Matching emergency accommodation with those in need.
The 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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!
Change business behaviour through conscious spending.
Do you care about the planet and want to make the world a better place? Do you only want to buy from businesses that are sustainable and ethical? Do you want to earn tangible rewards for it?
Let’s face it – businesses do their business with varying degrees of care around how they treat the environment, their community, and their employees. As a consumer, what can you do to support businesses that that behave well? Simple answer: Download the Conscious Consumers app (iPhone or Android), find a business near you that aligns with your ethics, buy from them, collect loyalty rewards, and sleep better at night knowing that you’re helping make the world a better place.
In order to participate, businesses must be accredited – they can apply for badges such as Recycling, Composting, Fair trade, Generosity, and others, which all have specific, measurable accreditation standards. Businesses are audited on induction and every year to ensure that they’re complying with standards.
The benefits to consumers are clear: you can have confidence that the restaurants and cafes you frequent are ethical businesses, and earn loyalty rewards. Hospitality businesses use the Conscious Consumers data to attract new customers whose values are aligned to theirs, and find out more about their customers – what they care about, how much they spend, and how frequently they visit.
They have more than 300 businesses and 10,000 consumer users across New Zealand.
The previous version of the app required users to ‘check in’ at the businesses. The new version takes a feed directly from Paymark, and automagically credits your spending from those businesses as it sees your transactions come through. Their secret sauce is tokenising technology, which enables this to take place without your EFTPOS or credit card details being stored.
Melissa Keys and Ben Gleisner
Conscious Consumers started as a paper directory back in 2008, when cofounders Ben Gleisner and Melissa Keys got together with a few of their friends from uni and started the 42collective. The book showcased Wellington businesses that were achieving sustainability metrics, and they received a grant of a $5,000 from Wellington City Council to promote it. They also ran local events to promote sustainability and local businesses that supported sustainability. Over the next few years they attracted funding from the Ministry for the Environment, the Ākina Foundation, and several other councils, and in 2012 they released their first app to help conscious consumers find restaurants and cafes, and collect loyalty points for trading with them.
… business will change if consumers demand it …
They’re making measurable change in the way hospitality business operates. According to Ben, they’ve supported over 50 businesses to start recycling and composting – that’s the equivalent of more than 1,000 households. Their theory of change is that businesses will change if consumers demand it. Up until now, there hasn’t been a way for customers to easily recognise and reward specific business behaviours that matter to them, but now businesses can tie increased revenue back to specific behaviours on their part. It closes an important feedback loop that creates a virtual cycle improving the way we interact with the environment as businesses and consumers.
In May this year, they closed a $600K equity round from high-net-worth impact investors. The round was only open for a few weeks, and was quickly filled. With this investment, they plan to grow to 25,000 users by May 2017, multiply revenue by 4x, expand into other verticals such as food retail, clothing, homeware and hotels. They’re continuing to validate their product in New Zealand, but the next capital raise will be to enter one to three overseas markets, which will likely be done on a city-by-city basis. Post-raise, they’re just as agile and lean as they’ve always been. “It’s easy to burn money when you’ve got it, but we’re used to being incredibly frugal and we want to continue that” says Ben.
I was impressed with how quickly they were able to raise $600K as a social enterprise, but as they say, a professional is someone who makes a hard job look easy, and it only took them seven years to become an overnight success.
This week, they’re launching a major campaign including social media, engagement with their existing user base, working with their business customers as a channel, and large non-profits that are aligned to their values. You too can help make the world a better place by being conscious about your consumption.
Get your kids off the couch and physically active outside with augmented reality (AR) games.
If your kids are anything like mine, they love to play games on their handheld devices. So much so, that it can be difficult to get them outside, even on a fine day. Geo AR Games lets them do both at the same time, augmenting public open spaces into exciting “mixed reality” play areas with a combination of real-world, virtual, and social features.
Let 12 year old Chris show you how it works:
Geo AR Games have two games out now: Sharks in the Park, and Magical Park. Sharks in the Park can be played in any open space in the world that’s at least 60m x 60m. They’re going to release a “world builder” next year which will enable kids to build their own games using a library of 3D models and animations. Think “Minecraft outdoors”.
Magical Park works only in specific locations selected by a local council, and has a specific set of council-selected experiences.
