Rocket Lab’s value shoots past US$1b after capital raise

The value of Kiwi satellite launch company Rocket Lab has rocketed past US$1 billion (NZ$1.42b).

The company said on Wednesday it had secured another $105m of investment following a funding round by Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm Data Collective.

Sir Stephen Tindall’s K1W1 investment firm, as well as Promus Ventures, Bessemer Venture Partners, and Khosla Ventures all invested, bringing total investment in the company to $210m.

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First rocket ready to rumble

Rocket Lab’s first Electron vehicle has arrived at its launch site south of Gisborne in what the New Zealand company says is an important milestone for the space industry.

The historic test launch will take place in ”the coming months”, dependent on equipment testing and weather on the Mahia Peninsula.

Pre-flight checks would now start on the 17m tall rocket – with a call sign chosen by staff: ”It’s a Test.”

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NZ mission to the moon ready for blast off

New Zealand is ready to join the space race, with Kiwi start-up Rocket Lab on the brink of launching a rocket to the moon.

After signing a partnership with United States outfit Moon Express in 2015 on a deal to send three rockets to the moon, Peter Beck – who founded Rocket Lab in 2006, said the last major technical questions had now been answered.

Beck said the ambitious project was almost ready to go and test launches were slated for the coming months from the Mahia Peninsula, on the east coast of the North Island between Napier and Gisborne.

“We recently qualified the first stage of the vehicle – this was the last major technical milestone ahead of the first test flight. We’re currently completing various final checks and working through international launch licensing,” Beck told the Herald from the US, where he is on a routine working visit meeting customers and other industry professionals.

“Rocket Lab has three test launches planned in the coming months followed by several commercial missions – Moon Express is not the first commercial mission. We’ll be making further announcements about this once the test flight phase is complete.

“Dates of the commercial launches will be announced following the completion of the test flight programme.”

Moon Express, a Silicone Valley-backed company which has completed a $28 million funding drive, wants to mine valuable resources on the moon, where it is believed there could be trillions of dollars-worth of precious metals and gases.

The San Francisco outfit is also chasing the extremely lucrative Google Lunar XPRIZE – a competition to land a privately funded spacecraft on the moon, travel 500 metres and transmit high-definition video and images back to Earth.

The competition involves 16 teams from all over the world battling for a $40 million prize purse.

“Moon Express have achieved several significant milestones in the last year. Notably, they have gained permission to be the first private company to travel beyond Earth’s orbit – this enables them, and others, to focus on space exploration – particularly of the moon, asteroids and Mars,” he said.

“Our team is heavily focused on the test flight programme – we have a comprehensive qualification process that each vehicle goes through ahead of a launch. Once that is complete, we’ll look to moving the first vehicle down to Mahia for the test flight.

“It’s certainly an exciting time for not only Rocket Lab but also the growing New Zealand space industry.”

FLY ME TO THE MOON:

• The moon is 384,403km from Earth.
• Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket has a range of 500,000km.
• Electron costs $6.8m.
• The components of Electron’s engine are all 3D printed.
• The world-first, battery-powered rocket engine is named the “Rutherford” engine – named after iconic Kiwi physicist Ernest Rutherford.

First published NZ Herald – 19th January 2017

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Government signs contract with Rocket Lab permitting commercial rocket launches

The government has authorised the first commercial space rocket launches from New Zealand.

Rocket Lab, which operates a private satellite launch site on the Mahia Peninsula between Napier and Gisborne, intends to start launch operations later this year, Minister for Economic Development Steven Joyce said in a statement. The contract is an interim measure, preceding the Outer Space and High Altitude Activities Bill which will be introduced to Parliament this month to provide a regulatory regime for space launches from New Zealand.

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Andy Hamilton: Kiwi companies need to think bigger

In this article Ice House CEO and former AANZ Chair, Andy Hamilton challenges us all to think bigger and be more focused in our aspirations for economic growth and specifically the ventures angels are supporting.

Everything is fine in New Zealand is it not? The country has experienced a great few years. We have ridden the commodity boom and other countries’ misfortunes.

Things have changed for the better, while many things have not. What could be wrong?

My view is the current Government has a definitive optimistic plan for our economy and it should be complimented for its focus, clarity and execution.

At the same time, I wonder whether it has an indefinite optimistic approach to the hidden challenge that exists, and that is dangerous for our long-term prospects.

To me, the Government lacks a plan to enable our economy to be truly competitive longer-term.

Just riding out the macro factors will not be enough to win.

We have always, it seems, produced great people and some teams which are world beaters, but we have not and are not creating great companies on a global scale fast enough.

