Founder-led Biotech Companies in the Spotlight

Some interesting commentary at TechCrunch talks about the rise of founder-led biotech companies, in contrast to the VC-led model that is more common in the US. Since the risk in commercialising biotech is so high, and the capital required is huge, traditionally VC firms have taken the technology off the researchers and installed their own experienced teams to execute the vision. More recently, increasing numbers of biotech firms are led by the researchers themselves, who can learn the process of building a business and taking the product to market themselves.

Read more here: https://techcrunch.com/2019/08/09/biotech-researchers-venture-into-the-wild-to-start-their-own-business/

Momentum Student Entrepreneur of the Year Awarded!

The award was given out at the Kiwinet Research Commercialisation Awards last night in Auckland – congratulations to the winner, Cynthia Hunefeld. Completing a Masters degree at Victoria University of Wellington, Cynthia has started HerbScience, a company specialising in evidence-based nutraceuticals. With significant market validation, Cynthia is well placed to take on the big challenge of taking over the world – check out her website at http://herbscience.co.nz/

Congratulations also go to the other finalists, Connor Talbot of ProstheteX and Christopher Walker of Electroclear, both from the University of Auckland. The Matū team had a great time at the awards, and we’re looking forward to continued engagement with the Commercialisation Partner Network.

At the Kiwinet Research Commercialisation Awards on 7 Aug 2019, from left to right, Graham Scown (Return On Science and Momentum Programme Director), Cynthia Hunefeld (HerbScience), Odette Lees (Matū Fund Research Intern), Greg Sitters (Matū Fund Managing Partner), Andrew Chen (Matū Fund Venture Associate), and Ken Erskine (Matū Fund Principal General Partner).

Rocket Lab Announces Reusable Rockets

Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck has announced that they are developing reusable rockets in the near future – with significant cost savings as well as positive implications for sustainability. Being able to re-use the launch vehicles is not a simple task, and requires active steering of the rockets back towards a safe landing spot.

Read more here: https://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=12256289

Aroa Biosurgery Achieving Quiet Success

Originally called Mesynthes, Aroa Biosurgery has seen rapid growth over the last year or two, doubling revenue and now considering an IPO exit. Aroa develops and manufactures a special fabric from sheep rumen that is biocompatible. The product is used in wound care and surgical implant products. It is manufactured in a cleanroom in South Auckland and mostly exported overseas to the US and Europe.

The company was originally formed in 2008, and like many biotech companies it has taken a little bit of time to find success, but Aroa is now profitable and has dreams to grow even more, with new manufacturing facilities and products in the pipeline. The story also highlights the importance of partners, who can help fund research and development work along the way.

Read more here: https://www.nbr.co.nz/story/kiwi-success-story-flying-under-radar

Objective Acuity Reaches the Chinese Market

Congratulations to Objective Acuity, a start-up with a new form of visual acuity assessment (eye test) that doesn’t rely on verbal questioning and responses. This is particularly important for children, who can be misdiagnosed simply because they answer a question incorrectly (or are unable to answer). The Objective Acuity test actually assesses the function of the eye, and does so in an automated way. This technology was spun-out of the University of Auckland.

Partnering with the AIER Eye Hospital Group in China is a significant milestone, helping them reach over 200 hospitals in the network and therefore millions of customers in one go. AIER provides services to 70% of the insured population across China, and is also expanding to Hong Kong and the US.

Read more here: https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/objective-acuity-and-aier-eye-hospital-group-announce-a-strategic-cooperation-agreement-300891165.html

CPN Funding for KiwNet and ReturnOnScience Increased

The big news in our neck of the woods this week has been the formal announcement of the Commercialisation Partner Network (CPN) getting increased operational funding, alongside a boost to the Pre-Seed Accelerator Fund (PSAF). Together, these two publicly funded programs help take great ideas out of research institutions and pair it with both expert advice and pre-seed funding to get these projects investment-ready.

We are proud to work with both KiwiNet and ReturnOnScience, both by giving our expertise back to the community (our team members sit on several ReturnOnScience Investment Committees), as well as providing forward pathways for high-performing projects to get seed capital and support.

The timing of the announcement was relatively fortuitous, as the Momentum program has spread to Dunedin with the first meeting of the Otago Momentum Investment Committee yesterday on the 9th of July. This makes three student-led Momentum committees: Auckland, Wellington, and Otago. This is a great initiative for professional development for the next generation of commercialisation and investment professionals, as well as a great opportunity for fast-moving projects (particularly those led by student teams) to get some advice and suggestions from a diverse range of perspectives.

Read more here:
Ministerial Press Release: https://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/backing-bright-ideas-early-boosts-innovation-economy
KiwiNet Press Release: https://www.kiwinet.org.nz/News/KiwiNet_secures_significant_funding_boost

Series A Fundraising Checklist

Pete Flint from US seed-stage venture firm NfX has published a 13-point checklist of key proof points that firms should have when pitching for a Series A. Many of these items are arguably needed for any business pitching for funding at any time, but are must-haves for Series A. We see a lot of project ideas that are missing several of these items, and it makes it very easy for someone to criticise the project when something just isn’t there. Crossing off everything on the list means that the investors can properly engage with the team and actually understand the strength of the idea/company.

Read more here: https://www.nfx.com/post/fundraising-checklist-13-proof-points-series-a

Technology Incubators

Callaghan Innovation has released a call for new Technology Incubators – it’s an exciting opportunity for firms, funds, and people working in the early-stage investment space to get some additional support, primarily in the form of Repayable Grants and OPEX funding. Read more about the new TIs and the bidding process here: http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/BU1907/S00097/search-underway-for-deep-tech-commercialisation.htm

Slack’s Path to IPO

The VC community has been watching Slack’s listing on the NYSE intently, as Slack has used the unconventional direct listing approach which carries a lot of risk but also potential reward for the existing shareholders. Thus far it has looked to be successful, with a whopping 22-27x implied multiple on annual revenue, even though Slack is not profitable yet.

Here are two interesting datagraphics that have been prepared by analysts in the US about Slack’s pathway to the IPO exit:

https://equityzen.com/path-to-ipo/slack/

https://pitchbook.com/news/articles/tracing-slacks-tracks-from-founding-to-direct-listing-datagraphic

NZ’s first FDA-granted Breakthrough Device

Congratulations to the team at Surgical Design Studio (SDS) and the University of Auckland for achieving a Breakthrough Device designation from the FDA – the first medical device in New Zealand to do so. SDS have a novel device to help those suffering from gastrointestinal diseases, transforming their recoveries from surgery by reducing complications and improving quality of life.

Read more here: https://www.uniservices.co.nz/node/786