Investors have confidence in startup futures

The October issue of Startup Investment New Zealand Magazine is now available here.

In this edition, we shine a spotlight on Kiwi businesses that have earned a place on the world stage. To be successful, Kiwi startups have always had to think and act global from the outset but there’s now a number of factors helping these startups succeed in offshore markets, and often much earlier in their journey. We’re seeing a developing ecosystem of support including government agencies, networks and people with experience at scaling global businesses, as well as investors who have the confidence to support these innovative companies.

The data is supporting this investor confidence. Five times the number of startup organisations successfully raised over $1 million from local investors in the first half of 2018 verse the same period last year, according to the latest Young Company Finance Index. This year almost half of deals are co invested by two or more Angel clubs and funds. Why is the formula to achieve global success so critical? It means little old New Zealand can produce valuable companies winning on the global stage, which attracts investors and ultimately builds prosperity for us as a country.

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Top New Zealand entrepreneur on building successful businesses

Some fascinating insights here from super successful kiwi, Linda Jenkinson who has intimately studied and succeed in scaling and selling businesses.

Linda Jenkinson is one of New Zealand’s most successful businesswomen. She’s been described as a serial entrepreneur, having founded numerous businesses, and was the first New Zealand woman to list a company on the NASDAQ stock exchange. She set up an NGO supporting businesswomen in West Africa, and as well as being a busy and experienced company director, she’s the recipient of numerous business awards. She talks to Kathryn about her beginnings in Palmerston North, and becoming a “relentless advocate” of Brand New Zealand.

Listen here



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Get More Value From Your (Startup’s) Board

“Who’s on the board?”

A question I hear at least as often as I see a new startup.

Over the past 3 years I have been fortunate to see five boards working in practice, one as member of the management team and the rest as an observer. Alongside that, every entrepreneur we invest in talks about their board: there is good, there is bad, and every one has some ugly.

I wanted to share some observations on boards that I’ve formed in the hope of helping entrepreneurs and directors better select each other, work together, and create value.

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Software the top sector for NZ angel investors

More than half the investment made in early stage companies in New Zealand last year was in the software and services space (53.8%), followed by 17% in technology hardware and equipment.

“Technology is increasingly the engine of growth for all companies, regardless of size” explains PWC’s Anand Reddy.

“It’s no surprise that it’s these areas where the most activity is happening and where angel and early-stage investors are putting their energy. This reflects global trends too. Data generated by Crunchbase notes that the software and services remains the dominant sector for investment.”

Speaking personally, John O’Hara said that his own portfolio leant towards software generated ventures.

“I am particularly proud of Ask Nicely, which produces software for NPS (net promoter score) collection and analysis. This company has already generated tangible returns for a number of the early angel investors. The company is now scaling into the US, with the founder moving to Portland, Oregon in the last couple of months.

“New Zealanders have a knack for practical problem solution and we are increasingly seeing them turn this knack into compelling business opportunities,” said O’Hara.

Click here to find out more about how the startup sector is evolving, and where it’s heading next.

Click here to dive into the data about this asset class.

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A Day in the Life: Josh Comrie

The portfolio life doesn’t choose you. You choose the portfolio life. And that’s what serial entrepreneur, angel investor and general over-achiever Josh Comrie has done. This is how he balances everything.

What time do you wake up?

I start the day at 5 or 5.30am, unless I retired after 11, in which case I’ll treat myself to a 6am sleep in.

Do you have any morning rituals?

Several! First, I make my bed. Fully. I’ve only recently appreciated how important this is:

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Genna Elvin – The Kiwi behind a ‘mini Google’ in Luxembourg

At just 28, Kiwi entrepreneur Genna Elvin has already co-founded a multimillion-dollar tech company and is working with Microsoft and Google.

Elvin and husband Francois Gaspard set up Tadaweb in 2010. Based in Luxembourg, the small data company specialises in human intelligence, providing customers with access to precise and constantly changing online information.

“In a world where everything is about big data, what we focus on is providing our users with a way to basically work with online information, teaching a computer how to interact with online information like a human,” Elvin says.

“We focus on getting better information through replicating the process humans do when they work with online information.”

Tadaweb’s offices are like Disneyland, Elvin says, inspired by Silicon Valley’s start-up culture.
“We invest heavily in a place where people want to be,” she says. “We’re really trying to disrupt our market and really build a technology that no one has ever built before.”

