Hanie Yee joins Matū as Iramoe-Executive in Residence

The Matū team is proud to welcome Hanie Yee into a newly created position as an Iramoe-Executive in Residence. Our Whakatipu Tāngata Policy is about developing capability in the early-stage investment space, especially in human capital, giving more people the opportunity to experience and develop skills about how venture capital and start-ups work. Hanie was previously an Iramoe-Observer, attending our team meetings and getting an insight into how we run the Matū Fund. She now steps into this newly created role, which will involve more hands-on training through due diligence and project sourcing processes, as well as opportunities to work with our target and portfolio companies in governance and operational support.

Hanie has 20 years international experience working in the biotech, pharmaceutical and medical device industries, including almost a decade at Fisher and Paykel Healthcare. With a background in biology and medical science, she recently completed her Post Graduate Diploma in Business Management and Leadership from Darden Business School, University of Virginia.

She has a passion for helping nurture and grow start-ups and founders, especially in healthcare and medtech, and has recently been advising a number of early-stage medical device companies, including OPUM and Alimetry. Hanie is an independent member of the Return on Science Medtech and Surgical, and Auckland Momentum Investment Committees, and is an associate member of the Institute of Directors.

Hanie says: “The space that Matū operates in – the intersection of deep tech and science – this really excites me. I have a passion for, and expertise, in this space, and working with Matū provides me an opportunity to develop investment skills while also applying what I have learnt in the past. I also like Matū’s philosophy and approach – at this point in my career, I only want to join organisations that align with my values. Matū values people, and is an active collaborator with the businesses that they want to invest in, rather than just growing money passively. It’s about the journey, not just the destination, and Matū goes on that journey with the companies.”

We are creating this new role to help candidates with existing professional experience in adjacent areas get a kickstart into the world of early-stage investment. Through mentoring and training with the rest of the wider Matū team, we are helping Iramoe-Executives gain experience relevant to angel and venture capital investing, both in the extensive investment process, but also the support for our portfolio companies (post-investment). Our goal is to offer a deep experience across all parts of our operations, with the aim of building a career in this space.

Investment #5: Ligar Polymers

We are excited to announce that we have placed investment into Ligar Polymers, a filtering and extraction company based in Hamilton.

Ligar is commercialising Molecularly Imprinted Polymers (MIPs) based on technology developed at Waikato Institute of Technology (WinTec) and the University of Waikato. The MIPs enable very high-selectivity extraction of molecules from fluids, which can then be eluted and/or discarded. There are a broad range of applications, including removing heavy metals contaminants from drinking water, extracting high-value bioactives from horticultural waste streams, and removing smoke taints from wine.

This announcement has been almost a year in the making, as we have worked closely with the company to develop their thinking and strategy, as well as assisting with governance and partnerships. The company has been operating for a number of years, but we think that now is a good time to back Ligar as they make progress with a number of international customers and partners. We have also been working closely with Ligar and Te Whāi Ao Limited on a joint venture called The Refinery, a local initiative to extract bioactives from avocado, kiwifruit, hops, and hemp.

PowerON kickstarts MEiTNER research group

Congratulations to the team at PowerON for establishing the MEiTNER (Mulitfunctional Dielectric Electronics for Next Generation Soft Robotics) research group at TU Dresden as part of a 2 million Euro research grant over six years.

“Flexible robot systems will open up completely new applications that seem unimaginable to engineers today. We draw inspiration from the natural world around us – the end result of millions of years of evolution.” says Dr. Markus Henke, MEiTNER group leader at TU Dresden and PowerON’s CEO.

Read more here: https://www.poweron.one/new-robots-step-forward-meitner-begins/

Building Momentum into the Future

Andy Shenk from UniServices has written a piece celebrating the launch of the fifth Momentum Investment Committee in the Manawatū.

