The Art of the Board

Mike Volpi writes on TechCrunch about the value of having a Board of Directors in an early-stage start-up, and what sort of relationship the Board should have with Management. A number of key messages in this article are the same ones we espouse in our Governance for Early-Stage Companies workshops. The role of the Board isn’t to be the boss of the CEO (unless it is really necessary), but rather to provide day-to-day support and guidance in a way that adds value.

Read more here: https://techcrunch.com/2020/02/12/effective-board-members-create-value-for-startups/

The VCF Launches with a New Name: Elevate

A launch event was held for the Elevate NZ Venture Fund last night in Auckland, with three government ministers present and many of New Zealand’s early-stage investors represented. This is the $300 million early-stage intervention that was announced in the Budget last year, and the government is hoping that it will help supercharge the hunt for unicorns.

At the event, Phil Twyford said: “New Zealand has averaged around one new unicorn a year – a technology company with a market valuation of a billion dollars-plus – through the likes of Xero, Lanzatech and Rocket Lab. As more capital becomes available, we want to see more of these new companies emerging.”

The event also revealed a new name for NZVIF, which will now be the New Zealand Growth Capital Partners. The name points towards the co-investment approach used, either as direct investments into start-ups or with a fund-of-funds model, where NZGCP deploys capital into other investment funds.

You can read more here: https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/120014084/governments-300m-venture-capital-fund-seeks-unicorn-technology-companies
or
https://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=12313894
or the official press release: https://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA2003/S00033/elevate-nz-venture-fund-to-lift-productivity.htm

Lanaco helping manufacture masks to help limit spread of COVID-19

With a global shortage of face masks, Lanaco has been using their wool-based air filter technology to manufacture millions of masks quickly over the last couple of weeks. The wool comes from a specially bred sheep, which has a high electrostatic charge that attracts particles towards the filter and allows air to flow through.

Read more here: https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/119759842/cactus-outdoor-launches-wool-face-mask-amid-global-shortage

Aroa Biosurgery aiming for ASX IPO

Aroa Biosurgery, manufacturer of high-tech wound dressings and soft tissue repair products, is targeting an IPO at a $300mil valuation on the Australian Stock Exchange. With a May target listing date, this comes hot on the heels of the company posting $25mil in revenue and the first year in profit, and would be huge for the New Zealand biotech industry.

Read more here: https://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=12306150 and https://www.afr.com/street-talk/aroa-biosurgery-to-patch-up-300m-listing-20200204-p53xhm

The story of a successful cannabis start-up

Alejandro Cremades interviews Mitchell Kahn in this podcast episode about Grassroots Cannabis, which was acquired by Curaleaf for just under USD$900mil in the middle of 2019. The episode has some really interesting insights into the cannabis industry, and a lot more about raising capital, identifying market opportunities, and the value of people. Matū is closely monitoring some of the trends in this space, but there are also good lessons generally for those wanting to go on the venture capital start-up path.

Listen and read more here: https://alejandrocremades.com/this-lawyer-turned-entrepreneur-just-sold-his-cannabis-business-for-almost-900-million/

Is Venture Debt coming to NZ?

Benjamin Chong at Right Click Capital has penned a piece introducing Venture Debt. As far as we know, there haven’t been any venture debt deals in New Zealand yet, but one of the new Technology Incubators is a major supporter of this funding instrument, so this may change. Sometimes pitched as an alternative to venture capital/equity funding, we view it as being more complementary, especially for start-ups that might find it difficult to raise a bridging round.

Read more here: https://www.startupdaily.net/2019/12/venture-debt-friend-or-foe-for-startup-founders/

Solar Concentrators at VUW

The Spinoff has covered Nate Davis’s laboratory and the solar concentrators they are developing, which may revolutionise solar electricity generation by diffusing light sideways efficiently. This would allow for photovoltaic panels to be embedded in all sorts of places, like in the sides of windows with the light being distributed to the sides of the pane of glass. By significantly reducing the land cost of solar electricity generation, and also supporting distributed generation, this technology could significantly disrupt the way renewable energy is generated in the future.

Read more here: https://thespinoff.co.nz/science/05-11-2019/how-to-make-solar-electricity-cheap-move-light-sideways/

Student Entrepreneurs at Canterbury win $85k in prizes

Congratulations to the winners of the University of Canterbury Entré challenge, with $85k worth of prizes awarded to a range of students and companies. Really interestingly, there are three joint grand prize winners, with some very cool ideas in the mix.

Read more here: https://www.canterbury.ac.nz/news/2019/85k-in-prizes-awarded-to-entrepreneurial-students.html

Investment #4: PowerON

We are proud to announce that we have placed investment into PowerON Limited alongside our syndicate partners.

The IP Group plc, the University of Auckland Inventors Fund and Matū Fund have together invested in a spin-out from the Auckland Bioengineering Institute at The University of Auckland.  POWERON Limited utilises the unique capabilities of dielectric elastomer technology to develop customisable, soft and flexible switches, actuators and logic capabilities for use in a variety of applications, from simple direct limit switches to distributed intelligence, lifelike soft-robotics and collaborative robots.

About IP Group plc – IP Group is a leading intellectual property commercialisation company focused on evolving great ideas from its partner universities into world-changing businesses. The Group pioneered a unique approach to developing these ideas and the resulting businesses by providing access to business building expertise, capital, scientific insight and the supporting infrastructure. In Australia and New Zealand, IP Group works in close partnership with the Go8 Universities and The University of Auckland to identify ground-breaking technologies, rooted in hard science, which have the most promising commercial potential. IP Group, which is listed on the Main Market of the London Stock Exchange under the symbol IPO, has a strong track record of success and its portfolio comprises holdings in early-stage to mature businesses across life sciences and technology.  www.ipgroupplc.com

About The University of Auckland Inventors Fund – The University of Auckland Inventors Fund is an evergreen, open-ended $20 million investment fund owned and managed by Auckland UniServices Limited, the commercial company for The University of Auckland.  The Inventors Fund provides seed-capital for ventures started out of the University of Auckland.  www.uniservices.co.nz

About Matū Fund – Matū is a venture capital fund investing in early-stage science and technology commercialisation from education and research institutions and the private sector. As an open and evergreen fund, Matū takes a long-term investment view and is aimed at turning ground-breaking ideas into globally focused, IP-rich companies. Matū provides intelligent capital with active governance, executive management, operational support, and mentorship for founding and executive teams.  www.matu.co.nz