Opening up Chinese investment, distribution, and manufacturing to Kiwi startups.
For most NZ Startups, getting into China is hard – really hard. China is about as different to New Zealand as you can get in language, business culture, and scale. And yet it remains a massive prize: a market of 1.3 billion with global distribution networks and investors eagerly looking for opportunities in the rest of the world, and especially in New Zealand.
Fundertech is a startup looking to bridge this enormous yet potentially lucrative gap by providing connections with Chinese investors.
Founders Rob Thomas and David Liu have extensive experience in doing business in China. They’ve built up a relationship with the Chengdu-based Venture Capital Club, which operates as somewhat of a cross between an angel network and VC consortium. The club has hundreds of members, along with 21 VC funds and a number of Private Equity interests. In addition to investment showcases, the Venture Capital Club also runs training courses upskilling their members and helping them build relationships with the rest of the world outside China. Next month, well known New Zealand investor Tenby Powell will be a keynote speaker on behalf of Fundertech at the Venture Capital Club’s Chengdu Investment Summit.
Fundertech are also working with the NZ Consulate in Chengdu, and looking to foster better business, economic, and social with China, providing a boost to NZ’s presence in China and helping lift NZ’s performance on the world stage.
Fundertech is looking for New Zealand startups to invite to these investment summits to pitch to Chinese investors. They’re interested in SaaS, VR/AR, edtech, medical technology, food tech, and clothing and textile startups to present. They charge NZD 2900 for a package which includes flights, accommodation, translation fees – costs in the same ballpark to what you’d pay independently.
There is an application process – they’re only interested in companies that have at least a working prototype, some early stage sales, have completed initial market research in China, intellectual property unique to their industry, and a business plan. That’s not much different from what any seed investor might want to see.
If you’re interested in finding out more, check out the Fundertech web site, and fill in the contact form at the bottom of the page, or phone Rob Thomas on +64 21 704 423.
You probably knew that Wellington is a hotbed of game design, and that there are a lot of interesting edtech startups here as well. Gamefroot sits at the fascinating intersection of these two worlds, and they are really taking things to the next level.
Gamefroot makes it easy for anyone to become a game designer. They’ve built a platform which lets anyone make an HTML5 game using a great library of templates and objects, a super-easy Scratch-like scripting language, drag-and-drop construction, and instant publishing to the web, or iOS, Android, or Chrome stores. They have over 110k users from all over the world, and tens of thousands of games on the platform. You can try some of the games out on gamefroot.com, or have a shot at making your own game on make.gamefroot.com. There are some excellent tutorials to get you going. Here’s a 5-minute video which takes you through the process:
The idea for Gamefroot started in 2005 when founder Dan Milward wanted to make games, but didn’t have the programming experience to do so. If you cast your mind back to the dark days of prehistory before the iPhone, you might remember the only real mobile platform was Nokia feature phones with 320x320px resolutions. At the time, there were only about 30 games available for Nokias. They published the first version of Gamefroot on Facebook, and almost instantly there were hundreds of games available. But Nokia in their wisdom pulled the underlying Flash technology from their phones, and that was that. Then in 2007, the first iPhone came out, and Gamefroot had another go at publishing games on iPhones. But Steve Jobs pulled Flash technology from the iOS platform, and that was that.
In addition to Dan Milward, the team includes David Thornycroft, Ben Richards and Stefan Le Minh. Gamefroot resources are designed in partnership with the education sector and normally involves working with teachers and other game designers from the sector. They have some high powered advisors as well, including game reserach fellow Dr Bronwyn Stuckey, Network for Learning’s Pete Hall, NZ e-learning teacher Marianne Malmstrom and the ubiquitous angel investor Trevor Dickinson.
But why should game design be so compelling for educators? The New Zealand curriculum has largely moved past teaching kids facts, and focuses on teaching kids how to learn and integrate that knowledge into their daily lives. This seems to be particularly effective for STEM subjects. In order to design a game to express what you’ve learned in class, you need to know quite a lot about the subject, and you get the bonus of having a game that makes it fun for someone else to learn that subject as well. Oh, and you learn to code as a by-product. As examples, biology teachers have commissioned students to design games to build their own fungi, and English teachers are using Gamefroot to teach kids how to develop text-based games.
There’s a real shortage of teachers capable of teaching these things to kids, which is where Gamefroot’s paradigm of designing a game on a canvas, applying pre-fabricated game mechanics, easy scripting and customisation all within a hosted UI comes into play. The scaffolding process is important in helping people learn how to write games, and mimics the Khan Academy and Hour of Code.
The NZ Council for Educational Research (NZCER) wanted to know if this approach to learning is both cognitively engaging and educationally sound, so they commissioned a study on “Game-coding workshops in New Zealand public libraries” which was published earlier this month. Senior Researcher Rachel Bolstad concludes that Gamefroot inspired kids to want to make their own games or apps to sell, and boosted their interest in a possible future career in game design, coding, or programming. She also identifies the potential for this technology to help redress gender imbalance in this field, as well as supporting more Māori and Pasifika into the field.
