New Zealand’s UAV tech takeover

Chris Thomson, Callaghan Innovation’s Aviation Sector Manager attended NAB in Las Vegas this April. With five New Zealand companies on board he wraps up from four days of technology mayhem.

From 18-21st April a group of NZ UAV technology companies were on stage at the 2016 National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) show in Las Vegas.

Callaghan Innovation sponsored the New Zealand UAV Technology Pavilion as the final part of the C-Prize competition (next generation UAV technology for the screen industry). NAB  is the largest show on earth for media and broadcast technology with more than 100,000 attendees and 1,800 exhibitors from around the world. In short; NAB is a crazy-big business bonanza for cameras, film equipment, editing software, virtual reality gear, and much more. The show features a dedicated area for “aerial robotics” and this is where the NZ crew set up camp.

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The NZ Pavillion at NAB

 

C-Prize winners Vortec UAV showed off their thrust-vectoring technology, with their cycloidal gyroscope (pictured) drawing lots of attention. The lads made excellent connections with all the major drone manufacturers as they build multiple opportunities to commercialise their IP. Ex DJI and 3D Robotics drone guru Colin Guinness looked like a kid at Christmas!

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Vortec’s popular stand at NAB

 

Aeronavics were on their fifth trip to NAB and their experience shone through in the quality and presentation of their products. As the industry matures so does the knowledge of their customers who help build their reputation even further.

Dotterel Technologies, another C-Prize finalist, found a true niche as the only company offering active and passive noise cancellation systems for UAVs. The potential for this NZ start-up was recognised as they won the “Most Innovative Product” award at the show by Newshooter. This was a massive achievement considering the number of products on show, and they are off to a great start with incredible media and market interest.

Wipster (video editing software) and Britten Aero (film production and UAV products) rounded out the team with some great results. Wipster were in full business development mode with Vimeo and Adobe while Sam hit a home run, signing a non-disclosure agreement with DJI for future product development!

It was great to connect with some of the other NZ companies at the show including Shotover Camera Systems (CEO Brad Hurndell was so busy he lost his voice!), the Syrp boys (definitely the cool kids), Park Road, Weta, Maori TV, Pango Productions, Moxion and more.

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The NZ contingent at NAB

 

NAB is a huge stage for technology companies but it was amazing to see the representation from NZ Inc. To use an unverified cliche; per capita of population I’m sure NZ was punching well above its weight.

Talking about NZ companies at NAB, Bailey Mackey from Pango Production summed up the story beautifully: don’t be afraid to pump your own tyres, be confident on an international stage and celebrate what we’re good at.

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NAB was a great example of this and Callaghan Innovation is keen to continue working with Airshare and UAVNZ to build a world class industry in NZ.

 

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We have moved!

Hi everyone, our blog has relocated to the Callaghan Innovation website, and now goes under the moniker Disruptive Influence.

Please feel free to read our regular posts, subscribe and comment at our new home!

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Start-up highlights May 2016

  1. Tech Innovation Showcase at Astrolab

Hosted by the Auckland-based Technology Incubator Astrolab, the Tech Innovation Showcase was a unique addition to Tech Week Akl. Guests were warmly welcomed with canapes and drinks, after which new and prospective ventures commercialising NZ-sourced science and technology based at various incubators, universities and other research institutes were showcased.

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Michael Lonsdale, CEO of Moxion presents the proprietary end-to-end collaborative film editing technology. Moxion is incubated at Astrolab. Source: Elena Higgison.

 

  1. ArcAngels Investment Evening

Opened by the new Chair Cecilia Tarrant, this first ArcAngels event of the year saw 5 women-led start-ups pitching for investment. Fuel50 and Acuite updated the investors on their progress since the last investment round, whilst presenting their business strategies for the upcoming months. Presentations from SeekStock, The Baby Bag and Little Bird, were also followed by sharp questions and robust investment discussions.

