Angel backed Lightning Lab graduate, Twingl switches tack to create a Google Chrome plugin

Software startup Twingl, which raised $100,000 from the Lighting Lab accelerator programme, has abandoned plans to develop its education track tool as a standalone product in favour of a plug-in for Google’s Chrome web browser.

The Wellington-based company, whose tool tracks a student’s learning process, raised more than its targeted $90,000 from a syndicate of angel investors through AngelHQ and some independent investors, chief executive Andy Wilkinson told BusinessDesk. The company initially planned to build a standalone product and had been working through a number of fixes, before feedback from users encouraged a switch to developing an extension on Google’s Chrome web browser.

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The power of angels and accelerators propelling a high growth start up onwards and upwards

Software start-up CoachSeek raised more than $450,000 after going through the Lighting Lab accelerator programme, and plans to knuckle down and develop its product before ramping up marketing efforts.

The Auckland-based start-up, whose software helps sports coaches manage their programmes, raised more than its targeted $450,000 from a syndicate of angel investors through Ice Angels and AngelHQ, chief executive Ian Bishop told BusinessDesk, without being more specific. CoachSeek made the pitch for funds at Lightning Lab’s May demonstration day, with $100,000 already committed at a pre-money valuation of $1 million.

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NZX backs NZ’s growing angel movement

NZX, the operator of New Zealand’s stock exchange, has thrown its support in behind New Zealand’s growing angel movement, by sponsoring the Angel Association of New Zealand (AANZ).

Angels are businesspeople who invest their money and often their time in early-stage and startup companies in order to help them grow and become the next generation of employers and innovators.

This partnership between AANZ and NZX is an important one as it not only provides extra resource to help New Zealand angels develop their skills and networks on a national basis, it also strengthens ties for companies-backed by angel investors with the more formal capital markets, says Marcel van den Assum, an angel investor and chairman of the AANZ.

“We’re delighted to announce this sponsorship. Angel HQ, the angel network I’ve been associated with since its inception, launched at NZX six years ago with the aspiration that ventures funded at this level would become opportunities for a wider network of investors to support through NZX. There is much angel-backed companies can learn from the people at NZX and from New Zealand’s many listed companies, their directors and their shareholders, many of whom are also angel investors. We look forward to strengthening our relationship still further over the coming years and providing a pipeline of companies for the new NXT market that NZX will soon launch.”

Aaron Jenkins, NZX’s Head of Markets says NZX’s decision to support the Angel Association was a logical one. “We have mutual and complementary goals. We both want to encourage young New Zealand businesses to ‘take on the world’ for the economic benefit of all New Zealanders. The Angel Association is a key part of the critical breeding ground for New Zealand businesses as well as a representative body of educated investors. These are both important components of our capital markets and particularly NZX’s soon to launch NXT market.

“Ideally, once they’ve proven their abilities, we’d like to see a greater proportion of these growing businesses coming to our public markets to raise the capital they need to fuel the next stages of their growth. NZX also has a focus on improving investor literacy among everyday New Zealanders to encourage more people to take an interest in New Zealand’s capital markets and the businesses that rely on those markets.”


For more information on the AANZ or on early stage companies, please contact:

Marcel van den Assum on mob: 021 963 459 or email: [email protected]; or

Suse Reynolds , AANZ executive director on mob: 021 490 974 or email: [email protected]
For more information about NZX, please contact:

Kate McLaughlin, Head of Communications, NZX on T: 09 3093654, M: 027 533 4529 or E: [email protected]



Background information

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; to support the angel networks and help create new networks; to promote the growth of angel investment in New Zealand by encouraging and educating entrepreneurs, new angel investors and angel groups; and to ensure the ongoing success of the angel movement through developing industry strategy, encouraging collaboration and educating the wider New Zealand public about the importance of angel investing in growing our economy. AANZ currently has 13 members representing more than 600 individual angels associated with New Zealand’s key angel networks and funds. Recent NZ Venture Investment Fund data revealed angels have invested almost $NZ300 million in over 600 deals in the last 7 years.

