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.

SeekShelter

Matching emergency accommodation with those in need.

seekshelter-1logo-darkThe current housing crisis and rising homelessness in New Zealand are causing a huge strain on emergency accommodation in shelters and the like. Most shelters do not have automated systems to keep track of their own availability, and no visibility over what’s available in other shelters. If you’re a person in desperate need of a place to stay for the night and you present at a full shelter, it can be really hard to find a safe place for you.

SeekShelter is a web app that manages shelter occupancy in real-time and provides transparency to other shelters in the area. If somebody turns up and the shelter is at capacity, they won’t be turned away with nowhere to go. The shelter can quickly refer the client to an alternative.

MJ Brodie
MJ Brodie

SeekShelter is a social enterprise arising from Startup Weekend Kapiti held in July 2016. CEO MJ Brodie has a day job working in payroll at a government agency, but spends a lot of time volunteering in emergency housing. Over a number of years, and especially recently, she noticed that when someone shows up at a shelter needing a bed for the night, it’s often hard to find. When a shelter is full, the often try to help people out by doing a ring-round of the other shelters in the region, typically with a five year old phone list taped to the back of someone’s computer.

Kelcey Braine
Kelcey Braine
Michael Thornton
paul
Paul Simpson
silvana
Silvana Tizzoni

MJ bowled up to the Startup Weekend and pitched her idea on a bit of a lark – she wasn’t sure whether anyone else would be interested. To her pleasant surprise, she attracted a great team, including Kelcey Braine who is working on marketing, Michael Thornton and Silvana Tizzoni, both working on comms and outreach, and CTO Paul Simpson. At Startup Weekend, they built a working prototype which provides a searchable database of occupancy, location, and any restrictions (eg men, women, children), and contact details. The shelters they talked to were very interested as were support organisations like the Salvation Army and the Coalition to End Homelessness. The Startup Weekend judges were blown away by the quality of the presentation and the prototype, and SeekShelter won the competition.

SeekShelter are now doing a second round of validation, fine tuning the user interface and making sure their minimum viable product will fulfill basic needs, and plan to release a pilot version for Wellington in October, with a nationwide release around the end of the year. While Phase 1 focuses on shelters sharing information with other shelters, Phase 2 will expand the search out to the public, so that people can search for emergency accommodation themselves, and agencies like the Ministry of Social Development (MSD), Corrections, and local Councils can also help people find a place for the night. Phase 3 is planned to transform SeekShelter into “Airbnb for emergency accommodation” so that approved members of the public can offer beds in their own houses to specific types of emergency accommodation seekers. The accommodation issues in NZ are similar in many ways to those overseas, and SeekShelter are investigating ways for their system to be used in other countries, too.

Seekshelter have yet to crack a financial sustainability model. They believe they have strong case for funding by MSD, as MSD pays accommodation fees to motels and the like at the moment, and could save significant money by more efficient allocation of shelter beds.

They’re also interested in exploring using SeekShelter for the allocation of emergency accommodation after a natural disaster, which MBIE have expressed interest in supporting.

If you’re connected to an emergency shelter, or to an agency that refers people to shelters, you can help out by making them aware of this great tool to help make more effective use of a critically short resource, or contact the SeekShelter team to offer support.

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.

Job Well Done

Making child’s play of household chores.

job-well-doneNobody likes doing household chores, especially kids. But a team from this year’s Startup Weekend Dunedin has figured out a way to make the allocation and completion of chores fun and rewarding for both kids and their parents, while at the same time bringing families together.

The game is played with physical cards, and works like this: at the beginning of each week, a family holds a game of Job Well Done. There are thee packs of cards: Tasks, Actions, and Rewards. The Tasks pack is pre-loaded with all of the chores that need to be done around the house – vacuuming, sweeping the decks, cleaning the kitchen, etc. Parents have to play too. At the end of the game, each family member has their list of chores that need to be done by the end of the week. Action cards let you do things like swap a task with another family member or receive a reward for a completed task. There’s one Butler Card in the pack which lets the player assign one of their tasks to another player, and they have to do it.

There are two types of rewards – family rewards (“go to the movies together”), and individual rewards (“have an ice cream”). But some of the rewards are actually booby prizes, such as “eat a new kind of vegetable that you’ve never had before”.

In their testing during the weekend, kids loved the game and got the idea immediately, and kids were even able to explain it to other adults.

As in other Startup Weekends, the team formed organically from three people who were all attracted by the idea of a game to motivate kids. It started out as a game to determine pocket money, but after the team got out of the building early on Saturday morning to validate the original idea, they quickly learned that a much bigger pain point for parents was getting kids to do household chores. They also learned from their interviews that any such game should meet these success criteria: consistency, clear expectations, small but meaningful rewards chosen by the child, and that the child should be able to wield some negotiating power. And so the game was born.

There’s a big potential market for this game – in their interviews of 85 parents, 68% of them said they had problems getting their kids to do chores. With 1.1m families in NZ, if the interviewees are a representative sample, that means there are over 750k families in NZ who might be attracted to buy this game. And with 52m families in the English-speaking world, the potential market size is over NZD 1.3b at a unit price of $25. The hard part, of course, is reaching them.

Anna Schmid
Anna Schmid
Ivan Mason
Ivan Mason
Hannah Sinclair
Hannah Sinclair

CEO Hannah Sinclair is an occupational therapist by trade, with an interest in motivation and behavioural change. She’s joined on the team by CMO Anna Schmid and Head of Game Design Ivan Mason.

Ivan has a blended family, and says that when faced with conflict over household chores, it can be easier to just disengage and do the chore yourself rather than being the bad guy and coercing kids to do their fair share. The trick, he says, is to have the game impose the rules, which puts everyone on the same footing. Hannah adds that while she doesn’t have any kids herself, she’s looking forward to using the game with her flatmates.

