Preparing the ground to grow strong companies

The confirmation that new Tauranga-based private equity fund Oriens Capital is on track for a $30million first close is great news for the region’s business sector.

Oriens Capital’s executive team have noted it will not focus exclusively on the Bay, with other regions also likely to be targeted.

But a key driver of setting up the new fund was to help close the gap in the Bay’s entrepreneurial and funding ecosystem.

The reality is that no other region outside the major metropolitan centres has the supportive infrastructure of experienced investors to pull together a $30 million-plus private equity fund.

The Bay has long been the home of the country’s largest angel investor group, Enterprise Angels, with 200-plus high-net-worth members from Tauranga, Rotorua, Taupo and the Waikato.

Tauranga is also the base for WNTVentures, the only regional entity to get the nod from Callaghan Innovation when it backed a series of new technology business incubators 18 months ago.

Oriens Capital will be focused on lower mid-market companies with enterprise values of $10 million to $50 million and potential investments ranging from $3 million to $10 million.

But Enterprise Angels executive director Bill Murphy says Oriens Capital could still potentially provide backing to some companies emerging from the angels funding system.

While Enterprise Angels’ investments typically top out at around $2 million, Mr Murphy notes electric offroad bike company Ubco is targeting $2.5million in its current round.

Meanwhile, WNTVentures is focused on identifying innovative companies at the very early stage.

“We are about the development of intellectual property,” says chief executive Carl Jones.

WNTVentures has backed four companies with investments ranging up to $600,000, with two more currently going through due diligence.

First published on nzherald.co.nz 21 June 2016

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Bay private equity fund targets regions

A new region-focused private equity fund, Oriens Capital, has been launched in the Bay of Plenty and expects to hit its first closing target of $30 million within the next month. It is understood to be the first regional fund of its type in New Zealand.

The Tauranga-headquartered fund has been in gestation for a couple of years and is aimed at filling a gap in regional funding sources. The Bay already has WNTVentures, focuses on incubating extremely early stage tech companies, and the country’s biggest angel investor group, Enterprise Angels.

“There is a gap in the market,” said James Beale, who is chief executive of the new fund’s management entity.

Peter Tinholt will serve as chief operating officer of Oriens Capital, which has also lined up a strong, well-connected board (See story below).

“We will be targeting profitable mid-market companies that have growth opportunities. The biggest problem for all these businesses right now is that there is no formal source of capital, so we are going to fill a really niche space.”

The fund is aiming to complete up to eight investments in companies with an enterprise value of from $10 million to $50million during its initial five-year life, with individual stakes of $3 million to $10 million. Oriens Capital plans a second fundraising round to bring the total up to $60million.

The new fund has a distinctive structure in that investors in the Limited Partnership will also receive a stake in the ownership of the General Partnership, providing full alignment of interests and reduced costs, Mr Beale said.

Mr Tinholt said the fund had been getting good support, with commitments from Quayside Holdings, TECT, iwi and high-net-worth investors.

Scott Hamilton, chief executive of Quayside Holdings, the investment arm of the BOP Regional Council, said Quayside was approached by many private equity funds.
“Oriens Capital opens up the opportunity to achieve the same return profile through having something focused closer to our own backyard. Genuine growth in businesses is genuine capital growth and that’s what we want to see. It grows jobs, salaries and exports.”

Carl Jones, chief executive of WNT Ventures, said Oriens Capital was a fantastic addition to the region.

“You’ve got the full flow-through from the early and seed stage we do and Enterprise Angels and now on to the mid-market,” he said.

“That’s something that hasn’t been here before.”

Enterprise Angels executive director Bill Murphy said the new fund would provide access in the region to funding for all the critical stages of a company’s growth.

“It’s a tremendous outcome for us as a region and very positive for the business community.”

Tauranga MP Simon Bridges said the new fund would be valuable for business and the wider community.

“It’s also a sign of the growing maturity of our area where we are starting to see new financial tools that weren’t around before.”

Bay of Plenty MP Todd Muller said the fund’s promoters had been smart in seeing the opportunity in the mid-market, and the regional pipeline.

“The fund is a great addition to the regional economy of New Zealand and I have every sense it will be successful.”

Colin McKinnon, executive director of the New Zealand Venture Capital Association, said the fund’s focus was unique.