The team at Matū are proud to support Momentum, both through our sponsorship of the Momentum Student Entrepreneur of the Year award, and through our participation on most of the Momentum committees. Through our engagement with Momentum, we can share our experience and expertise with both student entrepreneurs and student investment committee members, and help build capability within the next generation of the investment ecosystem.

Read more here: https://www.uniservices.co.nz/why-our-momentum-committees-are-investment-future

Bioactives initiative launched today

Our portfolio company Ligar Polymers, in conjunction with our partners at Te Whāi Ao Limited, have today announced the launch of The Refinery, a joint venture that will use Ligar’s MIP technology to extract high-value bioactive compounds from Aotearoa plant-based foods and horticulture. The team at Matū are pleased to be involved and providing advice to both Ligar and Te Whāi Ao, and are excited to see the potential for The Refinery grow.

Read more here: https://www.nzherald.co.nz/bay-of-plenty-times/news/article.cfm?c_id=1503343&objectid=12356158

Matū Planning through COVID-19

What a difference a week or two makes, to NZ and to the world around us! As we are writing this, the Matū team are in lockdown working from home, but we remain in close contact, supporting each other and our portfolio companies via the use of various online tools and the internet. Business is continuing as normal; this week we have completed a Lean Canvas workshop on a microfluidics project at Massey University, the Return on Science and Momentum Investment Committees are meeting, and we continue with due diligence on a couple of early-stage opportunities.

We are also participating in several industry groups that are advising the government on potential programs and projects to try and keep the research and innovation sector moving in these trying times. The COVID-19 Innovation Acceleration Fund from MBIE has already been announced in the last week to research organisations. We are also in the final steps of completing an investment into portfolio company #5, Ligar Polymers.

While we are now in little doubt that we are in for some pretty challenging times in the coming months and perhaps years ahead, we are confident that the underlying broad strength of the New Zealand economy will see us through. This will definitely create new and disruptive investment opportunities for Matū as NZ and the world has to learn to innovate and use technology on a completely different level. In January, we completed some strategy planning looking at the next couple of years, but we will clearly need to iterate this over the next couple of quarters once things settle somewhat.

In the last two weeks, we have conducted reviews with each of our portfolio companies, with a particular focus on impacts and contingency planning related to COVID-19. Naturally, they are all very busy looking at burn rates, identifying cost reductions where possible, and modelling cashflow scenarios in consultation with financial advisors. Spreadsheets are definitely working overtime! Not unexpectedly, with portfolio staff there are a wide range of emotions and genuine concerns about what the future might hold for them and their families. We are encouraging each team to focus on the things they can control, and continue to move the business forward whilst being very careful to protect cash.

Going forward, we are remaining positive. We remember that we have been through many tough challenges as a country in recent times, including the Christchurch earthquakes and the Mosque shootings.

After the Global Financial Crisis, recovery was in part led by disruption and innovation: Uber, AirBnB, Lyft, and Amazon’s pivot are just some examples of start-ups emerging from the ashes of the chaos. This time won’t be any different. Technology will play a major part in getting business back on its feet, in new ways.

We know that when the pandemic is over, things won’t be the same again. However, when the grief and shock makes way for a positive can do attitude, human insight will come to the fore. We recognise that we will have to approach the same things different to move forward in the “new world”.

Matū is ready and we will play our part in this new wave. Our pipeline is solid and continues to expand. We are well positioned to ride out this economic “correction” and we continue to interact on a daily basis with innovators and entrepreneurs in this new era.

We will clearly need new capital to execute the opportunities, and we continue to engage positively with potential investors. We are also expecting market corrections to take shape in a softening of valuations and general investment terms.

Sectors rife for disruption could include fintech, digital health, wellness and medical devices, industrial processing, digital security, remote collaboration tools, and AI. We could see a mad scramble of a lot of venture money globally into these sectors, and we will continue our careful and scientific approach to early-stage investing.

We hope that you and your families are safe and well during the lockdown, and please do reach out if we can lend an ear or help in any way.