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Cecilia Tarrant, new Chair of ArcAngels opens the investment evening. Source: @SummerParkSees

 

  1. Founders Angels Forum

As part of the process of evaluating acceleration programmes that have been running in NZ for the last three years and their impact on the start-up ecosystem in New Zealand, Callaghan Innovation, Creative HQ and the Angel Association of New Zealand sought feedback from Angel investors, founders and legal professionals.  Held in Wellington and Auckland, the forums engaged communities to discuss key topics such as investment mechanisms, risk management, criteria that influence investment decisions, current funding landscape in NZ, what it means for start-ups to take international investment, and the long-term vision for growing the NZ start-up ecosystem.

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The Founders and Angels panel Wellington at Creative HQ with moderator and Head of Acceleration Lightning Lab, Brett Holland. Source: Elena Higgison.

 

  1. Innovation Mission to Israel

Organised by the Trans-Tasman Business Circle, this Innovation Mission is taking place from 29 May to 1 June 2016. At a time of increased global interest in centres of innovation such as Silicon Valley, Israel, Berlin among others, the mission will engage with and learn from Israel’s highly successful innovation ecosystem which has earned the country an enviable reputation as the “Start-up Nation.” Brett Oliver, CEO of Astrolab is taking part in this mission.

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Oren Gershtein, Managing Director of Ideality Roads addresses the mission in Israel. Source: @OrenGershtein

 

  1. Start-up Weekend Wellington

Over 54 hours this weekend just been, developers, designers and ideas folk got together at Biz Dojo Wellington for a marathon of inspiration, perspiration, collaboration and fun. Pitches from 15 teams that had designed and built a new product, service or business marked the culmination of this high-energy weekend. More on SWWLG Twitter and Facebook.

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Participants, mentors, volunteers and sponsors of Startup Weekend Wellington. Source: @SWWLG

 

  1. Lightning Lab Updates

The teams at LL XX and LL AKL are busy prepping for Demo Day in June! Follow their progress by visiting the web links or on Twitter.

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Ian Taylor and Mary Quin steal the show for Māori at the NZ Hi Tech awards

At last year’s Hi-Tech Awards, NZ’s top event recognising technology industry success, the challenge was laid to ‘get more Māori in the room’. Hemi Rolleston, Callaghan Innovation’s General Manager Maori Economy & Business Innovation Services, writes about how Callaghan Innovation took up that challenge.

Blogs and acronyms have become the norm these days.  It takes something really big to inspire me to write a blog, and my staff will tell you I use acronyms all the time.  One that I use with them often is SBD – same but different.  I use this to explain in simple terms why we have a Māori economy team and why we have many Māori economy initiatives.  The suite of services for firms is generally the same; however the approach, tactics and initiatives used to engage and inspire Māori are very often different.  One such initiative was launched on Friday 20 May in Auckland – the inaugural Māori Hi Tech Award at the 20th anniversary of the NZ Hi Tech Awards.  The launch of this award and the impact that Ian Taylor and Dr Mary Quin had on the audience when launching the award is the inspiration for my blog.

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Ian Taylor, media and technology entrepreneur at the Hi Tech awards in Auckland

 

To put the awards into context, they are the premium New Zealand event for technology entrepreneurs.  Last year I was privileged to attend and witness a Māori success story – Grant Straker from Straker Translations took out one of the premium Hi Tech Awards.  When accepting the award, Grant put the challenge out to Māori as follows:  “We need more Māori here tonight, not just working behind the bar”. This was both thought provoking and challenging.  Fortunately I was sitting next to my Chief Executive, Dr Mary Quin, and we accepted that challenge with both hands.  Grant was spot on – there wouldn’t have been any more than ten Māori in the audience.  So along with Ian Taylor and Grant, we went about changing this by creating the Māori Innovation Hi Tech Award.

