NZ company growing new skin for burn victims

A Kiwi biotechnology company which has found a way to grow bigger-than-A5 sheets of replacement human skin says the product might be ready to start clinical trials on burn patients in 2020 or 2021.

Upside Biotechnologies, a company which spun out of the University of Auckland’s immunology research area, announced this week it has raised $2 million in a convertible notes issue from existing investors.

And it is preparing for a $10m to $15m capital raising later this year, which will hopefully take it into clinical trials 12-15 months after that.

Read more

Please follow and like us:

2018 New Zealand Hi-Tech Awards – Finalists Announced

A record number of people gathered across Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington today to hear the finalists in the 2018 NZ Hi-Tech Awards announced.

Entries this year have come in from right across the country and this is reflected in the line up of finalists this year, according to Jen Rutherford, Chair of the Hi-Tech Trust, who says the standard of entries is the highest ever seen in the history of the Awards.

“This year’s finalists span the full spectrum of the hi-tech sector and the country. For 2018 we have made a really big push to ensure even greater diversity across the board and it’s great to see so many areas of the country represented, as well as a huge increase in the number of finalists led by women. The number of finalists with female CEO’s has almost doubled year-on-year. Whilst we are not there yet, we are moving in the right direction. Our industry is truly in great shape,” says Rutherford

Read more

Please follow and like us:

Upside Biotechnologies wins $409k research grant

Upside Biotechnologies, a regenerative tissue developer spun out of Auckland University, has won a $409,000 research grant to prepare its PelliCel product for a clinical trial and deepening its existing relationship with the US Army.

Auckland-based Upside, which raised $2.3 million last year, won the Medical Technology Enterprise Consortium (MTEC) prototype acceleration award, it said in a statement. The biotech firm is developing an advanced skin replacement treatment for burn victims, enabling a small sample of unburnt skin to be grown in a lab and used as skin grafts for patients who don’t have enough uninjured skin for a conventional graft.

Read more

Please follow and like us:

Acquisition of IMeasureU Limited

Adds new dimension to strong, profitable Vicon business.

Will further increase, over time, the Group’s recurring revenue base.

Oxford Metrics plc (LSE: OMG) the international software company servicing government, life sciences, entertainment and engineering markets, is pleased to announce the acquisition of IMeasureU. Using wearable sensors and its own proprietary software, IMeasureU has developed a world-leading high-fidelity motion measurement system which enables researchers and elite athletes to gain data-driven insights into athletic performance. The Directors believe this acquisition will contribute to the Group’s five year strategic growth plan by expanding Vicon’s addressable market, accelerating its ability to develop new Vicon product, opening up opportunities to cross-sell, and by further increasing over time the Group’s recurring revenue base.

Read more

Please follow and like us:

Upside Biotechnologies raises $2.3 mln in funding round

Upside Biotechnologies, a regenerative medicine start-up, said it has successfully raised $2.3 million in its Series A funding round.
The Auckland-based company is developing an advanced, world-class skin replacement treatment for patients suffering major burns. The capital raised will be used to complete development of the product, demonstrate proof of concept, ready the product for its first human trial and forge links and explore market opportunities in the US, chief executive Robert Feldman said in a statement.

Read more

Please follow and like us:

Datagate gets capital for North American push

AUCKLAND. New Zealand cloud software start-up Datagate Innovation Limited has raised more than $1m in capital as it gears up to hire salespeople and start selling into the North American market.

For customers including a network of Spark resellers and one of New Zealand’s largest IT services companies, Datagate’s cloud billing solution provides online billing, reporting and customer self-service for usage-based services.

Datagate has raised $1,042,794 from new and existing investors, more than double its $500,000 target. The capital raise was originally a rights issue for existing investors, but strong interest saw Datagate extend the issue to include new investors, says CEO Mark Loveys.

Read more

Please follow and like us:

Phitek sold to NYSE-listed Amphenol in $60M deal

Phitek Systems, which supplies noise cancellation and audio enhancement equipment, has been sold to New York-listed Amphenol Corp for $60 million before adjustments.

Connecticut-based Amphenol announced the deal in a statement to the New York Stock Exchange when reporting its fourth-quarter earnings, saying the Phitek purchase was part of a broader acquisition programme, without disclosing a price. However, local filings to the Companies Office show Amphenol agreed to pay $60 million plus net cash, minus the New Zealand company’s indebtedness, the levels of which have not been disclosed.

Read more

Please follow and like us:

Skin is the game for Kiwi regenerative medicine spinoff

AUCKLAND: Patients suffering major burns may eventually benefit from the launch of a new regenerative medicine company, Upside Biotechnologies, which is developing an advanced, world-class skin replacement treatment in Auckland.
Regenerative medicine develops methods to regrow, repair or replace damaged or diseased cells, organs or tissues to restore or establish normal function. The global regenerative medicines market is projected to reach US$30 billion by 2022.

