Comvita announces Denyer in board position

NZX-listed Bay of Plenty honey and health products company Comvita has announced the appointment of Tauranga lawyer Murray Denyer to the board, effective April 1.

The Cooney Lees Morgan partner is well-known in the region’s investment community and serves with Comvita chairman Neil Craig on the board of early stage funding group Enterprise Angels.

Mr Craig, speaking from Hong Kong where the full Comvita board are currently on a trip to deepen their understanding of the China markets, said Mr Denyer’s qualifications included the fact he was local, his age and his commercially focused legal background.

“Having a legal brain around the board table is a good idea when we’re doing such a lot in the acquisitions space.”

Mr Denyer would be put up for re-election in October at the annual general meeting, when he will take over the role of chair of the Remuneration & HR Committee from Dr David Cullwick.
“Comvita has some quite progressive share schemes and we brought him on six months early so he could get his head around that with David,” said Mr Craig.

Mr Denyer began his career with the Ministry Foreign Affairs & Trade in 1993, then went into private practice and was eventually headhunted to join Zespri in Tauranga in 2003. He spent almost six years with Zespri, ending up as general counsel and board secretary.

In 2009 he came on board at Cooney Lees Morgan and was elected to the partnership in 2010. Mr Denyer also served on the board of Priority One for eight years.

Mr Denyer, who is also currently in Hong Kong, said he was really excited about his new role.

“It’s a local company that I’ve followed for a long time and it’s very much part of our local Bay economy. I’ve always been very passionate about export businesses and this is one. There’s a lot of things I’ve done over my career that give me the right skill-set to put my shoulder to the wheel and make some contributions there.”

First published on nzherald.co.nz on 5th April 2016

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Angels win chance to be at the table in Philly

Two members of the Bay of Plenty-Waikato Enterprise Angels funding group have won scholarships from the Angel Association of NZ to attend the major US angel summit in Philadelphia next month.

The winners were Tina Jennen, chief executive of Tauranga-based Plus Group, and Blake Richardson, from Hamilton, who works with his father Neil in their family investment office, which has co-invested on Enterprise Angels deals.

Ms Jennen has a track record of mentoring start-ups and recently joined Enterprise Angels as an investing member.

Scholarship winners are put forward by angel groups around the country, with the national body making the final selection.

“The scholarships enable some of the most up and coming and promising people involved in the angel industry to attend the Angel Capital Association meeting in the US, which is really the granddaddy of the industry,” said Enterprise Angels executive director Bill Murphy.

The event brings together all the major US angel investors as well as a significant international delegation, and regularly includes a large New Zealand contingent. The winners will also attend the one-and-a-half day conference, which follows the summit meeting.

“We’re particularly keen on encouraging younger business people,” said Mr Murphy.

“We look for them to come back and add a lot of value in the group. It helps cement their understanding of early stage investing, and they can then come back and add value to what we are doing in New Zealand.”

Ms Jennen said attending the US summit would allow her to connect to worldwide angel networks, share best practice, and begin to understand the connection points in other markets.

“It’s about building capability for New Zealand, and improving connectivity,” she said. “Those are both areas I’m very interested in – how to improve the tool kit so we make sure we’re getting the right deals and building the capability with the deals we are choosing to invest in.

“And then, how we build those networks for cross-border investment so the third or fourth round of investment actually happens in another market that is strategic to growing the value chain in that market.”

First published on nzherald.co.nz 30 March 2016

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Angels fund expansion by Vocado

Vocado is using its latest round of $600,000 in angel financing to boost its sales and marketing capabilities and ensure it can meet the supply needs of the biggest global fast-food chains, say the Tauranga-based company’s directors.

Vocado has developed a proprietary method of processing avocados into pulp for use in guacamole and other food products. The method allows the refrigerated pulp to have a longer usable life.

After building up domestic sales, Vocado was now close to securing one of the biggest international fast food companies as a client, following a rigorous audit process, said director and shareholder Andrew Darling. The company cannot be named because of a non-disclosure agreement.

“We’ve established sales, the factory is operating and the base of the business is there,” said Mr Darling. “We’re growing new sales and to do that we need to invest in our sales and marketing capability.”

The new funding would go in the first instance towards recruiting a general manager and build up stocks to ensure the company was well-placed to supply bigger clients.
Company founder and managing director Collin Elder, who developed the processing technology, said the business had built up the capacity to secure local fast food franchise and other food service industry clients. “With these big global fast food groups, it takes a lot to get them, and it’s a big drama for them to change, so once they change they are reluctant to move. They live in a world of needing to know the supply lines are in place.”

That meant Vocado had to be able to compete on every level to win global clients, he said, and not just on price and taste, though that was essential. “They need to be assured that we can give them security of supply.”

