One metric to rule them all for the TV industry.
How’s this for a business model: attract the top talent in a tough industry, and solve their most pressing problem. That’s exactly what Parrot Analytics is doing, and although it’s early days, so far they’re onto a winner.
The problem they’re solving is measuring the demand for TV content across the current highly fragmented landscape. Their solution enables producers and distributors to measure the performance of their content across geographical markets, and also to compare specific programmes against their competitors within a market – across all channels, traditional, streaming, even offline. Content buyers can use this information to ensure that they’re getting the best bang for the buck. Their mission is to help TV executives make better content decisions, and to better connect content creatives to consumers.
This problem is a hard one. In the olden days before the Internet, Nielsen had set-top boxes which recorded all of a viewer’s activity, but it isn’t so simple any more. You might watch a programme on live TV, then switch over to Netflix or Lightbox, Google Play, Amazon Video, Hulu, and even God forbid torrent an episode that you’re geoblocked out of. Parrot’s solution very cleverly doesn’t care how you’re consuming the content – it’s more concerned with how much buzz it’s generating in various online platforms, which turns out to be a much better and accurate measure of the demand for content.
Their system uses artificial intelligence, natural language processing, and machine learning techniques to evaluate public reaction to each piece of content, and all of this complexity is reduced to a single number to rate the value of the content: the Demand Rating™ – one metric to rule them all.
Co-founded by Wared Seger and Chris Riddell, the Parrot Analytics team is a mashup of the creme-de-la-creme of NZ’s top business, data, and science people, and funded by investors across New Zealand, Australia, and the US.
The Exec Team also includes CTO Jason Hunter, VP Product Arturas Vedrickas, and Ops Manager Dil Khosa.
One of their big customers is the BBC, for whom they were able to help uncover untapped opportunities for Dr Who in South Korea [see The Economist’s case study]. Nobody had predicted that, and the good doctor has turned out to be a big hit south of the DMZ.
Parrot Analytics has plans to apply the same technology across the entertainment vertical, as it works equally well for movies, music, ebooks, and games – but the biggest pain market pain and opportunity right now is in TV.
Parrot Analytics established an office in Los Angeles last year. There’s a small but growing cohort of Kiwi tech companies there, including 8i, The Appreciation Engine, Vista Entertainment, and recently high-profile Rocket Lab.
They’ve grown from six to 15 FTE over the last year, and raised both a seed round and a “pre-series-A” round, both among the largest that have ever been raised in NZ. They’re likely to raise another larger round in 2016.
Parrot Analytics are hiring right now, so if you know anyone interested in being a Software Engineer Intern or Chief Data Scientist, do let them know.
Patient charts in the cloud.
What did you do over the weekend? Jack Newberry took a serious problem that’s been irritating him for a long time, found a team, banged up a prototype, and built a business around the solution in 54 hours. Out of Startup Weekend, Uncharted was born.
Jack is a Surgical Registrar at Capital Coast District Health Board (Wellington Hospital), and deals with critically ill patients in their many manifestations on a daily basis. His frustration? Those clipboards that hang at the end of every hospital bed, with bits of dead trees scrawled with illegible notes clipped together in a way makes them difficult to quickly analyse.
Patient charts have not changed much in the last 50 years. The problems are institutional inertia, overworked IT departments who struggle to maintain the status quo, and vendors providing walled gardens which are difficult to integrate with.
Uncharted is a solution that allows doctors and nurses to quickly record key patient data electronically into a cloud-based database via tablets, and then perform instant analysis on these data to determine if the patient needs immediate attention. A key benefit is that no integration with existing hospital IT systems is required – hospitals can implement Uncharted quickly, and start seeing immediate benefits.
Jack pitched his idea to the participants at Wellington Startup Weekend HEALTH, and attracted a great team, including Rabid Tech’s Breccan McLeod-Lundy, Snapper’s Charlie Gavey, surgeon Saxon Connor, Nick Comer, and devs Jon Waghorn, Eugene Rakhimov, and Jack Ewing.
Startup Weekends start on a Friday evening with entrepreneurs like Jack pitching to each other, then organically forming teams, validating customers and markets, designing and building the solution. The event finishes on Sunday evening with pitching to a panel of judges. Mentors and coaches support the teams right the way through. At the event Jack and his team participated in, four of the 11 teams had paying customers on board by the end of the event.
Uncharted has already received interest from a number of hospitals. Jack’s main gripe with medical software is that it’s so difficult to use. He says it seems that usability is often the bottom priority, and it felt great to put an app together over a weekend that solved an important problem, looked smart, and was easy to use.
