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

Seeing the light led to law career

A wonderful article on Enterprise Angels member, Murray Denyer who totally personifies what it means to be an angel investor.

MURRAY Denyer’s eureka moment came part way through his double major in commerce and law at Auckland University in the early 1990s.

Supported by a scholarship from a major accounting firm, he had been leaning towards a career as an accountant. Then he stumbled across a Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade recruitment presentation.

“I saw the light – it absolutely appealed to me,” said Mr Denyer, a partner with law firm Cooney Lees Morgan, chairman of Tauranga economic agency Priority One, and an active angel investor.

The prospect of an international career tapped into a travel bug developed as a teenager, when he and a mate headed off straight after finishing at Waitakere College for three months’ backpacking around Europe.

“It was a major formative experience that opened my eyes to the world and cemented my interest in languages,” he said.

Mr Denyer, who was born and brought up in West Auckland, where his father was a chemist and his mother a GP, now set his sights on a diplomatic career.

He refocused his degree on international law, graduating with a Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Law, and joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s 1993 graduate intake as a legal division policy officer.

A major highlight of his diplomatic career came while he was serving on a short-term posting with the New Zealand mission to the United Nations in 1994, when he was on hand to observe Nelson Mandela deliver his first speech as president of South Africa to the General Assembly.

Soon afterwards, he was posted to The Hague as second secretary, looking after New Zealand interests in The Netherlands and Scandinavia. His brief also included international organisations based in The Hague.

Mr Denyer said he was proud to have played a role in working on the New Zealand case brought in the International Court of Justice which eventually forced the French to stop nuclear testing at Mururoa.

A French speaker, he spent a lot of time travelling in southern France. His blue-blooded, Paris-trained, French diplomatic peers found the Francophone Kiwi’s ability to swear like a Marseilles sailor hilarious. “I’m a strong believer in encouraging children to learn languages,” said Mr Denyer.

It was in The Hague that he met his wife Lisa, an Australian-trained lawyer who was travelling in Europe. After a whirlwind romance, she ended her travels and started work at a Dutch bank in nearby Amsterdam.

In 1998, the couple returned to Wellington where he served as a senior legal adviser and worked on international trade law disputes, travelling frequently to the World Trade Organisation in Geneva.

But after almost eight years with MFAT, he decided it was time he entered private practice and joined Minter Ellison Rudd Watts in Wellington as a senior associate. He became a key member of the firm’s state-owned enterprises practice, and also gained broad corporate and commercial experience. In addition, he founded and developed a high-profile international trade law practice, with clients including Fonterra, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Ministry for Primary Industries and New Zealand Winegrowers.

It was that export experience which brought him to the attention of a headhunter seeking a new general counsel for kiwifruit export marketing company Zespri. Mr Denyer knew the company well, but had never been to Tauranga, so he and his wife decided to check out Mount Maunganui.

“We left on one of those filthy cold Wellington days,” he said. “But when we got out in Tauranga it was 21 degrees and the sun was out.”

His wife, pregnant with their first child, took a walk on the Mount Maunganui beach while he interviewed for the job. By the time he returned, the decision to take the job and raise a family in Tauranga was a foregone conclusion for the couple.

“It’s paradise and we’ve never looked back,” he said.

Mr Denyer spent almost six years with Zespri, his role growing to include global management accountability for legal, government relations and industry regulation, and human resources, in addition to serving as secretary to the Zespri board. He was also deeply involved in the global licensing of kiwifruit varieties.

“It was enormously satisfying and incredibly busy, but towards the end I was doing a ridiculous amount of travel,” he said.

His wife had by then been working for some years with Cooney Lees Morgan, which advises Zespri, and he knew the team there well. In 2009 he came on board the firm as a consultant, and was elected to the partnership in 2010.

Mr Denyer works with the commercial practice group, servicing clients including large corporates like Zespri and Norske Skog, local government, Maori trusts and incorporations, and a wide range of small and medium-sized companies.

