UK fund’s A$200M investment commitment validates Powerhouse  

London Stock Exchange-listed IP Group’s decision to invest A$200 million over 10 years in commercialising scientific innovations from universities Down Under validates the business model of ASX-listed tech incubator Powerhouse Ventures, says its new chairman Russell Yardley.

Powerhouse has a portfolio of 19 companies developing intellectual property spun out of New Zealand research institutions with a combined enterprise value of about $112 million, including CropLogic, an agricultural technology company that published a prospectus this month to raise A$8 million and list on the ASX.

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Put social ‘good’ on agenda, firms told

Internationally renowned Kiwi entrepreneur and social responsibility advocate Derek Handley sees Tauranga as well placed to embrace an evolving new business model in which doing good is as important as doing well.

The key theme of Mr Handley’s presentation and his discussions in Tauranga was the growing global trend to try and build business models where the product or service models created a significant social impact. That represented an evolution of the older corporate social responsibility model of using a portion of business profit to do good in the community or elsewhere, he said.

Mr Handley’s presentation received a warm welcome from more than 350 people at the ASB Arena last Friday. The event was sponsored by Priority One, whose chief executive Andrew Coker had been working on securing Mr Handley’s visit since seeing him speak in 2011. Mr Handley also attended a private dinner with about 20 major stakeholders in the Tauranga business community.
“There are a lot of interesting things happening here and they seem to be picking up pace,” Mr Handley told the Bay of Plenty Times. He pointed to the Enterprise Angels investor network, projects such as the WNT Ventures business incubator, which had attracted government matching funds, and the growth of co-working spaces, amongst other developments.

Mr Handley said he came to Tauranga to understand what was going on in the local entrepreneurial sector. He also learned about the various communities working on initiatives to create great communities and lifestyles in the region without compromising the things that made it special.

“I think we’re at the beginning of a new wave of trying to do things in the world and how businesses and entrepreneurs see the purpose of their organisations, and moving that from a purely financial to a much more socially or environmentally aware viewpoint,” he said.

The new mindset would co-exist alongside traditional models of philanthropy, he said.

“We are also entering a renaissance of philanthropy with things like the Givealittle pledges, with more and more billionaires planning to give away half or more of their wealth, and a really fast-rising proportion of people starting to give significantly when they are very young.”

Holland Becket partner Bill Holland, who chairs Community Foundations of New Zealand, attended the private dinner. He said the interesting part of the concept was about building the concept of philanthropy into a business from the start.

“It’s not just a matter of people being successful and then deciding to be philanthropic,” he said.

“The philanthropic side is incorporated in the business plan and it’s quite interesting how that in itself can help make the business successful … there’s no question people are looking at the bigger picture. Environmental and sustainability concerns are important not only to business, but to their customers.”

How business can give back to society

A private dinner brought Derek Handley together with some 20 Tauranga leaders in business excellence, academia, entrepreneurship, philanthropy, iwi fund management, early-stage investment, government and social enterprise.

It was hosted by Nicki Wilkins, general manager of the Acorn Foundation, and her lawyer husband Marcus, and arranged by Tina Jennen, who works with Enterprise Angels and local entrepreneurs.

The Acorn Foundation encourages people to consider leaving a gift either in their will or during their lifetime to benefit the local community and Ms Wilkins said the dinner provided an opportunity to hear more about what was happening in the business sector in terms of philanthropy. She is a board member of Community Foundations of New Zealand.

“The desire for people to give is growing significantly,” she said. “I can see real benefits in Derek’s desire to help people in business to give in a way they know they are truly making a difference.”

Tina Jennen said Tauranga had the capability to become a national – and global – leader in the new and more socially responsible way of doing business.

“When you bring disparate people together a powerful cross-pollination of ideas can occur,” she said. “We wanted a diverse group of key community leaders to hear Derek’s plans so we can get ready to take action.”

Derek Handley said the dinner had been a great opportunity to have more in-depth discussions.

“As small as New Zealand is, you don’t get a chance to meet these people that often,” he said. “It’s fascinating what’s going on here in Tauranga and it was really interesting and inspiring for me.”

Tauranga was also beautiful, said Mr Handley, who stayed on for the weekend. He noted one of the roles of business and entrepreneurship in society was to enable people to have a fulfilling balance of holistic lifestyle for people. “In a city like this you can almost feel it being 21st century holistic living, but able to build interesting ventures that mean something. That’s a great place to be.”

First published on 17 February 2015

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