Hacking the food supply chain, Out Of Our Own Back Yards.
It’s estimated that on average, food items in the US travel 2400km to get from their point of origin to your table1. This results in huge quantities of carbon being belched into the atmosphere through transportation, waste resulting from excess packaging and spoilage, and food that is less fresh and tasty.
Ooooby makes it easy to create local fresh food marketplaces that source food from local growers, and deliver to local consumers. From humble beginnings on Waiheke Island, Ooooby now powers food networks in Auckland, Waikato, Matakana, Sydney, and Fresno California, and they’re just in process of setting up shop in the UK. Across the globe, Ooooby is pumping over $3m in annualised recurring revenue (ARR).
Ooooby is a mission-driven business, whose purpose is to make local food convenient, affordable, and fair. They want to rebuild local food economies, because they believe that many of the world’s most pressing social and economic problems are caused or exacerbated by the way we produce and consume food. They also believe that in order to be impactful and help create a sustainable food system, they must first create a sustainable business.
Pete Russell does not fit your stereotype of a social entrepreneur. Prior to Ooooby, he cofounded and built up Australian specialist food importer and distributor Source Food, built it up to A$10m, and then had an epiphany – the world would be much better served by local foods, purchased in an “online farmers market”. Local food that’s as convenient to purchase as industrial food would be better for local farmers, local consumers, and the environment. Pete is joined on the Ooooby board by CTO Davy van de Vusse who has architected their core systems.
Their revenue model is to clip the ticket by 8% on all food purchase transactions that go through the platform, to cover software development, administration, and national marketing. They’ve been invited to set up shop in all of the cities where they’re active, so platform marketing costs have been minimal. And they have a steady stream of inquiries internationally from groups of local farmers wanting to transform their own local food economies.
The platform can scale quickly, and can support a virtually unlimited number of local food hubs.
Ooooby raised $285k in a PledgeMe campaign earlier this year, but they are looking for another $500k or so in the next year, so that they can rebuild the food economies in over 20 cities worldwide by the end of 2017.
If you’d like to get Ooooby going in your town, or are interested in supporting local food, do get in touch with Pete and join the movement.
Disclosure: One of the trusts of which I’m a trustee made a small investment in Ooooby in their crowdfunding campaign.
Cloud-based management software for talent agencies, as beautiful as the models themselves.
Syngency is a cloud-based system for talent, modelling, and acting agencies. It makes it easy to manage their talent pools and market themselves to the industry. It’s a one-stop solution that covers everything from onboarding wannabes to invoicing customers. And it just looks beautiful.
When I’m evaluating investment opportunities for businesses at any stage, the single most important factor is always the same: does the CEO have what it takes to make the business a success? I haven’t met many people who are as effective as Syngency’s CEO Ryan Marshall. He is the very model of a modern startup entrepreneur. First and foremost, he’s always hustling. He loves his industry and his product, and seems to be out there either selling or thinking about how to sell 24 hours a day, working networks, racking up air miles, Skyping at 3am, he just doesn’t seem to know how to stop. He’s intimately familiar with his market, having talked to most of the major players and continually popping up at industry events. He knows his product inside-out because he’s coded most of it himself. He seems to have a sixth sense for opportunity, and isn’t shy to act quickly and seize it.
I first met Ryan at BNZ Startup Alley at Webstock early this year, where Syngency was a finalist. You could say that Startup Alley is the premier startup competition in New Zealand. Syngency didn’t win (that prize was taken out by Startup Weekend alumnus Banqer – more on them in the future) but Syngency still knocked the socks off of the judges. As a result, they won a trip to the Kiwi Landing Pad in San Francisco.
NOTE: BNZ Startup Alley applications for 2016 are open now. It’s a great place to showcase your startup, practice pitching to a big crowd, and kickstart your action plan for the year.
Syngency entered the iiiNNO accelerator in Taiwan a few months later. They were one of two non-Taiwanese companies in the accelerator, and according to iiiNNO’s manager David Kuo, were by far the highest performing company there, and earned the privilege of launching at TechCrunch Asia. While at iiiNNO, Syngency attracted a significant number of clients all over Asia, including the unfortunately named but otherwise awesome ISIS Modelling Agency. They also achieved a key milestone by scoring a local mobile development team. Syngency did a great job of raising the profile of NZ startups in Asia.
