OI – The Organic Initiative

Share Button

The feminine hygiene revolution in a box – better for your health, and better for your world.

Oi-logo

Most feminine hygiene products have environmental issues. They account for 0.5% of personal landfill usage, and contain plastics, chemicals and lots of artificial stuff. I’d like to think that the things we put in intimate places in our bodies are pure and natural, but that’s not the case for most tampons.

The Organic Initiative (OI) is changing that. They’ve come out with a line of Fair Trade, Organic, GMO-free, hypoallergenic tampons, pads, and panty liners. No chemicals, toxins, plastics, perfumes, dyes or synthetics, just pure organic biodegradable cotton.

Helen Robinson
Helen Robinson
Bridget Healy
Bridget Healy

Cofounder Bridget Healy is a health expert, herbalist and nutritionist, passionate about bringing healthy, sustainable products to the world. Alongside Bridget, Helen Robinson is a business powerhouse – she’s been the VP Australasia of Pivotal, the Managing Director of Microsoft NZ, started up, ran, and exited a carbon credit registry, and a director of NIWA. Currently, Helen is chair of Network for Learning, and on the boards of ATEED and a number of other companies. Helen describes her first meeting with Bridget in 2014 as “yin meeting yang”, the ideal union of complementary attributes, and in early 2015 The Organic Initiative was born. They had no trouble raising a small amount of friends and family investment, organised contract manufacturing in Europe, and they were away.

OI is essentially a brand play, and speed is critical. They’ve wasted no time at all and have executed with laser focus. Early 2015 was about securing distribution agreements, and in October they began their roll-out to every Pak ‘n’ Save and 4Square in the country with a finely branded product at a similar price to the old-school competition. Eight months later, from a standing start with no brand presence, they own 2% of the tampon and pad market in New Zealand, and are growing 30% month on month.

Helen says, “I’m excited, pumped, humbled, and scared stiff by the fantastic market reaction we’ve received. We’re on a roll, and speed is of the essence – you have a limited window of opportunity to create a brand, drive market, build scale and market share. You don’t want to be the person who says, ‘hey I thought of that, but didn’t act’.”

A key part of their success story is a great board. In addition to the two cofounders, the board comprises Dr Emma Parry (Next Magazine Woman of the Year in 2010, Gynecologist, now Chief Medical Officer of OI), Susan Peterson (ex General Counsel for ANZ bank, now on Wynyard, Trustpower, Vista Group boards), Tracey Grant (head of Risk for PWC NZ) and Sussan Turner (ex CEO of Mediaworks, pro-Chancellor of AUT, deep experience in tertiary education). How many startups do you know that have a six person, all-women all-star board? It goes further than that though – the 40-strong staff are all women too.

This team is running fast, and New Zealand is only the first stop. Although the bulk of their sales are through retail distribution, they’re selling a significant amount of their product through online direct sales in New Zealand and overseas. They’ve just organised their first distribution arrangements in China, and started shipping last month.

“Why on earth would you enter the Australian market, when for the same price, you can go anywhere in the world?”

When I asked Helen when they were going to launch in Australia, her answer was music to my ears, and reflected the advice I give many startups. She said, “Why on earth would you enter the Australian market, when for the same price, you can go anywhere in the world?” NZTE have been very helpful in getting OI into China, and the brand values are well aligned with New Zealand’s 100% Pure brand.

They’re also running lean. “Our biggest challenge is predicting and enabling growth, but not investing too much too quickly. We’re learning as much as we can as fast as we can, and trying to make our mistakes on a small scale so that we can enjoy success on a large scale. It’s a hard balance to strike but we’re achieving great results.”

Being a guy, I’m obviously not in OI’s direct target market. But the women in my life are keen on products that are ethically produced, healthy, and damage the environment less than the alternatives. Me too!

And being a guy won’t stop me from celebrating this great team’s success in taking a simple idea to the world with strong, quick, and purposeful execution. These gals are doing something difficult, and they’re doing it well.

You can buy the product online at www.oi4me.com – there’s even a subscription service, à la Dollar Shave Club – never get caught short again.

Share Button

Nine companies founded by women at Lightning Lab XX

Share Button

You’re invited to Demo Day for nine female-led startups

This week we’re featuring not one startup, but nine!