“We have everything from a giant inflatable gorilla, to ping-pong tables, a bar in the office and a giant gong. Each member of the team gets 50 euros when they arrive to make their desk look awesome.
“We’ve created a mini Google in Luxembourg, essentially, with our culture.”

Born on Waiheke Island and raised in the Hauraki Plains-Coromandel region, Elvin didn’t plan for a future in business. At Victoria University, she studied international relations and psychology.

“At that time I started to get involved with my first company, Sun Mana, which was installing solar panels in the Marshall Islands. It was a small project funded by the US government, and that sort of got me bitten by the entrepreneurial bug – although I didn’t know it at the time,” she says.

After graduating, Elvin began working for the New Zealand government in the area of high-risk immigration, receiving five promotions in a year, she says.

“It started off as a holiday job in the immigration department and I worked my way into the intelligence department.”

At 22, Elvin and then-boyfriend Gaspard moved to the other side of the world. “We both had amazing jobs and we decided that we just wanted to try and live in Europe for a few years,” she says.

They first touched down in Brussels, where Elvin did her Masters in international conflict and security, before moving to Luxembourg to start Tadaweb.

“While I was studying, my husband – who is Belgian and I met 10 years ago – had been working on the technology for years and years, and I actually found myself working more on the company than on my studies or my job put together, so we decided to move to the south of Belgium and start our company.”

In six years Tadaweb has grown to a team of 50, with developers from all around the world, and is set to employ another 100 by the end of next year, Elvin says.

The tech firm has received significant investment from some high-profile executives including the former head of mergers and acquisitions at Google Europe and a former head of investment at Goldman Sachs, among others, who are now on its board.

This year Elvin met Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft and the world’s second richest man.
“It was very, very cool – it was a really rare opportunity,” she says.

“We were fortunate enough to be one of the companies to be selected to go over and present at Bill’s – Microsoft’s – biggest technology conference. It was cool to sort of have a Kiwi presence at that kind of event because there’s not many.”

Elvin was raised by her mother, a teacher who pushed her to work hard at school.
“I didn’t have a lot when I grew up, so I learnt the importance of making the best out of situations and finding innovative ways to make money,” she says. “Throughout my high school years I worked in a fish and chip shop and taught the saxophone to kids at my local primary school.”

Many years later, doing work for Microsoft is a dream come true. Elvin says she likes working with the tech giant as they share the same technical values.

“Nothing drives Microsoft more than tough technology challenges and that’s what gets myself and my team up each day,” she says. “We also highly value their dedication to making the world better and we have already embarked on joint projects with regards to tracking diseases such as dengue fever.”

As a Microsoft official technology partner, Tadaweb has access to its private technology. “We help them to make their technology better, and they help us to make our technology better.”

Her advice for start-ups hoping to partner with large industry players: “If you can provide really big technological challenges to companies like Microsoft and Google – challenge even them – then they’ll be super curious to get involved.”

Elvin is planning her return to New Zealand next year, and is hoping to set up an angel investment hub in the South Island, focusing on areas such as artificial intelligence and renewable energy.

“Our dream is to get into angel investing and try and build up a tech hub in New Zealand – bring back some of our knowledge that we’ve learnt in Europe and the Valley,” she says. “What I really want to do, particularly around the Tasman region or top of the South Island, is build a technology incubator and get young companies through acceleration that have worked in Europe and in America … and into investing and promoting New Zealand’s tech scene.”

Passionate about supporting women in tech, Elvin last year started a scholarship programme at Hauraki Plains College in Ngatea, Waikato – her old high school – to provide three years of funding for a young woman interested in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

“I got lots of scholarship funding when I was going through university so I wanted to give back,” she says.
“Basically, we created the Tada Female in STEM Scholarship which provides three years of funding – $2000 per year – to a young woman that doesn’t have a lot of economic resources, who wants to do science and technology at university.”

Long term, Elvin is unsure if she will sell Tadaweb or take the company public.
“We could potentially sell, we could IPO, or we could hand on the reins to someone else but we are definitely keen to come back to New Zealand,” she says.

“Tada is going to carry on one way or another but we’re definitely, within the next five years, coming home to build something in New Zealand.”

Last year Elvin featured in Forbes as one of Europe’s Top 100 Female Founders and was recently awarded the World Economic Forum’s Woman of the Decade in Business & Leadership Award.

Asked what she’s most proud of, Elvin says raising her son and a successful start-up at the same time. “Jack, my son, is almost the same age as my company and I have learnt so much from both motherhood and building a company.”
Elvin says people should use her as an example of what can be achieved, globally.