For more, please visit:



NZX builds and operates capital, risk and commodity markets and the infrastructure required to support them. NZX provides high quality information, data and tools to support business decision making. It aims to make a meaningful difference to wealth creation for its shareholders and the individuals, businesses and economies in which it operates.

For more, please visit:

Serial entrepreneur Linc Gasking acknowledges the power of exits to fire more great NZ startups

Wellington startup 8i, whose virtual reality technology uses the Oculus Rift headset to immerse viewers in the entertainment they’re viewing, has secured a million dollars of new investment to seize on what it calls a huge global commercial opportunity.

UK analysts KZERO estimates there will be 171 million virtual reality users worldwide by 2018 and 8i co-founder and CEO Linc Gasking says giants like Facebook (which bought Oculus VR earlier this year), Sony and Samsung are rushing to bring virtual reality hardware to market.

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Angels provide the fuel for Rockit Apples to hit world markets

It took a decision from the United Nations before Havelock North grower Phil Alison could call his Rockit miniature apples, apples.

Slightly bigger than a golf ball, the New Zealand-grown variety looks and tastes like a normal apple but was too small to fit the UN’s minimum size grade.

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$2.2m Investment from Angels for Lightning Lab startups

Five of the nine start-ups to go through Lightning Lab’s digital accelerator programme have raised a combined $2.2 million of seed funding, more than what they were seeking at a demonstration day in May.

The five successful groups, Common Ledger, Cloud Cannon, GlassJar, CoachSeek and Twingl, were seeking $1.94 million to support the commercial ambitions for their respective software-based ideas, of which $740,000 had already been committed before their May 28 presentations. Lightning Lab’s programme seeks to prepare early stage companies to pitch to investors.
“I was delighted to see that all the teams who pitched on Demo Day 2014 matched the best of what last year had to offer,” angel investor Trevor Dickinson said in a statement. “It was therefore no surprise that the 2014 graduates have attracted serious interest from experienced angel and venture capital investors.”

Last month the government-backed New Zealand Venture Investment Fund said it was too early to judge the success of its Seed Co-Investment Fund, which backs early-stage firms alongside angel investors and was set up in 2006.

In the opening address for the Lightning Lab event in May, Angel Association chairman Marcel van den Assum, who was also part of the successful sale of local software firm GreenButton, urged angel investors to broaden their portfolios if they wanted to improve their chances of a return, with too many backers relying overly on a small number of ventures.

First published on 12 August 2014

Angels help Irrigation idea find fertile ground

The world is running out of water. Demand has grown a staggering 60 per cent every decade for the past 50 years, says Isaac Bentwich, chief executive and chairman of a new Wellington-based irrigation software company.

An Israeli-turned-Kiwi entrepreneur, Bentwich should know, hailing from one of the planet’s drier regions. So perhaps it’s not surprising he was struck by the potential of the technology of his company, Varigate.

The concept is simple, he says. Land is not homogeneous, and hence water absorption and its availability to plants varies greatly across a field.

“Current irrigation systems waste a lot of water because they water fields evenly. Our uniqueness and focus is on ‘listening to the ground’, and providing each part of a field with exactly the right amount of water that it needs, at any given time.”

Varigate’s software technology works with automated irrigation systems to adjust spray levels in response to sensors in the ground, reducing the water needed to irrigate large fields by up to 20 per cent.

Bentwich stumbled across the seeds of Varigate’s technology at Landcare Research when visiting New Zealand in 2010. Landcare was doing some pioneering work on the management of terrestrial biodiversity and land resources.

“Its highly advanced technological approach to eco troubleshooting was inspiring,” says Bentwich, a former commercialisation consultant for Auckland University’s commercialisation arm, Uniservices, and the founder and successful seller of two Israeli technology companies.