Vocado uses a mechanical production process that aims to get the avocado pulp into an oxygen-free environment as soon as possible so that the fruit doesn’t brown. Competitors mostly use a system called High Pressure Processing (HPP), said Enterprises Angels executive director Bill Murphy, who is on Vocado’s board.

Mr Murphy said Vocado’s process was more efficient than HPP, did not require millions of dollars in equipment, and resulted in a product that lasted longer and stayed fresher.

“Collin is a smart Kiwi who was determined to find a new solution,” said Mr Murphy.

Mr Elder said all the companies Vocado had approached had given them an opportunity to compete. As well as domestic clients, the company had also now begun to pick up some export work, shipping five containers to Australia this year.

Mr Darling, whose own company Just Avocados grows and packs avocados, said Vocado was in a hugely exciting category internationally.

First published on nzherald.co.nz on 23 December 2014

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Angel investment in two firms backs new particle analysis technology

The technology aims to make it easier and quicker to test and treat animals in the field. Photo / Tania Webb

Greg Mirams’ initial foray into the investment world didn’t go so well. The founder of animal parasite diagnostics company Techion Group was no stranger to capital raising, having set up, sold and bought back Techion. But when he tried to get investment for a new technology that could transform his business he was left out in the cold despite an intensive six-month courtship.

“It was crushing,” he says.

Mirams was seeking $300,000 for Menixis, a start-up company he co-founded with nano-scientist and director of Otago University’s applied science programme Stephen Sowerby.

Menixis holds the intellectual property to a new particle analysis technology developed over more than two years by Sowerby and Mirams. It could transform particle analysis in the field, replacing the need for microscopes or the skills to use microscopes to accurately identify and count particles, such as the number and type of parasitic eggs in a sample of animal faecal matter.

Mirams developed the technology to update Techion’s internationally popular parasitic diagnostic tool Fecpak to make it easier and quicker for farmers to test and treat their animals in the field.

It will also bolster Techion’s revenue by increasing its own monitoring and advisory capacities.

To Mirams the whole deal was a no-brainer. Why wouldn’t you invest in a new technology that already had a customer not only willing but keen to sell it to its significant local and international customer base, built up over more than 20 years?

Fortunately Mirams had been introduced to angel investor Bill Murphy, who decided to champion Mirams’ cause in his Bay of Plenty Enterprise Angel group.

“I just passionately believed we shouldn’t let this opportunity to invest in some significant new primary industry technology pass us by,” says Murphy.

Mirams pitched again, but was thrown when told the Angels liked the product, but wanted to roll Menixis’ technology into Techion and then invest in Techion. “We wanted to secure the connect between the IP and the market,” explains Murphy.

But that didn’t work for Mirams.

He argued that first, Techion had multiple business activities, complex operations and an established shareholder structure; second, Menixis co-founders Sowerby and Otago Innovation would end up with a relatively small shareholding in Techion, which wouldn’t give them as much incentive to continue to develop the technology; and third, the technology itself had far more potential than just animal parasitology (Techion’s focus).

“There are potential applications for this technology in the area of microscopic analysis of any small particle including algal blooms, pollen analysis and in the petrochemical and forensic evidence industries, none of which I know anything about, so Techion just isn’t the right vehicle for that. There’s also this massive opportunity for improving the speed of human parasite diagnostics.”

Murphy and his 13 co-investors at Enterprise Angels agreed and a novel deal was struck to invest in both Menixis and Techion to give Mirams the capital he needed to turn the technology into a commercially saleable product.

Mirams and Murphy say this deal could have implications for investors and companies. Both get the security of investing in growing existing revenue streams, plus the upside of investing in new and potentially even bigger revenue streams.

“My hope is this deal becomes a kind of blueprint for a new New Zealand growth model,” says Mirams.

Produced in conjunction with Angel Association of New Zealand

First published in the New Zealand Thursday November 21 2013

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Avocado processor eyes bright future

Avocado-processing company, Vocado, with it’s innovative product has been drawn to Tauranga to be closer to investors and business advisers.

Vocado uses an innovative processing and packaging technique to produce easy-to-use and long-living avocado pulp products.

The company this year received a significant investment from Bay of Plenty angel investment group Enterprise Angels to help it relocate its manufacturing facility from Taneatua in the eastern Bay of Plenty to a new factory in Judea.

Twelve Enterprise Angels investors put $335,000 in Vocado, while a matching investment of $250,000 by the Government’s Seed Co-Investment Fund brought the total investment to $585,000.

In addition to the new money, the Enterprise Angels deal has connected Vocado with key players in the avocado industry who will help the company with supply and export challenges.