From Taiwan, Syngency continued their world tour, and set up a base at Kiwi Landing Pad (KLP) in San Francisco. Ryan now spends a lot of time dashing between New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco where their key US markets are. KLP has been a great fit for them – see the video below for a synopsis.
Syngency’s target market is big, over $100m in the US and Europe alone. They now have customers in 30 countries, managing the talent profiles of over 40,000 models and actors and they’ll finish up 2015 with over 40x growth since the beginning of the year. Their solution is also easy to take into adjacent markets such as film production and sports.
Currently they’re executing a direct sales strategy and collecting most of their business through referrals from happy customers.
Syngency will be raising investment in early 2016, likely in a trans-pacific mix between New Zealand and California.
Meantime, they’re expanding their dev team in Auckland – they’re looking for a CTO and LAMP devs familiar with the full AWS suite. They’re excited about running a global Kiwi company from New Zealand, and they’d like you to join them!
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.
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.
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.
If you’re a guy and anything like me, you hate shopping for clothes, and would do almost anything to avoid it. And yet, we all need clothes, and most of us would prefer to look good and not like a dork, at least some of the time. Wouldn’t it be great if we could access a free online fashion consultant who could help us make clothing buying decisions from the comfort of our own screen?
Meet Wearit, the Auckland-based startup that lets guys buy without shopping, and girls shop without buying. It’s an online social platform that helps guys shop for clothes, by getting girls to recommend them. Girls pick their favourite guys to dress on the platform. With each outfit recommendation, girls earn points, become stylists and are rewarded with clothing vouchers. Guys receive personal outfit recommendations in their inbox and can purchase the outfit and clothes through the Wearit app.
I know, I know, it sounds a bit politically incorrect in that it reinforces gender role stereotypes, and exploits free female labour for the benefit of males. But plenty of people of both sexes seem to eager to voluntarily opt-in, and I actually found it really useful for my particular cis-hetero use case, which is a big market segment.
Founder Liam Houlahan and cofounder Kirsten Stevens went through Lightning Lab Auckland earlier this year, and managed to build up the business from an idea into a community of over 6,000 users, mainly in New Zealand, but they do have a smattering of overseas customers. They monetise by clipping the ticket on clothing sales performed through the site. And when I used the service, the clothing article I bought was significantly cheaper on the Wearit site than it was in the manufacturer’s ecommerce shop. Win-win.
It’s a shacket!
I bought a woolen shacket, evidently a cross between a shirt and a jacket. It’s not the sort of thing I would ever have considered buying myself in a shop, and I rather like it.
NomosOne is a SaaS company that automates the life cycle of commercial leases. Its main features include automated document generation and management, the ability to connect all stakeholders in a transaction, as well as instant reporting on property performance within a portfolio and reminders for important events like rent reviews and compliance filings.
They have hundreds of users including some big-name accounts in New Zealand and the UK, and have been growing at 33% per month. Revenue comes from an onboarding fee, followed by monthly subscriptions. They ambitiously aim to be a $1B+ company in five to seven years, and want to own the property management software category.
Founder and CEO Jonny Mirkin recently moved from Dunedin to London to set up their European office. Jonny is a lawyer with an MBA who was solving his own problem – managing all of the legal documents around property transactions, ongoing maintenance of compliance documentation and reporting. The rest of their 15-strong team is based in Dunedin including CFO Janine Manning and CTO David Bromley.
I asked Jonny what their biggest challenge has been to date, and he answered with a common refrain that I often hear from founders: balancing the drive to build the business versus spending time fundraising. NomosOne is raising a significant round at the moment to make a big sales and marketing push, with some money reserved for additional development. Since starting in 2011, they’ve raised several smaller rounds, which according to Jonny have all been oversubscribed.
NomosOne’s target market is businesses that own or manage at least 10 properties, including property managers, property funds, law firms, retailers, supermarkets, ports, chain restaurants/cafes, marinas, breweries, infrastructure companies, telcos, banks etc.
NomosOne is also currently hiring salespeople in Auckland – if you know anyone who has experience in their target market and can sell SaaS, do get in contact with them. They’re also have positions for a couple of devs in Dunedin.