Investing in challenging times

Avid Legal’s Bruno Bordignon shares some key considerations:

Start-up world is often counter-cyclical when it comes to the financial markets – let’s not forget many of the current cohort of successful starts-up were born out of the 2009 GFC.

So what makes them more attractive in challenging environments? Here are my thoughts:

(1) pain has a price – most start-ups evolve out of some pain point that they have found an innovative way to solve, however trying to get market traction and people valuing that “pain” in good market conditions is difficult. We see many great start-ups with killer solutions, but when faced with selling that solution are hit by organisations who would rather status quo (even if it costs more!) than solving their pain. Times like these force people to rethink the status quo.

(2) agility is priceless and even better creates time – the fact that start-ups have never been comfortable and always cash-poor means that they keep iterating on themselves and are agile in their approach to knowing their business and understanding their market. This gives them the opportunity to be smart with cash, and run small iterations (or tests) on the market in an efficient manner – being able to rapidly iterate in this way extends their runway and time – where larger businesses and competitors sometimes don’t have the luxury (with their locked in cost structures).

(3) control over destiny – often investors will revert back to investing more in start-ups in times of unstable financial markets as they feel that they have more control over their investment. Now we aren’t talking about veto rights at a board level, but knowing that they are involved in a start-up that they can directly impact and influence through their thinking – and being part trying of a team executing on a vision. When combined together with the right set of people can be immensely powerful. There are plenty of investors out there right now looking to have a direct impact on start-ups lives – in more halcyon times, it is often difficult to get the full attention of investors, so now is the time for start-ups to truly tap into smart money.

While all of the above represents a significant opportunity to start-ups, challenges still remain. The key ones from my perspective are:

(1) team attrition – behind every great start-up there is a great team, and retaining that team will be critical. In recent discussions with Phil McCaw he was already cognisant of the “flight to safety” reaction experienced by start-up teams where people are tempted to go back to a perceived safer corporate job. Start-ups will need to work on ways on keeping their team tight and revisit how much they have allocated in ESOP as part of looking at ways to retain that talent.

(2) being heard – with all of the noise in the market around COVID-19, most corporates tend to be focussed on the immediate problem and not some of the solutions waiting to emerge. Getting to get to the right people within organisations to sell has always been difficult, and now if you manage that, getting that persons attention will be the next challenge. Perhaps the sometimes unconventional sales approach of start-ups might just win out here!

(3) telling the story – with so much disruption in markets, it can also sometimes be difficult for start-ups to articulate their proposition – too many opportunities can be as much as a curse as too few. Start-ups now more than ever will need laser focus on their story, purpose and proposition – this is not just limited to customers, but also to investors. Start-ups will need to be using every piece of data on their business (and their market) and demonstrate the learnings from their iterations to show how they will emerge as a lead player in their market.

While cash is always king, we have seen from previous experience in the 2009 GFC that investment runs counter-cyclical and there will be investors looking for a home for their cash. Expect to see a return to syndication, and people sharing a lot more for the collective good – this can’t be a bad thing, right? So let us all practice more random acts of kindness and work together to seize the opportunities ahead!

Beca and Angel Association NZ (AANZ) announce a partnership to make a difference to startups and their investors.

This partnership will create a dynamic pathway for innovative startups to carry out proof of concept projects with Beca, New Zealand’s largest professional services consultancy.

This collaboration combines the strength of AANZ’s network and robust deal flow with Beca’s enviable client base and deep technical expertise that touches virtually every part of the economy.

Startups can use the momentum of a successful proof of concept to keep running forward, proving their technology has a market need and works at scale.

Recognising the important role that startups play in fostering a culture of innovation within the business community, this partnership aims to enhance cooperation and facilitate deals between innovative startups and Beca.

Jeannine Walsh, Beca’s Head of New Ventures says

We are delighted to announce this partnership with AANZ that is designed to connect startups with our clients through proof-of-concept opportunities.

Beca has a 100-year history of delivering innovative solutions for our clients; the next century will be no different. But as the rate of change in society accelerates, we must keep pace with it. Startups are an excellent source to solve some of the key challenges our clients face. Together AANZ and Beca will help startups turn into scaleups, to ultimately make every day better for our clients and communities.

Through this partnership, we are greatly looking forward to working with founders and their teams to bring ground-breaking ideas to market.

Suse Reynolds, Executive Director, Angel Association of New Zealand says

We are very excited to be working in partnership with Beca to support and contribute to building a world-best angel investment environment for the benefit of investors and entrepreneurs in New Zealand. In the same way that it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a whole country to scale a startup – angels, professional service providers, government and corporates. We are delighted to have Beca on our wing.”

We would like to see far more corporate engagement with venture-backed startups. Not only can corporates like Beca help validate new products and services but they can also help with connections to larger international markets. We would love to see other New Zealand corporates follow Beca’s lead.

For more information, please contact:

The Angel Association of New Zealand (AANZ)

The Angel Association is an organisation that aims to increase the quantity, quality and success of angel investments in New Zealand and in doing so create a greater pool of capital for innovative start-up companies. It was established in 2008 to bring together New Zealand angels and early-stage funds. AANZ currently has 40 members representing over 800 individual angels associated with New Zealand’s key angel networks and funds. AANZ works closely with NZTE and Callaghan Innovation and a number of private sector partners including Jarden, PWC, Avid Legal, Baldwins, KiwiNet, Uniservices, Amazon Web Services, BNZ and BECA. For more, please visit:

Suse Reynolds, AANZ executive director
Mob: 021 490 974 or email: [email protected]

About Beca

Beca is one of Asia Pacific’s largest independent advisory, design and engineering consultancies. After a century of operation, we have grown from a family-owned business to one of the most progressive, client-centric professional services consultancies in our region. We have more than 3,300 employees in 20 offices around the world and have delivered projects in more than 70 countries. Beca’s professional service offerings span 70+ disciplines across industrial, buildings, government, defence, water, transport and power.

Beca’s Venture team is an innovation and entrepreneurship centre of excellence, focused on rapidly responding to scalable business opportunities through working with startups and the investment community.