“NZVCA welcomes the opportunity for new investors to get involved in private equity. And it’s interesting there’s been enough interest in a regional fund to lead to its establishment.”

The challenge was going to be around ensuring diversity of the portfolio and deal flow, he said

“But it’s very positive for the asset class.”

Bay of Plenty’s New Funding Ecosystem:

* WNTVentures – incubation

* Enterprise Angels – early stage

* Oriens Capital – growth capital

Experienced executive team at helm of Oriens Capital
Oriens Capital will come into operation with a very experienced executive team and the support of a well-connected board that is expected to help drive deal flow.

Chief executive James Beale has 20 years of experience, including 14 years at Craigs Investment Partners, where his roles included chairing the investment committee.

Most recently, he has been running his own firm, meeting a need in the region to assist private companies in raising capital.

Chief operating officer Peter Tinholt was a management shareholder in successful exporter Taura Natural Ingredients and left after the company was acquired late last year.

Oriens Capital has also identified a chief financial officer who has extensive experience in private equity. All three key executives will also be investing as LPs.

The founding board of the GP will be chaired by John McDonald, a director of Pohutukawa Private Equity, and a former executive of Fletcher Challenge.

Other directors include Neil Craig, founder and chairman of Craigs Capital Partners – who has been a key supporter of the new fund – and Michael Smith, a director of Port of Tauranga and Quayside.

Once the fund is established, Mr Smith and Mr Craig will be replaced by representatives of the three largest LPs, and Mr Craig will move to the LP board.

Other LP director designates include Colin Groves, a former director of M&A for global packing giant Tetra Laval, Richard Hughes, a director of WNTVentures, as well as Mr McDonald and another GP to be determined.

The investment committee will consist of the executive team, plus Colin Groves, Neil Craig and Richard Hughes.

Also designated are Bob Major, who has significant executive experience with Fonterra, and Dallas Fisher, a shareholder/director of NDA Group.

One other committee member will also be appointed. The focus of the new fund will be very much on regional cornerstone investors focusing on regional New Zealand capital growth opportunities, with specific flow-on benefits from within the BOP-Waikato triangle.

“One of the really important features of the new fund is the network of people appointed and the LPs,” said Mr Beale.

First published on nzherald.co.nz on 15 June 2016

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WNT Ventures

WNT logo final

WNT Ventures is a technology focused incubator with a committed pool of capital in a fund structure, for investing into pre-seed, seed and start-up stage companies.  Based in Tauranga, New Zealand, we actively seek IP-rich technologies throughout the country from publically funded institutes and the private sector.  WNT is often actively involved in company formation and assisting companies in becoming investment ready including developing company strategy, initial IP protection and sourcing of management teams and Boards.

Together with our Limited Partners, we offer significant hands-on experience for investing into a range of technologies including but not limited to the Primary Sector – Agriculture, Horticulture and Food technologies, ICT, Engineering and Materials, Medical Technologies along with Robotics and High-Value Manufacturing.

Our collaborative approach we have with our investment partners means WNT Ventures has the ability to address complex IP opportunities from different perspectives.  We leverage our commercial backgrounds, risk-capital, domestic and international networks and our links within the NZ government via Callaghan Innovation, to provide early stage, high risk capital investment and incubation of technology, accelerating their growth in a targeted manner.

Visit their website

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Ubco charging ahead to meet target By David Porter

Ubco, the Bay of Plenty-based offroad electric bike manufacturer, is on track to meet its minimum $1.5 million target in second stage funding and is aiming for a maximum of $2.5 million.

As well, Timothy Allan, founder of Tauranga industrial design and development company Locus Research, which has worked closely with Ubco’s co-founders in developing the bike, has now taken on the role of chief executive. Mr Allan will be restructuring his role at Locus in order to commit to the bike company.

“Ubco has been through a thorough due diligence process with Enterprise Angels and the company has good support,” said Enterprise Angels executive director Bill Murphy.

Ubco pitched to EA in February. Firm commitments now sit at $1.22 million, said Mr Murphy, who added that EA member Deion Campbell was joining the Ubco board in his capacity as a private investor in the startup. Mr Campbell is general manager generation for Trustpower.
Ubco’s funding is expected to come from a mix of EA members, matching funding from the Seed Capital Investment Fund and the angel group’s sidecar fund, as well as other wealthy private investors and regional funds.