A key metric: How many companies in New Zealand employ more than 100 people? The answer is 2318, with an average employee number of 430, representing 48 per cent of all employed persons in our country. Do you think this is a small or big number?

Actually, the relative result is very similar to comparable countries, but the hidden metric, the big and scary difference, is the quantum size of our big companies vis-a-vis these other countries.

Our big are way, way smaller.

This has implications for our long-term prospects and I believe this needs to change for us to improve the nature of our economy and ultimately GDP per capita for our people.
We lack a supply of entrepreneurs who can turn ideas into global companies like the Israelis or Americans or a supply of talented executives in fast-growing industries such as technology that can do the coding, do the tech work.
Without this wealth we will not be able to look after our people and the increased stratification that is occurring between the rich and poor all over the world will also be in NZ. That leads to discontent and worse.

We know we produce good talent, whether that is as sportspeople or executives in large organisations. We know we can make stuff, like milk and more recently technology.

But can we build big companies that ultimately benefit and help us create a better future for New Zealand? Big question.

Our Government knows this is the problem. Even though it may be harsh to say its position is as an indefinite optimist, I contend that it lacks a plan and the confidence to attack this issue, and maybe even it has not prioritised this as far up the job list as it should.

One company the size of Fonterra is not going to cut it, it is like what we call “key person risk”.

My solution: Only one thing matters and that is talent, but talent specifically in building big and bigger companies.

Let’s take the pulse for that.

We have a great bunch of expats and Kiwiphiles, and arguably an over-supply in the demand for their skills, experience and networks.

We are seeing emerging technology and new age leaders, aspirational millennials who don’t want to work for the “person”. An emerging group of early stage investors, angels and venture capitalists who are learning fast how to support and enable our companies to succeed. And an emerging global group of believers, Peter Thiel of Founders Fund and Vinod Khosla of Khosla Ventures to name just two.

On the other hand, we don’t have senior executives in our big companies who are built to succeed in the world, nor board members of our big companies with diverse perspectives and experience from key markets such as Asia and America.

We lack a supply of entrepreneurs who can turn ideas into global companies like the Israelis or Americans or a supply of talented executives in fast-growing industries such as technology that can do the coding, do the tech work. And finally, we lack a set of investment bankers who can help build global capital pools to support our companies’ global aspirations.

There is much work to do, and the only thing to do when faced with a big challenge is to start biting it off one chunk at a time.

We must do something, we must engage. If you live overseas then nominate yourself to go on the boards of Kiwi companies to give them an outside-in perspective. Do like Bridget Coates, Derek Handley, Phil Veal and Claudia Batten and find a way on to the boards.
The director pool in New Zealand is a blue-rinse club, both men and women, and it was very challenging for these people to break through, but they did, and so should you because it does and will make a difference.
The director pool in New Zealand is a blue-rinse club, both men and women, and it was very challenging for these people to break through, but they did, and so should you because it does and will make a difference.

If you are from the tech industry, and you know how to hire and train more people to get into the tech industry, we need you in New Zealand, because our fast-growing tech companies are sucking up all the available talent and not investing enough to fill the gap of what is likely 10,000 jobs right now.

Maybe instead of going from 500 to 700 focus firms for the Government’s NZTE, they should have gone to 300 firms and really enabled their scaling, or were they worried about the value they create for these firms?

Now, despite the challenges and hurdles, there are some signs that are good. There is a shift happening in NZ, it is just that you need to look for it.

Look at the number of listings over the past few years alongside the performance of the NZX itself, which has ranged from 15-28 per cent year on year for the past three.

There have been exits too, Greenbutton’s sale to Microsoft generated a significant return for the founders and investors, Sutton Group and Gardians were sold to Danone showing it is not just tech where value can be created.

There is also an emerging pack that includes Lanaztech, Rocket Lab, PowerbyProxi, Nexus6, Vend and Shuttle Rock and others regularly coming out like STQRY, Puteko, Parrot Analytics, Drikolor, 1-Above, Harmoney, Varigate, Texus Fibre and iMeasureu.

All of this activity is healthy, it fuels and stokes the pipe, but we need to remember that we must see scale being achieved from this. How many companies sit alongside Fonterra and are actually delivering year-on-year sustainable returns? Wouldn’t it be great to have the top 10, top 50 globally relevant and scaled businesses owned out of New Zealand?

Things are good in New Zealand, but we should not be fooled. In my view we must address our lack of ability to build scaled and relevant global corporations from New Zealand and we must get on to it now.

I encourage others to positively address this challenge by finding ways to make a difference to create globally scaled and relevant firms from New Zealand.

Andy Hamilton is chief executive of business incubator The Icehouse.

First published in NZ Herald 12 March 2015

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