For further information, please contact:
Glenn Andert – Innovation Portfolio Manager, Ventures Team,
Ph: +64 4 460 1764
[email protected]

New Venture Capital Fund Launched

In great news for early stage investors, Elevate NZ Venture Fund will soon be releasing funds to a new swathe of venture capital providers.

Early-stage companies, who have at times struggled to find local funding, have a new option.

The Crown-backed New Zealand Venture Investment Fund (NZVIF) has officially cut the ribbon on its $300 million Elevate NZ Venture Fund.

Elevate was first flagged with Budget 2019, when then-Economic Development Minister David Parker said his Government would address a “venture capital gap” by diverting $240m of NZ Super Fund money to a new $300m fund, which would also include $60m from NZVIF to create a new fund.

Read more

New Regime at Angel Association New Zealand

As outgoing Angel Association New Zealand Chair, John O’Hara steps down from his two-year term, the AANZ today announced the appointment of the current Executive Director, Suse Reynolds to the role.

“As an active angel, a co-founder of Wellington’s 90-strong AngelHQ and one of the first AANZ Council members, this appointment is not only a natural progression for Suse it also marks the beginning of an exciting new period of activity for the AANZ,” said John O’Hara.

The AANZ is also delighted to announce the appointment of Bridget Unsworth to the position of Operations Director. Bridget brings deeply relevant experience following nearly 10 years as Investment Director of the seed co-investment programme at the New Zealand Venture Investment Fund.

Both appointments will take effect from 31 March.

Suse Reynolds acknowledged the contribution John O’Hara has made to the Angel Association noting he led work to establish Flight, an annual programme of events to support investor directors, instigated The Runway, an initiative to bring together founders and investors, and that he spends countless hours mentoring and supporting founders and investors. John will remain an active and engaged angel and mentor.

In a little over a decade, formal angel investment in New Zealand has grown from three or four networks with about 300 investors to over a dozen networks with nearly 1000 members investing over a $100m per annum. Over 250 start-ups have received angel investment in that time.

Looking to the next decade Suse Reynolds said the industry would double-down on growing angel investment but will also bring a tighter focus to the support being provided to those founders and investors making traction to help them expedite their growth and generate the financial and socio-economic returns expected of the asset class.

“It is important that we continue to grow the pipeline of investors and investment as there is no shortage of deal flow. Literally dozens of incredible start-ups are being generated every year by ambitious, creative kiwis commercialising their own ideas and the stunning IP being generated by New Zealand’s universities and crown research organisations,” said Suse Reynolds.

“It is equally important we expedite the success of the current portfolio of angel-backed ventures. The AANZ is about to put our programme of connectivity and professional development on steroids. We learn best by doing and by sharing the doing – so look out for more events bringing experienced and inexperienced founders and investors together, more governance workshops, more on how to navigate term sheet negotiations and more on how to ensure cap tables are in good shape,” Suse Reynolds pointed out.

Angel Backed JNRY’s Michael Lovegrove

Michael shares some of the journey and motivation for starting his insure-tech startup.

When you’re training to be a swimmer, looking at the black line twenty-five hours a week really makes you mentally tough.

So, when things don’t go your way in business, giving up is just not the way you’re built.

That’s the mindset of Michael Lovegrove, the founder and CEO of JRNY, a New Zealand-based tech start-up with global aspirations.

‘If there is an obstacle in front of me, I work out how we either go through it, over it or around it,’ Lovegrove says.

‘That mentality really helps build a great business and a resilient team.’



Funded by multiple parties including the Ice Angels, Enterprise Angels and Angel HQ in New Zealand, plus venture capital fund K1W1 and Artesian Venture Capital in Australia, JRNY has raised $2 million in the three years it has been operating.

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Our own Bridget Unsworth making a difference

Bridge sets out why angel investment matters and the role of governance in this ODT article.

Venture capitalist Bridget Unsworth has tracked back to the city where it all started.

After a stint in London, working with placement agency MVision Private Equity, the former University of Otago commerce student headed back to New Zealand in 2009.

She is now based in Auckland, but retains a strong link to Otago, marking her 10th year back in the country by joining the board of Dunedin-based tracking and communication company TracPlus.
The move followed nine years working with early stage start-ups as an investment director with the New Zealand Venture Investment Fund.

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More deep tech startups for investors

The government has announced the recipients of tech incubator funding.

From next year budding New Zealand startups will have even stronger support to help turn technology and science into successful businesses.

Four tech incubators have been selected for a new Technology Incubator programme, and a new HealthTech Activator initiative is being introduced, Vic Crone, CEO of Callaghan Innovation announced today.

“There are significant opportunities to turn more of New Zealand’s advanced technologies into successful businesses. Many of these technologies start out at our universities and we want to see them thrive,” says Ms Crone.

Read more

Two capital-ivating days in San Francisco – by Katherine Sandford

The best business trip I’ve been on in over five years has left me grappling with how to compile my screeds of notes into a one-pager (well, maybe two or even three) that makes some sense! Oh my goodness – talk about gold! So much insight, so many gems!

Hosted by the Edmund Hillary Fellowship in conjunction with the Angel Association of New Zealand, I was part of a delegation to San Francisco of NZ companies looking to expand into the US market and/or raise capital there. Our group of ten included founders and investor directors of five very diverse companies, so the networking from that part alone was a great start. We were escorted around the city and the Valley by a couple of outstanding fellows, yes real ones – EHF Fellows, Josh Hannah and David Yuan. Over the course of two days we engaged with a number more Fellows or friends of Fellows – we even had lunch and a chat with EHF Founder and CEO Yoseph Alele, who happened to be visiting from Wellington. Dinner with Silicon Valley Bank was a bonus, but it was the real and honest experience and insights that we heard from Kiwi Founders, including Victoria Ransom, and a broad spectrum of VCs, that really have made an impact – and I’m still pinching myself as I re-read my scrawled notes that I was actually there!