Gamefroot is currently pre-revenue, but they’re about to start charging schools for providing classroom-specific tools. It’s a mass-market play, as schools don’t have huge amounts of cash to invest in this area. The USA will be the main target.
They’ve already had a lot of exposure in the USA mainly thanks to teacher word-of-mouth, and have active collaborations going with teachers and education providers in that market.
They also have active collaborations with the game industry, where there’s a critical shortage of game developers. Game design companies are eager to inspire as many kids as possible into the industry, and they see Gamefroot as one vehicle for doing this. And as a kid, what could be more fun than building games using assets from your favourite game designers?
Gamefroot has raised $150k to date from private investors, has had some support from Callaghan Innovation for R&D, and attracted service revenue from companies that want specific games developed. They’re planning on raising a seed round in the near future, specifically targeting investors with experience in the edtech sector that will help them break into the US Market. Their end game is strategic acquisition by a major edtech company or a platform player.
Here’s a great opportunity for you, dear readers: if you design a compelling game on the Gamefroot platform about the NZ startup scene, I’ll offer to feature it on this blog. Have fun!
You’re invited to Demo Day for nine female-led startups
This week we’re featuring not one startup, but nine!
There’s no question that women are underrepresented in startups, and in the tech scene in general. This is despite the fact that in a recent study, First Round Capital found that companies with a female founder outperformed all-male founding teams by 63%.
New Zealand’s own Lightning Lab accelerator is doing their bit to support women entrepreneurs, and launched Lightning Lab XX earlier this year. On Demo Day, the teams will pitch to investors and you’re invited to come along and enjoy the presentations.
When: Thursday 16 June, 4pm Where: Embassy Theatre, Kent Terrace, Wellington Entry: Free, but RSVP is mandatory
NoticeMatch helps any business ensure their customer’s final experience is achieved a timely and empathetic manner. We empower them by identifying deceased customers quickly, thus giving them the tool to undertake their legal, moral or ethical obligations and build great relationships with the surviving families.
Geo AR Games get kids off the couch and active outside using Outdoor Mixed Reality technology. Mixed Reality combines digital content with a real-time video feed to create immersive experiences. By pairing this with Motion Gaming, kids explore digital content by walking and running. This solution encourages healthy relationships with technology by creating games that kids love.
Liangma allows quality-sensitive buyers to order fresh, free-range chicken for home delivery. The company connects free-range farms with inner-city buyers through a digital platform and logistics network. This creates an easy and reliable way for their Chengdu-based customers to buy the best poultry products. Liangma’s promise of 24h delivery fits perfectly with the Chinese culture of eating the freshest, highest quality produce.
Hive brings communities together by connecting people who need a hand with those who have the time and skills to help. At the heart of Hive is the idea that trust is valuable, and that communities can build trust. Using a mobile app, Hive facilitates finding and matching jobs, and processing payments. The app helps to build a trusted community by connecting locals to get work done.
Little Yellow Bird is a company that supplies businesses with more than just a uniform. LYB produces high quality workwear, through a completely transparent and ethical supply chain. They have a wide range of workwear such as custom business shirts to t-shirts, hoodies to aprons. This provides companies with an opportunity to turn their uniforms into marketing.
Sipreme is joyful future food – healthy, nutritionally complete, and super convenient. For busy people with cooler stuff to do than burn toast in the morning, this is it. It’s a fast, liquid meal that gives the adult body every nutrient it needs! The product iterates for each new batch, following their feedback. It’s the perfect, healthy solution for unromantic, functional meals.
Ama Balm is a natural balm used by adventurers to hydrate their weathered skin after being exposed to the elements. Launching only 8 months ago, Ama Balm is already featured in major surf, ski and adventure towns in NZ. The company aims to build a natural skin care range that serves the needs of adventurers across the globe.
Music Ecademy is a web application that teaches music theory and aural skills in a fun and engaging way through interactive lessons, quizzes, and games. The application helps to engage students while also saving teachers valuable time and resources. The curriculum is relevant for music schools and teachers in Australia, NZ and the UK.
Patternsnap is a digital library of Interior Design samples for Designers and Showrooms. It provides a beautiful, simple tool to search for products and create schemes. Patternsnap saves designers precious time, enabling access to a comprehensive database of unique samples. Currently available as an iOS app, Patternsnap is a virtual showroom in your pocket.
Disclosure: I’m a trustee of a trust that invested a small amount in the Lightning Lab XX Limited Partnership, which in turn invested in each of these startups at the beginning of the programme providing them with “ramen funding” for the duration of the programme. I have also provided weekly mentoring to NoticeMatch during the programme. And I’m on the Lightning Lab Advisory Board.