Would you like to earn free minutes and/or megabytes on your mobile data plan? Postr powers telco-branded white-label Android apps that show you tailored adverts on your mobile phone’s lockscreen, and reward you with free megabytes and minutes.
It’s a simple concept that’s had great uptake with Skinny in New Zealand – after less than a year out of the blocks with Skinny, they already have over 40,000 users across Skinny and their original B2C app Postr. They’re planning on launching with another major telco in NZ this year.
But the exciting action is overseas, and they’ve launched with “a telco” in Australia earlier this year (five seconds of Internet search revealed that the telco is Optus), and are preparing to launch in the Philippines and Indonesia in the next few months.
27 year old CEO Milan Reinartz arrived in New Zealand from Munich on a high school student exchange programme, and never left. While he was at design school, he started making money buying and selling cars, and generally trading. When he got his first job as a designer at Saatchi & Saatchi Wellington at age 20, he found he was making less money than he had the previous year as a trader. He decided it was more rewarding – mentally as well as financially – to work for himself as an entrepreneur.
He got involved in the startup scene through Alan Hucks at CreativeHQ, and did some design work for Yonix, Dash Tickets, and went through Lightning Lab 2013 with the Promoki team. Dash Tickets was acquired, and Promoki failed. You could say that Milan did his startup apprenticeship in this way.
One day in 2014 Milan got a txt from a friend in Germany who pointed him to Locket.com, a company doing opt-in adverts on lockscreens (since acquired by wish.com) and said, hey this is a great idea, and you could do a much better job with it. Whereas Locket had been focused on gaming and retail, Milan thought that this would be much more valuable to Top 200 brand companies and more suitable to personalisation. So he launched Postr, their initial B2C platform in early 2014. There was a problem though – customer acquisition cost was just too high compared to the value that the end user was receiving. So they pivoted Postr into a B2E2C model, partnering with mobile networks to help them differentiate and white labelled the app.
Given their traction in NZ, Australia, and Southeast Asia, they’re currently on a steep growth curve. Southeast Asia is particularly attractive due to the high Android market penetration there, and vibrant and growing mobile advertising market. Nowadays, Milan spends two weeks on the road in Asia with COO Roger Shakes, alternating with two weeks in NZ working in deals here and minding the shop with CTO and co-founder Mark Penman.
This isn’t only a speed-to-market play, it’s a be-the-f@#%!ing-best-out-there play
“This isn’t only a speed-to-market play, it’s a be-the-f@#%!ng-best-out-there play because it’s such a new space” says Milan. And the stats back up that they’re well on the way. They’re getting average revenue per user (ARPU) of over $2/month/user which is much less than their acquisition cost through the telco channel. Now it’s mainly a question of scaling.
And to that end, they’re raising a $2-3m series A, which has been mostly filled by existing investors plus new investors from Southeast Asia. Milan touts, “there’s still room in the round for additional investors, but you’d better get in quick!” Love it.
Their challenges going forward? “Setting up a truly international operation, within the ‘wild west’ environment of mobile advertising, the slow sales cycles, working with big organisations like telcos and the lack of talent and expertise in NZ around mobile ad-tech.”
The important thing is not to let your mind get bogged down, to keep going, be persistent, keep learning, and not give up for the wrong reasons.
I asked Milan what was the most important thing he’s learned in the last couple of years, and he said, “I think it’s a bit like walking a tightrope in the early stages and you often don’t know what’s going to work before you try. The important thing is not to let your mind get bogged down, to keep going, be persistent, keep learning, and not give up for the wrong reasons.”
It’s a tough job being a veterinarian. You can’t really communicate directly with your patients, and their owners are notoriously unreliable in the way they report their pet’s behaviour. Wouldn’t it be great if you could remotely collect data on your patients which showed how much time they spent running around, where they’ve been, when they’ve been resting, scratching, whether they’re eating too much or to little?
Well now you can, with Heyrex, the Wellington developed “Fitbit for pets” that’s exploding onto the world stage.
The Heyrex story begins with big-hearted scientist David Gibson who loved animals, and saw huge inefficiencies with the way animal health treatments were delivered. He believed that using technology it should be possible to detect changes in behaviour which were indicative of health problems a long time before symptoms appeared. With early behavioural detection, animals could avoid unnecessary pain and discomfort, and owners could avoid expensive remedial treatments after the problems had become acute.
By 2011 Gibson had developed a working prototype of Heyrex, based on dongle technology with a monitor station that looked like it came straight out of a 1950’s sci-fi film. But later that year, Gibson passed away from a heart attack.
Current CEO Nathan Lawrence was an early investor at that time, and was helping Gibson out with commercialisation strategy. The Board asked Lawrence to become CEO, and take the company forward. The new team took the concept, stripped it right back, rebuilt it based on 2.4Gb wireless technology with the back-end in the cloud, and started shopping the solution in the US and UK. The Company also did a customer segment pivot – aiming the new HeyrexVet monitoring service at vets rather than pet owners, as vets have existing relationships with pet owners, and the data and analytics are much more valuable to them.
Vets prescribe HeyrexVet monitoring as part of their treatment programmes, as it saves time and enables measuring effectiveness and adjusting treatments. There are several treatment programme modules which can be switched on in the cloud for specific treatment of animals. One such module is cage rest, which is critical to monitor for postoperative recovery. The vet places the wearable on the animal, and data starts flowing in showing how much time the animal is spending in the cage, in easy exercise, or running around. The vet gets an alert if the animal exceeds activity parameters.
Another module is weight management – a surprising 52% of dogs in the US are obese. When a vet puts an animal on a weight management program, the vet uses HeyrexVet to set a diet and exercise regime, using its database of over 4,000 pet foods and its ability to measure the amount of energy the animal is expending. HeyrexVet forecasts the rate at which the animal will gain or lose weight and measures against actual weigh-in data. If the animal isn’t getting enough exercise, Heyrex sends a message to the owner telling them it’s time to go out and exercise.