He has served as Priority One chairman for the past three years and praises the organisation for bringing the council and local business together to help plan the city’s economic development.

Priority One chief executive Andrew Coker said Mr Denyer had been a strong supporter of the agency’s s goals.

“As chair he’s made a major contribution to the organisation’s direction and it’s success,” said Mr Coker. “Murray’s strongly community-focused, and has been extremely generous with his legal and commercial expertise, as well as what is a precious commodity to him and his family, his time.”

Mr Denyer and fellow partner Paul Tustin are also closely involved in Cooney Lees Morgan’s advisory work for Tauranga’s Enterprise Angels, which invests in start-up companies.

Mr Tustin said his colleague was a very good lawyer who brought a valuable perspective to the firm from his corporate and diplomatic experience.

“Murray’s got a really good handle, at a governance level, on organisations, which has been very helpful as well,” said Mr Tustin.

As first published NZHerald 19 June 2015

Supporting CEOs in your Portfolio Companies #ACAAngelSummit

Angels Connect NZ Series – Bill Murphy from Enterprise Angels reports from USA Angel Capital Association Conference 2015

Recognising the crucial role angel investors play in a company’s development after the first round of funds have been committed, the ‘Supporting Portfolio CEOs‘ workshop took a deep dive into leveraging board member skills to guide a company through value accretion to exit.

The first point made was how important it is for angels to acquire the skills and knowledge required to properly manage the important issues following investment. It is also clear that it takes a real commitment to be effective.

Ideally an investor-director should be putting in a couple of days a week, with their primary function being ‘chief encouragement officer’.

As most founders don’t have experience running a business the angel director should be constantly asking questions that support the growth of the founder, the team and the company. Complaining and blaming don’t help.

Key questions to be asked and answered on a regular basis include;

  • What’s the cashflow position?
  • What cash is it going to take to get us to the next fundable round of investment?
  • Have we defined our market tightly and distinctly so that we can “own” that market? and
  • How can I help develop strategy?

Calling and talking to the CEO on a random basis (in addition to regular board meetings) was also suggested. These conversations are far more effective than written communications. Discussing progress ‘on the fly’, one on one, is a really effective means of teasing out issues.

Every investor-director should regularly review material which provides an introduction to governance of an angel backed company. Understanding how the functions of an early-stage board differ from boards of established companies is vital. Attending a course or reading up on this is hugely helpful.

Sitting down with the founder and the team at the outset to make sure expectations about the exit and path to exit are agreed and aligned is highly recommended. This should be done even before the first cheque is written.

The ideal size for an early stage, high growth company is five. Three members will be independent of management. It is paramount that management and the board have complete clarity about expectations regarding reports and reporting – how often, how long, covering what etc. Panelists and attendees at the workshop agreed it’s far better to warn entrepreneurs you are going to be a ‘pain in the ass’ at the outset and made the point that there will be less pain for everyone if regular timely reporting is carried out.

Another useful tip was immediately after investment it’s worth taking time to map out with the entrepreneur and the board the first 6 month’s implementation plan with a laser focus. Many founders are overly opportunistic, running after every opportunity or adopting every customer request for product iteration. This is unlikely to add value to the enterprise.

Other useful suggestions included;

  • Doing a SWOT analysis on a regular basis.
  • Setting annual milestones which are informed by the CEO talking to potential acquirers about what the company needs to look like to be bought.
  • Helping the CEO identify non-dilutive sources of capital.

Finally, the audience was reminded that accessing the angel group at regular angel group meetings where investor-directors and founders can talk about what stage the venture is at, is a really effective way to achieve better results. These meetings serve a dual purpose – they keep members informed so they are likely to be positively disposed to the next funding round and they increasing the chances of success by leveraging the intellectual resources of the entire angel group, pulling contacts and experience.

