New Zealand’s need for growth capital

As early stage investors we need to start getting real about the wisdom of our backing early stage, high growth ventures without far more consideration being given to where we source follow-on growth capital.

Even if we only look at last year’s New Zealand Venture Investment Fund’s seed co-investment data where about $50million was invested in early stage companies, the growth capital required for this cohort of companies is likely to be 10x this figure. So we are talking about finding $500m.

This is not just a problem for the investors in these companies; it’s a problem we need to grapple with in partnership with the government and the institutional investment community. These high growth companies are the engines of our economic growth. We can’t afford to drop the ball.

The development of an innovation led economy is widely accepted to take place over three ten-year horizons. We are coming to the end of ‘horizon one’ where the focus has been on inputs. New Zealand has done well here. The number of startups, early stage investors and dollars being invested has trended upwards over this period.

In the second ten-year horizon we should start to see outcomes from these innovation led companies in the form of jobs, export and tax revenue. But to generate these outcomes and see the true benefit of this investment, we need growth capital. Only then will the third horizon truly deliver in the form of financial returns and recycled capital and ultimately higher standards of living.

As I’ve just mentioned, there is no shortage of deal flow. The quality of that deal flow is improving every year too. This is in large part due to Government support for initiatives such as the Lightning Lab and the investor-led Tech Incubators. It is also a result of work others have done to upskill our entrepreneurs and angel investors.

To date, angels and other early stage investors have been able to fund the early growth of the companies meeting their criteria. We have been investing in startup, high growth ventures in a targeted sense for about 8 years but the really exponential upswing in investment has taken place in the last 3-4 years.

Quite logically, there is therefore an increasing and pressing need for growth capital in New Zealand.

This is illustrated in the recently released NZVIF data showing most investment is into existing deals. Angels are having the stay the course longer and dip back in their pockets for capital it could be argued should be coming from deeper more experienced pockets.

We need to give credit to those venture capital firms raising funds to meet the need for growth capital such as Movac’s Fund 4, the $40m fund GD1 is working hard to raise and the $40m fund raised by Oriens Capital. But it is not enough.

Closing the “growth capital gap” is going to need New Zealand’s pension and other institutional funds to broaden their investment mandates to allocate at least 3-5% to the growth needs of our high growth, early stage companies. We must support work Immigration NZ is doing to inject capital from experienced high network migrants into these companies. We need to tap into our rural and regional wealth more effectively. We have therefore been delighted to see angel networks forming in Taranaki and Marlborough reflecting an increasing awareness that high growth, tech based companies can be the source of future jobs and social and economic wealth in the regions. The banks also need to come to the party.

There is a great deal at stake here. We can’t afford “a hands off, market forces will deliver” approach. If ever a NZ Inc approach was needed, it is now.

Marcel Van Den Assum
Chairman
Angel Association New Zealand

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Boat launcher can help keep marriages afloat: inventor

Remote-controlled device avoids the hot water of loading and unloading vessels

Spend any time sitting at a boat ramp observing the bustle of boaties launching and retrieving their vessels and inevitably, excruciatingly, it won’t be long before something goes awry.

These boat scratching moments are the bane of any owner’s day, but they’re also the motivation behind a Kiwi innovation – the Balex Automatic Boat Loader.

A self-powered, remote controlled device for loading and unloading boats onto trailers, the ABL2500, made by Balex Marine in Tauranga, eliminates the need for manual winches, wet feet and, crucially, requires just one person to get a boat into and out of the water.

The first batch of finished units is due to ship to customers in spring. However, the story of how Balex got to this point began 10 years earlier in the garage of Tauranga realtor Lex Bacon.

Bacon, following a suggestion from his wife that inventing an automatic method of launching and retrieving boats would save many a marriage, spent years building early versions in his shed.

n 2013, mutual interests brought Bacon together with businessman Paul Symes who had just spent eight years in the Philippines building a CAD-based engineering company which he’d sold before returning to New Zealand.

A keen boatie and sailor, he brought his family to the Bay of Plenty and met Bacon and his fledgling automatic boat loader.

