Anteater

Yummy insects.

anteaterAnteater is a Christchurch-based startup that offers locally grown skyprawns (locusts), lemongrass ants, and huhu grubs for sale, alongside imported Canadian cricket powder.

Yes, edible insects are a thing, an increasingly big thing. According to Global Market Insights the market for edible insects is set to grow to over half a billion US dollars by 2023. And clean, green NZ could become a premium supplier of edible insect products, if Anteater have any say in the matter.

In a world where livestock contribution to CO2 emissions and global warming is a serious issue, it makes sense to look at other sources of sustainable food. Farming insects can produce up to an order of magnitude more protein per unit land area, with a much lower environmental impact than farming cattle or sheep. Anteater’s mission is to “accelerate the advent of sustainable agriculture”.

Insects are all the rage in high-end restaurants. Regular customers include Roots, Vault 21Antoine’s, Pescatore, and Kazuya as well as the nationwide Mexico chain. The ants are used as a garnish, and provide an intense burst of flavour. In a strange reversal, New Zealand ants taste like lemongrass, and Thai ants taste like Marmite. Locusts are similar in texture and flavour to freshwater prawns, hence the moniker “skyprawns”.

Rebecca De Prospo and Peter Randrup
Rebecca De Prospo and Peter Randrup

Cofounders Peter Randrup and Rebecca De Prospo met at Startup Weekend Christchurch in April this year, where they worked on a startup to farm insects. They didn’t win any prizes, but they did validate the basic business concept. True to lean form, they pivoted on the Monday after the weekend to becoming a niche wholesaler rather than farmers, as they saw that this is where the value is.

Peter says that their initial pitch to Giulio Sturla, the owner and head chef at Roots Restaurant, was for cricket powder. Giulio wasn’t interested, but asked if they could source some local ants. Giulio asked, “I need 100g of ants by Tuesday – can you do it?” Peter thought “Oh sh!t”, but answered “Of course we can”, not realising just how many ants that is – around 300,000. He spent the next four days figuring out how to separate ants from dirt, but got there in the end. That’s the startup spirit! Giulio is now a regular customer.

Anteater were recently Grand Winner in Canterbury University’s Entre 85k Challenge, scooping up $22,000 worth of prizes.

As this post is published, Peter and Bex are in Thailand doing research into how commercial insect farming operations work there, and researching possibilities for trading insects between New Zealand and Asia. They hope to have a retail-ready meat substitute product on the market in the near future. Peter explains: “If you swap out one meal of conventional protein for insect protein per week, you’d be freeing up 100-150m2 of land. Every year you’d save your body weight in CO2 emissions, and tonnes of “blue water” – fresh water fed to meat animals.

What’s not to love? Give the product a go at any of the restaurants listed above, and keep your feelers out for insect-based meat substitute at a fine food retailer near you. Peter and Bex will be presenting at Ministry of Awesome’s Coffee and Jam in Christchurch at EPIC on Tuesday 8 November at 12:30pm.

And if you’re keen to meet amazing people like Peter and Bex, bowl up to a Startup Weekend. Startup Weekend Auckland takes place 18-20 November at Massey University in Albany, and Startup Weekend Environment takes place 25-27 November at Massey University in Wellington. More Startup Weekends are also planned next year around the country.

SuchCrowd

De-risk events using a “lean” approach to ticketing.

I’m an exponent of Eric Ries and Steve Blank’s Lean Startup Methodology, the essence of which is (my formulation):

Run your startup like a science experiment – document your assumptions, validate whether or not they’re true, alter your business parameters (pivot) to incorporate your learnings, repeat until you either achieve product-market fit or run out of resources.

It turns out that startups aren’t the only thing that Lean can be applied to. SuchCrowd provides a lean approach to event planning. Not sure whether there’s a market for melodic death metal in Arrowtown? Before you go and book Lamb of God into the Arrowtown Athenaeum Hall and set up a gig you’re not sure will break even, you can use SuchCrowd to validate your market. The SuchCrowd team calls it Lean Events Theory.

SuchCrowd lets you set up a tentative event, and start selling tickets. If you don’t get to the minimum number of tickets sold by a preset deadline, all of the existing ticketholders get a full refund. Once the event reaches the minimum number of tickets, the event is formally scheduled. The platform provides tools to help people passionate about the event share info about the event increasing the chances of getting to critical mass, and building the artists’ fan base.

It’s worked really well for events like the Popup Kitten Cafe and Startup Weekend Dunedin 2016. In the case of Popup Kitten Café, they reached their minimum number of tickets in only 40 minutes. And Startup Weekend Dunedin 2016 reached critical mass three weeks before the event – that’s two weeks ahead of the predecessor 2015 event. Clearly, it’s working.

You can even A/B test parameters around events like venue, time, ticket price, and so on. Get early engagement before pouring money down the drain marketing a product that the market doesn’t want. Lean. Next on the product line up – SuchCrowd is building a promotion engine which helps anyone with any level of tech savviness to promote their events on social networks and media easily and effectively so that event planners can get quick feedback on whether their event will fly.