The games have built-in safety features, for example content disappears as the player approaches the edge of the play area, and the player will see a big stop sign on the screen when they get within 15m of a road or other hazard.
The games deliver on the promise to get kids running around outside. Initial data show that the average game session is 30 minutes, and kids run an average of 500m to 2km during a session. Kids don’t notice how much running they’ve done, as they’re too immersed in the game. And the games are social – even though each kid has their own device, they are playing in real life with each other, talking to and yelling at each other.
Both games are attracting a high level of interest from local governments, who want to see increased use of public spaces, and provide healthy, fun activities on them. Councils have been trying to find a way to use technology as a hook to get families out-of-doors for years, and this is potentially the solution they’ve been looking for. Auckland and Wellington Councils have launched trials, and other councils are queued up. Initial feedback is very positive.
Councils also see value in the game for marketing their other services, so for example winning a game of Magical Park could potentially get you free entry into the nearby public swimming pool.
Mel Langlotz and Amie Wolken
CEO Mel Langlotz has a career in visual effects and post production. She met CTO Amie Wolken when they were working together at Augview, a company that specialises in Geospatial Augmented Reality visualisation of infrastructure asset data. Amie has a unique combination of degrees in Law, Animal Biology/Psychology, and Computer Science. Amie quickly rose through the ranks at Augview from programmer to manager and ultimately director. The two had a vision of commercialising AR technology so that users could be fully immersed in an outdoor interactive experience, and be part of the storytelling. While infrastructure payed the bills, Mel and Amie knew that a far more exciting world lay ahead.
During this period, Mel was having huge difficulty in convincing her stepdaughter to get off the couch and play outside. And so the idea for Geo AR games was born.
In late 2015, Mel and Amie formed their new company, and immediately applied, and were accepted into Chile’s women-only S-Factory pre-accelerator incubator, which gave them a USD 20,000 grant. During S-Factory, they applied for and were accepted into the women founder led Lightning Lab XX accelerator programme. Mel arrived back from Chile literally the same day that the XX programme began. And they’ve just heard that they’ve been accepted into Te Papa’s Mahuki incubator programme, which begins in August. The team will be delivering outdoor AR exhibitions for Te Papa, which marks the beginning of developing a platform for AR cultural gaming experiences.
They’re a top team in a new, fast-moving field. They’ve been working together in the geospatial AR environment for three years now, which is more experience than most others can claim – they’re early adopters and first movers. They have complementary skills and really enjoy working with each other.
The game is based on the Unity platform, which provides the ability to deploy on both Android and iOS using a single code base. The game is fully contained in the download, so it doesn’t need to use mobile data during play. There are a number of difficulties in making a good geospatial AR game. The really hard part is understanding and dealing with the nuances of GPS – there are lots of environmental and device variables that affect accuracy and smoothness. On the AR side, it’s really hard to create content that looks realistic in the real world. It’s challenging to integrate data from the device’s sensors to keep the objects stable and look like they are part of that world rather than just overlaid. There’s a constant tradeoff between stability and accuracy.
They’re currently raising $300K to further develop the games and world builder, to sell to more local governments in New Zealand, and to begin exploring the overseas opportunities. They’ve already raised a successful NZD 10K Kickstarter, so you could say they’re out of the starting blocks.
They’re also looking to hire devs, with any combination of the following skills: C#, Unity, modular programming, game development, mobile app development (iOS, Android native plugins), AR or VR, computer vision and image processing, GNSS.
Would you like to earn free minutes and/or megabytes on your mobile data plan? Postr powers telco-branded white-label Android apps that show you tailored adverts on your mobile phone’s lockscreen, and reward you with free megabytes and minutes.
It’s a simple concept that’s had great uptake with Skinny in New Zealand – after less than a year out of the blocks with Skinny, they already have over 40,000 users across Skinny and their original B2C app Postr. They’re planning on launching with another major telco in NZ this year.
But the exciting action is overseas, and they’ve launched with “a telco” in Australia earlier this year (five seconds of Internet search revealed that the telco is Optus), and are preparing to launch in the Philippines and Indonesia in the next few months.
27 year old CEO Milan Reinartz arrived in New Zealand from Munich on a high school student exchange programme, and never left. While he was at design school, he started making money buying and selling cars, and generally trading. When he got his first job as a designer at Saatchi & Saatchi Wellington at age 20, he found he was making less money than he had the previous year as a trader. He decided it was more rewarding – mentally as well as financially – to work for himself as an entrepreneur.