Sensing an opportunity to fold his hobbies and his penchant for investment into a single business, Balex Marine was founded in late 2013.

What followed was an intensive period of research and development in the hope of creating a product that Symes believes has the potential to become as commonplace as automatic garage doors.

“I spent the latter part of 2013 doing my own due diligence,” Symes says.

This involved employing product development consultancy Locus Research to conduct market research.

“By late December 2013 we’d brought all of those findings together and ultimately decided to develop, in 20 weeks, an advanced prototype as part of a market validation programme,” says Symes, who put up $300,000 to fund this first phase.

The finished prototype was showcased to the 2014 Auckland Boat Show’s 34,000 visitors.

With an advanced prototype and plenty of market validation under their belts, the company now needed capital.

Government-backed Callaghan Innovation provided about $100,000 to continue the R&D programme and after a successful pitch the Bay of Plenty-based early stage investment group the Enterprise Angels invested $700,000 to get the first boat loaders out the door.

During the Enterprise Angels’ due diligence process another key figure, Paul Yarrall, joined the team. The relationship clicked and in January 2015 Yarrall joined Balex’s board as sales director.

Even as the launch draws nearer, the company is busy preparing for a second, larger round of capital raising. This money will enable the company to set in motion its ambitious plans for a worldwide launch, beginning with Australia, then North America and Europe.

Produced in conjunction with the Angel Association of New Zealand.

Balex Marine
Remote controlled device for loading and unloading boats.
Developed an advanced prototype in 20 weeks.
Received $800,000 in funding and investment.
Planned to launch this spring.

As first published on NZHerald

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Equity crowdfunding’s strong start

A strong start for equity crowdfunding platforms reflects a genuine appetite to support inspirational NZ businesses. It’s important that these companies get more than just support in the form of capital but also with value and market growth strategies.

Fifteen young firms have raised a total of $8.7 million through three equity crowdfunding platforms since the low-strings fund-raising mechanism got the green light from regulators last year.  The sum may be small compared to the $55m that well-heeled “angel investors” pumped into high-growth businesses last year and to the $4.7b bigger businesses raised through the NZX stock exchange in 2014.

It looks even tinier when compared with the current value of bank loans to businesses, which stood at $80b in April, according to the Reserve Bank.

But Chapman Tripp corporate lawyer Bradley Kidd says the start is encouraging.

More platforms have been set up than he expected to support equity crowdfunding and there have been some “really good offers”, he says. “I’d say it has gone a bit better than I’d of expected.”

Read more on www.stuff.co.nz

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Equitise raises $211k in first campaign

Equity crowd funding closes another deal in NZ. Equitise, together with PledgeMe and Snowball have now raised $8m for their ventures. It was clear at the recent Angel Capital Assn conference in San Diego that these platforms are bringing valuable additional funding into the early stage funding market. We need to be sure we keep reminding those taking part of the risk inherent in these investments.

Equity crowd-funding platform Equitise has closed its first campaign after successfully raising $211,000 for Tourism Radio NZ.

The company, which provides location-specific digital travel guide commentary through mobile devices in motor homes and rental cars, says it will use the cash to develop technology, expand its sales force and prepare the business for expansion into Australia.

The 30 investors that took part in the crowd-funding campaign, which valued the firm at $1.2 million, now hold a combined stake of 18.2 per cent in Tourism Radio.

The company, which had revenue of over $950,000 last year, said the investment would drive future revenue growth of 50 per cent year-on-year.

Equitise managing director Jonny Wilkinson said the platform had received a lot of interest from potential issuers since completing its first campaign.

“People have obviously seen that out first deal has closed [successfully] and that has provided some certainty and surety in people’s minds,” he said.

Equitise gained authorisation to operate from the Financial Markets Authority in December.

Wilkinson said Equitise expected to announce its second campaign within the next few weeks.

Equity crowd-funding, which became possible in New Zealand last year through a once-in-a-generation overhaul of securities legislation, allows companies to issue shares to the public through online platforms.

More than $7 million has been raised by three local equity crowd-funding providers – Snowball Effect, PledgeMe and Equitise – since August.