SuchCrowd has now run 45 events between Dunedin, Christchurch, and Wellington, with one event also one in the US. They’ll be launching their Aussie platform before the end of August, mainly at the request of Australian bands who have toured NZ and loved the service.

Abbe Hyde, Jake Manning, Tin Htoo Aung
Abbe Hyde, Jake Manning, Tin Htoo Aung

I first met the cofounders Abbe Hyde, Jake Manning, and Tin Htoo Aung at Startup Weekend Dunedin 2015, where they were working on a company to handle online marking of university assignments. During the course of the weekend, they found that it was a busy market and not all that attractive, but the team stuck together and decided to do a “real” startup doing something else. Tin is from Myanmar (formerly Burma), where he was the CEO of a software development company that had built a ticketing system for the challenging Burmese market – challenging because they just didn’t have the infrastructure at the time (reliable Internet, payment gateways, etc) that we take for granted in New Zealand. When they started investigating the ticketing market, they discovered the number one problem shared by people running events was fear of not being able to sell enough tickets to break even. This is especially true of people running events with emerging talent. SuchCrowd was developed to solve this problem that remained unaddressed by any of the existing ticketing platforms.

These guys are lean machines. They currently in a sprint where they have a target of testing 10 hypotheses per day. This is a practice they picked up in Lightning Lab Christchurch, which they attended last year. They really loved the Lab, and strive to recreate accelerator culture in their company every day. Since the end of the Lab the team has tripled in size – they’re up to nine people, whose roles outside of work include being a comedian, two dancers, bass guitarist, and an actor.

They’ve just completed a raise of $150K using the Simmonds Stewart Kiwi KISS documentation that’s been hacked to meet SCIF requirements. That’s a real milestone – the first new investment type to be accepted by SCIF in over a decade. This funding will carry them through to the end of the first quarter 2017, when they’ll be raising a seed round.

If you’re running an event of any kind, and you’re not sure how many people you might be able to get to come, by all means check out SuchCrowd, and if you’re interested in following the antics of this creative team, email Abbe and sign up to their newsletter.

Banqer

Fun financial literacy for kids.

banqerBack in August 2014, a standout team won the competition at Startup Weekend Education in Wellington, solving an important societal problem – raising the financial literacy of school children. Over the weekend, they built their Minimum Viable Product (MVP), a gaming platform for kids to earn virtual currency (funny money) at school, and then save, invest, trade, loan, borrow, buy virtual goods, and generally learn how to work with money in a safe environment. They validated the riskiest assumptions in their plan, explored partnerships with banks, and brought on their first customers.

Since then, they’ve gone from strength to strength. They went on to win the BNZ Webstock Startup Alley competition in early 2015, launched in New Zealand schools, and are now used by over 7,000 students in nearly 500 classrooms, mostly in NZ, but with a handful overseas.

Even more remarkable is that this growth has been driven mainly by word of mouth and teacher referrals within the school system. They haven’t needed to take in any investment. Other than the $20K prize they won at Webstock, they’ve had no non-revenue cash inputs. They’re currently profitable, and they continue to grow at a good clip.

Banqer lets students earn virtual money through a number of means. The most common method is to get rewarded for completing tasks, doing good deeds, and exhibiting responsible behaviour. For example, if you’re want to be the classroom rubbish monitor, you might have to apply for the job, and then you’ll get paid in virtual currency. Students can spend their virtual money on privileges, such as selecting a movie to watch in the last week of class, preferential classroom seating,  or “owning” virtual goods. Some teachers even let kids buy their way out of doing non-critical homework. Students save their money to earn interest, or invest in their classmates’ virtual businesses. How students can earn or spend their virtual currency is entirely at the discretion of the classroom teacher.

In 2016, one of Banqer’s main focus is building partnerships with players in the financial services and allied industries. As an example, working with their partners in the real estate sector, they recently released a real estate module. Students can buy and invest in virtual properties, for which they might need to take out (virtual) mortgages, and then earn rental income to pay off their borrowings. They might need insurance though, in case of a virtual natural disaster like an earthquake or volcano eruption.

Banqer’s revenue model is simple: after a 30-day free trial, students pay $3.50 per term, which drops to $2 if they sign up for multiple terms. They have a retention rate of over 70%.

Banqer have just announced a partnership with Kiwibank, which will cover the costs of Banqer for students whom the subscription fee would present a financial hardship. Good on you, Kiwibank, for helping uplift the financial literacy of those who might need it most.

Kendall Flutey

Kendall Flutey is the inspiring leader who pitched the idea at Startup Weekend, pulled together an all-star team, drove progress, and went on to bootstrap her startup to widespread adoption, profitability, and international expansion over the last year-and-a-half. She has a fascinating back story, which you can learn more about at inner.kiwi. Kendall is a contemporary hero: she received a BCom in accounting and a Masters in Entrepreneurship from Otago, learned to code in the first cohort at Enspiral Dev Academy, cut her chops as a dev at Abletech, and founded her first startup, all before her 25th birthday.

Ben Wigley
Ben Wigley

Her team includes Ben Wigley (CTO), Mark McHardy (Designer), and Micah Hocquard (Educational Specialist). These guys are no slouches and are all at the top of their game.

