I travel internationally by air a fair bit, but always worry about my checked luggage. Has it been “inspected” by security agencies? Have baggage handlers roughhoused my precious belongings?
Intrude A Lock is a simple but ingenious device which you can put into your suitcase before you go, and then query using your smartphone after arrival to answer these questions. It collects the required data (light and intense movement), and then reports this data back to your phone along with the time and date of the actions. The proposed RRP is NZD 70.
Elisha Fleming is the 18 year old entrepreneur who came up with this idea a couple of years ago as a result of his own travel experiences, and talking to people who worried if their own bags had been tampered with. This year in January, he entered CreativeHQ’s Venture UP programme which, in partnership with the Young Enterprise Scheme, provides a six week accelerator to help entrepreneurial students commercialise their ideas between their final year of high school and their first year of university.
Elisha has just finished up at Garin College in Nelson with Merit in NCEA Level 3, and is on his way to doing a double-major in Finance and Entrepreneurship at Waikato University. His future didn’t always look so bright, however, as his family was told at an early age that due to medical issues, he’d never be able to succeed academically. Not willing to be held back, he carried on in school, but also started his own business trading goods on TradeMe, and managing his family’s property investment portfolio. Today, Elisha has a minor speech impediment, but he’s sharper and more savvy than many you’ll meet in business. “I’m always searching for a ‘yes’ rather than a ‘no’,” says Elisha, which has helped him learn incredible resilience.
At Venture UP, Elisha was joined by Hayden Washington Smith and Keith Toma, who were inspired by the product and mission. Hayden will continue on in the team as Director of Finance and Marketing, while he embarks on a law degree at Victoria University this year. Advisors include Glenn Andert and Matthias Andermatt.
The team completed the prototype during the programme, and are currently manufacturing a small pre-production run. They have managed to secure a trial with an overseas global brand in the transport industry who are interested in selling Intrude A Lock to their customers through their retail channel. They’ve also had significant interest from baggage manufacturers who want to incorporate the device into their products. Their main sales strategy focuses on channel development, using airlines, logistics companies, and manufacturers – they feel this is higher value and lower hassle than selling directly to consumers.
The trial should complete before the end March 2016, and Elisha is confident of success. If he pulls it off, that would mean he would be running an international manufacturing business from New Zealand at age 18. Longer term, they want to specialise to be the experts in protecting high value goods such as human tissue during transport.
Venture UP’s Programme Director Nick Churchouse had this to say about the team:
Elisha, Keith and Hayden were a stand out team at Venture UP – they boxed through more challenges than most. There are natural hurdles facing any hardware business, let alone a tech-connected product tussling with airline security, personal liability and ornery issues like damage and loss liability. Despite this the Intrude A Lock team built a strong proposition, got out of the room, engaged with aviation industry leaders and got a deal on the table in less than six weeks. If that’s not Venturing Up I don’t know what is.
Young Enterprise CEO Terry Shubkin adds,
Intrude A Lock is a great example of what can happen when you take the un-inhibited innovation that comes with youth, and couple that with a programme that provides structure, support and networks. It’s a great product which has been well-validated, and I can’t wait to see where the company goes next.
The Venture UP programme finished last week, but Intrude A Lock are going strong, and ramping up. They’re looking for a hardware developer and some seed capital, but most importantly, they’re looking for preorders and connections to potential channel partners. If you’re interested or can help out, contact the team.
NZ’s first commercial Internet of Things platform.
KotahiNet is building the first real commercial platform for the Internet of Things (IoT) in New Zealand, which is set to disrupt our daily lives in ways we haven’t even started to imagine. Just look at the predictions:
Gartner: 6.4 billion “things” will be in use by 2016, 20.8 billion by 2020 IDC: The worldwide market for IoT solutions will grow from $1.9 trillion in 2013 to $7.1 trillion in 2020 McKinsey: The IoT market will be between $3.9 and $11.1 trillion by 2025, 11% of the world’s economy
There’s a broad perception in consumerland that IoT means home automation like refrigerators and central heating, but in fact many of the transformational high-value impact will be in business and government applications.
KotahiNet have deployed a carrier-grade IoT network in Wellington, and are planning to build that out nationally. They’re using Low Power Long Range (LoRa) open-standard equipment, which is already interoperable with countless different devices types. The Wellington deployment is provisioned with 5 gateways, each of which can cover 7,000 devices, with an aggregate maximum bandwidth of about 5Mb/s. While this kind of network can’t handle video, it’s great for IoT devices which are very efficient in their bandwidth usage.