Read more

Please follow and like us:

Tech incubator Powerhouse Ventures makes two new investments

ASX-listed Powerhouse Ventures has committed to invest up to $450,000 in a new ed-tech software company spun out of Victoria University’s Faculty of Education in Wellington in conjunction with Macleans College Auckland, as its share price languishes 30 Australian cents below its market debut last month.

The deal comes as it’s also about to announce its first ever investment into a spin-out from the University of Auckland – Objective Acuity, that has developed a revolutionary eye technology.

Read more

 

Please follow and like us:

On the Grid: Weirdly don’t care about your $500 CV

There’s a revolution underway. Deep within the Auckland Viaduct lurks the beginnings of our own tiny Silicon Valley. At GridAKL, more than 50 startups, in industries as diverse as medicine, robotics and augmented reality, are running the entrepreneurial gauntlet looking to build a high-growth business – or at least a get a second funding round.

In On the Grid, a sponsored series with Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED), we tell their stories. In this, the third instalment, recruitment revolutionaries Weirdly.

Read more

Please follow and like us:

Snowball Effect – the first 2 years!

New Zealand’s first equity crowdfunding offer kicked off on 11 August 2014. Below we’ve compiled an infographic showing some of the key statistics from the first 2 years of offers through Snowball Effect.

The NZ market started with public offers to retail investors through the new equity crowdfunding regulations. Over the last 2 years, the capital raising options have quickly evolved to include:

   Public offers: An offer which is available to all Kiwi investors, and publicly visible.

   Private offers: An offer which is restricted to an audience selected by the issuing company, and not publicly visible. The company can still make the offer to retail investors without a costly “product disclosure statement”.

   Wholesale investor offers: An offer which is available only to people who meet the “wholesale investor” criteria. Wholesale investors are investors that are legally able to invest in any type of security on offer. This is an important aspect to our offering as it enables us to facilitate a wider range of deals (such as offers of instruments like convertible notes, raises of more than $2m, and private brokering).

   Rights issues: Online facilitation of rights issues, including taking care of electronic signing of legal documents, payment collection, verification of wholesale investors, and anti-money laundering obligations.

We’re really happy with how the market has developed over the first 2 years. New territory is being broken again right now. G3 Group was the first company to list on NZX’s new junior exchange, the NXT Market, when it launched 15 months ago. G3 is now raising up to $3m through Snowball Effect. This is the first time that a listed company has used an “equity crowdfunding” marketplace to raise funds in New Zealand. We’re also starting to see more private broking of deals. The demand is coming from companies who are seeking capital but would prefer to keep the business tightly held – seeking a small number of large shareholders rather than a crowd of minnows. Snowball Effect has recently recruited former capital markets lawyer and entrepreneur Cowan Finch to lead this part of our offering.

There’s a long way to go before we make the impact that we want to make, but it’s been a great start.

Thank you to the entrepreneurs, investors, and partners who have helped to make the first 2 years of online capital raising in NZ a success. This is only the beginning – we’re excited about bringing a wider range of investment opportunities to investors, and continually improving access to finance for Kiwi companies.

The most pleasing result for us is the expansion of our offering as described above. This allows us to serve a broader part of the market, and tailor our services to meet the particular capital raising objectives of each client.

There has been 35% growth from the first year in terms of capital raised. There has also been a significant increase in the average size of investment, and the number of investors making multiple investments – metrics that we monitor closely as proxies for whether the right types of investors are being attracted to the marketplace.

We hope you find these numbers interesting, and feel free to contact me if there’s other information that you’d like to see – [email protected]

snowball

 

 

 

 

Please follow and like us:

Startups are finally revealed for the 2016 Auckland Lightning Lab Programme

Today, New Zealand’s premier digital accelerator has announced the ten digital startups that will embark on the 2016 Lightning Lab Programme in Auckland.

Reyedr, Wireless Guard, Foodcourt Online, Sonnar Interactive, WayWiser, Pheonix Audio, SeekStock, Dexibit, Slick Software, and Rock.ai all made it through the extensive application process to be the ten teams to receive $20,000 seed funding, intense mentorship, and the opportunity to work on the business 24/7 through the four month long Lightning Lab programme.

Read more

Please follow and like us:

Valuable Advice from Lowndes BIS Workshop 5

Some of our wonderful international visitors who spoke at ABAF also spent some time in Auckland. Here are a selection of insights from the Lowndes Associates sponsored event which addressed “Effective Investment in Growth Companies.

