Managing Internet access at schools is a very hard job. On the one hand, you don’t want students accessing inappropriate content, or spending their time and the school’s bandwidth frivolously. On the other hand, you don’t want to restrict their learning opportunities, for example by blocking information on breast cancer, and you also want to teach students how to think critically about their own activity so that when they leave the protective environment of the school, they’ll have the skills to keep themselves out of harm’s way. You’d want such a service to be easy to use, administrated centrally, give teachers some discretion about what is or isn’t allowed, run on just about any hardware, integrate with Google Apps For Education, be really cost effective, and most importantly, help students learn from their choices.
That’s Linewize. The product is a cloud-managed firewall which doesn’t merely block all content that’s nominally off-topic, but rather gives both teacher and student visibility over the student’s allocation of time and attention so that the student can learn to behave responsibly with guidance. Rather than just creating content barriers that can inevitably be broken or bypassed, this product teaches kids how to evaluate and be accountable for their choices – a far better paradigm for creating critically thinking decision makers and content creators of the future. As a strong proponent of an Open and Uncapturable Internet, I believe the experiential education aspect of this product is a philosophical watershed.
Linewize is currently deployed in over 100 schools in New Zealand ranging from 70 to 2,800 students, and have customers in over 30 countries, growing at roughly 20% per month.
Their revenue model in education is simple: schools are charged ~50c per student per month with volume discounts. Sales are conducted mainly through channel partners, who are attracted by configuration setup and maintenance and the ability to cross-sell higher value services. There are some direct sales as well, as a result of schools downloading their open source firewall and then wanting to plug into the managed service.
They have a variety of other higher value managed network access services for business and government, using Managed Service Providers (MSPs) as a channel. One interesting use case for businesses is creating visibility of how employees are spending their time online. Early next year, they’ll be releasing a retail consumer product that allows parents to monitor and control their kids’ wifi usage. This is becoming a significant issue, as kids bring home their BYOD devices from school into a domestic environment that’s a lot less safe than schools.
Linewize brings together four things that I love: Open Source (their basic firewall, Open Edgewise, is GPL), experiential education, cloud-based managed services, and a highly scaleable global business model.
Cloud managed networking is rapidly becoming a big thing – look no further than the rise of SDN and Google Fi for examples of how these kinds of technologies are radically changing the way we think about network management. Linewize isn’t on the bleeding edge, but it’s well ahead of the curve. The resulting benefits are lower cost, lower reliance on specialist knowledge within organisations, and greater resilience.
Cofounders Scott Noakes and Michael Lawson are a strong team, and have been working together for the last six years. Before Linewize, they took Adscale Labs from startup to major trade sale, serving 300 million ads per day mainly in Germany along the way.
Scott says that things are about to take off in a big way, as they will soon announce an OEM distribution agreement with a major international player that will dramatically increase their footprint overseas, and particularly in the US market.
Linewize has been bootstrapped and funded by the founders, and has just hit break-even. They’re planning to raise capital in the first half of 2016 to fuel international expansion.
They’re also on the lookout for a customer facing network support engineer, so please contact them directly if you know anyone who might be interested.
Enterprise innovation management. Have you ever worked in a large organisation? Then you know how stifling institutional inertia can be to the very creative ideas that will push the organisation forward. HunchBuzz is like an Internet-enabled suggestion box on steroids that enables organisations to use the wisdom of the crowd to create ideas, filter them, and then execute on them to produce great results.
Founder Steve Graham started HunchBuzz in 2012 after becoming frustrated with the lack of tools to assist with his consulting work around enterprise ideas management. He brought in cofounder Thomas Mitchell to build the product, and the two have been inseparable as a team ever since.
Improving creative collaboration within large organisations is a big issue worldwide. Mitchell says that their product enables organisations to capture a broad perspective of ideas from their employees and stakeholders, but more importantly follow them up, encourage them to be nurtured, and track their progress, to ensure that the initial spark of brilliance is not lost in the enthusiasm of the moment. Perhaps more importantly, Hunchbuzz makes room for and fosters a culture of openness and creativity in an organisation, which unleashes untold latent value.