Overseas expansion is squarely on Banqer’s radar in 2016. Due to similarities in the school systems, it will be straightforward to enter the Australian market.

But the big opportunity is the USA. As part of the Webstock prize, Kendall spent some time based at the Kiwi Landing Pad exploring the US market. She learned that financial literacy is more of a focus in high school in the US, and that group is where the real opportunity lies. As it stands, the current Banqer product is designed for primary school students, and it would be difficult to extend the product in a way that both primary and secondary students would find suitable. So much of the focus in the second half of 2016 will be building a new product from the ground up, suitable for high schools.

The past 18 months has been a huge rollercoaster ride for Kendall. Her advice to entrepreneurs?

Entrepreneurship is not a walk in the park. I question what I’m doing all the time. Taking risks and dealing with uncertainty are daily activities, and go hand-in-hand with sleepless nights, self-doubt, stress, foreign situations, pulling yourself out of your comfort zone, fulfilling the expectations of strange audiences, and laying down the train tracks as you’re driving on them. But it’s all worth it when you can see the positive change you’re making in the people around you.

You can help raise the financial literacy of our tamariki in New Zealand, and help the Banqer team by recommending Banqer to anyone you know in the education system. If people learned how to manage money from an early age, our society might be a much happier place.

If you’re interested in learning about how to launch a startup, there are plenty of Startup Weekends coming up round the country this year. Also, you might like to check out Kendall’s reflections on her experience at Startup Weekend.

Here’s a precis of what Banqer does:

 

And check out the Kendall’s interview with the fine folk from Access Granted:

Linewize

Cloud managed content filtering for schools.

LW_logo_stackedManaging 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.

Michael LawsonScott NoakesCofounders 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.

Debtor Daddy

debtordaddy_logo_250x66Debtor Daddy provides credit control as a service, and is one of a very few companies for which you can truly say – switch on their service, and the money will start rolling in. They’re currently based in the Lightning Lab Christchurch accelerator programme.

Mark this date in your diary: 5 November 2015 – Lightning Lab Christchurch Demo Day, Jack Mann Auditorium, University of Canterbury. If you’re an eligible person, that’s where you’ll get to see Debtor Daddy and nine other new companies pitch for investment.  More on this below.

If you’re a business owner, Debtor Daddy integrates with your cloud-based accounting system (Xero, MYOB, or Intuit), trawling through your accounts receivable (debtors), identifying who’s late in paying, and then sends a series of automated reminders to pay, and can ultimately refer recalcitrant debtors to collection agencies. They even provide an optional service to automatically have a real person phone up your debtors and encourage them to pay.  This improves cash flow and also frees up a significant amount of time and mental energy by automating and outsourcing  a job that nobody enjoys. Debtor Daddy claims that debtors reduce on average by 43% after 30 days of use, whilst freeing up two to eight hours per week for business owners. They’re the top ranking add-on in the Xero Marketplace debtor tracking category, and the reviews are truly stellar.

One of the things I really like about this business is that it’s antifragile – turbulent economic conditions make Debtor Daddy even more valuable, and a potential anticyclical hedge investment.

They already have over 800 customers, the vast majority of them outside New Zealand in 20+ other countries, and are growing mostly organically an average of 20% per month. There’s clearly a massive opportunity to greatly accelerate this growth, which is why they’re in the Lab.

mark-250x250matt-250x250Cofounders Matt McFedries and Mark Haussmann have extensive startup experience and finance industry experience.  This the third company Matt has founded, and Mark has been his right-hand dev straight  through.  They’re a tight team, and have a strong understanding that especially for this business, UX/UI is critical, both for the user and the debtors from whom they’re trying to collect.  These guys are very focussed on metrics, and I had a great conversation about their Pirate Metrics, so good in fact that I asked them to present their dashboard as a case study for the rest of the Lab participants when I was in Christchurch recently giving a presentation on startup metrics.

They want to get the word out about the product. They offer a 30-day free trial (no credit card info required), and after that, NZ Startup of the Week subscribers can get a further 50% discount of their first three months by using the discount code SOTW. They’re also giving away a practical free e-book on growing your business, not your debt.

They’re also looking for a Rails dev, if you’re interested, apply here.

And of course, they’ll be raising money on Demo Day, 5 November 2015, along with the nine other companies at Lightning Lab Christchurch.  I’m hoping as many investors as possible reading this blog will come down to Christchurch that day.  If you don’t have an invite yet, and you’re an eligible person or eligible investor, please contact Michelle Panzer at the Lab directly to request an invitation.

Christchurch has reached an important inflection point, just in the last few months. There are now more cranes than bulldozers, more concrete mixers than dump trucks. I’ve compared the CBD to a once-beautiful tree that’s been hard pruned – it’s a shadow of its former self, but you can see the new growth sprouting up, and it’s clear that what Christchurch is becoming will be even more impressive than what it was. Rather than the backward looking “more English than England”, I’m hoping that it can become the most connected, collaborative, creative city in the world. Young people and immigrants are playing a large part in driving the agenda, and especially in the Lab, the results are stunning.

So please do your bit, and come down and see the results of Lightning Lab on Demo Day.  We’ll see you there.