Vocado managing director Colin Elder said the move gave the company the capacity to expand, and allowed easy access to new investors and advisers.

“We needed some depth of experience and we’ve got that now so I’m absolutely delighted with the people we’ve picked up and who have supported us in this investment.”

Vocado uses a production process which aims to get the avocado pulp into an oxygen-free environment as soon as possible so that the fruit doesn’t brown. The pulp is then packaged in resealable, plastic pouches to keep it fresh and sold to commercial users such as Hell Pizza and Pita Pit.

“We purposely targeted franchises that were already using avocado and we’re taking over from imported products, we’re not competing directly with any New Zealand supplied products and that’s intentional on our part because it’s a small market and we want to be export driven.”

Vocado is working on setting up a second production line in its Koromiko St factory. There was room in the factory for a third production line if needed, Mr Elder said.

The company’s production manager will be moving to Tauranga in January and local people will be employed in the future. “We see about five people employed, with another couple of people per production line that we manage to put in.”

Enterprise Angels chief executive Bill Murphy said the large investment and quality of the investors/advisers had drawn the company to Tauranga.

“It was important to us to have Colin close by the expertise we have here, it makes it easier for us to really engage and help the company.”

The Vocado deal represented a positive trend towards local investing, Mr Murphy said.

“Including the Vocado deal, we’ve invested in eight companies this year and, of those eight companies, three are Bay of Plenty companies.”

First published in the New Zealand Herald on Wednesday September 11 2013

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Heilala Vanilla secures investment

Tauranga-based Heilala Vanilla has signed an investment deal which will see the New Zealand Venture Investment Fund and Tauranga-based consortium Enterprise Angels BOP take a 45 per cent stake for an undisclosed sum.

Enterprise Angels involves 12 individual investors, including Kapiti Cheeses founder Ross McCallum and vodka brand 42 Below founder Geoff Ross.

Heilala sales and marketing manager Jennifer Boggiss said a huge capital investment and outlay went into developing export markets.

“We’ve started but there’s a long way to go and so not only are they bringing capital but they’re also bringing contacts and expertise, which is invaluable,” she said.

“We could have continued doing it ourselves and got there eventually but this is basically to fast-track it.”

The business was profitable but that was not a deal breaker for the new investors.

“They’ve got a long-term view and it’s all about building a brand.”

The investment deal would provide a capital injection to expand the business and ramp up exports to Australia, US and southeast Asia, while new opportunities in the US, UK and Japan would be explored this year.

Consumers were more aware of where their food came from and wanted to use quality ingredients, Boggiss said.

The company was focused on high-end food markets, including products for retail, food service and manufacturers, such as a packet of three vanilla pods and a jar of paste which sell for about $15 and $23 respectively.

Boggiss was an accountant and her husband worked in information technology, when in 2005 her father brought back the first vanilla pods from the Tongan plantation.

“Then, we wouldn’t have envisaged what we’re doing now so it’s definitely been bigger than what we expected and more exciting.”

First appeared in the New Zealand Herald on Tuesday Feb 7 2012

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Tauranga entrepreneurs ‘silent’

First published in the New Zealand Herald on Wednesday May 2, 2012

Tauranga-based Enterprise Angels has made its third investment in a Wellington IT company and is looking at other start-up businesses outside the region.

With more than $4 million to invest, Enterprise Angels is wondering what all the Western Bay entrepreneurs are doing.

“First and foremost we’d like to invest in Bay companies, but we don’t have opportunities – there’s still a deafening silence from local entrepreneurs,” said Bill Murphy, executive director of Enterprise Angels.

Since November, Enterprise Angels has grown its membership to 55, making it the second largest angel investor group in New Zealand behind ICE Angels in Auckland.

Nearly every month, Enterprise Angels receives presentations from young and ambitious companies in a Dragons’ Den atmosphere.

Frances Manwaring and Marie-Claire Andrews, of SmartShow, presented in February and eight of the Enterprise Angels investors decided to pledge $90,000 to be used for product development and marketing overseas.

SmartShow was looking to raise a total of $350,000 and, after an earlier raising of $275,000, the Wellington-based IT company was suddenly oversubscribed with the Enterprise Angels investment.

“The people are important when it comes to investing in companies and the two ladies were high energy, talented and very focused,” said Mr Murphy.

SmartShow has produced a smartphone application for events, exhibitions and conferences. ShowGizmo automatically generates QR codes that are scanned by iPhones (and numeric codes tapped into BlackBerry phones) as people walk into the exhibition.

The phone then collects and stores event information, including exhibitor profiles, contact details, brochures and prizes that can be downloaded later. It saves taking away a bagful of paper.

SmartShow’s customers are the event organisers who pay a fee to use the ShowGizmo.