First stop, Matrix Partners where we met Kiwi Founder of Predict HQ, Campbell Brown, who’d relocated his family from NZ to the US in order to test the hypothesis that he was onto something big, and that he could secure US venture capital. He checked out Seattle as a potentially easy landing spot, but ultimately the amount of capital in San Francisco made it a no-brainer.

Campbell is a guy who loves a challenge – he’s a go getter who claims to like a lot going on in his life all at once – yeah right, like moving countries, and growing a business with no local resources and raising money and adding a baby to the family – all at the same time!

Setting himself up in a co-working space, not really knowing anyone, Campbell networked like crazy with founders. He figured that those who had successfully raised capital would be the best connections to make warm introductions to potentially friendly VCs.

And for Predict HQ, Campbell’s hunch was right. On the back of securing Uber among other large enterprises as customers, the company secured US$10M in a Series A round late in 2018. Campbell said it was a warm introduction that landed him a meeting and ultimate VC investment.

From what he’s learned, Campbell says that US VCs are looking for the following attributes in their search for their next investment:

  • A known entity, or at least an introduction from another founder
  • Net new revenue
  • Ability to expand the business – the best investors are looking for $100M potential and the ability to IPO from there
  • Victoria Ransom puts this slightly differently as the need to have a huge nascent
    market, and that you need to think global from day one with your go-to-market
  • A solid team and culture
  • US location, preferably San Francisco

So how did this founder-centric shortlist stack up as we met with VCs over the next couple of days? This quote fairly well sums it all up. “We are looking for a kick-ass team, building a kick-ass product in a large-ass market”. And in our final meeting at General Catalyst, Trevor Oelschig’s list of the big pitch mistakes is further confirmation.

The Series A No-No’s (aka the BIG pitch mistakes)

  • Not being able to articulate your go to market motion
  • Not being able to talk about your competitors
  • Inability to attract the right talent at the right time
  • Inability to articulate your path
  • Not knowing your numbers cold
  • Not having spoken to enough customers

And there was even more evidence to show that Campbell’s list is well, pretty much on the money!

A Known Entity
Ultimately it comes down to personal relationships and who knows who. Word of mouth, trust and the network are your friends. Good content will result in VCs following you and reaching out to you, unsolicited. When they’re doing research, investors love seeing logos out there as it shows traction and piques their interest. For GV (formerly Google Ventures), introductions to companies depend on their networks – many Googlers route companies in. Other VCs advised that we should be visiting San Francisco regularly for “pre-meetings” without any investment pressure, to build credibility and relevance – and importantly to build trust over time.

Net New Revenue
The ease with which you raise capital is directly related to the progress you’re making – not with product, but in the market with real customers. Companies need proof that they have (1) product market fit, (2) raving fans, aka referenceable customers, not a team that loves the product they built or are planning to build, and (3) a growing pipeline of real opportunities.

Ability to Expand the Business
Companies need to show repeatability to demonstrate that there is a big business to be built. It really matters what sort of traction you have and whether that’s increasing. One VC even went as far as to say that he finds it difficult to imagine a market that doesn’t exist yet – so we need to be sure that we are clear on the existing problem that we are solving for a proven and potentially massive number of customers. I loved Victoria’s comment about being able to be a salesperson and “make your company seem as big as you can, without crossing the line”.

A Solid Team and Culture
GV uses analytical input into their process, but Graham Spencer, Managing Partner, was hesitant to answer whether GV uses any sort of analytics tool to assess entrepreneurs! An experienced team, who have had prior exits and many years in the target industry reduces VC risk when assessing an opportunity. Transparency is important – and founders must be able to present real candour about the challenges they are going to face – confidence in knowing that there will be obstacles that are going to need support to work through. The ability to recruit and retain people is key, so it’s important to have a unique set of values and attributes that attracts people to your company.
Founders must be likeable – the humble kiwi attitude serves well. And making that first impression is everything – you don’t need to fly to meet in person but make those first few moments on the phone count.

US location, preferably San Francisco
Ramzi Ramsey at Softbank said it well – “US early stage VCs are lazy, and distance is a problem”. He went on to say that the investor’s greatest resource is time and if they are wanting to add value then the more cost/time it takes, that just leads to it being more effective to do it locally.

And there was more support among the VCs we met for a San Francisco location, with them saying things like – Every geography has lost mindshare to San Francisco, so being local is best. Ultimately the US is a giant market and to win there means you need to be there. The more specialized the market, the more important it is to be US-based. On the other hand, if you are building a consumer product for India, then perhaps the US is not so important. Generally, a C-corp in the US is the preference as it’s lower risk. If the company’s NZ-based, but prepared to flip to the US, relocating the founder/CEO and the sale team and leaving the R&D team in NZ, then that would be acceptable.

Some parting thoughts mixed with a bit of advice
So I’ll just say that I think the insight gained in our first tour engagement is pretty much spot-on when assessing what San Francisco VCs are looking for in their investments – known entities, with a solid team and culture, traction in a market with a massive opportunity, and preferably with the founder located or relocating to San Francisco. There are always exceptions, but I reckon that it’s likely much tougher going for those in the minority.

Kiwi founders need very big ambitions and to think global from the outset, then be open to making the move. They need a board that supports that, so be sure early investors are aligned with those ambitions. The brave ones who have gone before have proven and are still proving that San Francisco is where (most of) the action, and (most of) the capital, is.

VCs are generally looking for reasons to say “no” and 99% of interactions get that outcome. To stand out, in addition to getting to product market fit and building a meaningful customer base preferably in the US, founders need to be networked in, known in advance and publishing regular content. “Content is a honey-pot for VCs” – one said we’d be shocked at how much they read.

As a founder, be prepared to tell your personal story, in person, not in slides – “the authenticity of the moment you decided [to start your business] is very important. This is VC Candy”.

When at the point of taking on a VC, or any investor for that matter, ensure they have the same stomach for risk. In the words of Ling Wong, EHF Fellow and General Partner at Sealane, regarding risk appetite, “Past behavior is a great indicator of future behavior in that case. When things go bad, as they invariably will, then you want them to work through that with you.” So, be thorough in your VC due diligence before accepting capital into the company and know what sort of relationship you’re getting into.