There’s no question that women are underrepresented in startups, and in the tech scene in general. This is despite the fact that in a recent study, First Round Capital found that companies with a female founder outperformed all-male founding teams by 63%.

New Zealand’s own Lightning Lab accelerator is doing their bit to support women entrepreneurs, and launched Lightning Lab XX earlier this year. On Demo Day, the teams will pitch to investors and you’re invited to come along and enjoy the presentations.

When: Thursday 16 June, 4pm
Where: Embassy Theatre, Kent Terrace, Wellington
Entry: Free, but RSVP is mandatory

Don’t miss out, RSVP now.
rsvp

Here are the teams, described in their own words:

NoticeMATCH

noticematch-logo

Jon Hall and Sue Skeet
Jon Hall and Sue Skeet

NoticeMatch helps any business ensure their customer’s final experience is achieved a timely and empathetic manner. We empower them by identifying deceased customers quickly, thus giving them the tool to undertake their legal, moral or ethical obligations and build great relationships with the surviving families.

CEO: Sue Skeet
CTO: Jon Hall

Geo AR Games

Geo AR Games

Mel Langlotz and Amy Wolken
Mel Langlotz and Amy Wolken

Geo AR Games get kids off the couch and active outside using Outdoor Mixed Reality technology. Mixed Reality combines digital content with a real-time video feed to create immersive experiences. By pairing this with Motion Gaming, kids explore digital content by walking and running. This solution encourages healthy relationships with technology by creating games that kids love.

CEO: Mel Langlotz
CTO: Amy Wolken

Liangma

liangma

Denny Zou and Steve Chin
Denny Zou and Steve Chin

Liangma allows quality-sensitive buyers to order fresh, free-range chicken for home delivery. The company connects free-range farms with inner-city buyers through a digital platform and logistics network. This creates an easy and reliable way for their Chengdu-based customers to buy the best poultry products. Liangma’s promise of 24h delivery fits perfectly with the Chinese culture of eating the freshest, highest quality produce.

CEO: Denny Zou
CSO: Steve Xin

Hive

hive

hive-team
John Huang, Jess Knipping, Steve Jasionowicz, Vanessa Wilson, Charlie Coppinger

Hive brings communities together by connecting people who need a hand with those who have the time and skills to help. At the heart of Hive is the idea that trust is valuable, and that communities can build trust. Using a mobile app, Hive facilitates finding and matching jobs, and processing payments. The app helps to build a trusted community by connecting locals to get work done.

CEO: Vanessa Wilson
CDO: Charlie Coppinger

Little Yellow Bird

lyb_transparent

Samantha Jones and Hannah Duder

Little Yellow Bird is a company that supplies businesses with more than just a uniform. LYB produces high quality workwear, through a completely transparent and ethical supply chain. They have a wide range of workwear such as custom business shirts to t-shirts, hoodies to aprons. This provides companies with an opportunity to turn their uniforms into marketing.

CEO: Samantha Jones
CSO: Hannah Duder

Sipreme

sipreme

Bri Jense van Rensburg and Dené Steyn

Sipreme is joyful future food – healthy, nutritionally complete, and super convenient. For busy people with cooler stuff to do than burn toast in the morning, this is it. It’s a fast, liquid meal that gives the adult body every nutrient it needs! The product iterates for each new batch, following their feedback. It’s the perfect, healthy solution for unromantic, functional meals.

CEO: Dené Steyn
VP Product: Bri Janse van Rensburg

 

Ama Balm

ama

Lucy Reutter and Jo Higgins
Lucy Reutter and Jo Higgins

Ama Balm is a natural balm used by adventurers to hydrate their weathered skin after being exposed to the elements. Launching only 8 months ago, Ama Balm is already featured in major surf, ski and adventure towns in NZ. The company aims to build a natural skin care range that serves the needs of adventurers across the globe.

CEO: Jo Higgins
VP Sales: Lucy Reutter

Music Ecademy

musicecademy

Jaroslav Novak and Helen Jones

Music Ecademy is a web application that teaches music theory and aural skills in a fun and engaging way through interactive lessons, quizzes, and games. The application helps to engage students while also saving teachers valuable time and resources. The curriculum is relevant for music schools and teachers in Australia, NZ and the UK.