They’re starting to really gain industry recognition. Gartner Research recently selected HunchBuzz as one of their three global “cool vendors in government 2015“.
While HunchBuzz have landed several large customers in New Zealand, their sights are now set on the massive overseas opportunity. They currently have over 14,000 users on the platform, in hundreds of communities. They include some seriously large paying customers like EcoLab, The City of London, the NZ Ministry of Primary Industries, and Callaghan Innovation.
They seem to have struck a real chord with regional governments because of the relative ease of deploying a SaaS solution as well as the need to innovate and do more with fewer resources.
HunchBuzz are about to embark on a capital raise to fund their global expansion aspirations with a big sales push into Europe and the establishment of regional distribution in London. They’re also developing some interesting IP, including advanced natural language processing technology to automatically group and rank ideas based upon interactions and individual customer metrics.
Or, Star Trek comes to the farm gate. A boost to dairy income. Reducing unnecessary culling of bobby calves. No matter how you look at it, Engender Technologies is very cool.
Here’s the problem. When dairy cows are inseminated with unprocessed semen, they produce roughly half and half males and females. Heifer (female) calves can fetch twice as much as bobby (male) calves on the market, in fact many bobby calves are culled from the herd.
Engender uses laser photonics to detect the mass difference between X and Y chromosomes, and sorts bull semen into male and female sperm. The sorted sperm is then used to inseminate cows to produce a much higher proportion of heifer calves, resulting in higher value for dairy farmers, and providing the ability to breed only from the top half of their herd with the highest breeding worth for dairy replacements. This should enhance the rate of genetic gain of a herd.
Engender Technologies began when rockstar scientist Dr Cather Simpson, the Director of Auckland University’s Photon Factory, learned that being able to select the sex of calves was one of the five biggest problems facing the dairy industry. She worked with Brent Ogilvie‘s team at Pacific Channel to begin development a lab prototype sorter, the business end of which lives mostly on a single chip. Early results are promising.
The global market for sorting dairy semen is estimated at over USD 1.5B, and although there is one competitor, it is much less effective and more expensive than the Engender solution. The team is talking to major players worldwide, and has significant interest.
They’re currently raising an angel round to conduct IVF and field trials, and develop a commercial prototype.
I’d love to see more startups in New Zealand based on hard science that builds on our core economic competencies. Kiwis are good generalists, but we could be much better at capitalising on areas where we have very specialist skills. We have one of the strongest dairy industries in the world, and it’s great to see people like Cather and Brent taking the bull by the horns (and other anatomical regions), and commercialising our top-of-class science and technology prowess with our world-beating agricultural capability.
Physiotherapy as a game Swibo takes the drudgery of physiotherapy and turns it into a fun, competitive game. The game itself, Tilt, runs on an Android phone, which is placed onto a balance board; the phone is connected wirelessly to a computer and monitor where the player can view the action. The player plays the game by using the balance board to do their prescribed physiotherapy exercises, which are cleverly disguised as a game. While they play, Tilt measures performance and balance, collecting data that can be used to track improvement, identify strengths, weaknesses, and patterns in a player’s balance to tailor player training schemes.
Tilt has been tested with the New Zealand Artificial Limb service for use with amputees. This is a large and growing market, with amputations due to diabetes growing rapidly. Tilt is also a useful game for injury prevention and sport training. This is also a large market – over $1B was spent in 2014 on out-of-commission professional athletes, and Swibo have signed up a high-profile Wellington sporting franchise as an early customer.
Cofounder and CEO Ben Dunn leads a team of five, including two devs, a designer, and a UX specialist. They’re young, lean, and ready to take on the world from Wellington. Ben is a dual US and NZ citizen, and wants to lead the charge into the US market, whilst basing the research, development, and operations in Wellington.
SWIBO started life in the Victoria Entrepreneur Bootcamp, which was jointly run by CreativeHQ‘s and VicLink, and they’re currently raising a seed round.