“When I first visited New Zealand I was wowed by the strength of innovation here, but I also saw that there was room for significant improvement in the commercialisation of that innovation.”

Determined to commercialise Varigate’s technology and requiring capital and support to do so, Bentwich hooked up with Marcel van den Assum, an early-stage company or “angel” investor and chair of the New Zealand Angel Association, through mutual friend Dean Tilyard, head of the Palmerston North-based business incubator the BioCommerce Centre.

The Varigate system requires the user to download a mobile app and position three wireless sensors in the ground. The sensors send readings to the Varigate cloud.

The patent-pending pattern-recognition analysis methodology coupled with the software then studies a field’s condition and soil structure to determine how much water is required for a specific part of a field and automatically instructs the irrigation system to water where it’s needed.

The user can study irrigation field maps on a cellphone and change settings as needed.

For farmers and landowners, the appeal is obvious, Bentwich says. It’s “simple, cost-effective and low-maintenance” because it solves the puzzle of how to make significant water cost savings while increasing crop and dairy yield.

Van den Assum was first struck by Varigate’s strong intellectual property (IP) portfolio and Bentwich’s impressive track record. “It’s New Zealand IP which is exciting, but I was also attracted by the aspirational story around the planet’s water shortage and the demands on water globally.

“Plus Isaac is someone who has the global expertise to commercialise it effectively. It’s a good proposition for investment in New Zealand but I believe it will get world attention from an investment point of view.”

Varigate raised more than $1.5 million from investors this year.

Small, privately owned farms are embracing the technology and form the backbone of the customer body, van den Assum says.

“But while New Zealand is at the forefront of agricultural technology innovation, the truth is water’s commercial value is still not appreciated here,” he says. “So Varigate is not going to build a significant revenue stream in New Zealand.

“It’s going to be enough to validate the technology and show customers to recognise its value, but the big markets are in the massive arid regions of USA, China and the Middle East.”

Both van den Assum and Bentwich agree it’s hard to argue against any innovation that helps to save the Earth’s haemorrhaging water stocks.

“More than 40 per cent of the world’s food is provided by irrigated agriculture,” Bentwich says.

Produced in conjunction with the Angel Association of New Zealand.

Watering can-do
• Varigate uses a mobile app and sensors in the ground to measure where water is needed and how much.
• Irrigation systems can then deliver water only to the areas that need it based on the soil structure and condition.
• Adjustments can be made using the app from anywhere.
• Described as simple, cost-effective and low-maintenance.

First published on 24 July 2014



Angels help skincare pioneer fly

Early investment allowing Zeosoft to prove product claims has helped secure backing for international leap.

Patience and a lot of persistence have paid off for natural skin cleaning company Zeosoft after it gained significant backing from the Bay of Plenty’s Enterprise Angels and early stage investment group Movac.

Soft zeolites, formed from volcanic activity and mined near Tokoroa are the key ingredient of Zeosoft’s products.

“It’s a very unique ingredient. And we’re the first to patent its use on skin,” said Zeosoft chief executive Phil Connolly. “Thanks to our initial investment from Movac we’ve now got independent proof of the power of soft zeolites to remove contaminants, including heavy metals and toxins, and help repair skin, while still being soft and dermatologically safe.”

Movac first invested in Zeosoft in 2010 to help the company’s founders prove the power of their innovative skin-cleaning ingredient. It was this research that helped seal the deal for the Bay of Plenty angel investors, says Movac’s Mark Vivian.

Zeosoft raised $8 million in this latest funding round and plans to use the capital to fast-track its way into international markets.

It currently manufactures heavy-duty hand soap, everyday handwash and household cleaners, with personal care, cosmetics and derma product on the cards. Its initial targets are the automotive and engineering industries in Britain, Europe and the Middle East.

To try to speed its way it has joined forces with global leaders Unilever and Stevenson’s Group for product formulation and development.

“Nutting out these relationships is key for us. Everything’s on a completely different scale in the UK, so any mistake is accentuated,” Connolly said.

