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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