He got involved in the startup scene through Alan Hucks at CreativeHQ, and did some design work for Yonix, Dash Tickets, and went through Lightning Lab 2013 with the Promoki team. Dash Tickets was acquired, and Promoki failed. You could say that Milan did his startup apprenticeship in this way.
One day in 2014 Milan got a txt from a friend in Germany who pointed him to Locket.com, a company doing opt-in adverts on lockscreens (since acquired by wish.com) and said, hey this is a great idea, and you could do a much better job with it. Whereas Locket had been focused on gaming and retail, Milan thought that this would be much more valuable to Top 200 brand companies and more suitable to personalisation. So he launched Postr, their initial B2C platform in early 2014. There was a problem though – customer acquisition cost was just too high compared to the value that the end user was receiving. So they pivoted Postr into a B2E2C model, partnering with mobile networks to help them differentiate and white labelled the app.
Given their traction in NZ, Australia, and Southeast Asia, they’re currently on a steep growth curve. Southeast Asia is particularly attractive due to the high Android market penetration there, and vibrant and growing mobile advertising market. Nowadays, Milan spends two weeks on the road in Asia with COO Roger Shakes, alternating with two weeks in NZ working in deals here and minding the shop with CTO and co-founder Mark Penman.
This isn’t only a speed-to-market play, it’s a be-the-f@#%!ing-best-out-there play
“This isn’t only a speed-to-market play, it’s a be-the-f@#%!ng-best-out-there play because it’s such a new space” says Milan. And the stats back up that they’re well on the way. They’re getting average revenue per user (ARPU) of over $2/month/user which is much less than their acquisition cost through the telco channel. Now it’s mainly a question of scaling.
And to that end, they’re raising a $2-3m series A, which has been mostly filled by existing investors plus new investors from Southeast Asia. Milan touts, “there’s still room in the round for additional investors, but you’d better get in quick!” Love it.
Their challenges going forward? “Setting up a truly international operation, within the ‘wild west’ environment of mobile advertising, the slow sales cycles, working with big organisations like telcos and the lack of talent and expertise in NZ around mobile ad-tech.”
The important thing is not to let your mind get bogged down, to keep going, be persistent, keep learning, and not give up for the wrong reasons.
I asked Milan what was the most important thing he’s learned in the last couple of years, and he said, “I think it’s a bit like walking a tightrope in the early stages and you often don’t know what’s going to work before you try. The important thing is not to let your mind get bogged down, to keep going, be persistent, keep learning, and not give up for the wrong reasons.”
It’s a tough job being a veterinarian. You can’t really communicate directly with your patients, and their owners are notoriously unreliable in the way they report their pet’s behaviour. Wouldn’t it be great if you could remotely collect data on your patients which showed how much time they spent running around, where they’ve been, when they’ve been resting, scratching, whether they’re eating too much or to little?
Well now you can, with Heyrex, the Wellington developed “Fitbit for pets” that’s exploding onto the world stage.
The Heyrex story begins with big-hearted scientist David Gibson who loved animals, and saw huge inefficiencies with the way animal health treatments were delivered. He believed that using technology it should be possible to detect changes in behaviour which were indicative of health problems a long time before symptoms appeared. With early behavioural detection, animals could avoid unnecessary pain and discomfort, and owners could avoid expensive remedial treatments after the problems had become acute.
By 2011 Gibson had developed a working prototype of Heyrex, based on dongle technology with a monitor station that looked like it came straight out of a 1950’s sci-fi film. But later that year, Gibson passed away from a heart attack.
Current CEO Nathan Lawrence was an early investor at that time, and was helping Gibson out with commercialisation strategy. The Board asked Lawrence to become CEO, and take the company forward. The new team took the concept, stripped it right back, rebuilt it based on 2.4Gb wireless technology with the back-end in the cloud, and started shopping the solution in the US and UK. The Company also did a customer segment pivot – aiming the new HeyrexVet monitoring service at vets rather than pet owners, as vets have existing relationships with pet owners, and the data and analytics are much more valuable to them.