Navigating Ethical Investing

Sustainability and ethical practices have become a hot topic over the past few years. With many people jumping on the sustainability bandwagon, the pressure has been on for companies and industries to incorporate better practices into their business.

The early-stage industry is no different; sustainable investments have increased by 40% in New Zealand in the last year alone1. This movement has seen the rise of impact funds, which invest into companies with the intention of providing measurable, positive social or environmental impact as well as financial returns2. This is not a niche market; as of 2018 there were US$502 billion of impact investing assets under management globally3.

Outside of specific impact investing funds, others have been updating their policies to incorporate more sustainable investments as well. People may be familiar with ethical investment policies which exclude things like tobacco, drugs and illegal activities, but more recently these policies have evolved to encompass the environmental effects and long-term sustainability of the companies they invest in.

It’s important to note that not all funds that have taken on board more ethical practices are the same. There are impact funds whose sole focus is to support and invest in projects which will positively benefit the environment, and there are funds that have some form of ethical investment policies which guide their investment decisions. There is also a third category of funds who have no official ethical guidelines in their investment mandate. Whether you’re looking to place your money in a fund that supports ethical and sustainable projects or you’re looking to raise money from such a fund, it’s important to know the differences in order to select what is best for you.

An impact fund is likely to advertise itself as such and there are organisations, such as B Lab, who have created certifications that require an investment fund to ensure that responsible investing is upheld4 all the way down to their legal structure5. These funds often have Ethical, Social, and Governance (ESG) reporting requirements and portfolio selection criteria which they integrate into the management of the fund6.

If a fund is not specifically an impact investment fund, it doesn’t necessarily mean that no attention is paid to the ethical and sustainable practices of the fund and their portfolio companies. Funds can sit along a spectrum of ethical investment activities from no ethical consideration to impact investing. Some of these activities may include screening out companies which have a direct negative impact on the environment, or screening specifically for companies which have more social or environmental benefit than others7. Matū and Punakaiki Fund are two examples of funds which have their ethical investment policies publicly available on the website8,9 and the Impact Enterprise Fund (https://impactenterprisefund.co.nz/) is an example of an impact fund in NZ.

It is important to determine what core values you would like both the fund and the companies they invest in to have, and what you would feel comfortable having your money supporting before deciding on what fund is right for you. For example, if you wouldn’t want to support a company that doesn’t ensure fair wages for all the workers along their supply chain, then you need to make sure you don’t invest in a fund that would support that.  

Every fund will have their own individual criteria so make sure you do your research to ensure they are the right fit for you. The presence of an ethical investment policy alone does not guarantee that it will match your preferences either; the content of that policy is just as important. For example, a fund may invest in companies that have a social underpinning, which you might align with, but one of those companies sells cannabis products, which you might not align with. It can be tricky to navigate the details of each fund’s ethical priorities, but asking questions or having a thorough read of their investment mandate should help to determine if a fund’s investment decisions align with your values. Also, just because a fund has “impact” or “responsible” in the name, doesn’t mean that they necessarily actually follow through on that, so asking questions and doing your due diligence is the best way to cut through and get the truth.

There is a variety of information on the returns of funds which incorporate ESG practices into their businesses. However, the general consensus seems to be that they return similar returns to the funds which don’t10,11. If it’s not something you’ve considered before, I would encourage you to do so and help create a market push so that more funds incorporate varying degrees of ESG practices. The world is already burning, so do we really want to be funding new businesses that fuel the fire?