Vivian said he had high hopes for Zeosoft.

“They’re making excellent progress in the UK market where there’s growing consideration among industrial organisations about the impact products have on their employees, customers and the environment.”

Strong relationships between New Zealand’s angels and early-stage investment companies like Movac were crucial for ensuring Kiwi companies got enough funding to grow, Vivian said. “There are always going to be natural ups, downs, surprises and successes that go with being invested in any early-stage company, but the more experienced people the business is able to surround itself with, the better.”

Enterprise Angels executive director Bill Murphy agreed: “What Zeosoft highlights is there is an increasingly strong early-stage investment network in New Zealand where deals, due diligence and investing are often shared.

“This leads to more capital and more opportunities for promising young companies.”

Produced in conjunction with the Angel Association of New Zealand.

First published on 17 July 2014


The size of fruit changes as well as purchase opportunities. In order to adapt to new trends like the tendency to have short lunch breaks and the preference for healthy snacks, Melavì and One App have officially launched Rockit apples on the Italian market.

“Its size is ideal and the innovative packaging means it can be eaten anywhere – it is perfect even for those people who wouldn’t normally eat fruit as a snack,” said Elena Picozzi from One App srl.

The size of fruit changes as well as purchase opportunities. In order to adapt to new trends like the tendency to have short lunch breaks and the preference for healthy snacks, Melavì and One App have officially launched Rockit apples on the Italian market.

“It is a unique apple, as it is fresh and healthy, but also rich in vitamins and mineral salts. Its sugar content is above average and its crunchiness and juiciness are also impressive,” explained Gianluigi Quagelli, chairman of Melavi.

The average diameter of apples varies between 65 and 85-90 mm, whereas these “miniature” apples measure 53-63 mm, on top of having a very long shelf-life.

They are sold in a practical 100% recyclable PET tube, so they can be taken along very easily. Each tube can hold between 3 and 5 mini-apples depending on the size of the fruit.

One App and Melavì (which gathers 75% of Valtellina apple producers) signed an agreement to use the brand and have therefore become the exclusive managers of this variety for the Italian markets with distribution rights in Switzerland, Spain and Russia.

The internationalization strategy for the brand is based on the selection of foreign distributors. Rockit used to be produced only in New Zealand but now it is being produced also in US and South Africa. Until 2017, therefore, these apples will be available only between April/October. Production in Valtellina will start in 2018 and then the fruit will be available the whole year round thanks to the alternation between the two hemispheres.

“Innovation is not as common in the fruit world. In this case, both the variety and the packaging are new. It is a new way to eat apples that we need to promote,” explained Tiziano Caprioli, sales manager for Melavì.

At the moment, Rockit is only on sale in a big supermarket chain, but new channels will be to reach the consumer target – shops, bars, airports, motorways, sports and wellness facilities, golf clubs, stadiums and beaches. So far, prices have been imposed by New Zealand.

For further info:
Società agricola Melavì
Email: [email protected]

One App srl
Email: [email protected]

Publication date: 6/20/2014

$3m investment for NZ Startups

Lightning Lab Demo Day 2014 generated $3 million in offers of seed investment capital.

It is the largest early stage investment pitch event in New Zealand.

Founders from nine startups, mostly online platforms and tools for both businesses and consumers, took the stage on May 2 , 2014.

The room was full of more than 100 registered investors amid supporters, sponsors, family and friends.

Offers totalling $3 million of investment have been made, including that from NZ Venture Investment Fund’s Seed Co-Investment Fund (SCIF).

Angel investors were joined by institutional investors and larger funds, showing a growing enthusiasm from the early stage investment community for the prospects put forward by the Lightning Lab.

Stefan Korn, CEO, Creative HQ: “This year we saw more teams earning revenue by Demo Day, and a greater sense of commercial acumen and business leadership on the teams – a big win for the programme as we look to expand beyond Wellington in 2015.”