Read more on www.business-intelligence.co.nz

Please follow and like us:

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

Please follow and like us:

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

Please follow and like us:

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

 

Please follow and like us:

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

Please follow and like us:

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

Please follow and like us:

Tom McKaskill talks Angel/Founder alignment #AANZSummit14

Angel Association New Zealand Summit 2014

Each year’s Angel Association New Zealand Annual Summit brings keynote speakers from around the world to share their knowledge and networks.

In 2015 we will hold a special Summit, merging it with 2015’s Asian Business Angel Forum and welcoming Angels who are looking for opportunities to do business with New Zealanders.

In 2014 we welcomed Australian entrepreneur and Angel investor Tom McKaskill as guest speaker and panel member. Tom McKaskill has some pithy advice for angel investors and angel backed companies. He encourages us to build ventures that acquirers can exploit quickly on a global basis and create alignment early on.

Read more from Tom here

To view this video on youtube click here

ABAF2015, NZ
Register_now_ABAF2015_NZ
Please follow and like us:

Jim Connor talks Acquisition Strategies #AANZSummit14

Angel Association New Zealand Summit 2014

Angel Association New Zealand Annual Summit 2014 welcomed Jim Connor, Board Director and founder of Californian Sandhill Angels to speak about how to find and engage with acquirers, all the elements needed and how to obtain information in the process of planning acquisition strategies.

Read more from Jim Connor here

 

To view this video on youtube click here

Please follow and like us:

Kiwi start-up Notable attracts angel investment from the US for the first time

In securing funding from US investors, Notable is setting a terrific example of what is not only possible but to be enthusiastically welcomed.  Congratulations to AANZ members NZVIF, Sparkbox and Flying Kiwis who have been part of this deal.

Kiwi start-up Notable has attracted funding from US investors YCombinator, a start-up accelerator, and Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund in its latest round of capital raising.

The Auckland-based company has just closed its third fundraising round for an undisclosed amount with a range of angel investors including the two US investors, Flying Kiwi Angels, the NZ Venture Investment Fund, Sparkbox Ventures Group and EFU, the NZ investment company of Japanese billionaire Soichiro Fukutake.

Read more from www.nbr.co.nz

Please follow and like us:

Firm aims to help cystic fibrosis sufferers

Breatheasy is a wonderful example of what motivates and inspires angels to invest in early stage ventures. Founder and CEO, Andrea Millar spoke compellingly about the difference her venture could make to cystic fibrosis suffers at last year’s Angel Summit.  A New Zealand drug company is seeking $500,000 to trial an experimental cystic fibrosis treatment it plans to have produced locally.

Auckland-based Breathe Easy aims to produce Citramel, a spray designed to dissolve biofilms on the mucus which accumulates in cystic fibrosis sufferers’ lungs.  It is launching a $500,000 share offer on online investment company Snowball Effect.

Chief executive and former Timaru resident Andrea Miller, said the company had already raised more than $1 million from “angel investors”, including at least one South Cantabrian and through investment companies New Zealand Venture Investment Fund and Pacific Channel. Breathe Easy director Brent Ogilvie is also a director of Pacific Channel.

Read more on www.stuff.co.nz

Please follow and like us:

Auckland accelerator startups win seed funding

More great ‘angel-food’ in the hopper. Congratulations to all the Lightning Lab companies selected in this next cohort of inspirational startups who will be seeking investment in three months time.  A web business that helps guys get advice from girls on what clothes to buy is among nine Auckland startups that have won seed funding and free advice.

Wear it Her Way and the other winners were selected from 200 entrants to receive assistance from “digital accelerator” Lightning Lab.  The companies get $18,000 in seed funding and will join a three-month course that provides “intense mentoring”, culminating in the opportunity to pitch their business to 200 angel investors.

Read more from Stuff.co.nz

Please follow and like us:

‘Chunk of capital’ puts Rocket Lab on launch countdown

Congratulations to the team at Rocket Lab on raising their latest round of funding. Andrew spoke compellingly at the Angel Summit last year about the ability to build global companies from NZ and this is another proof point.

Rocket Lab has attracted new financial backing from one of the United States’ oldest venture capital firms and aerospace giant Lockheed Martin to put it on course to launch its latest vehicle into orbit this year.

The Auckland-based company aims to send satellites into space for a fraction of the price of bigger existing ventures. Founder and sole director Peter Beck said the latest financing round would allow the company to test launch its Electron rocket this year and a commercial launch next year. Existing backers have also committed further towards the firm.

“The size of the investment is commercially sensitive [but] you can see by the size of these projects these are not trivial amounts of money. This is a significant chunk of capital that will hopefully bring us into commercial operations in 2016.”

The company said it would soon announce its New Zealand launch site.
The 18m tall carbon composite Electron could be launched from a site the size of a rugby field. The site required a northeasterly aspect and had to be clear of populated areas.