Mr Allan, who returned on Monday from a trip to China to commission Ubco’s second production line and liaise with suppliers, said he was confident the fundraising was building healthily towards the total.

“It’s looking pretty good,” he said. “I’m hoping we will hit our target of $2.5 million. We’ve got some other interested investors doing due diligence at the moment, and we’ve also got interest from a couple of offshore investors.”

Mr Allan said Ubco hoped to close its funding round this month.

The company has also recently concluded a partnership with Blackhawk Tracking Systems, which makes advanced GPS tracking systems. “This gives us a technology platform that relates directly to the bike’s communication,” he said, adding that Blackhawk chairman Keith Oliver would be also joining the Ubco board.

Ubco has now fulfilled its pre-orders and is ramping up production and building up its team. The company recently hired former BMW mechanic Gareth Hills to supervise production. Mr Allen said the company was now recruiting for leadership roles in product and technology, sales and marketing, and operations and logistics.

Co-founder Anthony Clyde, who also runs his own company importing electric bicycles, was likely to scale back a little to more of a director role in the next phase, said Mr Allan. Meanwhile the other co-founder Darryl Neal was expected to serve as a design director.

The next major long term project for the company would be developing a road legal version of the Ubco electric bike.

Locus founder to focus on electric bike firm
Timothy Allan will restructure his involvement with Locus Research, the design and
development company he founded more than a decade ago, to focus on his new role as chief executive of offroad electric bike company Ubco.

“I’m stepping back from my roles at Locus and that is being discussed at the moment with the various parties,” he said.

Locus Research, based out of the Newnham Technology Park in Te Puna, Tauranga, is a product development and innovation consultancy. It has become a key player in the Bay’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and has been deeply involved in the development of a number of first-to-market products, including the Inverse Hair Treatment System and the Balex Marine Automatic Boat Loader.

Founded by Mr Allan in 2002, Locus has increasingly been taking equity stakes in companies it has worked with, including Ubco. Mr Allan said he estimated he had been spending around half his time on the electric bike company in recent months.

“I think Ubco has wheels, no pun intended,” he said, adding that taking on the chief executive role offered a different opportunity for him.

Mr Allan said Locus was evolving and would probably seek outside investment for the first time in order to go after more opportunities where it could become deeply involved in startup companies, rather than just provide contracted services.

“We’ve been fairly stretched over the last six months with the level of support we’ve had to supply to all of the startup companies we’re involved with,” he said.

He envisaged the senior Locus team would be stepping up, and he would be adding a couple more staff. But he will continue to be involved in the company, particularly in terms of selecting companies where Locus will take an equity stake.

The Locus ownership structure would not be changing, and the team had been getting used to his changing role.

“But we will be putting in place an employee share options scheme to make sure the key people have a stake in the outcomes and successes. A lot of them have put a huge amount of time into the various companies,” he said.

Ubco:

* Co founders: Whakatane-based Antony Clyde and Wellington-based Darryl Neal.

* Design and development: The founders, together with Tauranga’s Locus Research.

* Manufacture and assembly: Core components are built in China and assembled in Tauranga.

First published on nzherald.co.nz on 4 May 2016

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Comvita announces Denyer in board position

NZX-listed Bay of Plenty honey and health products company Comvita has announced the appointment of Tauranga lawyer Murray Denyer to the board, effective April 1.

The Cooney Lees Morgan partner is well-known in the region’s investment community and serves with Comvita chairman Neil Craig on the board of early stage funding group Enterprise Angels.

Mr Craig, speaking from Hong Kong where the full Comvita board are currently on a trip to deepen their understanding of the China markets, said Mr Denyer’s qualifications included the fact he was local, his age and his commercially focused legal background.

“Having a legal brain around the board table is a good idea when we’re doing such a lot in the acquisitions space.”

Mr Denyer would be put up for re-election in October at the annual general meeting, when he will take over the role of chair of the Remuneration & HR Committee from Dr David Cullwick.
“Comvita has some quite progressive share schemes and we brought him on six months early so he could get his head around that with David,” said Mr Craig.

Mr Denyer began his career with the Ministry Foreign Affairs & Trade in 1993, then went into private practice and was eventually headhunted to join Zespri in Tauranga in 2003. He spent almost six years with Zespri, ending up as general counsel and board secretary.