CEO: Jaroslav Novak
Head of Product: Helen Jones

PatternSnap

patternsnap

Virginia Fay and Steven Dodd

Patternsnap is a digital library of Interior Design samples for Designers and Showrooms. It provides a beautiful, simple tool to search for products and create schemes. Patternsnap saves designers precious time, enabling access to a comprehensive database of unique samples. Currently available as an iOS app, Patternsnap is a virtual showroom in your pocket.

CEO: Virginia Fay
CTO: Steven Dodd

 

I’ll be there with bells on, and I hope you’ll come and join me too!

But don’t forget to RSVP.
rsvp

Disclosure: I’m a trustee of a trust that invested a small amount in the Lightning Lab XX Limited Partnership, which in turn invested in each of these startups at the beginning of the programme providing them with “ramen funding” for the duration of the programme. I have also provided weekly mentoring to NoticeMatch during the programme. And I’m on the Lightning Lab Advisory Board.

Share Button

ThunderMaps

Share Button

Making the world a safer place, one dangerous location at a time.

WATCH OUT, YOU’RE ABOUT TO STEP INTO A SINKHOLE!!

TM-Green-OriginalThere’s an app for that. It’s built in Wellington, it’s being used all over the world, and it’s called ThunderMaps.

ThunderMaps enables businesses and governments to crowdsource hazard locations, and then let employees and citizens know when they’re in danger in real time.

Employees and citizens can enter hazard data from a mobile app, which is then used to warn people, analyse trends, take corrective action where possible, and generally reduce risk and improve safety. Think “Waze for danger.”

They integrate with over 500 services including Google sheets, Zendesk, Salesforce, Slack. They also have facility to integrate open data sources such as weather, fire, police callouts, earthquakes, etc. Integration is also two way, so you can pull data from ThunderMaps into other systems.

ThunderMaps charges clients with a small monthly per-user charge, plus a one-time setup fee for large organisations that want to “show leadership” with their own branded app.

In New Zealand, health and safety is a big issue, especially with the introduction last month of regulations under the new Health and Safety Act. In the new post-Pike River regime, company officers and directors can end up in prison for not taking all practical measures to provide a safe workplace. It has been, and will continue to be on the board agendas of all of the NZ boards I’m on.

It’s not only a local issue – health and safety is a global concern. Globally, 6,300 people die per day, and 1m people per day are injured in work-related accidents. That’s shocking. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that 4% of global GDP is lost due to injury or death at work. That’s expensive. We investors often talk about “pain points” in a figurative sense, but this pain is very real.

Although the company has only been trading for 23 months, they already have 10m dangerous locations recorded in their database, and they’re gunning to make that 100m in the next year. They’ve gone from zero to 17 staff worldwide in that period, and currently have 200+ customers with over 8,000 users. Revenues are growing at about 20% month-on-month. They recently won a European Union tender for city wide implementations, and have made sales to three European cities so far. Other customers range from big organisations like Downer EDI Works, TBfree NZ, Gannet Offshore, World Wildlife Fund and the NZ Fire Service, right down to medium and small businesses that just need a simple way to make health and safety easy.

As an example, TBfree NZ is charged with eliminating bovine tuberculosis in New Zealand. Wandering around cattle farms can be a dangerous business – there are all sorts of hazards like terrain, chemicals, and dogs. The main source of TB is possums, and trapping possums is also dangerous. ThunderMaps helps reduce risk by documenting these hazards and automatically making the people at risk aware of them with location-based alerts. Being concerned for and looking after employees helps TBfree NZ attract and retain staff. Governments prefer to let out contracts to companies who take health and safety seriously, and so ThunderMaps makes it easier for its customers to win RFPs. Everybody wins.

Clint van Marrewijk
Chris Noldus

ThunderMaps is led by CEO Clint van Marrewijk, who was looking for the next big thing after completing his earnout period when Kiwibank bought Gareth Morgan Kiwisaver. I first met Clint at Startup Weekend Wellington in 2015, so I guess can say that I knew him before he was famous. He’s put together a stellar team, and has attracted top talent to his board including local heroes JD Trask and Victoria MacLennan. CTO Chris Noldus has an extensive track record in just about in more open source technologies than you can name in one breath, and was the guy who developed the iPredict prediction marketplace. They have offices in The Terrace in Wellington, London, and Gothenburg Sweden.