Fast forward 12 months and here we are, sitting at the awards again.  The stage has been set; the Chair, Wayne Norrie, opens the evening in Te Reo, providing a great scene setter for Ian and Mary, who are about to launch the new Māori Hi Tech Award in front of a full house.  Ian is on familiar territory as he is among his friends from the mainstream entrepreneurial world, but this time he is proudly wearing his Māori hat.  He uses his innovative animation technology to tell the Māori story of the creation and the great migration, ending and beginning his korero in Te Reo – a language he has not grown up with and which he does not feel confident in.

Ian explained the significance of the launch of Māori Innovation Hi Tech Award, recalling as a child being taught about Captain Cook’s arrival in New Zealand, but not hearing anything about the great Māori entrepreneurs of the great migration, the risk takers, the early adopters that Māori were.  “As a Māori kid, we grew up without Māori role models.  Well, tonight that’s about to change,” Ian emphatically told the audience.  “Now some might ask why we need a separate award.  Are we not good enough to enter in the mainstream categories?”  He then showed that Māori were indeed able to go up against the very best by acknowledging Grant Straker as a finalist in the new award and a winner in the awards last year.  Ian then noted that there were a huge 22 entries in the new category, marking a record that should be celebrated.  “Watch this space for Māori – tonight is only the beginning,”

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Mary Quin, CEO Callaghan Innovation, at the Hi Tech awards last Friday night

 

Mary Quin began her speech by acknowledging local iwi, those prominent people in the audience and the late Sir Paul Callaghan, as well as all the Māori businesses that had entered the awards.  No reading from notes and perfect pronunciation – and all in Te Reo.  This was from a non-Māori Chief Executive who had spent all her career overseas, speaking to a predominantly non-Māori audience.  Mary had intended to then translate her speech into English, however the occasion beckoned for her to be bold – and she was, by letting the Māori words stand for themselves. The impact in the room was powerful; two well respected leaders in the mainstream environment embracing Māori leadership to a predominantly non-Māori audience.

As the names of the six finalists in the Māori Hi Tech Award category were read out – with all of them doing amazing things in the technology world – one couldn’t help but warmed by the positive kaupapa of these entries.  They included improving Māori health, teaching young Māori to code, and focusing on education, culture and sustainability.  The winner on the night was Tiaki, a collaboration of Māori fishing businesses embracing technology for sustainability in the fishing industry.  Although Tiaki took out the award on the night, all Māori were the winners.  This included the 22 entrants, the Hi Tech Trust for embracing, without question, the new award category, Ian Taylor, and the formidable leadership of Ian and Mary combined.  Finally I want to acknowledge Grant Straker for being bold.  As I said to him on the night “Be careful what you ask for, as you might just get it”.

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Hemi Rolleston leads Callaghan Innovation’s haka, Rukuhia

 

It was therefore fitting to end the launch of the award with the Callaghan Innovation haka Rukuhia!!, which is about being bold in pursuit of excellence and making a difference.  From my perspective the words in the haka certainly summed up the night.

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START-UP HIGHLIGHTS April 2016

 

  1. AgTech Silicon Valley Forum

 

Sprout and WNT Ventures team representatives recently attended the AgTechSVForum ‘How Digital Technology is Transforming AgTech’ in Silicon Valley on April 21st, in association with Callaghan Innovation and Wharf 42.

It provided New Zealand AgTech and AgBusiness leaders with the opportunity to meet and engage with leading food and farming executives from across the region. Keynotes and case studies from New Zealand explained how Kiwis are addressing some of the key challenges facing the agriculture sector. The future of AgTech and the impact that advancing digital technologies are having on the industry was a major focus.

Simon Brown AgTechCallaghan Innovation’s Simon Brown – General Manager Accelerator Services – at the AgTechSV Forum. Photo: https://twitter.com/SVForum

 

  1. Sprout

 

The Sprout teams attended the Mobiletech Primary Industries 2016 event in Rotorua on March 30th to 31st. Established in 2013, it is now a major industry event for showcasing new technologies designed to increase the productivity of New Zealand’s primary food and fibre industries.