As published  NZ Herald 6 May 2015

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Hon. Stephen Joyce introduces #AANZSummit14

Angel Association New Zealand Summit 2014

In Auckland, New Zealand, October 2014, over 120 Angels, members of networks and funds across New Zealand, along with international guests from the United States, Australia and Singapore came together for 2 days of mind sharing, networking and collegiality.

The event was introduced by AANZ Chair Marcel van den Assum followed by Minister Stephen Joyce who gave an opening address acknowledging the special role angel investors play across the country. The work they do, by choice, contributing to building the confidence, capabilities and capacity of entrepreneurs, investing in them to achieve success was recognised as bringing significant benefit to New Zealand’s economy and its positioning as an innovative and future focused country.

To view this video on youtube click here

ABAF2015, NZ

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Angels & equity crowdfunding

The oldest equity crowdfunding market in the world is the UK. That market began in 2011, and has grown with an average annual growth rate of 410%.

It took until 2013 for angels and VCs to take much notice of equity crowdfunding in the UK. Now it is commonplace to see co-investment. In the UK 43.3% of angels invested through equity crowdfunding in 2014. 30% of seed investment in the UK was sourced through equity crowdfunding platforms in 2014. That figure is estimated to be 50% in 2015.

We’ve seen the first publicly listed company raise funds through equity crowdfunding. Currently we’re watching the first offer from a company that intends to list immediately after the offer closes.

We’re keen to shortcut the time taken to get angel / VC buy-in to equity crowdfunding in New Zealand.

Here are my thoughts on how angels and equity crowdfunding can benefit from working together in 2015.

Inspiring new angels

The AANZ and angel networks across the country do a good job of shining a spotlight on funding early stage businesses. However general awareness is still low, and angel networks can appear exclusive or inaccessible to many investors eligible to participate.

Equity crowdfunding inspires new angels in a number of ways:

  • Accessibility: Investment opportunities are broadcast widely, reaching many who would otherwise not hear about these opportunities.
  • Small investments: Most equity crowdfunding offers have a small minimum investment amount, such as $500 or $1000. This enables people to start investing in this asset class earlier in their lives. You can easily diversify $10,000 across a range of investments.
  • Learning: One problem with growing the number of angel investors is education. People will be reluctant to invest if they don’t feel that they know enough about the space. Equity crowdfunding gives newbies access to the same offer information, Q&A, and commentary as experienced investors. So everyone is part of the same conversation about an opportunity.

Many future members of angel networks will first invest in unlisted equities through equity crowdfunding. Angel networks should look at this future state identifying ways to use equity crowdfunding platforms as a feeder for their membership.

Referrals

Equity crowdfunding is carving out its space in the funding ecosystem. It will never replace angel investment or the other funding sources. That’s because some businesses are simply better suited to private angel investment or other channels.

At Snowball Effect we’ve had expressions of interest in equity crowdfunding from nearly 600 Kiwi companies. We always ask ourselves what value the company should be trying to capture alongside the cash. If that value is deep domain expertise from experienced individuals, for example, we’ll discuss whether introductions to suitable angel investors is the better path.

Further, we believe that very early stage businesses are generally not suited to public offers. Companies best suited to funding through convertible notes are not right for equity crowdfunding (the regulations don’t permit offers of convertible securities).

Companies should be aware of the range of funding options, and they should pursue the option which provides most value to their business. We’re committed to referring companies elsewhere if appropriate, and hope angels acknowledge and understand the equity crowdfunding option and can provide the same guidance to companies.

Co-investment

Each offer through Snowball Effect has attracted multiple individual investments of $50,000 or more. Private investors are using this channel, and we’ll continue to build that part of the market.

2015 will be the year where we see the first official co-investment between equity crowdfunding investors and an angel group.

The benefits are clear:

  • For angel networks, it provides an efficient way to top up a funding round.
  • For equity crowdfunding investors, it provides comfort that sophisticated investors have assessed the opportunity and have committed.
  • For the company, it’s an opportunity to harness the benefits of wide brand exposure and shareholder advocates that come with a public offer.