Relationships are everything. Common sense really, but it is important to cultivate them, building interconnected and robust networks. These take time and effort to develop, but this is one of the most important things for a founder to be able to do. So, find ten founders that are one step ahead of where your company is at and engage with them. Their knowledge, insights and connections will help you to take that next leap – chances are each of them can introduce you to a whole bunch of VCs.

And finally, at yes, the end of page three – if anyone reading this has the opportunity to participate in a future delegation of this nature, I cannot recommend it highly enough. I’m guessing I won’t be allowed on the next one – but I’d certainly go again, given the chance. Thanks EHF and AANZ for a truly capital-ivating tour.

Words by Katherine Sandford
November 2019

Scott Gilmour named New Zealand Arch Angel 2019

Scott Gilmour has been awarded Angel Association New Zealand’s (AANZ) Arch Angel Award today at the 12th New Zealand Angel Summit in Christchurch.

Scott is an experienced high-tech company founder and director and an active Ice Angels member and former board member. In 2002 he founded the first I Have A Dream project outside the USA to help kiwi children.

The Arch Angel Award is the highest honour in New Zealand’s angel investment community, given to those who best exemplify the quintessential angel and who are champions for the endeavour making a significant difference to New Zealand’s start-up ecosystem. As well as their personal capital, Arch Angel recipients share their time, insights, deeply relevant skills and their networks with high growth start-up companies.

The recipient is chosen by the previous years’ winners.

Scott Gilmour has over 35 years experience in the high tech industry, including 12 years with Intel in the United States and New Zealand. He co-founded a successful enterprise software company in the United States in 1989, ABC Technologies Inc., which was sold to SAS in 2002. He served for seven years on the NZ Trade and Enterprise Beachheads Board. And has served as a director and investor in a number of New Zealand tech companies, including Jade, Nextspace, ResourceWare, ViFX and Winscribe.

In 2002 Scott founded and funded the first “I Have a Dream” project outside the United States to “inspire dreams and enable futures” for kiwi children who are living in material hardship.

As a super active angel investor, Scott has invested in over 60 ventures. He is a founding member of Auckland-based Ice Angels, having joined the network at its inception in 2003 and served on the board for four years between 2006 and 2010.

Current Angel Association Chair and fellow Ice Angel, John O’Hara, says Scott has been a lynch pin of New Zealand’s first formal angel network.

“As a founding member of Ice Angels, I doubt there are many, if any, other Ice Angels members who have been such passionate and committed champions of angel investment. Scott has personally introduced and “closed” more new Ice Angel members than any other I can think of,” he said.

Scott received his award at the 12th New Zealand Angel Summit, held at Pemberton in Christchurch and attended by 160 delegates. The annual event provides a hub for angels to learn and network, and is recognised as one of the world’s top angel events. This year’s summit is exploring what it is about scaling an angel-backed venture from New Zealand which gives it a unique comparative advantage when it comes to creating exponential value.

Former Arch Angel winners include The Warehouse founder and long-time angel investor Stephen Tindall; Andy Hamilton, chief executive of The Icehouse and member of IceAngels; US super angel Bill Payne; Movac venture capital firm founder, Phil McCaw; veteran angel investor Dr Ray Thomson; prolific AngelHQ member, Trevor Dickinson, former AANZ Chair, Marcel van den Assum, ardent angel investor, Debra Hall and champion for kiwi start-ups, Dave Moskovitz.



For more information, please contact:

Suse Reynolds, AANZ executive director
mob: 021 490 974 or email: [email protected]

John O’Hara, AANZ chair
mob: 021 040 3198 or email: [email protected]

The Angel Association of New Zealand (AANZ)

The Angel Association is an organisation that aims to increase the quantity, quality and success of angel investments in New Zealand and in doing so create a greater pool of capital for innovative start-up companies. It was established in 2008 to bring together New Zealand angels and early-stage funds. AANZ currently has 40 members representing over 800 individual angels associated with New Zealand’s key angel networks and funds. AANZ works closely with NZTE and Callaghan Innovation and a number of private sector partners including Jarden, PWC, Avid Legal, Baldwins, KiwiNet, Uniservices, Amazon Web Services, BNZ and BECA. For more, please visit:


Angel Awards Announced Suse Reynolds, Katherine Sandford and Tim Allan recognised

At its 10th Anniversary Summit in 2017, the Angel Association New Zealand announced two new awards to augment the Arch Angel Award which was first awarded in 2009 to Sir Stephen Tindall and was today awarded to Scott Gilmour.

The Puawaitanga Award recognises the founder and investor-director who best exemplify what can be achieved when committed people draw on their collective skills and experience. This award celebrates an angel-backed venture achieving world class success. This venture has excellent governance, a compelling business proposition and a well-defined strategy for exponential returns.

Puawaitanga – ‘best return on integrated goals’.

The Kotahitanga Award recognises those people in the angel community who have made an outstanding contribution to the industry. It acknowledges those who have selflessly given personal time and energy for a sustained period and contributed to the professionalism, profile and reputation of angel investment in New Zealand.

Kotahitanga – ‘unity and a shared sense of working together’.

The Puawaitanga Award has been presented to UBCO Bikes CEO Tim Allan and investor-director chair, Katherine Sandford. UBCO has developed all terrain, electric utility motor bikes. Since the concept was launched at the 2014 National Field Days, the company has gone on to refine the bike and is now selling it in Australia, New Zealand and the USA.  Impressively, UBCO has also since won a number of awards including a Deloitte Fast 50 Rising Star award, Good Design and Best Design awards, been recognised as a TIN100 Spark Early Stage Company and last year won an AmCham exporter of the year award. Katherine Sandford has Chaired the UBCO Board for the last two years and is a true champion for the company helping it raise several million dollars in growth capital. Katherine has been a member of Tauranga’s Enterprise Angel network for the last four years, has served on the Enterprise Angels’ board and last year won the network’s investor director award.