It was encouraging to hear that many of the activities the AANZ is undertaking reflect international best practice outlined in the workshop. The governance course for new angel directors being developed by the AANZ with some help from New Zealand’s Institute of Directors (email [email protected] for more information) and the increasing number of member meetings (outside regular pitch evenings) all bode well for NZ angels and entrepreneurs. A shared focus, regular reporting and leveraging shared networks are key components of multimillion-dollar exits.

Bill Murphy

For more crowd-sourced intel from #ACAAngelSummit 2015 as it happened

Screen Shot 2015-04-22 at 10.13.25 pm

For more highlights from attendees who attended the conference

To meet and hear from international angels and leaders in New Zealand’s angel investment community secure your seat at one the southern hemisphere’s largest international exclusive investor events Asian Business Angels Forum, being held in Queenstown, New Zealand, October 14-16 2015.ABAF2015, NZ

Marcel van den Assum’s Intro #AANZSummit14

Angel Association New Zealand Summit 2014

Review some of the greatest moments from AANZ Annual Summit 2014 in Auckland.

We have prepared a selection of videos from some of our notable speakers. This first one features Suse Reynolds’ opening and introduction to the Angel Association New Zealand Annual Summit 2014 from Chairman, Marcel van den Assum and guest Hon. Stephen Joyce, MP.

Read more from Marcel van den Assum here


To view this youtube video click here

Angel expert shares vision about investing in NZ

American Angel Capital Assn Chair Emeritus, John May is having an inspirational impact as he tours New Zealand. In this article he commends Tauranga for the quality of its innovation and startup community.

Tauranga is a tier-one city for angel investing, says American early-stage capital pioneer John May.

“Tier one cities understand it’s something where you’re really helping the local economy, while you’re working on your own financings as an angel. And that you can’t do this without a group of entrepreneurs coming up with great ideas.”

Mr May, former chairman of the US Angel Capital Association, last visited New Zealand briefly five years ago, and this time will spend a month in the country.

During his visit to Tauranga, Mr May took part in a number of networking events with local entrepreneurs, investors and businesspeople. He also ran a workshop for members of host organisation Enterprise Angels, one of the most active early-stage investing groups in New Zealand.

“The three components of a vibrant angel group are investable deals, active angels not just dumb money, and charismatic leadership with people willing to volunteer their time to grow the local angel community,” he told the Bay of Plenty Times yesterday.
All of those elements were present in Tauranga, he said.

“We’re not just trying to make money off the entrepreneur, we’re trying to help them grow,” he said. “This is patient capital – it’s mentor capital.”

Mr May said New Zealand shared a history of entrepreneurial activity with countries such as Canada, Australia and the US.

“There’s an understanding you have to take risks to get rewards, there’s the important element of the rule of law, and a tax structure oriented towards protecting minority interests, which helps create a positive environment for small businesses trying to grow.”

Enterprises Angels executive director Bill Murphy said the experienced US investors the group had invited to Tauranga over the years brought expertise from a market that had been angel investing for two or three times as long as New Zealand.

“We’re still getting new angel investors coming on board all the time so the Angel Investing 101 workshop is incredibly useful for them,” said Mr Murphy.

“But the Enterprise Angels management team are now working on the nuances around effective investing and most especially the post-investment relationship with the start-up company. We need to learn how we can do everything we can to make sure they’re successful.”

Mr Murphy said most US angel groups were made up of cashed-up, wealthy retired businessmen with plenty of time to work with their investee companies.

“In New Zealand, nearly all of our angels are still working fulltime,” he said. “Enterprise Angels has to manage a lot of the process and use our angels in defined areas of their expertise because they don’t have a lot of time. And that creates some challenges in terms of how you resource that. Conversations with experienced angel investors like John are very valuable to us.”

Entrepreneurs focussed on how best they can help

John May also joined a panel – including local angel investors Daryl French, Beppie Holm and John MacDonald – for the Angels at My Table event last night, organised by the Venture Centre.

The event brought the angels before 50 local entrepreneurs, with panelists pitching their ability help get new companies off the ground.