During the weekend, the team designed the game play, outsourced design of the game material to a UK-based designer who produced the goods overnight, printed the game materials for a few prototypes, and put together a Facebook page, a PledgeMe campaign, and a Shopify online store. The PledgeMe campaign has attracted more than $400 in less than 12 hours.

The next step is to get enough games out in the wild to test it properly and improve the game design. They’ll then know whether they are really onto something or not. They’re considering expansion packs, building in virality by adding trading card features, and partnering with organisations like supermarkets for distribution. They could seek investment, but this is a business that could bootstrap.

As for now, they’re immediately looking forward to getting some sleep after “running, running, running” non-stop over the weekend.

“Startup Weekend has restored my faith in humanity,” says Hannah, “I’ve never heard so many people in one place saying ‘I’m here to help'”.

There are lots of Startup Weekends coming up this year around the country.  Check out the Startup Weekend NZ web site for details if you’re interested in having a go yourself.

If you have kids and want to improve their participation in household work, do support the team and buy a the Job Well Done game on their PledgeMe page

I’ll leave you with their pitch deck from the Startup Weekend Dunedin Finale.

And that’s a job well done.

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:

2015: The year in review

2015 has been a watershed year for the startup scene in New Zealand.  When I started this Startup of the Week blog in September, a number of people asked me, “are there really enough great startups in New Zealand to feature one every week?”  The answer is a resounding yes!

Had you asked me about New Zealand startups in 2010, I would have told you that there were patches of awesome, and things looked like they were just starting to come together. Five years on, things are really pumping, as evidenced by:

  • Thriving startup hubs in the main centres: Visit GridAKL, BizDojo, CreativeHQ, or The Greenhouse and you’ll be under no illusion that healthy and diverse startup activity abounds.
  • Entrepreneurial buzz in the regions: The BCC (Palmerston North), and Bridge Street Collective (Nelson) have been going from strength to strength for several years, and we’re seeing new players emerge in Whangarei, Tauranga, Taranaki, Hawkes Bay, and Dunedin.
  • Finally, the rise of Ag Tech startups: In prior years, there was a paucity of agricultural startups coming out of New Zealand. Now, with companies like Engender, CropX, BioLumic, eBee, and others, this sector which builds on NZ’s natural strengths looks like it’s getting to critical mass.
  • Meetups are mushrooming: I seem to be getting a couple of announcements for new startup-related meetups every month in Wellington. Startup Garage and Lean Startup Wellington how have over 1,000 members each. People are getting together, which is great.
  • Startup Weekends continue to thrive: There’s no shortage of newbie entrepreneurs starting their entrepreneurial journey through Startup Weekends. We ran 11 events up and down the country this year, with 736 participants – both records. Many of these participants are now fully plugged into the scene, some running their own startups, some working for others, and some busily hatching plans. And some qualifying themselves out, having decided they’re happier in their day jobs. Win.
  • Accelerator ramp-up: Lightning Lab ran three programmes this year – Auckland, Christchurch, and Manufacturing (Wellington). The dust hasn’t settled yet, but this is likely to have resulted in 10+ new startups achieving funding, networks, and a path to global success.  Oh, and another 10+ startups being qualified out after a short sharp experiment – to me that’s also an important success statistic. The Government R9 Accelerator broke new ground, and will be doing round two this year. Vodafone’s Xone will be opening in 2016. And there are others.
  • An explosion in angel investment activity: AngelHQ‘s Dave Allison told me that as at the beginning of December, not including any of the Lightning Lab companies, the club had 12 open investment deals. I can’t remember a time where there were more than 3 or 4 deals open at any given point in time. Given that nearly all angel club deals in NZ are now syndicated between clubs, I’m sure that the menu at ICE Angels, Enterprise Angels, Manawatu Investment Group, Venture Accelerator Nelson, and Otago Angels are growing in a similar fashion. Post-earthquakes, Canterbury Angels is also off to a great start. And there are a host of unofficial syndicates forming around the country too. There’s never been a better time to be an angel investor.

ICE Angels summarised the year’s angel activity with this nice Prezi – thanks guys!

Finally, I’d like to leave you with a quote from Victor W Hwang, author of “The Rainforest“, and cofounder of Global Innovation Week (HT: Andreas Stefanidis)

“Despite outward appearances, the Startup Movement is not just about startups. It is actually a deeper cultural shift that cuts to the heart of the human condition. It reflects a dissatisfaction with the way much of the world has gone for the last several decades. It marks a transformation in how we view our societies, how we convene our communities, how we create value together as human beings. It’s a counterpoint to the governing economic paradigm – what economists call neoliberalism – which has prized efficiency and productivity above everything else, even when it has corroded relationships that bond us together in our communities and social networks…

“Innovation is not a solo sport. It thrives in supportive, diverse, connected, pay­it­forward ecosystems. It dies in selfish ones. Building a startup – indeed, bringing any innovation to life – is hard enough already. The last thing you need is distrust, high social barriers, and cynicism from those around you. You need people who are willing to believe in you. Because human beings innovate together in teams.”

Thanks for your support this year, reading and spreading the stories of NZ startups going global.

If you’re involved in the startup scene, good on you for taking risks, sharing your energy, and pursuing your passion – you’re making the world, and New Zealand, a better place for everyone.

If you’re a bystander, a dreamer, or an armchair startup enthusiast, there are plenty of ways for you to get involved in 2016. Just contact any of the organisations mentioned above, and start forming the connections that will enable you to become part of the success story we’re all creating together of New Zealand as a global entrepreneurial powerhouse.

That’s it from me for 2015. Have a great break, and we’ll see you in February.