The firm aims to transport small satellites into space for less than $6 million, compared with more than $160 million for an average launch overseas using rockets 60m tall.

The lead-time for businesses to launch a satellite would be reduced from years to weeks.

Beck said Lockheed Martin has had a relationship with his firm for the past five years but the strategic equity funding was the first financial investment it had made.

While the Maryland-headquartered firm is among America’s military giants, Electron rockets had no weapons capability because they couldn’t carry sufficient mass and flew on the wrong trajectory.

Lockheed has been involved in the US space programme since its inception and launched satellites using Atlas rockets. Last year it earned more than $10 billion from the services and “strategic missiles lines of business”.

Venture capital firm Bessemer Venture Partners is more than a century old and has provided seed funding for companies ranging from International Paper, retailer Staples to high-tech firms Skype, and LinkedIn.

David Cowan, a BVP partner, has joined Rocket Lab’s board as part of BVP’s funding.

The Electron rocket would revolutionise aerospace, Cowan said.

Existing backers, Silicon Valley’s Khosla Ventures and Sir Stephen Tindall’s K1W1 investment fund participated fully in the latest funding round, Beck said.

The eight-year-old company has developed and launched a number of rockets and received up to $25 million of government funding over five years.

He said Rocket Lab was able to raise funds from venture capital firms very quickly which was important as there was growing competition in the small rocket market.

“The market opportunity for small satellites is massive at the moment and we see a number of competitors in the US. Their biggest issue is trying to get funding.”

Lockheed Martin chief scientist Ned Allen said his company invested in technology to help keep up with innovation across the industry.

“Rocket Lab’s work could have application in a number of aerospace domains, and we look forward to working with them to complement our overall efforts in small lift capabilities and hypersonic flight technologies.”

Rocket Lab expects to unveil further details about the Electron at the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs next month.

First published on nzherald.co.nz 3rd March 2015

Please follow and like us:

The touch of an angel

Angel investors are often an entrepreneur’s first port of call for capital. But what’s it like dealing with angels? Is it more halos or hassle? NZBusiness sat in on the Angel Investor Summit where entrepreneurs shared their highs and lows.

Scantily-clad forms don’t tend to dominate investment gatherings. So perhaps it wasn’t surprising that there was a palpable feeling of renewed interest when Kiwi entrepreneur Paul Cameron flicked up a slide of a rather beautiful female ‘angel’ at the recent Angel Investor Summit in Auckland.

“We really like angels. They are beautiful people. And this is what I think about when I think about my angels,” Cameron said to howls of laughter from the mainly male, mainly older and mainly well-to-do and (thankfully) fully dressed audience.

Cameron says he likes his angels for a number of reasons outside the cash they bring. Key for him has been the support they’ve given him and his business, Booktrack.

Booktrack’s patented technology lets anyone add a synchronized movie-style soundtrack, including sound effects, to an e-book or other digital content, with the audio paced to the reader’s own reading speed. The idea dates back to 2009, but it wasn’t until 2011 that Cameron sought help and capital. Since then, Booktrack has raised more than $2 million from early stage investors including Sparkbox, The Warehouse founder Stephen Tindall’s K1W1, Kiwi entrepreneur Derek Handley and US tech entrepreneur and investor (and self-proclaimed Kiwiphile) Peter Thiel.

Quoting boxer Mike Tyson, Cameron says “Everyone has a plan until you are punched in the face,” and that’s what it’s like for entrepreneurs; things often don’t go to plan. When that happens you need to know there’s support there; that someone is guarding your back, he says.

Right from the beginning Sparkbox’s Greg Sitters has always been there for him, with almost daily contact at the beginning of his angel journey, he says. “It had been eleven months. It was 9.30 at night and my phone rang. It was Greg and he goes ‘How you going?’, and I reply ‘Good, what’s going on?’ He says ‘Nothing, I just haven’t heard from you so I was just checking in that everything was all right’.

“It was the first time in months we hadn’t actually touched base for more than 24 hours,” Cameron laughs.

But knowing that sort of support is there when you’re trying to build up a business and trying to raise capital is invaluable, he says.

Another thing angels bring to the table is connections and networks, says Cameron. When Kiwi entrepreneur Derek Handley sold his successful mobile marketing company, The Hyperfactory, a friend suggested he get in touch with him. Cameron went to Sitters and asked if he knew Handley. He did, and a meeting was arranged. Soon Handley was an investor and had arranged for Cameron to go to Silicon Valley to meet some members of his own network. These introductions led to Cameron netting Thiel as an investor and the rest, as they say, is history.

Antony Dixon, founder of super slimline radio frequency identification product manufacturer Times-7, says without his Kiwi angels’ encouragement and networks, he’d have never have got on a plane and met, let alone landed, his current Silicon Valley partners.

