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.
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!
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.
Debtor 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.
Cofounders 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.