Vets prescribe HeyrexVet monitoring as part of their treatment programmes, as it saves time and enables measuring effectiveness and adjusting treatments. There are several treatment programme modules which can be switched on in the cloud for specific treatment of animals. One such module is cage rest, which is critical to monitor for postoperative recovery. The vet places the wearable on the animal, and data starts flowing in showing how much time the animal is spending in the cage, in easy exercise, or running around. The vet gets an alert if the animal exceeds activity parameters.
Another module is weight management – a surprising 52% of dogs in the US are obese. When a vet puts an animal on a weight management program, the vet uses HeyrexVet to set a diet and exercise regime, using its database of over 4,000 pet foods and its ability to measure the amount of energy the animal is expending. HeyrexVet forecasts the rate at which the animal will gain or lose weight and measures against actual weigh-in data. If the animal isn’t getting enough exercise, Heyrex sends a message to the owner telling them it’s time to go out and exercise.
There are also modules to measure sleep disturbance, scratching relating to allergic reactions or dermatitis. A new heartworm recovery module will save lots of lives – if the nine month heartworm recovery programme is not strictly adhered to, the animal can die.
Research universities love this product – Heyrex currently supports projects in several US states, as well as Massey University closer to home. Most of these universities are using Heyrex to measure the efficacy of new treatment programmes. The University of New South Wales has used Heyrex to monitor tigers in zoos.
Heyrex currently have thousands of units out in the field, mainly in the US. For research clients, they charge $149.95 for the hardware, plus a monthly monitoring fee. For vets, they’re moving to a fixed monthly price based on a set number of units and services, which the vets can on-charge as they like. That’s Fitbit-for-pets-as-a-service. Over the last 12 months, their revenue growth has averaged 50% month-on-month.
The system is designed to provide a healthy return on investment for vets, with additional revenue streams available through product ordering. This helps vets defend their more traditional revenue sources that have been eroded by online pharmacies and bulk stores.
The Veterinary Services industry is significant. In the US alone, there are roughly 75m dogs and a similar number of cats, resulting in annual industry revenues of over USD 58B and growth at 6% per annum.
Currently, the team is small and tight. Along with Nathan, CTO Mark Solly manages the technology side of things while Sales Manager Kim Goldsworthy is leading the charge into North America. They also have four devs, a CFO and an accounts and admin person based in Kārori, but they’re looking to go hard on the USA this year.
They’ve just completed a raise of NZD 816K on Snowball Effect a few months ago, but they’re looking to score another 3m or so with significant input from strategics to fuel international expansion. It’s a hot industry – another player in the animal wearables space with revenues of less than 5m was recently acquired for 117m. The acquirer saw strategic value in the data.
Google’s former CEO Eric Schmidt is famous for saying “We don’t need you to type at all. We know where you are. We know where you’ve been. We can more or less know what you’re thinking about.” There’s a large untapped market of pets out there who can’t type search queries or use phones. But the pets themselves represent a significant revenue opportunity, and can reveal quite a lot about their owners as well. I imagine when Heyrex gets acquired, it will be all about the data.
Heyrex are looking for additional investment as well as sales staff and developers who are passionate about this industry. Do make contact with them if you’re interested, and help another great New Zealand startup to totally own its category.
New Zealand is leading the world in entrepreneurship in government, and Wellington is poised to become a world leader in govtech. This is evidenced by the recent R9 Accelerator programme, in which government posed problems for combined public-private sector teams to solve in a 12-week accelerator programme. Demo Day was held last week at the Embassy Theatre in Wellington, and the results were impressive.
One of the teams to come through the programme was Mibiz, sponsored by Inland Revenue to reduce the problem of high failure rates of new businesses, particularly among those formed by recent migrants. The team that rose to the challenge quickly reframed the problem into an opportunity: give every new business an expert network, with an initial focus on migrants.
Why the focus on migrants? They represent a huge missed opportunity for the New Zealand economy. Many highly qualified migrants arrive on our shores and are unable to find traditional employment for a variety of reasons – different qualifications from the NZ standard, lack of networks, and sadly, everyday racism. You’ve probably ridden in a taxi or Uber recently with someone who held a PhD or managerial position in the old country but couldn’t find a job in their industry here. Many of these arrivals have an entrepreneurial bent, international connections, huge resilience, and a drive to succeed, which makes them ideal candidates to start businesses. But they lack the networks and local context to help them succeed.