Similarly Marie-Claire Andrews, co-founder and CEO of smartphone event app ShowGizmo, says connections are vital, especially when you head off overseas. But it’s not just connections for sales or investment that are important, she says: “It can be connections for anything: a place to sleep; a desk.”

Another big plus is just the belief angels bring to an entrepreneur, says Cameron. “When someone says they want to invest in your business, as an entrepreneur you feel 100ft tall; like you can take on the whole world. It gives you amazing self-belief and the motivation to go an extra 200 percent when you’re already giving it 100 percent.

“That’s probably my favourite part of working with the angels; that belief they give us and how they bring that to the whole entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

Andrews was also upbeat about her angel experience, even highlighting how important the frequent pitches were to both testing and honing her business strategy and as an important dress rehearsal for getting sales. “Practising pitching is practising selling… and that’s what we have to do every day as entrepreneurs.”

But the downside of all this relationship-building is the time involved for what is often not a lot of capital at the end of the day, she says. “It’s been the time pressure that’s been the hardest for us; the involved time, my time.” Every pitch is different and it differs between angel groups, but angels should streamline their processes more and be far more transparent about what’s happening and how as an entrepreneur you’re doing, so there’s no time wasted just wondering what’s going on, she says.

After three years, ShowGizmo has netted just under a million in external investor capital, compared with US$40 million raised by the company’s biggest competitor in the US, says Andrews. “Our last round was a simple just under $100,000 top-up for a specific reason. Admittedly it only took three months, but it still took about 80 hours of my time.”

Mind the time

John Huston, founder of one of North America’s largest Angel Groups, the Ohio Tech Angel Fund and a key note speaker at the 2014 Angel Summit, says the only constant entrepreneurs have is 168: the number of hours in a week.

“The most successful entrepreneurs are those who use those 168 hours most effectively.

“Angel groups who squander the time of entrepreneurs are not just unkind, they are evil,” he laughs. Investors need to get wise about “harmonising the size of their cheque with how much time they are going to take,” he says. “It just drives these folk crazy when they have to spend as much time with some $10,000 cheque writer as they do with someone who ran a $1 million round.”

The process to actually getting capital is really, really hard, admits Rachel Lacy, founder and director of Drikolor, which plans to revolutionise the paint market by introducing dry pigments that can be mixed by anyone. “It’s dating and we just want to get married.”

To improve the process Cameron says some angel groups need to realise it’s okay to say “no”. There’s nothing worse than having a great meeting, a seemingly great pitch and then never hearing anything again, he says.

“We’re feedback junkies,” agrees Andrews. “We need to know why.”

Comments like, “we did not invest because it’s not right for us at this time,” mean nothing, says Cameron. “Tell us if it’s because we look funny. It’s even best to say it in the meeting so we don’t waste any more time.”

Lacy says now there are more angel groups in New Zealand, they should be a little smarter about matching investors to companies and their founders – as you can’t, and you shouldn’t even try, to separate one from the other. “It would be really good if I didn’t have to endlessly pitch to people who just want to invest in the next Facebook.

“Starting up is hard enough, so you want as much investment alignment as you can. You want a group of angels to invest who understand and are interested in your space; and share a similar business philosophy as that will affect how your company develops. You can’t retrofit culture.”

Know the business

Understanding their space better was a common grumble among the entrepreneurs who shared their experiences. Andrews says it was still early days in the smartphone revolution when she started out, but she was a little shocked and dismayed when one potential investor asked not about the markets she was heading into, her financials or her team, but simply, how they could get her app on their phone.

Cameron says if investors want to be involved in tech companies they should learn more about it and the best way to do that was to actually start using it. “Go buy a smart watch and use it; go for a run and measure your heart beat online; start tweeting; just do it.”

It amazes him when some investors say they want to help him develop his company. “But hey, you have to get your kids to help teach you how to use your phone, so why do you think you know anything about the consumer Internet.”

Investors should ask themselves how relevant their experience really is, he says. “It doesn’t mean they can’t help with the strategy, but they need to recognise their own limitations.”

That said new entrepreneurs do need a lot of education, says Cameron. Even the terms investors use are like a foreign language.

Lacy says it would be useful if investors forced entrepreneurs to do a five-day Institute of Directors course on what your responsibilities as a board director actually are after they invest.

As to boards, it’s really vital you get the right people on your board at the right time, she says, and just because someone invests in your company, it doesn’t mean they should have a board seat.

“We have a fantastic first board with loads of sales and marketing experience, which is brilliant; it was just 18 months too early.”

Today Lacy’s company Drikolor has finally caught up to her board’s experience and she says she wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the angel investment route to other budding entrepreneurs.