Ideas are great, but sometimes they get in the way. Given the choice between doing something cool and shipping product, shipping product will always win…

Why The Terrace and not Cuba Street? The team culture is very focused on getting stuff done. Clint says, “Ideas are great, but sometimes they get in the way. Given the choice between doing something cool and shipping product, shipping product will always win at ThunderMaps. We’re running a business that saves lives, not an agency.”

They’ve been mainly self-funded by their founders, and they’ve taken on a small chunk of angel investment. They’re working toward raising Series A late this year to fuel international growth.

We currently live in an era where for the first time, everything is becoming knowable. The facts that can save your life risk being drowned in an ocean of big data. ThunderMaps organises this critical knowledge into accessible, actionable, and auditable alerts. While we can’t completely eliminate risks – we’ll never be able to fence off every sinkhole – we can identify and mitigate those risks. ThunderMaps is one of those rare apps that might save your life, or the lives of one of your coworkers or family members some day.

Share Button

Ask Nicely

Share Button

Measure and manage customer happiness in real time.

asknicelyDo you really know how much your customers like your product or service? Really? If so, you’re probably measuring your Net Promoter Score (NPS), the global standard for measuring customer loyalty.

If you’re not familiar with it, NPS is the result of asking your customers a one-question survey: “On a scale of 0-10, how likely are you to recommend us to a friend?” Promoters are people who rate you 9 or 10. Passives are people who give you 7 or 8. Detractors are people who give you 6 or less. Simple equation: NPS = % Promoters – % Detractors. As a business, you want your NPS to be as high as possible. Apple recently scored 47, and Citibank -41. Smart companies employ NPS as a board-level metric.

Ask Nicely is the Auckland-based startup that is leading the world in measuring and managing NPS. They launched in December 2014, and are already taking the market by storm, with thousands of users in over 80 countries. They’re growing at 25% month-on-month, with over 90% of this growth coming from the US.

They are the classic well-focused startup – they do only one thing, but they do it extremely well. They can get you up and running and measuring and managing this critical metric in minutes. Their customer list is very diverse, including household names like Seagate, Rackspace, Xero, as well as an NBA franchise and the world’s largest network of phone-based psychics. It would appear that even psychics value independent assessments of customer satisfaction.

John Ballinger and Aaron Ward
John Ballinger and Aaron Ward

The idea for Ask Nicely was conceived in a late-night session in a Ponsonby cafe in April 2014 when co-founders Aaron Ward and John Ballinger decided to “do for surveys what Twitter did for blogging”. In true Lean Startup fashion, John built a rough prototype over the next couple of days, and they knew they had a viable business when 11 out of 12 companies they showed it to said they’d pay for the service. From idea to validated MVP in a fortnight – stunning.

For much of the next two years, the company operated out of John’s garage in Ponsonby. They are mindfully building an Exponential Organisation (XO), using external resources for as much as possible and focusing on the hard bits where they add the most value. And like an XO, they integrate with a wide range of products that exchange data with systems their customers are already using. Currently, these include Salesforce, Intercom, Slack, Klipfolio, Mailchimp, Mixpanel, Desk.com, Zendesk, Groove, Helpscout, Freshdesk, Shopify, Zapier, and Geckoboard, with a number of others in the pipeline. They see integrations as one of their key growth channels. The other main growth channels are pay-per-click advertising and content marketing. Aaron claims that their cost per acquisition is very low compared to the average customer lifetime value. Organic referrals also play a significant role.

The team has expanded to five people this year, with two sales people based in the US, and another dev in Auckland.

The users clearly love it. Ask Nicely has the highest satisfaction rating for its category on G2Crowd. Their main competitors, Satmetrix and Medallia, are enterprise solutions with price tags that can run into hundreds of thousands of dollars, while Ask Nicely starts at USD 49 per month. Given that they’re the only serious tool in their bracket, they’re on the way to owning this category.

Over the last two years, they’ve raised two small seed rounds from ICE Angels, AngelHQ, K1W1, NZVIF, and a few others. Last month, two years to the day after coming up with the idea, Aaron and John returned to the Ponsonby cafe for another late night session, this time plotting their Series A raise. They’re preparing to build out their team and accelerate US momentum. If you’re a member of an angel club, keep your eyes open for this opportunity when it comes round.