Mibiz is essentially a curated directory service for organisations providing services to new businesses, including accounting, HR, tax advice, marketing, and the like, some of them free, some of them paid. Mibiz facilitates connections between these entrepreneurs and service providers, and clips the ticket for 5% of the service fee. Everyone wins.
Amy Cotton, Andrew Bailey, and Jonnie Haddon
The Mibiz team is made up of Andrew Bailey, Amy Cotton, both from Inland Revenue, and Jonnie Haddon who used to run Rutherford and Bond Toyota’s online sales. And yes, Jonnie was a used car salesman (of sorts, even if not on the showroom floor) at one time and I can tell you that it is fantastic preparation for work in startups where the founders’ lack of ability to sell stuff is usually the number one obstacle to success.
During the programme, Mibiz held a number of meetups with migrant business owners to validate the problem and solution. Through those events and conducted interviews, 40 business owners have signed up for the service as early adopters. The were also able to attract 18 service providers, and have already facilitated seven connections between migrants and service providers in the few weeks since they launched their concierge service.
Mibiz are seeking $220K of seed funding from the government to further develop the service and launch a beta product, and then attract a critical mass of service providers onto the platform, which should take them into 2017. At that time, they’ll be looking for a combination of public and private investment to scale the service within New Zealand and potentially push it out internationally.
Will Mibiz take off? It’s very early days, but I’m super excited by government taking a punt on this team and the other R9 teams. I’ve never seen government employees move so fast, adapt so quickly, engage so fully, break down so many barriers, work so hard, and just get as much sh!t done as I have in the R9 Accelerator. I’m also heartened that New Zealanders, and the New Zealand government, care so much about new migrants that we want to ensure that we can fully utilise their talents and natural entrepreneurship, for the benefit of the whole country.
The bigger question is whether New Zealand Government agencies can walk the innovation talk by backing promising public-private partnership teams with the resources they need to succeed – otherwise, they’re just accelerating people into a brick wall.
If you’re a migrant, a refugee, an NGO or government agency providing services to migrant business owners, Mibiz would love to talk to you – just drop them a line.
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.
John Huang, Jess Knipping, Steve Jasionowicz, Vanessa Wilson, Charlie Coppinger
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.
Making the world a safer place, one dangerous location at a time.
WATCH OUT, YOU’RE ABOUT TO STEP INTO A SINKHOLE!!
There’s an app for that. It’s built in Wellington, it’s being used all over the world, and it’s called ThunderMaps.
ThunderMaps enables businesses and governments to crowdsource hazard locations, and then let employees and citizens know when they’re in danger in real time.
Employees and citizens can enter hazard data from a mobile app, which is then used to warn people, analyse trends, take corrective action where possible, and generally reduce risk and improve safety. Think “Waze for danger.”
They integrate with over 500 services including Google sheets, Zendesk, Salesforce, Slack. They also have facility to integrate open data sources such as weather, fire, police callouts, earthquakes, etc. Integration is also two way, so you can pull data from ThunderMaps into other systems.
ThunderMaps charges clients with a small monthly per-user charge, plus a one-time setup fee for large organisations that want to “show leadership” with their own branded app.
In New Zealand, health and safety is a big issue, especially with the introduction last month of regulations under the new Health and Safety Act. In the new post-Pike River regime, company officers and directors can end up in prison for not taking all practical measures to provide a safe workplace. It has been, and will continue to be on the board agendas of all of the NZ boards I’m on.
It’s not only a local issue – health and safety is a global concern. Globally, 6,300 people die per day, and 1m people per day are injured in work-related accidents. That’s shocking. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that 4% of global GDP is lost due to injury or death at work. That’s expensive. We investors often talk about “pain points” in a figurative sense, but this pain is very real.
Although the company has only been trading for 23 months, they already have 10m dangerous locations recorded in their database, and they’re gunning to make that 100m in the next year. They’ve gone from zero to 17 staff worldwide in that period, and currently have 200+ customers with over 8,000 users. Revenues are growing at about 20% month-on-month. They recently won a European Union tender for city wide implementations, and have made sales to three European cities so far. Other customers range from big organisations like Downer EDI Works, TBfree NZ, Gannet Offshore, World Wildlife Fund and the NZ Fire Service, right down to medium and small businesses that just need a simple way to make health and safety easy.