“If you get the right mix, it’s phenomenal.” After all, without the angels, their knowhow, their connections and their cash, we wouldn’t be here, she says. “But obviously the reverse is true as well.”

First published on nzbusiness.co.nz 29 January 2015

Please follow and like us:

Did the wings work?

This update provides an unvarnished look at where the 2013 cohort of showcase companies are a year later. It illustrates the ups and the downs, the challengers and the cheer leaders. All part of being a start up venture and of course the journey that angel investors are part of too. It’s not for the faint hearted. We need to unrelentingly celebrate, support and applaud the founders and investors who are willing to get involved.

Times-7

Anthony Dixon is happy to be back. The chief executive of electronics technology company Times-7 was in front of New Zealand’s angel community again at the annual showcase investment event, but this time he had a lot more to smile about.

Accompanied by a new lead investor from Silicon Valley, Jo Major, Dixon appeared at the 2014 showcase as part of a joint US-New Zealand capital raising which aims to bring in $1.5 million. The goal is to fast-track sales of the company’s slimline antennas for the radio-frequency identification (RFID) or smart-tag market.

“Revenues have been growing but not as fast as we want,” says Dixon. “We met all our initial targets from [our last $600,000 investment round] … and now that we have an established brand and reputation, it’s time to more effectively leverage those credentials, which can only be done with dedicated resources in our most important market.”
Dixon had a hard time nailing the first $600,000, but the past year has been much, much better, he says, with the RFID market really taking off.

“We’re looking to transition our high volume [products] to a contract manufacturer by the end of this year … and we have a US-based senior sales executive already lined up. It’s a great journey to be on.”

Syl Semantics

Less enthused was former showcase golden guy Sean Wilson from Syl Semantics.

With an impressive early client list, including the NZ Police, Syl Semantics’ clever search and big data management technology closed its first investment round oversubscribed at $1.5 million. However conflicting advice and market signals shelved initial plans for a big US push after the company didn’t secure the capital its directors thought it needed to make the jump.

Wilson and his team have since returned their focus to New Zealand and (with partner Datacom) Australia.

“It’s been a bit of a tough time, but isn’t that what most early stage tech companies experience from time to time?” says Wilson.

“We’re adapting to the environment, re-scoping our plan and are still confident of meeting our revenue plan this year.”

Star86 (BigLittleBang)

Another feeling the heat of international expansion is Star86, which pocketed $1.2 million, $200,000 more than targeted, after the first showcase round. At the time, founder Chris White was upbeat after hiring a new chief technical officer and a new US-based chief marketing officer to help promote the company’s flagship product, a kids’ virtual music-making world (renamed Star86 from BigLittleBang after competitor issues). But in July the company pulled the plug on the product.

White is now based overseas and could not be reached for comment, but after repeated requests a statement attributed to Claudia Batten, Star86 chairman and well known Kiwi IT entrepreneur, was supplied, stating: “Star86 is in the process of moving to the US.” Other sources say the company isn’t dead, but is soon expected to “pivot” (change focus or target market).

Polybatics

Biotech company Polybatics has also pivoted, after raising less than half of its $1.5 million target at the last showcase. Chief executive and seasoned capital raiser Tracy Thompson says the company is now focused on developing a tuberculosis diagnostic test for the dairy and deer industries, using its patented technology, which allows it to grow protein-covered, biodegradable, bionanoparticles, or “bio-beads”. Beads are used to produce a host of industrial and medical products.

To reach this point Polybatics had to raise another $2 million this year, to add to the $4.5 million raised previously. Thompson expects the new diagnostic to be on the market next year.

IM-Able

Fellow life sciences company IM-Able finally achieved its capital raising target of $1.5 million ($250,000 more than first sought) in September, more than two years after climbing on to the capital raising treadmill.

Chief executive Elliott Kernohan says now the company has achieved its target, it can move its “ableX” rehabilitation technology – designed to help people with neurological disabilities regain their abilities – to the cloud, to ease sales, distribution and use. The technology has also been deployed in a major clinical trial at Royal Melbourne Hospital and discussions and pilot projects are under way in other overseas markets, he says.

IndieReign and Shift72

Online film distribution company IndieReign is still going great guns, says founder David White from Los Angeles. “We are signing up customers faster than we can deploy them.” But the biggest growth has come from IndieReign’s business-to-business sister company, Shift72, set up to capitalise on unexpected demand for IndieReign’s secure video on demand technology from US distributors and producers.

The companies now employ 10 staff in Hamilton, two in Australia and three in India, though 80 per cent of business is in the US.

White is now kicking off a new capital raising round to accelerate US sales, set up a sales and marketing team in LA and hire more software engineers to keep up with demand for Shift72.