Uncharted’s priorities now are to build their team, get customers on board here in New Zealand, and immediately start considering the opportunities in much larger overseas markets. Most New Zealand doctors have spent time overseas, and the charting problem is a worldwide issue. Jack’s overseas market entry plan is to use the network of doctors in New Zealand to get into overseas hospitals with this great solution that does one thing really well. We all know there will be more to it than that, but it’s a good start.
There is competition, notably in a product called PatienTrack, but there is plenty of room for more players. Uncharted’s differentiation is simplicity and usability.
The bottom line is a bit scary: 1% of surgical procedures end in preventable death, known as “failure to rescue”. Uncharted aims to reduce that by providing centralised early detection for patients that are showing signs of trouble. And after all, life is priceless.
If you’d like to find out more about Uncharted, contact Jack directly.
Startup Weekends are held all over the country, from Whangarei to Invercargill, and staffed by volunteers like me. If you’d like to get involved in an event, head over to startupweekend.co.nz and check it out.
Disrupting tertiary education from the inside.
In a leafy corner of Lower Hutt along the quiet Waiwhetū stream, something remarkable is happening. This is the home of the Open Polytechnic, one of New Zealand’s largest tertiary educational institutions as measured by the number of students enrolled at any given time. Open Polytechnic specialise in Open, Distance, and Flexible Learning, and have been doing so since they were established after the Second World War to provide distance vocational education to returned servicepeople.
Open Polytechnic have just launched their iQualify platform, which enables courseware designers to author compelling online interactive educational content with author-centric tools designed with usability in mind, and deliver personalised learning experiences that are tailored to specific user needs. They’re using iQualify to replace a large inventory of ageing Moodle content with modern, interactive, personalised courses.
Open Polytechnic needed a much better courseware authoring and delivery system for themselves, but they’re pitching iQualify as a cloud-based solution for the whole indstry, in New Zealand and around the world. The problem of uncompelling, difficult to maintain content is acute at a time when many traditional tertiary educational institutions are looking to take their courses online. Open Polytechnic wants to build iQualify into a platform that any organisation can use to develop and deliver their own courseware, or tailor courseware developed by others for their own purposes.
One big difference between iQualify and other solutions is their basic educational philosophy. Open Polytechnic are strong believers in the “blended model”, where students do all of their learning through a screen, but have real-time help and interaction with live people who coach them and support their learning journeys. This is an efficient and effective happy medium between face-to-face learning and MOOCs. Face-to-face learning doesn’t scale well, and doesn’t suit many learners’ life situations. MOOCs on the other hand suffer from very low completion rates due to learner disengagement and lack of personal touch – they’re great for very self-motivated learners and information snackers, but don’t suit the vast majority of distance learners. One of iQualify’s key features is a Facilitator Dashboard which makes it easy for a course instructor to keep tabs on their individual students, and intervene where it will increase the learner’s chances of success.
Tony Grantham is Open Polytechnic’s Executive Director – Commercial, and is charged with selling the platform worldwide. And less than six months since launch, they’re already achieving good traction in New Zealand with early customers signing up, and several large educational institutions in Australia currently evaluating the platform. It’s early days, but with inquiries are being fielded from Asia as well. iQualify is attracting significant interest, and revenues are on track to reach seven figures in calendar 2016.
Open Polytechnic’s CEO Dr Caroline Seelig is effectively running a platform pivot on a large chunk of her organisation. That’s a bold move, but the reward will be improving Open Polytechnic’s competitiveness locally in New Zealand against the tide of global education providers, and will also provide a boost to the NZ tertiary sector, enabling other NZ tertiaries to avoid investing huge amounts of capital in multiple solutions that provide similar functionality, and focus on their core business where they provide the most value – quality personalised educational experiences backed by excellent content.
If you doubted the public sector’s ability to innovate, or a large (by NZ standards) organisation’s appetite to overcome the innovator’s dilemma and act like a startup, think again. The Open Polytechnic is raising the bar for how public organisations can become part of the networked economy, leveraging their existing core skill base with new technology, and enable the delivery of far more public good by becoming platforms.
Disclaimer: I am a member of the Open Polytechnic Council, but the views in this post are entirely my own.
Clean, green beehive hardware.