Ahead of the Series A, Ask Nicely are looking for a PHP dev to accelerate delivery of an ambitious product roadmap and architect the platform to perform at massive scale.

Aaron says the big goal is to tackle a meaningful global problem, helping businesses achieve better results by delivering great customer experiences, owning that category, and doing it from New Zealand.

You could say that with Ask Nicely, New Zealand is yet again helping to make the world a happier place.

 

Share Button

Job Well Done

Share Button

Making child’s play of household chores.

job-well-doneNobody likes doing household chores, especially kids. But a team from this year’s Startup Weekend Dunedin has figured out a way to make the allocation and completion of chores fun and rewarding for both kids and their parents, while at the same time bringing families together.

The game is played with physical cards, and works like this: at the beginning of each week, a family holds a game of Job Well Done. There are thee packs of cards: Tasks, Actions, and Rewards. The Tasks pack is pre-loaded with all of the chores that need to be done around the house – vacuuming, sweeping the decks, cleaning the kitchen, etc. Parents have to play too. At the end of the game, each family member has their list of chores that need to be done by the end of the week. Action cards let you do things like swap a task with another family member or receive a reward for a completed task. There’s one Butler Card in the pack which lets the player assign one of their tasks to another player, and they have to do it.

There are two types of rewards – family rewards (“go to the movies together”), and individual rewards (“have an ice cream”). But some of the rewards are actually booby prizes, such as “eat a new kind of vegetable that you’ve never had before”.

In their testing during the weekend, kids loved the game and got the idea immediately, and kids were even able to explain it to other adults.

As in other Startup Weekends, the team formed organically from three people who were all attracted by the idea of a game to motivate kids. It started out as a game to determine pocket money, but after the team got out of the building early on Saturday morning to validate the original idea, they quickly learned that a much bigger pain point for parents was getting kids to do household chores. They also learned from their interviews that any such game should meet these success criteria: consistency, clear expectations, small but meaningful rewards chosen by the child, and that the child should be able to wield some negotiating power. And so the game was born.

There’s a big potential market for this game – in their interviews of 85 parents, 68% of them said they had problems getting their kids to do chores. With 1.1m families in NZ, if the interviewees are a representative sample, that means there are over 750k families in NZ who might be attracted to buy this game. And with 52m families in the English-speaking world, the potential market size is over NZD 1.3b at a unit price of $25. The hard part, of course, is reaching them.

Anna Schmid
Anna Schmid
Ivan Mason
Ivan Mason
Hannah Sinclair
Hannah Sinclair

CEO Hannah Sinclair is an occupational therapist by trade, with an interest in motivation and behavioural change. She’s joined on the team by CMO Anna Schmid and Head of Game Design Ivan Mason.

Ivan has a blended family, and says that when faced with conflict over household chores, it can be easier to just disengage and do the chore yourself rather than being the bad guy and coercing kids to do their fair share. The trick, he says, is to have the game impose the rules, which puts everyone on the same footing. Hannah adds that while she doesn’t have any kids herself, she’s looking forward to using the game with her flatmates.

During the weekend, the team designed the game play, outsourced design of the game material to a UK-based designer who produced the goods overnight, printed the game materials for a few prototypes, and put together a Facebook page, a PledgeMe campaign, and a Shopify online store. The PledgeMe campaign has attracted more than $400 in less than 12 hours.

The next step is to get enough games out in the wild to test it properly and improve the game design. They’ll then know whether they are really onto something or not. They’re considering expansion packs, building in virality by adding trading card features, and partnering with organisations like supermarkets for distribution. They could seek investment, but this is a business that could bootstrap.

As for now, they’re immediately looking forward to getting some sleep after “running, running, running” non-stop over the weekend.

“Startup Weekend has restored my faith in humanity,” says Hannah, “I’ve never heard so many people in one place saying ‘I’m here to help'”.

There are lots of Startup Weekends coming up this year around the country.  Check out the Startup Weekend NZ web site for details if you’re interested in having a go yourself.

If you have kids and want to improve their participation in household work, do support the team and buy a the Job Well Done game on their PledgeMe page

I’ll leave you with their pitch deck from the Startup Weekend Dunedin Finale.