In making the award, Angel Association Chair, John O’Hara said Tim and Katherine are exemplars of what investor/founder alignment and mutual support can achieve.

“No one scales value in a high-growth tech company on their own. To get traction both the founder and the investors need to be committed to the same end-point. This is clearly the case with UBCO. Tim and Katherine, together with the rest of the UBCO team, have been working together to generate great progress in terms of revenue generation, customer acquisition and to secure capital to amplify that growth to generate success for investors and just as importantly, for New Zealand as a whole,” he said.

The recipient of the Kotahitanga Award is Angel Association NZ’s Suse Reynolds.

Suse has been supporting angel investors, angel backed founders and the growth of angel investment in New Zealand for over a decade. Suse was a career diplomat before taking the leap to “live the startup dream’’.

As well as providing countless hours of free advice and counselling to angel investors and founders over the years, Suse currently serves on the Board of AngelHQ. Suse has also fronted dozens of workshops on topics such as angel investment, governance and has led the Angel Association’s flight program. Suse has been particularly helpful to establishing a number of regional angel clubs around New Zealand.  Suse is a successful angel investor in her own right and most recently has led a couple of early angel rounds into Press Patron and Narrative Muse.

“Suse exemplifies the values which make angel investment rewarding and successful. Her warmth, generous spirit, ambition, professionalism, depth of knowledge and genuine care for investors and founders alike have imbued New Zealand’s startup ecosystem. We are fortunate to have people like Suse leading our community,” said John O’Hara.



For more information, please contact:

Suse Reynolds, AANZ executive director
mob: 021 490 974 or email: [email protected]

John O’Hara, AANZ chair
mob: 021 040 3198 or email: [email protected]


The Angel Association of New Zealand (AANZ)

The Angel Association is an organisation that aims to increase the quantity, quality and success of angel investments in New Zealand and in doing so create a greater pool of capital for innovative start-up companies. It was established in 2008 to bring together New Zealand angels and early-stage funds. AANZ currently has 40 members representing over 800 individual angels associated with New Zealand’s key angel networks and funds. AANZ works closely with NZTE and Callaghan Innovation and a number of private sector partners including Jarden, PWC, Avid Legal, Baldwins, KiwiNet, Uniservices, Amazon Web Services, BNZ and BECA. For more, please visit:

We need to pull together – Stephen Tindall

In the context of climate change, Sir Stephen sets out why he invests in startups.

Sir Stephen Tindall says New Zealand businesses face an enormous task adapting to the climate-change imperatives that are now upon us.

“But it’s not insurmountable provided we all pull together,” Tindall says. “My personal view is that we’re all going to be liable with what we do in terms of our impact on the environment.”

The Warehouse founder, who has invested in many early stage “sustainable” companies through his K1W1 investment vehicle, reckons there are very few New Zealand companies which won’t be impacted.

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Summit 2019 Introducing Ben Kepes

As a teaser for those of you attending The Runway and Angel Summit events in a couple of weeks time, Ben Kepes, an experienced angel investor who is speaking at both, has thrown down the gauntlet with a really neat articulation below of the conversations we look forward to having with you as we hunt down how to be effective, additive contributors to the businesses we are backing. You can read more of Ben’s other musings on the tech and startup scene here on his Diversity Blog.

Firstly a quick disclaimer: I, like most of you reading this, am an investor. As such, despite any hint of magnanimity in our decisions, our primary driver for investing in early-stage companies is to make money. If our aims were entirely philanthropic, we’d be giving to charity. We can wrap it up nicely and try and avoid the fact but angel investment, while having some good outcomes beyond dollars, is primarily a capitalistic drive.

That said, I wanted to take the opportunity to follow Suse’s lead in theming the upcoming Angel Association conference being held in Otautahi to add my two cents around the topic of expectations – those of us as investors, of our fearless entrepreneurs, and of the ecosystem as a whole.

The financial realities of angel investing in enterprises that fundamentally have a far greater chance of burning out than they do of success means that we do need to make a good return on those that are successful – if all we wanted to do was get rid of some excess cash, there are far more effective ways of doing so than being an angel investor.

But sometimes, in the search for good financial returns, we lose sight of the unique position we’re in as investors and the opportunities it brings us. We have the ability to shape a future on a number of levels – we can help have an impact on whether an entrepreneur’s journey is positive or not, we can encourage the development of businesses which benefit society more wisely than simply through wealth creation and, just maybe, we can vote with our wallets and help more planet-friendly businesses to bloom.

In terms of the “founder burnout” topic – we’ve seen much attention from the industry about this aspect of the startup journey. We’ve had some pretty raw admissions of the pain and angst that goes hand in hand with startup life. But, as the (purportedly) mature and experienced people in the relationship, our job is to navigate this road with a reasonable perspective. The fact of the matter is that for both entrepreneurs and investors to meet their objectives there is going to be a heap of hard work and painful moments – there’s no point sugar-coating that fact. But hard moments are different from bad behaviour or absence of empathy and that’s where we have work to do.

So I’d like to suggest as we spend our time in our roles as angels, that we think about what we and our investee companies can do differently. What is it that we can bring to the world that changes the conversation? What does exponential value creation mean beyond simply financial value?

In practice, what does a more empathetic approach towards angel investing look like? I’d suggest that it means we’re sometimes happy to achieve a good, short-term outcome that meets the needs of founders, employees and investors, society, the planet or any of the other myriad layers of stakeholders that exist in this world. How about we think about limiting the downstream hard times that come from aiming for the moon shot? It’s potentially about not going for the one in ten exits that need to generate 20x returns, but rather a greater number of more modest outcomes. It’s about being honest with ourselves, our leadership teams and our ecosystem about what is realistic. And it’s about finding a uniquely Kiwi way of doing angel investing.

Enjoy the journey!

International investors doing good in NZ

Kiwi angels are benefiting from the connections the Edmund Hillary Foundation global impact visa recipients are providing to offshore investment.