First published on nzherald.co.nz on 21 November 2014

Please follow and like us:

Movac powers up PowerbyProxi

PowerbyProxi is a capital-hungry hard-tech start up. So what convinced Movac this one was a good bet?

Apart from his electric toothbrush, David Beard says he knew nothing about charging wireless devices. But when he and his partners at angel and growth capital investment firm Movac encountered PowerbyProxi in 2008, they quickly recognised the commercial applications for wireless charging and realised they’d remained unexploited for too long.

When you’re working in the field you can’t drape cables everywhere to power machinery or connect wirelessly, as you can to the internet, to power your devices. So PowerbyProxi’s founders set about finding ways for devices to be unplugged from their source of power in hostile industrial environments, without resorting to unreliable cables, using a process called electromagnetic induction.

The brains behind PowerbyProxi is Fady Mishriki, who studied wireless power at the University of Auckland. Initially his focus was on miniaturising the technology for consumer electronics. But after meeting serial entrepreneur Greg Cross through the University’s business incubator, The Icehouse, this changed when the two discovered the amount of capital required and the number of potential competitors trying to do something similar.

“He was dead-set on building a technology company based on the University’s heritage in wireless power research,” says Cross of his co-founder. “Over the past 30 years the university has done more research on wireless power than any other organisation in the world. The IP portfolio and availability of world-class engineers provides us with what I refer to as unfair competitive advantage on the global stage.”

After a lot of market research Cross and Mishriki decided to join forces in 2007 and focus on the less competitive industrial market. But to get the company off the ground and up and running quickly, Cross and Mishriki needed investment, so Cross approached Movac.

“We took a reasonable amount of convincing that this technology was able to solve a large number of industrial and consumer problems,” Beard admits of Movac’s first meetings with Cross and Mishriki. “It was really more about execution than that the technology might be useful.”

Cross’s involvement certainly helped; Movac’s partners had met him at the entrepreneurs’ conference Morgo and had dealt with him on a previous venture he’d sought to fund. But Beard and Phil McCaw, Movac’s managing partner, recognised PowerbyProxi wasn’t just a technology startup; it was a ‘hard-tech’ – hardware products, not just software – startup. “Hard-tech companies require at least $5 million to $10 million to make them successful on the world stage,” says McCaw. That meant PowerbyProxi wasn’t suited to a typical angel investment scenario and was going to require significant support upfront and for the long haul. There just aren’t that many individual investors in New Zealand who’d invest such a large sum in a single, high-risk venture, says Beard.

What intrigued McCaw and Beard in their early conversations with Mishriki and Cross, however, was the discovery that Auckland University’s School of Electrical Engineering was a world-leader in wireless power technologies. “They realised the University of Auckland research, led by Professor John Boys over the last 20 years, gave us a hard competitive edge on the global stage,” says Cross.

Movac backs PowerbyProxi

Movac began backing start-up opportunities in 1998, funding its way with the help of cash generated from its founding partners’ day jobs in management consulting. Its first big success story was Trade Me, which allowed McCaw and his partners to turn their part-time passion into a full-time venture.

In 2005 Movac began putting together their second seed investment fund and used this to invest in PowerbyProxi. “We made about 16 investments out of that fund,” says McCaw.

Since then Movac’s participated in a further three investment rounds in PowerbyProxi from its third, later stage, growth capital fund, Fund 3, giving it both a seed fund interest and a venture fund interest in PowerbyProxi. For companies to succeed, ideally they need to raise more capital than they need at each capital raising, says Beard. “It stops you having to put your business in ‘minimum burn’ mode while you rattle the cup around again. That’s terribly distracting to a company and its growth aspirations.”

Movac began backing start-up opportunities in 1998, funding its way with the help of cash generated from its founding partners’ day jobs in management consulting. Its first big success story was Trade Me, which allowed McCaw and his partners to turn their part-time passion into a full-time venture.

In 2005 Movac began putting together their second seed investment fund and used this to invest in PowerbyProxi. “We made about 16 investments out of that fund,” says McCaw.

Since then Movac’s participated in a further three investment rounds in PowerbyProxi from its third, later stage, growth capital fund, Fund 3, giving it both a seed fund interest and a venture fund interest in PowerbyProxi. For companies to succeed, ideally they need to raise more capital than they need at each capital raising, says Beard. “It stops you having to put your business in ‘minimum burn’ mode while you rattle the cup around again. That’s terribly distracting to a company and its growth aspirations.”

McCaw says Movac is committed to PowerbyProxi “for the long haul” and it will need that tenacity: Cross’s vision for PowerbyProxi is to build a company that puts wireless power on every surface in every room of every home and office.