Mr May said he had been impressed with the types of deals available in New Zealand.
“In terms of entrepreneurship and hi-tech, in the horticultural and agri-business and dairy sectors, you’re finding it easy to put knowledge and expertise together with resources, to be state-of-the-art and to find ways to grow even outside your region,” he said.

“The thing to do is to focus on the businesses where you have historic roots and look for ways to deal with the most scalable and innovative aspects of those industries,” he said.
Jo Allum, a co-founder of Venture Centre, said it had been great to have so many entrepreneurs with potentially good ideas getting to know some local angels.

“And some of the best advice from the angels was to tell entrepreneurs they shouldn’t just be looking for money,” she said. “You should also do your due diligence on the angel, find out how he is to work with and whether, as well as investing, he helps you along and is interested in developing your business.”

Darren Bruning of Tauranga-based startup financialme said: “I thought it was a really good idea and nice to get a bit of visibility into how these angel-types think.”

Mr May also visited the Newnham Park Horticultural Innovation Centre in Te Puna, which nine companies, including PlusGroup, Kiwifruitz, Southern Produce, Plus Group, Heilala Vanilla, and industrial design company Locus Research.

Plus Group managing director and Enterprise Angels board member Steve Saunders, who lives in Te Puna, later hosted Mr May to an informal dinner with a group of angel investors. The dinner was catered by MasterChef New Zealand 2014 winners, sisters Kasey and Karena Bird from Maketu, and was designed to give Mr May “a taste of Kiwiana,” said Mr Saunders.

“John’s very interested in cross-border investing and that’s one of the things he’s been looking at here,” he said. That could result in American and New Zealand angel investors interacting more on potential deals, he said.

“There is some potential for cross-border trading,” said Mr Saunders.

“I think being able to get those connections internationally is hugely valuable from a New Zealand perspective. Especially when you’re looking at a technology in New Zealand you think has real relevance to an international market.”

First published on 25 February 2015

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

Jones to head tech incubator

Former Seed Co-Investment Fund team member, Carl Jones is profiled in this story as he takes up the CEO role at WNT Tech Incubator in Tauranga putting the Enterprise Angels in the front seat to receive some high quality ‘angel food’ in the near future.

Carl Jones, a former Tauranga local with a strong track record in government-led venture capital investment, has relocated back from Auckland to take on the role of chief executive with new local technology business incubator WNT Ventures.

Mr Jones, who began his career with Craigs Investment Partners, was previously investment manager for the Government’s New Zealand Venture Investment Fund (NZVIF). He also played a leading role in NZVIF’s Seed Co-investment Fund (SCIF), which provides matched investment alongside selected partners, including Tauranga early-stage investment group Enterprise Angels.

“Our partners are extremely important,” said Mr Jones, who took up his new role late last year. He noted WNT Ventures was a collaboration bringing together virtually all of the key early stage and technology investment entities in the region.

“The WNT Ventures structure is unusual, but the real selling point for me is to be able to walk into a Crown research institute or university and say, I have this really deep and wide network of not only people and capability, but experience and capital.
That’s really attractive to them.”

WNT Ventures was one of only three new technology incubators announced by the Government last year. It will access a repayable grant programme from Callaghan Innovation for start-up businesses based on locally developed intellectual property and novel technologies.

“There is a gap in the market I call where angels fear to tread, between post-research and where the angel investors get involved.”

While angel investors may like the look of a new technology, they usually required a degree of incubation to prepare it for commercialisation, he said. “We can leverage our internal funding and our Callaghan funding and take on the risk to help the people with the technology to get to the next stage where angels want to invest.”

He added WNT Venture’s ability to help new companies was greatly enhanced by the experience of its partners, as well as Enterprise Angels’ 150-plus members, who have invested almost $12 million in 37 early-stage deals to date.

The incubator had a goal of investing in four early stage technologies a year.