Since the early days of ideation, the Edmund Hillary Fellowship (EHF) has been committed to the idea that in order to best support the development and growth of an impact-driven entrepreneurship ecosystem in New Zealand, we need to include investors in the community. EHF is unique when compared to similar global impact fellowship programmes, in that around 15% of our Fellows are active investors.

In the past 2.5 years since EHF was launched, $5.3M has been directly invested by EHF Fellows into New Zealand innovation, and they have additionally assisted in delivering investments of $16.5M into NZ entities (In comparison, NZ Venture Investment Fund reported in June 2019 that $110M total was invested by themselves and other angel clubs in pre-seed and angel size deals over a similar time period)

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How to create more NZ unicorns

Callaghan Innovation’s Bruce Jarvis shares some great ideas generated at Southern SaaS.

Sir Paul Callaghan talked about 100 inspired entrepreneurs turning the country around. The ‘how’ of that is harder to pin down.

With a line-up of smart folk in Auckland for Callaghan Innovation’s Southern SaaS event recently, we conscripted an impromptu ‘business brains trust’ to figure out how we can create more billion-dollar unicorns.

Identifying the obstacles and accelerants that can determine success for New Zealand companies is a challenge that has occupied thousands of business leaders, political think tanks and roundtables for decades.

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How to create more NZ Unicorns

Callaghan Innovation group manager of digital Bruce Jarvis

Sir Paul Callaghan talked about 100 inspired entrepreneurs turning the country around. The ‘how’ of that is harder to pin down.

With a line-up of smart folk in Auckland for Callaghan Innovation’s Southern SaaS event recently, we conscripted an impromptu ‘business brains trust’ to figure out how we can create more billion-dollar unicorns.

Identifying the obstacles and accelerants that can determine success for New Zealand companies is a challenge that has occupied thousands of business leaders, political think tanks and roundtables for decades.

Our group of business founders, investors, leaders and mentors was given a couple of hours on a Tuesday. The rule for this meeting of minds was that after sharing their ideas and observations the group had to find points of consensus. A few ideas quickly rose above the rest.

Elite startup academy
There was a strong consensus that New Zealand needs to do more to support and develop the talent it already has – something Sir Paul Callaghan also suggested.

There were two ideas for supporting our existing talent that resonated strongly with the group. The first was an elite academy that focused, funded and coached New Zealand’s top-performing mid-stage startups, providing wraparound support in the same way it’s provided for the country’s elite athletes.

Distinct from incubators that nurture startup companies showing early signs of promise and needing help to commercialise, the elite academy would pick companies with runs on the board and aim to supercharge their success. Entry criteria might include the top 100 companies with up to $10 million in revenue and the fastest quarter-on-quarter growth rate.

The second idea was to give local talent greater access to smart, qualified international advisers, either through a programme that saw global venture capital firms sending their entrepreneurs in residence to do New Zealand tours of duty or by looking for opportunities to plug into the existing Endeavor.orgnetwork of vetted business innovators and advisers.

Improving our attitude to sales
One of the most striking points of consensus was on an unusual roadblock that New Zealand needs to address: a bad attitude toward sales.

The expatriates, visiting experts and Kiwi-based talent all agreed there is a contradictory divide inside most New Zealand businesses – sales is viewed as a ‘dirty word’ and a task that sits solely with the sales team, rather than an integral function of business and a focus for founders and management.

More commercially minded founders with an understanding of sales and marketing were high on the group’s wish list, along with a rethink of the way businesses approach sales into global markets.

“There’s still an idea in New Zealand that, when it comes time to sell things, you give your sales guy a presentation and some supporting material and just send him out. It’s a really strange way to do business and, generally speaking, it’s not successful.”

Outdated business education
Better training and education about sales were recommended as a solution but business education was also seen by the group as an area where New Zealand is lagging, with a curriculum that needs to catch up to the realities of business and innovation.

Getting new course materials into programmes or introducing curriculum changes through NCEA is too slow and arduous according to several of the brains trust with knowledge of the process.

At a tertiary level, with the exception of a couple of specialised offerings, the group saw New Zealand programmes as being slow to shift from a focus on traditional models of business and sales – leaving graduates ready to work in businesses but, arguably, ill-equipped to build one of their own.

Shallow VC market
Surprising no one, there was universal agreement over New Zealand’s “very shallow VC market” and the obstacles presented by a dearth of available capital. A few possible solutions were offered, including more ambitious, coordinated public-private investment partnerships, a fixed 5% of foreign direct investment into risk funds in New Zealand and a regulatory environment that is generally less geared toward property investment. New Zealand startups also need to get better at going out and seeking capital.

Being small has advantages
Awkward time zones, distance to markets and New Zealand’s size all rated passing mentions as both negatives and positives but there was agreement on the advantages offered by such a small market. New Zealand’s “no degrees of separation” makes it easy to get in touch with people and reach out for advice and support from other founders and companies with experience of the same challenges.

People in New Zealand are extremely generous with their time and sharing their knowledge and expertise, it was agreed.

The country’s size also makes it an easy test market, “where people are two calls away from decision makers.” Size, ready access to decision makers and a high standard of living all make it a strong contender as a tech testbed. “I like that New Zealand is an incubation nation where you can test the market without sinking a ship on a global stage.”

With major players such as Pushpay and Vesta already running teams of engineers and developers in New Zealand, while expanding their businesses into the US, the group agreed there is more scope for our companies to attract high-quality talent, and even an opportunity for the country to invest in becoming an exemplar for remote working.

Other big ideas from the brains trust:

• celebrate high-integrity failures and lose the stigma for entrepreneurs who fail;
• be less conservative: less conservative with investment, less conservative about adopting New Zealand-made products and services over international incumbents; and
• think bigger, work harder, aim higher.

Setting out to produce any meaningful answers in a single afternoon was incredibly ambitious but it worked. This was fitting really because the group had one other common conclusion about what New Zealand needs if it’s going to yield unicorns: ambition.

Bruce Jarvis is Callaghan Innovation’s digital group manager.