LoRa is a really interesting technology which provides highly reliable transceivers that operate at low bandwidth over long distances, and don’t require battery changes for 5-10 years. That means that you can put them in awkward-to-reach places that don’t require power or local Internet connectivity. They can live happily in the bush, on the farm, on an animal, in a lake, or at the top of a tower – perfect for building wireless sensor networks.
KotahiNet aim to expand their LoRa deployment to Auckland, Hamilton, Taranaki, Christchurch, and rural Canterbury over the next year, and go nationwide after that.
But the network is only a means to an end. According to founder Vikram Kumar, the real value in what KotahiNet are building is in the data layer and application layer that sit on top of the network connectivity layer. They’re building the network because they have to – they can’t do any of the cool stuff they have planned without a basic network in place.
Once that network is in place, they’ll provide “data-as-a-service” derived from IoT devices. Most people won’t want to manage and maintain devices, they just want the data that they generate in an easily digestible form. This is especially important when you take security into consideration – you want to make sure that all of the Things are secure, protected, and behaving themselves. If that’s not core business for you, it’s likely to become a problem, a problem that KotahiNet prevents by worrying about that for you. An example of a data-as-a-service network would be a dog tracker network – KotahiNet would provide the GPS sensors and data feeds, you just consume the data that you need and do what you want with it.
Further up the value stack, they also want to provide end-to-end solutions via an application layer for business and government using industry standard components. They are implementing a system for olive growers in the Wairarapa which slurps data feeds from private remote weather stations, and notifies the growers if they need to bring out the choppers to protect the trees from frost. The growers aren’t interested in owning or managing the equipment, network or even the data, they just want the alerts.
Local governments are a big potential area of development. One local council is looking at installing a smart network of over 20,000 streetlamps. This would enable significantly lower power consumption as well as maintenance costs. When you consider the number of such Things a council has to look after in the public interest, it’s not hard to imagine thousands of other applications. And that’s just the start.
Conservation is another interesting area. KotahiNet are working with EcoNode on Great Barrier Island, whose TrapMinder system notifies HQ whenever a pest species such as rat or possum has been trapped, so that the trap can be cleared and reset. They are planning to roll this out to Zealandia in Wellington, and then across the country.
KotahiNet monetises through connection charges (listed as $1 / node / month), data-as-a-service charges ($3-5/month), and custom application provision charges.
Vikram believes that New Zealand could become a world leader in IoT deployments in primary industry, and they’re seeking partnerships with significant agricultural players to build the next wave of applications that will not only help boost our agricultural exports, they’ll also provide the basis for technology exports too – KotahiNet’s internationalisation strategy depends on this. IoT will bring a new level of precision to agriculture previously unobtainable in NZ, and these novel applications can be sold to the rest of the world. Vikram is also passionate about Blockchain technology, which when applied in the application layer, could provide security and verification around the provenance and authenticity of agricultural produce.
As an aside, Vikram has had a very interesting career path, from working in the merchant navy to being a public servant, then working as the CEO of InternetNZ before moving to be CEO of Kim Dotcom’s MEGA (not to be confused with Mega Upload), and very briefly serving as the Chief Executive of the Internet Party.
KotahiNet are currently raising NZD 1m in an angel round to expand that team with execution capability, and provide capital to build out the next phase of the network. If you’re interested in the opportunity, contact Nick Gerritsen.
Once that round is closed they’ll be hiring sales people, solution architects, and network ops people. And of course they’re interested in talking to anyone who wants to do IoT deployments that require carrier grade low-power networks. For those, contact Vikram.
Disrupting the retail energy industry with price transparency and great service.
Electricity is the world’s purest commodity – you can’t see it or touch it, and you have no idea where the electrons came from that power your appliances. The equipment that manages electricity distribution is all automated. Why is it then that most of the power industry seems to be operating in the dark ages with respect to customer service, pricing, and information provision?
Flick has a simple business proposition: they put the customer at the centre of everything they do, give you electricity at the wholesale spot price plus a small well-known commission, and give you access to a wealth of easily digestible information that helps you manage your own power consumption.