First published on 12 February 2015

Leading angel set to impart wisdom

He’s been in NZ barely a week and John May is spreading the word about the power of angel investment. He’ll be in Tauranga this week and you can catch him in Wellington, Palmerston North and Christchurch over the next fortnight.

Tauranga investors interested in learning more about the angel investment space will get an opportunity later this month when American chair-emeritus of the Angel Capital Association John May visits the region.

“There are two ways of learning about angel investing ” by doing it and by hearing from people who have done it a lot,” said Bill Murphy, executive director of Enterprise Angels, the Bay of Plenty-based group which has become one of the largest and most active angel groups in New Zealand.

“Any of us who have been involved in EA for a while will tell you that the visits of people like Bill Payne and John Huston to EA have been critical in deepening our knowledge and making us better investors.”

The Angel Association of New Zealand is bringing Mr May out from the US.

Mr May has been at the forefront of the angel investor movement and is managing partner of the New Vantage Group, which has organised five angel investing organisations in Washington, D.C. placing funds into more than 50 companies.

In addition to having chaired the national US angel association, he is a lead instructor for the “Power of Angel Investing” seminars, a programme of the Angel Resource Institute.

He is also the co-author of two books, Every Business Needs an Angel and State of the Art: An Executive Briefing on Cutting-Edge Practices in American Angel Investing. Washingtonian Magazine named Mr May one of its 100 Tech Titans of DC, and he was awarded the Hans Severiens Award for the contributions to the angel investing industry at the Angel Capital Association Summit in San Francisco in 2010.

Currently, Mr May is active in cross-border angel investing and developing angel investment ecosystems in emerging markets.

He will speak at three events in Tauranga:

-A networking event from 5pm to 7pm on Thursday, 19 February, hosted by Enterprise Angels and Priority One, at the Ignition co-working space, Ground Floor, Rydal House, Grey Street.

-A half day workshop from 9am to 12pm on Monday, 23 February, at the BaseStation, Durham Street, hosted by Enterprise Angels

-An “angel at my table” event at Tauranga Art Gallery at 5pm on the Monday.

First published on 12 February 2015

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 on 23 December 2014

Giant accolade for miniature apple developers

Another angel backed venture gets international recognition for innovation. Rocket apples are now being sold in over half a dozen international markets. Doing exactly what angel ventures should do! Congrats to Enterprise Angels investors.

The Rockit apple, an export success largely funded by Tauranga Enterprise Angels investors, has scored an international award.

It won the New Zealand-Taiwan Business Excellence Award in Taipei last week.

Phil Alison, managing director of Hawkes Bay-based Havelock North Fruit Company (HNFC), which grows and markets the Rockit, attended the Australian and New Zealand Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Awards.

Board members Steve Saunders, Murray Denyer and Rob Craig were also present.

“This is a fantastic achievement for us, as we continue to grow our global markets,” said Mr Alison.

The Rockit apple is a miniature apple – slightly bigger than a golf ball, which was created in Hawke’s Bay. It is uniquely marketed in a branded clear plastic tube aimed at the high-end convenience food market.

The awards recognise Australian, New Zealand and Taiwanese companies that have made a significant contribution to the bilateral business relationships among the three countries. The judges noted HNFC’s innovation in positioning Rockit as a premium brand snack food and its outstanding 700 per cent year-on-year growth.

“It is nice to get recognition along the way, as it is hard work establishing a truly global brand,” said Mr Alison.

Mr Saunders, who heads Tauranga-based Plus Group, said the award reinforced the importance of strong international relationships.

“We were particularly proud to celebrate this event with our Taiwanese partners.

“It was also great to see a company which has been backed by Tauranga investors through Enterprise Angels been recognised internationally.”

The fruit is now being sold domestically and in the US, Canada, Italy, Hong Kong, Taiwan and the UK, with more international markets being opened up as new production comes on stream.

HNFC worked with Plant and Food Research and Hawke’s Bay company Prevar, to develop the apple.