AANZ members part of HNRY raise

Congratulations to Lightning Lab grad and fintech venture, HNRY for being oversubscribed on their recent raise.

Hnry, New Zealand’s fastest growing tax agent, has closed their latest investment round at $2.15 million, over-subscribing due to keen investor interest.

James Fuller, CEO and co-founder of Hnry, says the company initially aimed to raise $1.5 million, however strong investment interest from a mix of existing shareholders and new interest from Australian venture startup fund Equity Venture Partners (EVP) meant they extended the round and closed at $2.15 million. Investors include members of Ice Angels, AngelHQ as well as private investors.

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Get more women on the cap table

In this fascinating article a small group of women in tech in the US talk about their angel investment aspirations.

Next on The Seed Series we talk with two founding team members from #Angels — Jana Messerschmidt and Katie Stanton. We talk about balancing angel investing with day jobs, the gap table and other interesting topics. The following has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Gené: Welcome to the #Angels founding team’s Katie Stanton and Jana Messerschmitt. All six founding angels met at Twitter. What was the momentum for creating #Angels?

Jana: After the Twitter IPO, one night over cocktails, we shared different tidbits around angel investing. We realized pretty quickly that we were very fortunate to come out of Twitter to see lots of entrepreneurs, and companies that were about to be formed. We decided it would actually be really fun to form this group or collective. Founders get to tap into the operating experience of all six of us. We all ran different parts of organizations and teams at Twitter across a wide variety of areas. We would also be able to take our deal flow and multiply it times six. Working at Twitter together, we built up a tremendous amount of trust. And so we wanted to be able to extend that into angel investing.

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NZVIF Media Release August 2019

Investors in New Zealand’s early stage capital markets are being invited to comment on policy settings for the new Venture Capital Fund.

Legislation to establish the new fund was introduced to Parliament last week. The Bill will be supported by a policy statement setting out the definitions and policies for the new fund, which will be managed by the New Zealand Venture Investment Fund (NZVIF).

A consultation document has today been released to early stage investment sector stakeholders to gather feedback on the policy statement.

Stakeholders include domestic and offshore venture capital (VC) investors, potential private sector investors in those funds, industry associations, industry service providers, incubators, accelerators, universities, government agencies, and the intended ultimate recipients of this capital, early stage high growth New Zealand companies.

In May the government announced the new Venture Capital Fund will receive up to $300 million over five years. The aim is to attract private sector investors to the domestic venture capital market in order to help these early stage innovative New Zealand companies to grow.

Once the Bill is passed ‐ which is expected to be later this year ‐ the Guardians of New Zealand Superannuation (Guardians, the Crown entity that manages the $42 billion NZ Super Fund) will appoint NZVIF to manage a fund‐of‐funds, with NZVIF in turn appointing a number of private sector VC fund managers over the following five years. It is anticipated initial capital commitments will commence early in 2020. These fund managers, which will include both domestic and international funds, will select the companies to invest in.

The Policy Statement sets out the high‐level policy directions for the Venture Capital Fund and the proposed policy parameters, such as the requirement for prospective VC fund managers to raise at least matching private capital.

The consultation process, which will be managed by MBIE, will run from 28 August through to 20 September. There will be a range of ways for stakeholders to engage with the process, including attending workshops, written submissions and the opportunity to meet with officials directly to present their views on the Policy Statement.

NZVIF chief executive Richard Dellabarca said the objectives of the Venture Capital Fund are twofold – to increase the Series A/B capital available to early stage high growth New Zealand businesses; and to develop New Zealand’s VC market to function more effectively, both so that more venture capital becomes available, and so that innovative businesses receiving capital become more likely to grow into successful and sustainable businesses.

“The consultation will help Ministers, officials and the Guardians shape the key definitions and policy directions which will be specified in the Policy Statement, and ensure they are clear, consistent, and able to achieve the objectives of the Venture Capital Fund which NZVIF will manage.”

“This consultation is specific to the Policy Statement, and is not intended to pre‐empt or supersede the legislative process on the new Venture Capital Fund Bill.  That Bill’s upcoming select committee process provides another opportunity, in addition to the consultation process, for interested stakeholders to provide input and direction.”

The Policy Statement and outline of the consultation process is available on request from
[email protected]
Media contact:
David Lewis +64‐21‐976 119

Why Kiwi Angels are so lucky

This article profiles a bunch of wonderful tech companies which exemplify why angel investment is so inspiring in NZ.
For a country with a population of under five million people, New Zealand regularly punches above its weight when it comes to producing star tech companies.

Giants like accounting software company Xero, church payments business Pushpay, and aerospace heavyweight Rocket Lab have gone on to global success but trace their roots to innovative Kiwi founders.

New Zealand’s tech success stories are well-known; the top 50 of this year’s NBR Rich List features Xero founder Rod Drury, TradeMe founder Sam Morgan, and US-based trailblazer Victoria Ransom, the Kiwi founder of social marketing company Wildfire.

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Angel-backed Fuel50 rocks on – $21m raise

We are so proud of the traction AANZ Executive Committee member, Jo Mills and her co-founder, Anne Fulton are getting.

Auckland software company Fuel50 has raised US$14 million ($21m) in its latest funding round and revealed its latest expansion plans.

Fuel50, which to date has raised $30m, was initially funded by New Zealand investors Ice Angels, Arc Angels and the New Zealand Venture Fund. Silicon Valley venture capital fund PeakSpan Capital led the latest investment round.

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What should angels look for?

Suse Reynolds, AANZ’s Executive Director talks about what to look for in a great deal, how to ensure alignment and the importance of being generous with honesty.

Every business goes through a life cycle: start-up, growth, maturity and renewal, rebirth or decline. Once you’ve made it past the juicy, creative ideation stage and into the growth and maturity stage, the time for many comes to seek investment. But how do you know what investors are looking for? And what do investors think New Zealand companies excel at, and therefore get excited about? We sat down with executive director of the Angel Association of New Zealand Suse Reynolds to figure out just that.