We’d love to hear your feedback on these collaboration opportunities.

Please get in touch with any thoughts or comments at [email protected]

This is a guest post by Josh Daniell who blogs regularly here.

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Seed co-investing critical to early-stage environment

As NZVIF celebrates its 100th investment in early stage ventures through the SCIF fund, the government is casting a critical eye over its future.

In my view, SCIF contributes a lot more than capital.

It enables Angel investors and companies to go further.

Since its inception in 2006 it has been instrumental in establishing crucial, professional, early stage investment disciplines and process that added credibility to an evolving sector.

The 100 investments it has made to date have provided a goldmine of early-stage benchmarking data that otherwise would not have developed.

And, having SCIF as a shareholder investor has given additional credibility to New Zealand start-up deals because it only co-funds with certified angels (with established professional disciplines).

It is too early in the life of SCIF to draw any RoI conclusions from current performance, which is indicative of any portfolio of high risk / high reward companies. Another 3-5 years of sustainability is critical to enable the portfolio to achieve its full potential. SCIF has extended the capital angels could put into deals, and like the members of the Angel Asociation’s groups and funds, being consistent with its support will help it realise greater returns.

Further more, growing the number of NZ angels requires certainty in terms of government policy levers. Our’s is an environment that by its very nature is dynamic, the support SCIF has provided thus far has helped New Zealand’s early-stage investment community to flourish.

I applaud the recent media profile through articles in Business Day by Andrew Duff and Fiona Rotherham in support of the significant value SCIF has generated for the NZ start up eco-system.

I look forward to reading more from the members of AANZ groups and funds providing their views.

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SCIF crucial to co-invest with Angels

A seed fund that has proved critical for co-investing with angel groups in promising Kiwi start-ups is close to running out of money and is asking for a government top-up until it becomes self-sustaining.

Already the New Zealand Venture Investment Fund’s (NZVIF) Seed Co-Investment Fund is facing constraints in who it now partners, given it has only enough cash to last less than another two years if it continues investing at its current level of $5.4 million a year.

NVIF established the seed fund (SCIF) in 2006 to support the development of formal angel investment – the next step beyond family, friends and high-net-worth individuals – in New Zealand. The way it works is angel groups apply to partner with SCIF and any private capital investment is then matched dollar for dollar by the government-funded SCIF, up to a half-million-dollar limit per company.

The fund has invested in 116 companies and spent a total of $29.93m of the Government’s $40m establishment capital.

Returns to date from the five companies it has exited – which include HaloIPT and Green Button – have brought in $3.6m. Although the fund is allowed to recycle those returns into new investments, it’s not likely to generate enough in the next two years to keep going without a further capital injection or a government underwrite.

NZVIF chief executive Franceska Banga said they were talking to the government now about further funding of about $20 million to $25m by 2016.

The fund should be on track to become sustainable from its returns by 2018 or 2019, said fund investment manager Chris Twiss.

“We have to get some certainty around the funding as we’re hamstrung at the moment in forming new partnerships and it’s impacting on our operations,” Twiss said.

The seed fund’s portfolio ranges from hi-tech robotics to healthcare, agri-tech to paint tinting technology and more than 40 per cent of investments are software related.

Banga said it was too early to predict overall investment performance as most of the companies were still at an early stage – averaging three years of investment. It takes on average seven to eight years for returns to come through.

As of last year the fund had about 20 per cent of companies that had failed or were no longer having additional funding by its investors, which is in line with the experience of overseas seed funds. Twiss said about 10 had been liquidated and a further 20 had just gone dormant, with investors deciding not to throw good money after bad.

These funds are inherently high risk, although the seed fund’s risk is lower through being diversified among its partners. Banga said the common thread among the non-performers included technology failing to live up to its initial promise, poor alignment between the founder and investors on the company’s future direction, not having the right capabilities within the company to make it grow, and being too slow to come to market ahead of competitors.

Although the fund kicked off in 2007, it took a while to establish partnerships with angel groups and make investments. It has partnered with 15 angel groups since its establishment…

Read more on Stuff.co.nz

 

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