The small, well-known commission is 40c per day plus 1.5c per kilowatt-hour (KWh) for a standard user. That amounts to the country’s least expensive power. Flick claim that even if you switch to Flick and do nothing to manage your usage patterns, you can save approximately 7% off your bill, because the major power retailers use their customers as a hedge against fluctuations in the wholesale market. The risk to Flick’s customers is that their bill may occasionally be higher during periods where the spot price is high.
But the real savings kick in when, armed with the reports about your usage you can view as a customer, you can change your usage patterns by deferring load into periods when the spot price is lower, for example running your clothes dryer and dishwasher at 4am. Flick claim that you can save about 25% off your energy bill by doing things like this.
Mid-2015, Consumer NZ ran a survey rating customer satisfaction of power retailers, and Flick scored a remarkable 96% satisfaction rating. They claim that everything about the company is so automated and well-engineered that there’s really nothing to complain about. All bills are paid by electronic payment, the customer web interface is excellent, and pricing is transparent. You can always know what your usage and charges are doing on a half-hourly basis, so there’s no possibility of being shocked by a blow-out bill.
Flick was registered as a company in July 2013, took on their first beta customer in December 2013, and did a soft launch in August 2014. In the past 18 months they’ve grown to be the tenth largest energy supplier in New Zealand with nearly 8,000 customers, growing by roughly 15% per month, and despite their small size, they are the supplier with the second largest number of net customers switching to them monthly, and the only one of the top 10 who is not vertically integrated.
There’s plenty of innovation yet to be applied in this space – for example peer-to-peer power. Your neighbour has a solar cell farm (they’re getting cheaper all the time) and could sell her power directly to you, via the Flick platform. Or, you have smart power points or Nest installed, and you want to interface directly with Flick, and only have specific devices – or even temperature settings – active only under certain pricing conditions.
I’ve known Steve O’Connor, Flick’s CEO and cofounder for many years, and recall him talking about setting up a power retailer in the early 2000’s – at the time, I thought he was mad. But he’s assembled a stellar team, including Simon Pohlen, Jessica Venning-Bryan, Jurjen Geerts, and Shannan Hargreaves. They have the broad and deep experience capable of making a major dent in the $9b market in NZ. And so far, they seem to be executing very well.
But the real prize is overseas markets. Flick are hatching plans for overseas expansion which will most likely be centered around licensing deals and joint ventures rather than direct entry.
So far, Flick has received funding from their original founders, an Angel round led by AngelHQ, a growth round, and then took on some institutional investment, which is a considerable achievement in such a short space of time, but reflective of the company’s rapid growth. They’re planning another investment round late this year, which will be aimed at bringing the NZ business to profitability, further improving the platform, launching several new initiatives in the retail space, and start seriously exploring the overseas opportunities.
You don’t need a particularly creative imagination to see a number of exit possibilities, but for the time being, they’re focusing on what great startups do – building and scaling a sustainable business with a fervently loyal customer base, delivering frictionless service, driving down costs to the consumer, and causing pain for the competition.
The Internet enables cloud-based, customer-centric, low-cost, transparent, on-demand businesses, and Flick are leading the way in New Zealand using this power to disrupt comfortable oligopolies. If I were a Flick customer, I’d be delighted, but if I were an incumbent power retailer, I’d be very afraid.
Speeding up science through the power of peer review.
Scientific research is the key thing that moves our society forward, expanding the boundaries of human knowledge, enabling us to rigorously test which things are true, false, or needing further inquiry. It enables everything from cellphone technology to antibiotics.
The main output of scholarly research is published articles in peer-reviewed journals. Peer review is essential because it prevents incomplete or shoddy work from being accepted as scientific fact. The peer reviewers however don’t get any recognition or compensation for the work they do, and there is no standard system for rating the quality of their reviews. Finding the right reviewers for an article can be difficult too, and managing the review process is time consuming.
Publons solves these problems by augmenting the standard peer review process, improving reviewer selection, and giving authoritative credit to reviewers that they can use for career advancement. The net result is that the peer review process is shortened at the same time the quality of scientific output is increased. By turning peer review into a measurable research output, Publons provides a new lens through which the quality and significance of research, researchers, publications, and institutions can be evaluated and reported.