As an example, TBfree NZ is charged with eliminating bovine tuberculosis in New Zealand. Wandering around cattle farms can be a dangerous business – there are all sorts of hazards like terrain, chemicals, and dogs. The main source of TB is possums, and trapping possums is also dangerous. ThunderMaps helps reduce risk by documenting these hazards and automatically making the people at risk aware of them with location-based alerts. Being concerned for and looking after employees helps TBfree NZ attract and retain staff. Governments prefer to let out contracts to companies who take health and safety seriously, and so ThunderMaps makes it easier for its customers to win RFPs. Everybody wins.
Clint van Marrewijk
ThunderMaps is led by CEO Clint van Marrewijk, who was looking for the next big thing after completing his earnout period when Kiwibank bought Gareth Morgan Kiwisaver. I first met Clint at Startup Weekend Wellington in 2015, so I guess can say that I knew him before he was famous. He’s put together a stellar team, and has attracted top talent to his board including local heroes JD Trask and Victoria MacLennan. CTO Chris Noldus has an extensive track record in just about in more open source technologies than you can name in one breath, and was the guy who developed the iPredict prediction marketplace. They have offices in The Terrace in Wellington, London, and Gothenburg Sweden.
Ideas are great, but sometimes they get in the way. Given the choice between doing something cool and shipping product, shipping product will always win…
Why The Terrace and not Cuba Street? The team culture is very focused on getting stuff done. Clint says, “Ideas are great, but sometimes they get in the way. Given the choice between doing something cool and shipping product, shipping product will always win at ThunderMaps. We’re running a business that saves lives, not an agency.”
They’ve been mainly self-funded by their founders, and they’ve taken on a small chunk of angel investment. They’re working toward raising Series A late this year to fuel international growth.
We currently live in an era where for the first time, everything is becoming knowable. The facts that can save your life risk being drowned in an ocean of big data. ThunderMaps organises this critical knowledge into accessible, actionable, and auditable alerts. While we can’t completely eliminate risks – we’ll never be able to fence off every sinkhole – we can identify and mitigate those risks. ThunderMaps is one of those rare apps that might save your life, or the lives of one of your coworkers or family members some day.
There are few things more powerful than selfless love. When we are at our lowest points emotionally, receiving a loving gesture from someone, even a stranger, especially a stranger, can be life changing.
Nic Murray and Marie Fitzpatrick are theGood Bitches Baking. They have a very simple recipe for spreading happiness throughout society: bake someone a cake, just when they need it most. Recipients include women in refuges, homeless people in shelters, elderly folk in hospice, and many more. Some of the recipients have never tasted home baking. It sounds almost twee, but the universal appeal of receiving something sweet and made with love when you feel you can’t cope, and helping lift an unfortunate stranger out of a shit situation is extremely compelling. I met these Bitches at TEDx Wellington, where I thought they stole the show. Their idea isn’t only worth spreading, it’s running away with them.
It’s so compelling, that in the last 18 months they’ve set up 10 chapters of Bitches in New Zealand from Whangarei to Invercargill, and have another 18 chapters waiting to form. They’re struggling to cope with demand. They have no plans to expand overseas at this stage, but are happy to share their intellectual property with anyone who wants to take their model global.
The Good Bitches philosophy is based on the simple ideas that “doing something is better than doing nothing”, and that everything turning to shit is not an inevitability. We all have the power within us to positively affect the world around us, and the Good Bitches provide an easy to use template for making people happy.
Doing something is better than doing nothing. Everything turning to shit is not an inevitability.
Nic says, “Baking is something people enjoy doing anyway, it’s not a hardship. There’s a widespread desire in the community to ‘do good things’, but people don’t know where to start – they don’t know if they have permission to do something personal for a stranger.”
Marie adds, “Just doing something leads onto doing other things too. There’s a common story for Bitches: it all starts with a batch of scones, and then they find other needs that they can fill in their community. It gets people thinking about ways they can help others, beyond putting money in a box or even baking.”
The Good Bitches system is designed so that people can do as little or as much as they can fit into their lives. They feel like they’re contributing to their communities, but also to something much bigger. And the connection that Bitches have to each other helps strengthen the community too. When bitches get together, there’s lots of storytelling and heartfelt discussion – shared purpose for a good cause.