In 2009 he came on board at Cooney Lees Morgan and was elected to the partnership in 2010. Mr Denyer also served on the board of Priority One for eight years.

Mr Denyer, who is also currently in Hong Kong, said he was really excited about his new role.

“It’s a local company that I’ve followed for a long time and it’s very much part of our local Bay economy. I’ve always been very passionate about export businesses and this is one. There’s a lot of things I’ve done over my career that give me the right skill-set to put my shoulder to the wheel and make some contributions there.”

First published on nzherald.co.nz on 5th April 2016

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FLNT’s ideas app named top startup

Eight teams took part in this month’s successful tech-focused Startup Weekend for entrepreneurs in Tauranga, with the winners FLNT already signing up beta testers during the 54-hour session.

More than 40 individuals took part, pitching their ideas, then forming into teams to develop their proposals. FLNT’s idea was for an app to revolutionise employee engagement and spark employee innovation. The support of the potential beta testers helped validate the potential value of the concept.

The judging panel was made up of Carl Jones, head of local innovation incubator WNT Ventures, Suse Reynolds of the Angel Association, Jodie Tipping from local firm Cucumber Media and Dr Simon McDonald from Rhondium, a Katikati-based innovator in the global dental products market. All the judges were glowing in their praise for this year’s pitches, with three teams narrowly finishing as joint runners up.

IMG_7866_w2074h1382

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Dr Simon McDonald (left), Carl Jones, Suse Reynolds, Jodie Tipping. Image: Claudia Silva)

Dr McDonald said it had been really difficult for the judges to decide on the winner.

“I thought it was fabulous event and the quality was very high,” he said.

“The FLNT app is an online suggestion box where anyone can suggest an idea, which would then transcend the multiple layers of management bureaucracy that often kill good ideas.”

FLNT team member Clayton Morgan said the original concept was for an app called “Tinder for Ideas” where each suggestion was voted on, much like someone on Tinder.

“A team was formed around this concept, made up of talented people with diverse backgrounds. FLNT then developed when we started our research and validating. We determined that applying this concept to businesses would engage employees and enable senior manages to tap into feedback and creative ideas from their workforce.”

Mr Morgan said the team had several organisations signed up to take part in testing FLNT.

“Going from idea to a full-formed business is thrilling and team FLNT is looking forward to working hard to create another successful Tauranga business.”

A high-calibre group of mentors supported all the teams throughout the weekend, which was being organised for the fourth year.

Held again at Basestation, the tech focused co-working space, Tauranga Startup Weekend was this year also part of the Global Startup Battle, with events running in more than 200 cities worldwide over the weekend.

Clever concepts

In addition to FLNT’s employee engagement app, the other pitches included:

* U! Get Off the Couch’s app to help parents get their kids out of the house

* Flapp’s system for connecting backpackers

* Be There Too’s easy live streaming solution for large family events

* Safe Out’s smart emergency evacuation system

* Happy Sprout’s kitchen garden starter kits

* Arrive Social’s carpooling app for students

* Tap’s social recruitment model, which rewards referrers and successful applicants

First published on nzherald.co.nz 25 Nov 2015

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Angel advice for Tauranga’s entrepreneurs

Making the most of the recent conference, we tour some of our rock star angel visitors around the country.

Leading American angel investor Bill Payne will be part of a panel at next week’s [email protected] event in Tauranga for aspiring entrepreneurs.

Organised by the Venture Centre as part of its buildup to next month’s Tauranga Start Up Weekend, the event aims to expose people embarking on start-ups to how angel investors think, said Venture Centre co-founder Jo Allum.

“We want to give entrepreneurs a good idea of all the different elements involved in the journey of building their start-up company,” she said. “Getting capital into the business is an important part of it and one of the ways of doing that is through angels.”

Ms Allum described the event as a “reverse” Dragon’s Den.

“Instead of entrepreneurs pitching ideas, they will be able to question the angel investors on how they can contribute to their business and what they require.”

Mr Payne sold his first company to Du Pont and for the last three decades has invested in more than 55 start-up companies. From 1995 to 2007 in his role as Entrepreneur-in-Residence with the Kauffman Foundation (Kansas City), he worked on educational programs for entrepreneurs and their investors.