Dr Andrew Preston
Publons was founded by Dr Andrew Preston and Daniel Johnston. After completing a Ph.D and post-doc work in solid-state physics, and publishing and peer reviewing a number of papers, Preston recognised the opportunity and started building the core of the Publons system. After being accepted into Lightning Lab Wellington 2013, Publons started building up its user base and inventory of journal articles. They now have over 50,000 users, 285,000 reviews, and thousands of journals in the system. Just over 1% of all reviews generated in 2015 globally were recorded by Publons.
Publons’ revenue model is based on fees collected from publishers to integrate into the platform, and charges to academic institutions and research funders who pay for access to tools that help them monitor and evaluate their research interests.
Preston moved to London mid-2015 to be closer to his main market – academic publishers. Much of the future growth of the company will be globally from the UK, while product development and operations remain in Wellington.
Publons recently closed a significant investment round for a small stake in the company by the fifth largest academic publisher in the world, SAGE. The investment will provide enough runway to last eighteen months or so as the company continues to expand its partnerships with publishers, grow its user community, and prove out the revenue model.
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:
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!
“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.
What did you do over the weekend? Jack Newberry took a serious problem that’s been irritating him for a long time, found a team, banged up a prototype, and built a business around the solution in 54 hours. Out of Startup Weekend, Uncharted was born.
Jack is a Surgical Registrar at Capital Coast District Health Board (Wellington Hospital), and deals with critically ill patients in their many manifestations on a daily basis. His frustration? Those clipboards that hang at the end of every hospital bed, with bits of dead trees scrawled with illegible notes clipped together in a way makes them difficult to quickly analyse.
Patient charts have not changed much in the last 50 years. The problems are institutional inertia, overworked IT departments who struggle to maintain the status quo, and vendors providing walled gardens which are difficult to integrate with.
Uncharted is a solution that allows doctors and nurses to quickly record key patient data electronically into a cloud-based database via tablets, and then perform instant analysis on these data to determine if the patient needs immediate attention. A key benefit is that no integration with existing hospital IT systems is required – hospitals can implement Uncharted quickly, and start seeing immediate benefits.
Jack pitched his idea to the participants at Wellington Startup Weekend HEALTH, and attracted a great team, including Rabid Tech’s Breccan McLeod-Lundy, Snapper’s Charlie Gavey, surgeon Saxon Connor, Nick Comer, and devs Jon Waghorn, Eugene Rakhimov, and Jack Ewing.
Startup Weekends start on a Friday evening with entrepreneurs like Jack pitching to each other, then organically forming teams, validating customers and markets, designing and building the solution. The event finishes on Sunday evening with pitching to a panel of judges. Mentors and coaches support the teams right the way through. At the event Jack and his team participated in, four of the 11 teams had paying customers on board by the end of the event.
Uncharted has already received interest from a number of hospitals. Jack’s main gripe with medical software is that it’s so difficult to use. He says it seems that usability is often the bottom priority, and it felt great to put an app together over a weekend that solved an important problem, looked smart, and was easy to use.
Uncharted’s priorities now are to build their team, get customers on board here in New Zealand, and immediately start considering the opportunities in much larger overseas markets. Most New Zealand doctors have spent time overseas, and the charting problem is a worldwide issue. Jack’s overseas market entry plan is to use the network of doctors in New Zealand to get into overseas hospitals with this great solution that does one thing really well. We all know there will be more to it than that, but it’s a good start.
There is competition, notably in a product called PatienTrack, but there is plenty of room for more players. Uncharted’s differentiation is simplicity and usability.
The bottom line is a bit scary: 1% of surgical procedures end in preventable death, known as “failure to rescue”. Uncharted aims to reduce that by providing centralised early detection for patients that are showing signs of trouble. And after all, life is priceless.
Startup Weekends are held all over the country, from Whangarei to Invercargill, and staffed by volunteers like me. If you’d like to get involved in an event, head over to startupweekend.co.nz and check it out.
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.
Enterprise innovation management. Have you ever worked in a large organisation? Then you know how stifling institutional inertia can be to the very creative ideas that will push the organisation forward. HunchBuzz is like an Internet-enabled suggestion box on steroids that enables organisations to use the wisdom of the crowd to create ideas, filter them, and then execute on them to produce great results.
Founder Steve Graham started HunchBuzz in 2012 after becoming frustrated with the lack of tools to assist with his consulting work around enterprise ideas management. He brought in cofounder Thomas Mitchell to build the product, and the two have been inseparable as a team ever since.