And that’s a job well done.

Share Button

ThisData

Share Button

Harden your security with two lines of code.

thisdata-logoThat’s right, add two lines of JavaScript onto your login form and you’ll be making your web site, and the world, a much safer place.

paypal-phish
It’s convincing, until you look at the From address, view headers, and mouseover the button to discover a bit.ly link

An astonishing proportion of the web server traffic from which you’ve just fetched the page you’re reading now is script kiddies attempting to break in through brute-force password attacks. An even bigger problem for high-volume transactional sites like Paypal and Kiwibank is phishing, where attackers email you and lure you into entering your login credentials into a bogus site. The obvious and common solution to this problem is mandatory two-factor authentication (2FA), but it makes for a clunky user experience and is laborious to implement.

Auckland-based ThisData lets site owners take a different approach: continuous authentication. Only ask people to validate their identity if and when there’s a reason to doubt they’re really who they say they are. So for example if I have a usage pattern of logging in from the same city, with the same IP address, on the same browser, using the same cookie set, and do the same again, there’s an extremely good chance I am who I claim to be. On the other hand, if I suddenly log in from a different continent using a different operating system, or through TOR, you might want to double or triple check my credentials.

All of this is done with the addition of two lines of JavaScript on your login form, which hides a sophisticated back-end analysing geolocation, behavioral analytics, and secret sauce IP. For app and site owners, implementation effort is trivial with enormous and immediate payback.

Pricing starts at $99/month for 500 users, and goes up in usage tiers. They’re considering introducing a free usage tier to get people going. But it’s early days, and they’re still refining the pricing model.

Rich Chetwynd

Founder Rich Chetwynd has run the full startup cycle before. After founding educational software company Litmos in his bedroom, building it into an international concern, and selling it to US-based Callidus Software four years later, he decided it was time for a well-deserved break.

“I got bored though,” he says, “I wanted to ride the rocket again”.

So Chetwynd started Revert.io, a cloud backup solution. But very quickly he recognised that backups are the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, and the much bigger and less well served opportunity was to prevent break-in and data loss in the first place.

Nick Malcolm
Nick Malcolm

He pulled in CTO Nick Malcolm, one of NZ’s top Rails devs (and erstwhile cofounder of 2011 Startup Weekend Wellington legend usnap.us), and the dream team was born. You’d have to call the change from Revert.io to ThisData more of a reboot than a pivot, but it was a definitely the right move.

Chetwynd’s rocket is about to reach orbit. After the reboot in February 2015, they went on to raise $1.2m from a number of local and offshore angels alongside the Punakaiki fund, did a zoom-out pivot from working specifically with Google apps and Salesforce in February of 2016 to bringing this intelligence to any app. They’re now monitoring over 10,000 end users for a variety of customer types, and are about to onboard another 50,000 for their first big enterprise. They’re architected for scale on AWS, and ready to go much, much bigger.

As great as it sounds, they’re not at the stage yet where the solution sells itself. Building your customer base and distribution is always hard work, especially from New Zealand. Chetwynd spends roughly half his time in the US, and the rest of the time running the team from GridAKL.

Their overarching mission is to make the Internet a safer place for everyone. There are hundreds of thousands of insecure apps and sites in the wild. Chetwynd’s asks app and site owners to ask yourselves, how valuable is the data is your app or site protecting, and how adequately are your users protected?

Ask yourselves: how valuable is the data your app or site is protecting, and how adequately are your users protected?

If you’re a dev and want to give ThisData a spin, check out their easy-to-follow documentation, and then give it a go. You won’t regret the hour or so it will take you to implement.

If you’re the owner or investor in a transactional app or web site and your team is not protecting your company against attacks using a solution like ThisData, I’d want to know why.

The bottom line is that you can put on a sad face if you’re a script kiddie or spear phisher, but the rest of us will sleep easier at night.

Legendary seed investor and SoftechVC founder Jeff Clavier looks for companies to invest in that have “three asses”: A smart-ass team with a kick-ass solution in a big-ass market. ThisData are on a steep trajectory, with an all-star team with a simple-to-implement but difficult-to-replicate solution to a highly painful problem in a massive market.

Watch out universe, here comes Rich Chetwynd riding the ThisData rocket.

Share Button