“I think that it’s important to reinforce that just because we [New Zealand] are young and maybe far away, that it’s not impossible to go to Europe or America and actually build something amazing.

“That uniqueness of being from so far away and from the kind of place that many people aren’t really sure of can actually be turned into something powerful.

“I’ve had the advantage of talking to the CEO of Microsoft, I’ve had the advantage of talking to some of London’s top VCs and sometimes you can either just be scared because people think you’re not capable, because you’re female, or from New Zealand, and you need to take that and blow them out of the water.”

Genna Elvin
• Age: 28
• Born: Waiheke Island
• Education: Bachelor of Arts from Victoria University, Masters in international conflict and security from University of Kent
• Last book read: Super Intelligence: Paths, Dangers and Strategies by Nick Bostrom
• Last family holiday: Sri Lanka

First Published NZ Herald – 18th November 2017

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24 innovators selected to apply for entrepreneur visa through fellowship programme

24 international Fellows and six New Zealand entrepreneurs have been selected from more than 300 innovators who applied to tackle pressing global challenges in New Zealand through the Edmund Hillary Fellowship (EHF).

The international Fellows will now apply for Global Impact Visas to take part in the programme.

The group selected by EHF are part of the first cohort in a three-year programme run in partnership with Immigration New Zealand (INZ) to provide visionary entrepreneurs and investors with a platform to create positive global impact from New Zealand.

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Marlborough entrepreneurs launch new investment group 

A new investment group collectively worth millions-of-dollars has been set up in Marlborough with the aim of pumping capital into early-stage businesses in the region.

The initiative has been heralded as a means of encouraging entrepreneurship, and making sure Marlborough businesses with winning ideas get off the ground.

Picton-based businessman Richard Coon, who has founded 10 companies, five in his native United Kingdom and five in New Zealand, set up the investment group.

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Hillary Fellowship chooses six Kiwis for global challenges

Six New Zealand entrepreneurs have been selected from more than 300 innovators who applied to tackle pressing global challenges in New Zealand through the Edmund Hillary Fellowship (EHF).

The group selected by EHF are part of the first cohort in a three-year programme run in partnership with Immigration New Zealand (INZ) to provide visionary entrepreneurs and investors with a platform to create positive global impact from New Zealand. An additional 24 international Fellows have been selected and will now apply for Global Impact Visas to take part in the programme.

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More money for entrepreneurial women

A government-backed investment fund has gone into partnership with ArcAngels, a group of private individuals focused on investing in female-led business start-ups.
The New Zealand Venture Investment Fund (NZVIF) will invest dollar for dollar alongside ArcAngels through its Seed Co-Investment Fund (SCIF).
ArcAngels chairwoman Cecilia Tarrant, a director of Fletcher Building and former Morgan Stanley managing director, said it approached NZVIF to form the partnership on the back of other relationships the fund already had with angel networks around the country.
Tarrant said the deal means it would have access to more capital than the size of its membership suggested.
“That makes us more attractive for entrepreneurs.”
ArcAngels was launched in 2014 and has around 30 members although Tarrant said it hoped that would grow to around 40 by mid-year.
So far it has invested $1.6 million in eight transactions including into Pictor, Fuel 50, Acuite and Engender.
Tarrant said with the NZVIF partnership it would hope to increase its investments to around 10 per year both through new companies and follow-up investments.
NZVIF investment director Bridget Unsworth said the ArcAngel partnership was the 17th it had entered into through its SCIF.
To date NZVIF and its angel partners had co-invested around $142m into more than 150 companies.
Unsworth said the ArcAngel partnership would double the capital available to companies.
“The past year has seen continued healthy investment activity across New Zealand with more than $60 million invested by angel funds and groups.
“There is a healthy level of syndication of investments among different angel groups meaning they are likely to invest in opportunities throughout New Zealand. Early stage investing is a high-risk investment class and so diversification is important.”
Tarrant said around one-third of start-up companies in New Zealand were led by women or had a major female component but the number of female-led companies which attracted investment was lower.
At the same time the number of women angel investors was also lower.
Tarrant said the group hoped to replicate the success of the New York-based, women-led angel group, Golden Seeds, which has invested more than US$80m ($114m) in more than 76 women-led companies.
“Our principal aim is to make successful investments. But we also want to empower more women entrepreneurs, strengthen their competitiveness and maximise the success of New Zealand’s small business engine for greater economic growth in the long term.
“Many of our members are experienced angel investors with the capacity and capability to be able to provide mentoring and ongoing support to the female-led ventures the group invests into.”
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