The company has 79ha under cultivation with a further 55ha planned.

“We’re growing the apple to bigger production levels,” said Mr Alison.

First published on on 2 December 2014

Borton & Sons Inc. Adds Koru, Rockit Apples to lineup

This season, Borton & Sons Inc., headquartered in Yakima, WA, plans to add two new apple varieties to its manifest. The company is a premium grower, packer and shipper of high-quality apples, pears and cherries with more than a century of industry expertise. The fourth generation of family members currently spearheads operations.

“We have started marketing two new varietals out of New Zealand with intentions in growing both here in Washington state,” said Lindsay Ehlis, part of the company’s sales and marketing team. “The first apple is the Koru. Along with Oneonta and New York Apple Sales, Borton Fruit has started marketing this unique variety in the United States. Consumer testing has proven to be overwhelmingly positive thus far. At this time, we are carrying limited volume out of New Zealand while commercial U.S. planting is under way.

“The second variety is the Rockit apple, which we are marketing here in the U.S. along with Chelan Fresh Marketing,” she continued. “These snack-sized apples provide a new healthy eating option on the go. The unique tubed packaging has already seen positive feedback from many industry veterans that have come in contact with the variety. Borton plans to start planting the Rockit here in Washington state next spring.”

Byron Borton, the company’s chief visionary officer, said conditions during the current apple production season have been favorable.

“The first varieties to come off the tree are Ginger Golds and Galas, which we have started picking this August,” he said. “We will be picking apples through November ending with our Cripps Pink/Pink Lady apples.

“Overall, quality is looking fantastic,” he commented. “Size will likely be up one full count across the state from normal years. The great weather early in the season made the apples jump out of the shoot. But perhaps the heat we have had the past three to four weeks may have slowed the sizing down a tad.”

Borton said the company is finalizing a new apple box “that will be one of the strongest in the industry. We have taken our approach to providing the market with the best fruit possible, and applied it to our full supply chain and packaging. This packaging investment ensures that the fruit will retain its superior quality when it arrives on customers’ shelves.”

The company markets apples under the “Apple Tree,” “Sno Chief,” “Yakima Chief” and “Sno Crisp” labels. “We do not grow organic produce, but do source some organics for our customers in small volumes to help fill when needed,” said Eric Borton, vice president of international sales and marketing. “Demand has grown some. But the greatest demand for apples still remains in traditionally grown fruit by a large margin because of its higher overall quality, yield and consistency.”

Borton Fruit markets apples to customers throughout the globe, and Eric Borton said, “We are continually seeking development of new markets and export opportunities.”

The company has a number of seasonal and nonseasonal marketing programs in place that have been highly successful. “One we will be focusing on in the next couple months will be our NFL Fuel Up to Play 60 program,” Ehlis said. “It’s great timing with the new school year beginning as well as the NFL kicking off. The program was designed to tackle childhood obesity by engaging youth to take action for their own health by implementing long-term, positive changes for themselves and their schools, starting with healthy snacks and foods and 60 minutes a day of exercise. This will be Borton’s third year being a part of this movement.”

On the facilities size, Ehlis said some improvements were made this past year. “We’ve implemented a new racking system to improve staging area at our main plant,” she told The Produce News. “This is allowing us to get ahead of orders and turn our truck loading times around much quicker. With an internal Loading Dock Analysis reporting process, we have improved the overall wait time at our facility by about 35 percent already, and are working toward making that an even better percentage. In addition to this staging and loading process, we’ve also designed a new truckers’ lounge for the drivers while they are here.”

First published on Enterprise Angels 15th September 2014


Angels help skincare pioneer fly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vivian said he had high hopes for Zeosoft.

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

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

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

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

Produced in conjunction with the Angel Association of New Zealand.

First published on 17 July 2014


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One App srl
Email: [email protected]

Publication date: 6/20/2014

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

Read more from NZHerald

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

Read more from NZHerald

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

Read more on NZHerald

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.

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