There’s a dirty secret in the beekeeping industry. Standard wood-and-wax hive frames don’t work for mānuka honey because they aren’t strong enough to handle the honey’s thixotropic nature, so commercial apiarists use plastic frames instead. Plastic frames come in one piece, whereas wooden hardware requires assembly, which is time consuming, especially for large operations. One small problem though – if your hives are affected by American Foulbrood (AFB) – that’s about 1,800 hives every year in New Zealand – you have no choice but to dig a hole and burn your hives along with all the infected bees. Oh dear, burning plastic is not only dirty, noxious, and carbon-rich, it’s carcinogenic – that’s not very consistent with NZ’s clean, green brand.
Ebee makes frames out of ecologically sustainable compressed plant fibre using a trade secret material mix. It’s food grade, toxin free, moulded in a single piece, biodegrades just like wood, and burns cleanly. And it’s available for about the same price as its evil plastic counterpart. Ebee frames also have the advantage over plastic of better thermal stability – they don’t get as hot in the summer or cold in the winter, and retain their shape better.
Ebee’s market isn’t limited to mānuka though, as other honeys display similar thixotropic properties, such as other members of the Leptospermum family and heather. Worldwide, there is a significant requirement for these strong frames, and at the right price point, general apiarists would prefer these frames over wood or plastic for general use.
This company began life at Massey University Wellington’s Spring programme, which supports entrepreneurial design students to commercialise their ideas. Founder and designer Jess Rolinson-Purchase, a passionate beekeeper, was concerned about the inherent contradiction of producing a green product using dirty means. She was joined by business development specialist Rob Smith and Spring Programme Manager Olly Townend as cofounders.
The trio were selected for entry into the Lightning Lab Manufacturing accelerator, currently running in Lower Hutt, and have been using the time in the lab to perfect their prototype and start to close commercial deals with customers. They have significant interest from some of NZ’s largest commercial beekeepers, and are raising money on Demo Day close their first deals domestically and begin international market exploration.
Lightning Lab Manufacturing Demo Day is on 19 November. If you don’t have a ticket, it’s easy to register, and you can come and see Ebee and six other nascent startups who make actual things for the real economy strut their stuff.
Migrate your data, from anything to anywhere.
Businesses of any size have mission critical data sets that reside in a variety of systems on different platforms. If you want these systems to use each other’s data, or when you want to migrate data from one platform to another, you have a headache proportional to the size of the data set times the number of formats involved. How do you get from Excel on Windows to Postgres on Linux? Or from DB2 on your old mainframe to SQL Server running in the Azure cloud? Will the date formats translate correctly? Eight Wire‘s Conductor product makes this easy and reliable.
Founders Jason Gleason and Nigel Thomas are solving a problem that’s been driving them nuts for over a decade – transporting data from one system to another is a lot harder than it should be. Eight Wire makes it easy, and supports most industry-standard SQL databases including Oracle, SQL Server, PostgreSQL, MySQL, as well as AWS, Azure, Salesforce, MongoDB, CouchDB and others, and anything that can be accessed via an ODBC driver. Oh, and that persistent and omnipresent Excel – believe me, you don’t want to know how much mission critical data is stored in Excel and even worse, CSV files.
Migrating data sounds like it should be simple. But the devil is in the detail, particularly in dealing with each system’s nuances around how data is formatted. I know this because I have suffered a world of pain myself when trying to implement my own point solutions – looking back, I wish I had Eight Wire around many times during those moments (which often turned into days or weeks) when I had to wrangle data between systems during my career as a dev.
Jason claims that for one implementation, they were able to do a data migration in four hours for which another supplier had quoted four to six weeks. He also says that their data feeds are “self healing” – most format and translation errors are fixed in flight.
Eight Wire’s revenue model is simple – it’s based on the number of rows of data moved through their system. The price per row drops with volume.
Eight Wire have an impressive client list in New Zealand including Resene Paints and Tuatara Brewery, and are making inroads overseas. The have established distribution relationships with five New Zealand service partners, and have partners in Australia, the UK, and the US. They also run a direct channel using content marketing and SEO which is working well and provides good returns for effort and cost expended. But they see the biggest potential rewards from expanding their existing technology partnerships with IBM, Microsoft, and Amazon. This is really impressive for a two-year old company with seven employees.
They have a strong board, led by the unstoppable Serge van Dam along with Green Button alumni Darryl Lundy and Mark Canepa. These guys between them know marketing, data, finance, infrastructure, the US market, and capital raising inside out. And most importantly for investors, how to build strategic value and exit.
Eight Wire are just completing a capital raise through AngelHQ, and are also looking for a technical pre-sales and support person.