Excellent outcome for New Zealand Angels

The successful sale of cloud-computing company GreenButton to Microsoft is a win for everyone involved in the venture’s journey from a one-man startup to a globally competitive, international company. It illustrates just why angels like me find investing in high growth startup companies so rewarding.

This transaction is an excellent outcome for New Zealand. It’s something we can all be proud of. Another team of smart Kiwis have shown they can create a terrific piece of software which will be used by potentially millions of people.

Its worth pointing out almost all the capital required to create the company came from New Zealand’s angel and venture investment community, reflecting the degree to which this community syndicates deals and supports each other.

Over 20 individual angels from three networks contributed – Angel HQ in Wellington, Enterprise Angels in Tauranga and Ice Angels in Auckland – as did early stage venture funds Movac, Sparkbox and Evander. Almost all the investors have indicated they will reinvest the returns straight back into their startup communities.

Its also important to acknowledge the support the company has had from the Government, including the NZ Venture Investment Fund, Callaghan Innovation and New Zealand Trade and Enterprise.

These entities were all instrumental in the company’s success and I am delighted this transaction represents a significantly positive return on the Government’s investment.

– Marcel van den Assum


Investment success story keeps staff in New Zealand

Microsoft has bought a Wellington cloud computing business that can trace its origin to the Lord of the Rings movies.

The software giant has snapped up GreenButton, which has 18 staff, for an undisclosed amount. Microsoft would keep all of GreenButton’s operations in New Zealand and all staff would be retained.

GreenButton, whose clients include the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Boeing and animated-movie producer Pixar, will be added to the Microsoft Azure cloud computing platform.

Using GreenButton’s solutions, applications can be cloud-enabled quickly without recoding existing software – and without a PhD in computer science.

Investment in GreenButton came from the government’s Venture Investment Fund, Movac founder Phil McCaw, and Datacom founder John Holdsworth. Former Sun Microsystems executive Mark Canepa is a shareholder and sits alongside Mr van den Assum and chief executive Scott Houston – once head of technology at Weta Digital – on the board of directors. Microsoft had not acquired any equity in GreenButton as part of its deal.

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Angel investee has sound impact on literacy

Launched by New Zealand company Booktrack, the education tool Booktrack Classroom sychronises audio with text, and gives students and teachers free access to hundreds of soundtracked e-books, from famous classics to contemporary titles. Students can also create Booktracks for their own writing, and create a soundtrack from over 20 000 professional-quality audio files, and share it with their classmates.

Booktrack Classroom has multiple uses across Years 1-13 in the reading and writing curriculum, and can be used for creative writing, essay writing, literature study and reading aloud.

As Booktrack expands into the education sector, it builds on a recent successful fundraising round where it secured US$3 million in local and offshore investors, led by Sparkbox Ventures. The funding enables Booktrack to build on its recent growth with Booktrack Studio, where self-published writers are able to add soundtracks to their own ebooks. Launched in September 2013, Booktrack Studio has attracted 300 000 users, who have created more than 3600 Booktracks in 30 different languages.

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Startup – Angel Investment Intel shows growth

Angel investment surged in 2013 with a record $53.2 million invested into young New Zealand companies in 2013, reflecting growing investor confidence in the technology and innovation sector, according to New Zealand Venture Investment Fund’s chief executive Franceska Banga writing in the latest issue of Startup, the Young Company Finance Report.

Marcel van den Assum Chair of Angel Association New Zealand agrees. “The substantial increase in investment last year shows the enthusiasm angels have for supporting entrepreneurial endeavour and the economic value this generates. The high level of follow on investment re-enforces angels’ commitment to businesses with potential, and recognises that it takes time and effort to achieve results.”

Read more from Startup, Young Company Finance, published by NZVIF

Lead Partners

NZTE NZGCP PWC “NZX” Callaghan Innovation

Expert Partner

AVID “Jarden”

AANZ Summit Sponsors

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