There are also modules to measure sleep disturbance, scratching relating to allergic reactions or dermatitis. A new heartworm recovery module will save lots of lives – if the nine month heartworm recovery programme is not strictly adhered to, the animal can die.
Research universities love this product – Heyrex currently supports projects in several US states, as well as Massey University closer to home. Most of these universities are using Heyrex to measure the efficacy of new treatment programmes. The University of New South Wales has used Heyrex to monitor tigers in zoos.
Heyrex currently have thousands of units out in the field, mainly in the US. For research clients, they charge $149.95 for the hardware, plus a monthly monitoring fee. For vets, they’re moving to a fixed monthly price based on a set number of units and services, which the vets can on-charge as they like. That’s Fitbit-for-pets-as-a-service. Over the last 12 months, their revenue growth has averaged 50% month-on-month.
The system is designed to provide a healthy return on investment for vets, with additional revenue streams available through product ordering. This helps vets defend their more traditional revenue sources that have been eroded by online pharmacies and bulk stores.
The Veterinary Services industry is significant. In the US alone, there are roughly 75m dogs and a similar number of cats, resulting in annual industry revenues of over USD 58B and growth at 6% per annum.
Currently, the team is small and tight. Along with Nathan, CTO Mark Solly manages the technology side of things while Sales Manager Kim Goldsworthy is leading the charge into North America. They also have four devs, a CFO and an accounts and admin person based in Kārori, but they’re looking to go hard on the USA this year.
They’ve just completed a raise of NZD 816K on Snowball Effect a few months ago, but they’re looking to score another 3m or so with significant input from strategics to fuel international expansion. It’s a hot industry – another player in the animal wearables space with revenues of less than 5m was recently acquired for 117m. The acquirer saw strategic value in the data.
Google’s former CEO Eric Schmidt is famous for saying “We don’t need you to type at all. We know where you are. We know where you’ve been. We can more or less know what you’re thinking about.” There’s a large untapped market of pets out there who can’t type search queries or use phones. But the pets themselves represent a significant revenue opportunity, and can reveal quite a lot about their owners as well. I imagine when Heyrex gets acquired, it will be all about the data.
Heyrex are looking for additional investment as well as sales staff and developers who are passionate about this industry. Do make contact with them if you’re interested, and help another great New Zealand startup to totally own its category.
New Zealand is leading the world in entrepreneurship in government, and Wellington is poised to become a world leader in govtech. This is evidenced by the recent R9 Accelerator programme, in which government posed problems for combined public-private sector teams to solve in a 12-week accelerator programme. Demo Day was held last week at the Embassy Theatre in Wellington, and the results were impressive.
One of the teams to come through the programme was Mibiz, sponsored by Inland Revenue to reduce the problem of high failure rates of new businesses, particularly among those formed by recent migrants. The team that rose to the challenge quickly reframed the problem into an opportunity: give every new business an expert network, with an initial focus on migrants.
Why the focus on migrants? They represent a huge missed opportunity for the New Zealand economy. Many highly qualified migrants arrive on our shores and are unable to find traditional employment for a variety of reasons – different qualifications from the NZ standard, lack of networks, and sadly, everyday racism. You’ve probably ridden in a taxi or Uber recently with someone who held a PhD or managerial position in the old country but couldn’t find a job in their industry here. Many of these arrivals have an entrepreneurial bent, international connections, huge resilience, and a drive to succeed, which makes them ideal candidates to start businesses. But they lack the networks and local context to help them succeed.
Mibiz is essentially a curated directory service for organisations providing services to new businesses, including accounting, HR, tax advice, marketing, and the like, some of them free, some of them paid. Mibiz facilitates connections between these entrepreneurs and service providers, and clips the ticket for 5% of the service fee. Everyone wins.
Amy Cotton, Andrew Bailey, and Jonnie Haddon
The Mibiz team is made up of Andrew Bailey, Amy Cotton, both from Inland Revenue, and Jonnie Haddon who used to run Rutherford and Bond Toyota’s online sales. And yes, Jonnie was a used car salesman (of sorts, even if not on the showroom floor) at one time and I can tell you that it is fantastic preparation for work in startups where the founders’ lack of ability to sell stuff is usually the number one obstacle to success.
During the programme, Mibiz held a number of meetups with migrant business owners to validate the problem and solution. Through those events and conducted interviews, 40 business owners have signed up for the service as early adopters. The were also able to attract 18 service providers, and have already facilitated seven connections between migrants and service providers in the few weeks since they launched their concierge service.
Mibiz are seeking $220K of seed funding from the government to further develop the service and launch a beta product, and then attract a critical mass of service providers onto the platform, which should take them into 2017. At that time, they’ll be looking for a combination of public and private investment to scale the service within New Zealand and potentially push it out internationally.
Will Mibiz take off? It’s very early days, but I’m super excited by government taking a punt on this team and the other R9 teams. I’ve never seen government employees move so fast, adapt so quickly, engage so fully, break down so many barriers, work so hard, and just get as much sh!t done as I have in the R9 Accelerator. I’m also heartened that New Zealanders, and the New Zealand government, care so much about new migrants that we want to ensure that we can fully utilise their talents and natural entrepreneurship, for the benefit of the whole country.
The bigger question is whether New Zealand Government agencies can walk the innovation talk by backing promising public-private partnership teams with the resources they need to succeed – otherwise, they’re just accelerating people into a brick wall.
If you’re a migrant, a refugee, an NGO or government agency providing services to migrant business owners, Mibiz would love to talk to you – just drop them a line.