“Export or die,” the words of Waikato businessman and founder of Trigon Packaging Bill Foreman resonate with the PowerbyProxi co-founder. “

Cross and Movac’s considered and ambitious risk-taking in PowerbyProxi is already starting to pay off, with listed US electronics firm TE Connectivity announcing it was taking a near 11% stake in the company in April as part of a $5 million capital raising to help the company accelerate sales. TE Connectivity’s industrial division in Germany has already helped PowerbyProxi take its ARISO contactless connectivity platform to Market.

“Entrepreneurs not bureaucrats are the one who will unlock the commercial potential of New Zealand’s top researchers,” says Cross.

Please follow and like us:

Lasers solve dairy sperm problem

The director of the University of Auckland’s Photon Factory, a high-tech laser research hub, was more interested in ultrafast lasers when she first met angel investors from tech investment firm Pacific Channel.

“They basically told me there were five big problems facing our dairy industry and asked if I could help with any of them,” says Simpson.

“I didn’t know anything about sperm sorting when I met them. I didn’t even know it was a problem. But that was the challenge that seemed most amenable to a physical, rather than a biological solution.”

It took three years, but Simpson and her team have gone from neophytes to solving one of agriculture’s most nagging problems. Their research – conducted under a new spinoff company, Engender Technologies, has led to a provisional patent on a technology that should be able to sort sperm cells by sex, quickly, inexpensively and without any loss of function.

The only currently available sex sorting method, flow cytometry, uses an electric field to separate male and female sperm in the field.

However, the stress of the process often results in underperforming sperm, thus negating the benefits of sex selection.

Engender’s technology is a direct result of The Photon Factory team’s deep knowledge of photonics – the study and use of light for energy – and what lasers can do when they flash in short, extremely rapid bursts.

The factory’s $1.7 million high-tech laser research equipment includes a femtosecond laser that can emit light pulses lasting in the order of millionths of a billionth of a second.

Engender was formed with co-funding from the University of Auckland’s technology commercialisation arm, UniServices, and Pacific Channel.

Pacific Channel managing director Brent Ogilvie says he and his colleagues originally approached Simpson with their “five problems” because of her reputation.

“The key to early-stage investing is listening carefully to markets and backing talent.

“There are pockets of genius all about the country, so you can’t be too prescriptive about picking sectors, but clearly dairy is something we do very well.”

Ogilvie says the trillion dollar livestock market is dominated by eight or nine artificial breeding providers worldwide.

Pacific Channel provides a bridge between New Zealand’s “world-class science” and the realisation of commercial value, he says.

“What we’re doing is applying our problem analysis abilities and the ability of clever people to do cutting edge research in their own area of expertise at the same time,” says Simpson.

“There is no doubt that advanced, high-tech science and engineering can add power to the New Zealand economy. We find it very rewarding to be part of that effort.”

Produced in conjunction with the Angel Association of New Zealand.

First published in the New Zealand Herald on Thursday March 20 2014

Read more from NZHerald

Please follow and like us:

SmallWorlds creator’s mobile game debut

Outsmart co-founder Mitch Olson says the time was right to have a crack at creating games for mobiles.

Kiwi game development company Outsmart, which created global hit SmallWorlds, has “dipped its toes” into the mobile space for the first time.

Five members of the 35-strong Karangahape Rd studio dedicated themselves to creating Gopher Launch, which went live on iTunes and Google Play on June 13.

Although the game is free to download, Outsmart will generate revenue through advertising and by charging players to access an ad-free version of the game.

Outsmart will launch a second mobile game called Roost Raiders in the next six weeks, Olson said.

Both new games are based on the ‘freemium’ model, where users play for free but can then choose to pay for add-ons to enhance the game.

“These games cost between $250,000 and $1 million to make. If you’re giving it away for free you have got to make sure your monetisation models are robust,” Oslon said.

Although Outsmart had managed to survive before now without going into mobile, delaying the move any longer would have been unwise, he said.

“We haven’t been affected to date. We continue to grow and that’s been supported by shifting into other markets like Brazil.”

Outsmart last year launched a version of SmallWorlds in Brazil, calledMiniMundos, which now has four million signed-up users.

SmallWorlds - an online environment where users create personal virtual spaces and share experiences with other players – has in the meantime attracted bigger audiences and now boasts 10 million registered players.

SmallWorlds’ backers include Disney’s venture capital arm and Trade Me founder Sam Morgan.

First published in the New Zealand Herald on Thursday July 4 2013

Photo / Sarah Ivey

Read more from NZHerald

For more information on SmallWorlds click here

Please follow and like us:

Lead Partners

NZTE NZVIF PWC

Expert Partner

AVID “FNZC.jpg”

AANZ Summit Sponsors

Callaghan Innovation “UniServices” Kiwinet “Spark”