1 NZ Herald, “Ethical Investing Hits New Highs
2 Responsible Investment Association Australia, “Impact Investor Insights 2019 Aotearoa New Zealand
3 Global Impact Investing Network, “What You Need to Know about Impact Investing
4 Greene, “A Short Guide to Impact Investing.”
5 Certified B Corporation, “Certification.”
6 Responsible Investment Association Australia, “Impact Investor Insights 2019 Aotearoa New Zealand
7 Noted, “Investing Ethically Is Good for Your Wealth
8 Punakaiki Fund, “Key Documents
9 Matū Fund, “About the Fund
10 Global Impact Investing Network, “What You Need to Know about Impact Investing
11 Icehouse, “Impact Investing

Maximising the output of New Zealand’s early stage industry

This is the third article in a series by our Research Intern, Odette Lees. The second article, “Increasing the Available Capital in New Zealand”, is available here: https://matu.co.nz/2019/09/increasing-the-available-capital-in-new-zealand/

New Zealand is a small nation with a burgeoning and growing start-up industry1. Despite steady growth, the early-stage ecosystem in NZ is still young and is in what can be described as the ‘Activation’ phase2. This is the earliest of the four phases of maturity described by the Start-up Genome reports, with the other phases being globalisation, expansion, and integration. The key characteristics of an ecosystem in the activation phase are having fewer than 1000 start-ups, resource gaps, and limited local experience.

New Zealand’s early-stage ecosystem has all three of these characteristics; we have an estimated 400-600 start-ups3, a gap in Series A funding has been well-acknowledged4,5, and our young industry means that interconnectedness and knowledge sharing between the stakeholders in the early-stage community is still developing. Closing funding gaps and encouraging knowledge-sharing are crucial factors to further the ecosystem and allow it to mature into a more productive industry. Addressing these problems encourages growth ofthe number of start-ups in New Zealand. Connectedness, experience and adequate funding contribute to the success of companies, which in turn can allow for more exits to occur. The key stakeholders from these exits can return back to the ecosystem6, build up new companies and share their learnings, thus increasing the experience of the overall industry and the number of start-ups in it.  

Our blog posts have previously identified ways to address funding gaps in the early-stage ecosystem7, and this provides ways to address one of the key hurdles to ecosystem growth. Increasing the interconnectedness of the early-stage ecosystem is the other critical hurdle to address, as over 55% of start-up founders have no prior experience before launching their business8. There are three aspects of ‘connectedness’ that can be targeted. These are:

  • networks between founders and entrepreneurs
  • relationships between key stakeholders in the early stage space e.g. investors, advisors, entrepreneurs, customers etc.
  • a general sense of community between all the players in the industry which facilitates overall transfer of knowledge9.

Solutions to address all of these aspects of connectedness already exist in New Zealand. The question is whether they are sufficiently addressing this issue and if we can do more to encourage it. A visible lack of diversity in the early-stage investment space is a clear sign that this community is not open enough to include and represent all New Zealanders. Basic research on ‘start-up help’ or ‘support’ yields many government funding resources but very little coverage of any non-monetary support or networks. Co-working spaces, incubators, and technical hubs provide a physical space for people to collaborate, share ideas and build support networks between entrepreneurs at those locations as well as access to key stakeholders. These exist across the country and are known to people who are well-ingrained in this industry. Part of the problem is that new founders with no prior experience are often not aware of these resources or perceive a high cost barrier.

A more accessible alternative to physical spaces is virtual networks and guidance. Websites like Scale Up NZ (https://www.scaleup.nz/) are a good start to fill this space by acting as a way of linking up companies to investors and physical resources. Building and broadening these virtual resources to encourage the sharing of knowledge and build an ecosystem-wide community is the next step. Virtual resources provide the lowest barrier to entry for new entrants into the early-stage industry and their potential utility is large.

Rather than expecting people to independently navigate this secretive and sometimes closed off world, efforts at both the organisational and individual level need to be made to open up the industry. Physical hubs, incubators, and accelerators can make themselves more accessible to the public with open days and information evenings, while individuals can contribute by taking the time to inform those around us about this industry. Virtual meetups and forums would allow for a diverse array of people to learn from each other and share ideas. In addition, organisations can actively educate people through workshops and seminars. This allows for people to receive necessary and targeted training for them to manoeuvre through the different parts of this ecosystem. The incentive to focus on building a community is that with an increase in efforts, New Zealand has the potential to become an ecosystem that fosters and attracts the best talent, both nationally and globally, thus encouraging the formation and success of more start-ups.

