

Larry Ellison, a BCC member and director and investor in Calfsmart, says: “In November 2013, I was asked to visit Ben to appraise the idea for Calfsmart and conduct due diligence to see if it was a worthwhile business opportunity, as we do with all potential investments. I was bowled over by his ideas and passion. It really ticked all the boxes for us.” The dairy industry represents a quarter of New Zealand’s exports, and Calfsmart has the potential to be a real game changer worldwide, he says.

Extracting and using data to optimise rearing programmes is an exciting proposition, says Alan Cockrell from the Manawatu Investment Group (MIG), an angel (early-stage) investment group managed by BCC. “From an investor point of view, what we are really interested in is the data we can gather over time. This gives us a lot of IP (intellectual property) advantages and that’s where we see the significant benefits. The system and the data will hopefully be able to be exported worldwide.” Nobody’s doing agribusiness like we are in New Zealand, adds Cockrell.

“So the export potential for our dairy sector is huge. Ben was clever enough to find all this out before setting up Calfsmart. He just needed some support and structure on how to do it.”

Published in NZ Herald and produced in conjunction with the Angel Association of New Zealand.

 

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Queen’s Award for Scottish Business Angel

“A fitting accolade for a truly terrific angel. Nelson Gray was a keynote speaker at a recent AANZ Summit and has indicated he’s really keen to be at this year’s Asian Business Angels Forum in Queenstown in October. Our warmest congratulations to Nelson!”

 

The prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise Promotion has been awarded to Nelson Gray, a renowned angel investor and board member of LINC Scotland, the national association for business angels in Scotland.

Nelson has been a key player in the development of a vibrant business angel community in Scotland, and in helping the LINC model achieve widespread international recognition and adoption.

The Queen’s Award for Enterprise Promotion is for individuals who have played an important role in promoting enterprise skills and supporting entrepreneurs.  As an active business angel, Nelson has directly provided numerous start-up and early stage entrepreneurs with funding, support and mentoring.

Speaking on behalf of Scotland’s angel community, David Grahame the Executive Director of LINC Scotland says everyone involved in angel investing is hugely pleased to see Nelson’s contribution recognised with a Queen’s Award.  “Over the years Nelson has been a superb champion for the angel community in this country and his activities overseas both for LINC Scotland and as a GlobalScot have helped angel groups around the world set up networks based on the Scottish model.

Sandy Kennedy, chief executive of Entrepreneurial Scotland added that Nelson’s broader contribution to promoting entrepreneurship has also been significant.  “Nelson is passionate about supporting young people and he was a founding member of the Scottish Institute for Enterprise, set up to help students in Scotland discover their entrepreneurial talent, as well as a long serving board member of The Entrepreneurial Exchange.”

Some background Information:

The Queen’s Award for Enterprise Promotion, introduced in 2004, recognises individuals who have played an outstanding role in promoting the growth of business enterprise and/or entrepreneurial skills and attitudes in others. It is part of The Queen’s Awards for Enterprise. HM The Queen bestows the Award on the advice of the Prime Minister who is assisted by an Enterprise Promotion Assessment Committee.

Provided by Nelson Gray

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