In 2010 he concluded a five month stay in New Zealand at the BNZ University of Auckland Business School advising investors and entrepreneurs.

A frequent visitor to Tauranga, Mr Payne told NZME during an interview in 2013 he thought Kiwi deals and pitches had improved significantly. “There are all kinds of opportunities here,” he said. In addition to Mr Payne, this year’s panel will include investment adviser James Beale, lawyer John Gordon and power engineer Deion Campbell, who are all members of Tauranga’s Enterprise Angels, the country’s biggest start-up funding angel group. Since launching in 2008, Enterprise Angels has facilitated the investment of more than $14 million in more than 40 early stage and established businesses.

[email protected] is from 5.30 till 8.30pm on Wednesday, October 28, Tauranga Art Gallery.

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Small Business: Brand partnerships – Unovent

One of the most powerful things angels can do for a venture is provide commercial introductions. In this terrific story by Caitlin Sykes, John Wadsworth of Unovent provides a terrific example of this…

John Wadsworth is the inventor of home ventilation system Unovent, which launched on the market last year. Unovent has a brand partnership with Showerdome – a company that produces a moisture reduction product for bathrooms.

How did you first connect with Showerdome to form a brand partnership?

In August last year I decided I needed to get some serious investors on board for Unovent, so I did a presentation to the Enterprise Angels angel investment group in Tauranga.

From that experience I ended up connecting with Maurice O’Reilly and Dan Keller – people who I thought could make a big difference to the business, not only as shareholders but in terms of contributing their skills and experience to the development of the company.

Maurice was already a shareholder and director of Showerdome, and he could see we were chasing the same customers, so he and Dan came on as shareholders of Unovent, and Maurice also came on as a director.

Because we had this common shareholder and director, and we had this market link with Showerdome, it just made a lot of sense for us to listen very carefully to what Maurice had to say about how they had developed the Showerdome business, and to look at their business plan.
Showerdome is in the business of moisture reduction in the bathroom to reduce mould and other nasties, and we’re in the business of reducing moisture in the other living spaces like bedrooms, lounges and dining areas so the complementary nature of what we were doing was obvious.

What kinds of things do you do to work together?

The first is that at the bottom of certain pages of our website we’ve got the Showerdome logo, commentary about putting in a Showerdome and a link to the Showerdome website that opens in a new window. They also do the same on their website, and we know from Google Analytics that around 8 per cent of the people who look at our website have come there from clicking that Unovent link on Showerdome’s website.

Also, throughout the country Showerdome has a network of resellers and in some parts of the country they’ll also have a master distributor who the resellers in that area draw from. From time to time we get asked by those people if they could also represent Unovent. We’ve only made a small start on following those leads, but that’s another way we’re picking up on their network and brand.

And thirdly, we both have a DLE promotional brochure for our product, and Showerdome will put one of ours in with their goods when they send them off and we do the same.

Given your company is young it must be a benefit to leverage off a more established brand?

Exactly. They’ve been around for 11 years or so and they’re a proven success story. A big part of their success is due to the way they’ve made advertising and marketing of the product the engine of the business, and today it’s pretty much a household brand name.

I don’t think it’s any secret that every Showerdome year has been a record year, and in the short time we’ve been operating every month for us has pretty much been the same. We’d definitely like to copy their record. Like any business they will have made some mistakes in their early years in terms of how they’ve promoted the business for growth, and by aligning ourselves with them we’re gaining huge benefit from their learning.

What are some future opportunities you’re looking to explore in terms of brand partnerships?

Throughout the year both companies have been running prize giveaways in various publications, and recently for the first time we completed the draw of a large prize comprising an Unovent system and a Showerdome. That’s a combined activity that we should develop further.

Also, for every house to be effectively made comfortable and healthy, there needs to be effective heating, effective insulation, and effective ventilation plus a Showerdome to get rid of moisture. If you take away any one of those three elements the overall result isn’t as effective. So there is potentially the opportunity for us to do a range of things with organisations that work in those other areas as well.

First published on nzherald.co.nz 12 August 2015

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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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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

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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 clik.vc/nzangelaca15

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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

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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 nzherald.co.nz 12 February 2015

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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 nzherald.co.nz 12 February 2015

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