Efforts towards growing the early-stage industry in recent years have generated success and, while this shouldn’t be discounted, we can always strive to do better. We have the available resources, but we must ensure that they are being utilised to their full extent to address the key limitations of the industry. It is when we focus on addressing these systemic issues that we will be able to maximise the output of the early-stage industry in New Zealand.


1 Matū’s own research acquired from Young Company Finance and New Zealand Private Equity and Venture Capital Monitor Reports 2008-2018
2 Startup Genome, “Global Startup Ecosystem Report 2019.”
3 Startup Genome, “New Zealand Startup Ecosystem Analysis.”
4 Lees, “How Big Is New Zealand’s Early-Stage Funding Gap?
5 Ruth, “Venture Capital Funding Gap Is Real – David Parker.”
6 Callaghan Innovation, “Growing the Pie: How Entrepreneurs Are Creating a Better NZ.”
7 Lees, “Increasing the Available Capital in New Zealand.
8 MYOB, “State of Startups Report.”
9 Startup Genome, “New Zealand Startup Ecosystem Analysis.”

Blackbird Arrives in NZ in Style with #Sunrise2019

Blackbird Ventures, a venture capital fund based primarily in Australia, has just opened their Auckland offices last week. This was alongside a successful Sunrise event that attracted hundreds of founders, investors, and other stakeholders in the early-stage investment space.

With their founder-focused investment strategy and community approach, Blackbird brings a new voice and style to the NZ market. Their strong values statements make it clear that they put people first, think in the long-term, and comfortable with high-risk: all values that we at Matū support as well. We think it will be really helpful to add a strong voice in the ecosystem around actively guiding, mentoring, and supporting founders.

The Sunrise summit itself on Oct 25th was a clear representation of those values. The team from Blackbird didn’t spend much time talking about their fund or making big announcements – they mostly got out of the way and let a group of founders tell their stories and share their lessons. The program was very well structured, showcasing a variety of founders and experiences.

The morning started with Melanie Perkins from $3.2 billion unicorn Canva, talking about the rollercoaster journey from working out of her mum’s lounge to a company with 700 employees. She conveyed two key messages – fight through the rejection that will inevitably come along the way, and dream big and far so that you have something to strive towards.

Other speakers included Brianne West from environmentally-conscious and socially sustainable personal care company Ethique, Shama Lee from alternative meat company Sunfed Foods, and Tama Toki from Great Barrier Island-based cosmetics company Aotea Made.

The formal part of the program closed with a gripping story from Jodie Fox, co-founder of personalised/customised fashion company Shoes of Prey, which went into liquidation last year after nine years of operation and at one point reaching a valuation >$100mil. For an industry that suffers from strong survivor bias (i.e. we only hear the good stories about entrepreneurship), it was a tough story to share but incredibly valuable for everyone to hear that these things happen and how it happens. Huge kudos to Jodie for bravely sharing her journey publicly – she has written a book to tell the story. My main takeaway was that there is a right way to close down a company, which starts from building a really strong culture of respect years beforehand. Without that sense of community and loyalty, the process of closing down a big company would have been much, much harder.

Apart from the speakers, the other really valuable part of the day was structured networking. People were able to make bookings beforehand based on short bios that attendees provided online, which meant that we didn’t have to just go up to someone and try to strike up a conversation. We met a bunch of founders throughout the day who were interested in Matū’s offering, and we will be keeping track of these various projects and giving our support where we can.

We often think of the New Zealand early-stage investment community as being “small”, but events like Sunrise remind me that “tightknit” and “connected” are perhaps better descriptors. There are thousands of people involves in this space, which may be small in comparison to some places overseas, but it affords us a sense of collegiality that helps us work together and build towards collective success. We at Matū are always happy to help wherever we can within our means, so get in touch!

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