They are changing peoples lives – and it’s a virtuous cycle. One Wellington recipient was recovering from domestic violence in a Women’s Refuge, and said that the notion that a stranger cared enough about her to bake her a cake just to cheer her up was life-changing. Since then, she’s become a Bitch herself, and now bakes for others – this has been an important part of her healing process.
They’ve now reached an inflection point where runaway growth is threatening to outstrip their ability to service their community.
“We’re staffed by volunteers, who can only spare a few hours per week each, and sometimes they bite off more than they can chew. In people’s busy lives, especially women juggling careers and whānau, volunteer work can’t always take top priority. As we grow as an organisation helping thousands of Bitches do great things in their communities, we need a professional coordinator or two being paid for their efforts so that this work gets the priority it deserves, and keep up our standards for the quality and timeliness of the support we provide.”
Having a paid coordinator would free up the founders to focus on outreach, growth, and telling the story.
Nic and Marie know all about juggling. They both have full time jobs as project managers. Nic works with ACC and NZTA on young driver safety, and Marie helps organisations to be compliant with the new Health and Safety legislation.
But hiring paid staff requires funding. Their dream is to be sustainably funded through a combination of grants, government funding, private donations, and branded merchandise. Running a social enterprise is tough, even when you’re clearly making as big a difference as the Bitches are.
Marie says, “to some extent, we’ve been making shit up as we go along, but we’re continually lifting our game. The future is really exciting, but to grow and really make the most of this opportunity we’ll need to be strategic, plan carefully, and support our chapters well.”
Snapchat is a brilliant concept – it created an entire market in visual ephemera. The genius is in the longing that it creates once the moment has passed, for something that can never again be recaptured – which makes that moment all the more precious. So simple, compelling, engaging, and easy to use.
If you’re a brand trying to get your message out, however, Snapchat is a nightmare to manage. Enter Mish.guru, a system that makes it easy for brands to manage their Snapchat presence. Without tools like Mish.guru, you have to manually manage your Snapchat client base individually on your phone – imagine your dream come true, and you have 100,000 followers – you’d have manage them individually – on your phone. Ouch!
Mish.guru provides basic information that is absolutely critical to any business running a social media campaign. You can easily see how many followers you have, how many people have viewed your story and snaps, and a number of other metrics. You can also automatically rebroadcast selected user generated content to help build your campaign, and automatically track customers from initial engagement though to product purchase. Think of Mish.guru as the missing Snapchat feature set for businesses.
They’re currently working with some big name brands in New Zealand and overseas, like Spark (snapsparknz on Snapchat) and Paramount Pictures (ParamountFilms).
They currently have a mixed product and service-based business model. Snapchat is new for many businesses, so there is a significant market helping businesses conceive, establish, and run campaigns – you could say that Mish.guru are their own first customer in this respect. But they see the big game in providing a subscription-based product that enables businesses and agencies to manage their own campaigns from cradle to grave.
Their current revenues from this hybrid model are nearly NZD 1m per year, and their product revenue is averaging growth of 20% per month.
I first met their CEO Thomas Harding in Lightning Lab Digital in Wellington in 2014. Their original business was called Cavaltech, and produced 3D-printed horseshoes specifically made for individual horses. We called them “Zappos for horses”. Unfortunately, while it was a great concept, the technology just didn’t perform well in the field – they had problems keeping the horseshoes stuck to the horses’ feet. So eight weeks into the twelve-week accelerator, they rebooted their business as Mish.guru, and have never looked back.
I asked Tom what the key to survival was across such a massive pivot. “Resilience”, he replied, “that’s the single most important quality in a startup team.” Their current team has Tom, a CTO, four devs, an intern, and sales people in Australia and NZ. They’re looking to hire another sales specialist on the US East Coast.
Mish.guru has scored investment from AngelHQ, Sparkbox, ICE Angels, NZVIF, Ben Young, and a few other individual angel investors. They’re using this investment to transition their main revenue stream from service to product as they build their market. Their product revenue is growing at 20% per month, and that growth has been achieved without any spending on marketing. Snapchat’s growth is still exploding – Snapchat recently passed 100m users, and those users are watching over 7 billion video clips a day.
The trick to a great Snapchat campaign, Tom says, is inspiring and then making the most of user generated content – let the users tell your story for you, rather than bombarding them with advertising. But to do that, you’ll need some great tools, like Mish.guru.