Improving creative collaboration within large organisations is a big issue worldwide. Mitchell says that their product enables organisations to capture a broad perspective of ideas from their employees and stakeholders, but more importantly follow them up, encourage them to be nurtured, and track their progress, to ensure that the initial spark of brilliance is not lost in the enthusiasm of the moment. Perhaps more importantly, Hunchbuzz makes room for and fosters a culture of openness and creativity in an organisation, which unleashes untold latent value.
They’re starting to really gain industry recognition. Gartner Research recently selected HunchBuzz as one of their three global “cool vendors in government 2015“.
While HunchBuzz have landed several large customers in New Zealand, their sights are now set on the massive overseas opportunity. They currently have over 14,000 users on the platform, in hundreds of communities. They include some seriously large paying customers like EcoLab, The City of London, the NZ Ministry of Primary Industries, and Callaghan Innovation.
They seem to have struck a real chord with regional governments because of the relative ease of deploying a SaaS solution as well as the need to innovate and do more with fewer resources.
HunchBuzz are about to embark on a capital raise to fund their global expansion aspirations with a big sales push into Europe and the establishment of regional distribution in London. They’re also developing some interesting IP, including advanced natural language processing technology to automatically group and rank ideas based upon interactions and individual customer metrics.
Physiotherapy as a game Swibo takes the drudgery of physiotherapy and turns it into a fun, competitive game. The game itself, Tilt, runs on an Android phone, which is placed onto a balance board; the phone is connected wirelessly to a computer and monitor where the player can view the action. The player plays the game by using the balance board to do their prescribed physiotherapy exercises, which are cleverly disguised as a game. While they play, Tilt measures performance and balance, collecting data that can be used to track improvement, identify strengths, weaknesses, and patterns in a player’s balance to tailor player training schemes.
Tilt has been tested with the New Zealand Artificial Limb service for use with amputees. This is a large and growing market, with amputations due to diabetes growing rapidly. Tilt is also a useful game for injury prevention and sport training. This is also a large market – over $1B was spent in 2014 on out-of-commission professional athletes, and Swibo have signed up a high-profile Wellington sporting franchise as an early customer.
Cofounder and CEO Ben Dunn leads a team of five, including two devs, a designer, and a UX specialist. They’re young, lean, and ready to take on the world from Wellington. Ben is a dual US and NZ citizen, and wants to lead the charge into the US market, whilst basing the research, development, and operations in Wellington.
SWIBO started life in the Victoria Entrepreneur Bootcamp, which was jointly run by CreativeHQ‘s and VicLink, and they’re currently raising a seed round.
Our first NZ Startup of the Week is Leaping Tiger, a location-based friend finding app which lets gamers find other gamers to play against, team up with, or message with.
Based in Wellington, founders Jordan Lilley and Amy Potter started Leaping Tiger to solve their own problem. Amy explains, “When you bring a new video game home, you are currently faced with two options – play with someone you know in real life, or be forced online into random online matchmaking with faceless strangers. Random online matchmaking has a whole host of specific problems – from people speaking a totally different language, people with terrible ping, and people who don’t have a headset when the game really requires one to succeed. There are also a lot of other factors that come into play here, where gamers would ideally love to meet someone new with similar gaming interests to them, who likes similar things to them, and plays at similar times to them – but until now there has been no simple and instant way to do that! We bridge the gap between totally random strangers, and real life friends, allowing gamers to discover those near them, playing the same games they do, and who are online right now.”
You might be thinking that Steam, Xbox, PlayStation and others all provide a way for people to connect, but Leaping Tiger claims that they’re the only cross-platform system to do this, and that because they’re much more user-centric than the big platforms, their recommendations are much better targetted and useful.
Leaping Tiger launched in May 2015, and four months in they already have over 6,000 users in 70 countries – they’re clearly building a community really quickly, and have great support. They’re firmly focussed on a “global from day one” strategy, with the US and UK markets number one and two in terms of current user base, with NZ in third place.
Currently pre-revenue, they want to monetise in the short term through very specific genre- and location-based affiliate links, moving into freemium offerings and partner/sponsor rights. They point out that the gaming industry is already bigger than music plus movies, and continuing to grow rapidly.
Leaping Tiger is currently raising a seed round through Angel HQ and ICE Angels to more deeply explore international markets and continue product development. This will be their first investment, and they’d love to acquire overseas gaming industry connections at the same time.