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AANZ 2019 Summit

2019 Angel Summit in Christchurch – Delivering exponential value … how growing a venture from New Zealand makes it uniquely possible!

US investment in kiwi startup

Some inspiring validation that NZ is generating world class startups with Founders’ Fund investment in Narrative.

American entrepreneur Peter Thiel and his collective of Silicone Valley venture capitalists are investing in Narrative, a New Zealand tech startup that creates apps for streamlining the workflow for professional photographers.

San Francisco-based Founders Fund Pathfinder have contributed to Narrative’s $700,000 seed funding along with Flux Accelerator, which is part of Icehouse Ventures.

Narrative was founded by photographer James Broadbent and software engineer Steffan Levet in 2017, launching less than a year ago with their own “bootstraps” and six months later, a small investment from friends and family.

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More international validation of kiwi startups

Great to see Netflix senior management join the board of Dropit

Netflix’s former marketing director Joel Mier has given a ringing endorsement to Tauranga software company DropIt, joining the board of the Kiwi company which he agrees could be worth $1 billion in three years’ time.

DropIt provides an app that helped companies run 83,000 so-called “drop auctions” or reverse auctions to sell their products online in the year to March.

Its revenues are still in the single-digit millions, but chief executive Peter Howell said the firm with 24 staff experienced “8000 per cent” revenue growth last year and expected to run 600,000 auctions this year as it grew in the United States.

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Super relevant points on high growth governance

The AANZ runs a highly regarded governance course and this article sums up the key points covered really neatly.

Startups that are backed by professional financial investors almost always have a Board of Directors that consists of some set of founders, investors and sometimes independent directors.

While the management of a startup company deals with the day-to-day decision-making within the company (strategy, budgets, goals, tasks, compensation) ultimately the Board of Directors has the legal governing responsibilities for these things. This is often called “corporate governance” — in case you’ve never heard that term.

It is worth pointing out that there are actually three levels of governance in venture-backed startups. What most founders think about is the daily management of their businesses and they realize that they periodically need to check in with their board of directors to get buy in for key decisions.

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How does NZ measure up? Startup Genome

NZ has taken part in the last three years of Startup Genome’s annual survey of startup ecosystems and is doing well in the activation phase.

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — The 2019 Global Startup Ecosystem Report (GSER) has been launched at The Next Web Conference. The GSER is the world’s most comprehensive and widely-read research on startups based on data from thousands of startup founders and research on millions of companies.

The 2019 GSER provides insights and guidance to public and private leaders in dozens of countries and cities — from Bahrain to New Zealand— about how to cultivate vibrant startup ecosystems. The report outlines key success factors for startups, constituting the new science for entrepreneurial ecosystem development.

Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment engaged Startup Genome to benchmark New Zealand against more than 50 ecosystems globally
New Zealand’s #GSER2019 highlights:

  • Top 10 Global Ecosystem for Agtech & New Food
  • Top 5 Activation Ecosystem for Life Sciences
  • Created $1.4b in Ecosystem Value with $150m in early stage funding over last 2.5 years
  • Regional sub-sector strengths are Life Sciences, and Agtech & New Food

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How does Aus measure up: Startup Genome

If you’ve read the earlier article about how NZ ranks, you might be interested to see where Australia’s key ecosystems land.

Waning political focus on innovation and a lack of funding for early-stage startups have seen Australian cities slip in the Startup Genome global rankings.

The Startup Genome Ecosystem Report 2019 has seen Sydney drop six places compared to the last report in 2017, from 17th place to 23rd. Melbourne didn’t make it onto the top-30 table at all.

Melbourne was, however, named as a ‘challenger’, or an ecosystem with the potential to make the top 30 within the next five years.

The findings were, however, contrary to those of the StartupBlink Startup Ecosystem Rankings 2019 report, which named Australia as the fifth-most startup-friendly country in the world.

The Startup Genome report bases startup ecosystems in terms of their value — output, exits and success — as well as on things like funding, connectedness, knowledge and talent base.

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Angel-backed Invert Robotics gets VC funding

Great to see AANZ member MIG Angels’, Dean Tilyard, playing such a key role in the next stage of growth for Invert Robotics.

Robots that cling to hazardous chemical containment tanks might sound like the stuff of science fiction, but Christchurch, New Zealand-based Invert Robotics — a spinout from the University of Canterbury’s School of Engineering — has been selling them for close to a decade. The company’s camera-equipped climbing machines can squeeze into spaces too tight or hazardous for human workers and perform daily inspections of equipment in a range of industries, including food and beverage, dairy, aviation, pharmaceutical, and oil and gas.

To lay the groundwork for its next phase of growth, Invert Robotics today announced that it has raised $8.8 million in a round of venture funding led by Finistere Ventures, with contributions from Yamaha Motor Ventures & Laboratory Silicon Valley (YMVSV) and existing investors Allan Moss, Inception Asset Management, and the New Zealand Venture Investment Fund. The fresh capital brings its total raised to roughly $15.9 million, according to Crunchbase, and managing director Neil Fletcher said it will be used to fuel the startup’s expansion to the U.S. and to further develop its hardware platform.

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Ambit founders talk about fundraising

An interview with one of Ambit’s founders, Josh Comrie, sheds light on what it takes to grow an AI startup.

An interview with one of Ambit’s founders, Josh Comrie, sheds light on what it takes to grow an AI startup. Startup founders often report that the most stressful part of their role is not the long hours and sleepness nights, or dealing with a seemingly endless raft of technical, staffing or business development difficulties, but rather the process of preparing for, finding, pitching and negotiating the often vital lifeblood of early stage businesses – angel or VC funding.

So when we spoke to seasoned investor – now tech startup founder – Josh Comrie, about his experience closing an oversubscribed $1.75M capital raise from investors such as K1W1, Lewis Holdings and NZVIF, we were intrigued to hear his take on the process.

Comrie’s current “day job” sees him fronting AI conversation platform Ambit as founder and CEO, but he has been an active investor in early stage companies for nearly two decades and is a founding member and director at prominent angel investment group Flying Kiwi Angels.

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