On the same day as SmartShow, Caldera Health from Auckland and Super Recovery from Nelson presented. Caldera has developed a new diagnostic programme for detecting prostate cancer and Super Recovery has made a natural product from a blackcurrant derivative that is fed to horses to aid their recovery after racing.

A month later, BioBrew from Rotorua, Kahne from Auckland and Dunedin’s Lifetime Health Diary presented, and some Enterprise Angels investors will be in discussions with these companies – particularly since two of them are in their areas of strength; agritech.

BioBrew, which has been operating for three years, makes fresh, living microbial brews that are fed to cows to help their digestion.

Kahne has radio frequency instruments that are inserted into the stomach and rear of the cows to measure their fertility. The instruments send information to the farmers to modify the cows’ feed and choose the best time to get them pregnant.

Lifetime Health Diary has developed an online diary, used by doctors and patients, to track people’s health over 10 years. Trials are being conducted by Southland District Health Board and companies in the United States.

Earlier, Enterprise Angels made large investments in Te Puna-based Reunion Food Co, which produces the natural Heilala Vanilla products, and the Havelock North Fruit Co, which has exclusive marketing rights for a small, sweet-flavoured apple called Rockit and is packaged in tennis ball-type tubes.

After sending through its latest financial results, Mr Murphy said Heilala Vanilla had exceeded its sales and profit targets for the past year and was making a strong sales push into Australia.

Last November, Enterprise Angels signed a partnership agreement with the New Zealand Venture Investment Fund which will match private or angel investment up to $500,000 per company through its seed co-investment fund (Scif), which has $40 million available.

Enterprise Angels is also looking to launch a Sidecar Fund of about $1 million so investors can make more small investments and build up a portfolio of companies.

Read the original article

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Startups plug into Silicon Valley

Tauranga is about to increase it’s profile, and exposure, in the fast-moving world of information and communications technology (ICT) with the launch of Wharf42, established by Pingar chief executive Peter Wren-Hilton.

Wharf42 will help the country’s smart, start-up software businesses set up in the home of technology, California’s Silicon Valley.

Mr Wren-Hilton and his wife, Jacqui, spent six months last year setting up their own operation in the famous valley full of entrepreneurs – and they now want to pass on their experiences and support for other ambitious ICT companies.

“New Zealand has an active technology sector but the start-ups don’t grow because they don’t go out of the country and they are restricted by the size of the market here and access to capital,” said Mr Wren-Hilton.

“Wharf42 will be creating a system and process to fast-track some of New Zealand’s most exciting start-ups and become a connector/conduit to get them into Silicon Valley.”

In the valley, the bright New Zealand companies will become involved with “an ecosystem” of other start-ups from around the world, angel investors and venture capitalists, and potential large technology partners such as Apple, Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter, Intel and Oracle.

“We want to see more $100 million New Zealand software companies rather than hundreds of $1 million businesses,” said Mr Wren-Hilton. “You cannot grow on to the international scale by keeping your business here.”

Wharf42 will organise the companies to be located in the Plug and Play Tech Centre, already home for 300 start-ups in Redwood City and Sunnyvale, which is in the heart of Silicon Valley.

A number of venture capital and angel investor groups are also based at the centre, aiming to invest in the smart software companies.

Mr Wren-Hilton said 180 venture capital networks had raised US$650 million ($780 million) in four years for the start-ups in the tech centre.

Companies would retain their research and development and intellectual property in New ZealandBut in the valley they could forge ahead with business development and sales and marketing teams to grow their businesses. The owners can catch Air New Zealand NZ7 on Friday to San Francisco and rock up to work in the Plug and Play on Monday.

When they first arrive in Silicon Valley, the Kiwi companies will become part of a 10-week Plug and Play programme, known as start-up camp.

They will be introduced to every aspect of the valley, and will be encouraged to fine tune their technology and their presentations.

At the end of 10 weeks, they will participate in the Plug and Play Expo and present to an audience of 400 Silicon Valley representatives, including 80 venture capital companies.

The Kiwi companies will be given every opportunity to shine.

The Plug and Play centre also organises 120 events a year and the start-ups can attend free of charge.Andy Hamilton, chief executive of Auckland’s Icehouse, said Wharf42 provided a great conduit for Kiwi technology start-ups to get to Silicon Valley in a timely and efficient manner. In the past, this had been a somewhat complex process and Wharf42 would be a great partner for organisations such as Icehouse, which is constantly working to identify and grow the next generation of entrepreneurs in New Zealand.

“Their innovation centre will be a physical building and we can provide the tenants,” he said. “I believe a significant ICT beachhead can be established in the city and the region.”

First published in the New Zealand Herald on Wednesday March 21 2012

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