Mobile tech RotoruaThe Mobiletech event in Rotorua. Photo: http://connexevents.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/MT16-Event-Photos-9.jpg

The 2015 Sprout companies are now preparing for the Sprout Investor Showcase in Hamilton on May 11th. Investors will listen to the companies pitch and hear more about their Sprout journey. Registrations are now open for the 2016 Sprout programme.

 

  1. Te Papa Mahuki Business Innovation Hub

 

On Wednesday April 20th Te Papa launched its new innovation hub, Mahuki.

Mahuki will offer New Zealand entrepreneurs a residential programme where they can develop the next generation of experiences for the culture, heritage and learning sectors. Te Papa will invest around $1 million to establish Mahuki. Applications are now open and will close at 9am on Friday 9 June 2016.

Te Papa Mahuki launchAttendees at the Te Papa Mahuki Launch. Photo: https://twitter.com/hashtag/mahuki

 

  1. Creative HQ

 

Creative HQ has a number of interesting things on the go, including the opening of 1st Assembly, a space for hardware-focussed Hutt startups to work and collaborate. 1st Assembly’s second monthly Startup Garage event was held on the 26th of April, featuring Andrew Sinclair from Motovated Design and Analysis.

The R9 Accelerator, powered by Better for Business and Creative HQ, is a 12 week programme to turn government project opportunities into innovative and impactful solutions. Now coming out of its sixth week, key updates can be found through Creative HQ here.

Creative HQ Accelerator 9CoHelix’s  Nicole, Dan, Alex at the R9 AcceleratorPhoto: http://creativehq.co.nz/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/cohelix3-1024×677.jpg

 

  1. Lightning Lab XX

 

Check out the latest featured team from Lightning Lab XX, Patternsnap. This start-up has developed an interior design app that allows designers to browse wallpaper and fabric samples.

The teams also had the pleasure of hearing talks from Lightning Lab XX Mentor Pallas Hupe Cotter and Soraya Darabi, co-founder of Zady.

Paula hupe cotterPallas Hupe Cotter talks to the teams about personal motivations

 

  1. Wintec Innes48 Competition Results

 

The fifth Wintec Innes48 Competition, powered by Soda Inc, has come to a close following 48 hours of innovation, idea thrashing and challenging the status quo during April 8th – 10th. Winners of the ‘Most Viable Business’, ‘Gallagher Craziest Idea That Might Just Work’, and ‘Best Pitch’ awards are listed on the competition blog post.

Dose DirectWinner of the Most Viable Business Award, DoseDirect. Photo: http://www.innes48.com/uploads/5/9/1/8/59180413/1351382_orig.jpg

 

  1. The Icehouse

 

The Icehouse and ICE Angels have announced the launch of a $10m fund called Tuhua which will invest in 25 leading kiwi start-ups over the next three years.

Tuhua has received investment from a network of world class kiwi business leaders including more than 50 ICE Angels’ members as well as a number of kiwi entrepreneurs, corporate executives and professional investors.

 

  1. Lightning Lab Auckland

 

The latest from Lightning Lab Digital in Auckland has seen teams celebrating small wins. Teams such as Waywiser, and Sonnar. Other highlights include the lunch event with Microsoft and 14 MPs, and an evening with 70 Ice Angel investors. More found here.

Brittany from WaywiserBrittany from Waywiser pitching to Microsoft and MPs. Photo: http://www.lightninglab.co.nz/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/IMG_3284.CR2_.jpg

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Weighing up the options: embrace the niche or automate?

Callaghan Innovation national technology network manager for advanced materials, Kirsten Edgar, explains why automation could be a double-edged sword for New Zealand companies.

At the recent Advanced Composites Innovation Conference in Melbourne I gained a fascinating insight into international trends and emerging technologies that could impact on New Zealand companies – particularly composite companies in our marine or aerospace HVMS sectors.

Leslie Jay Cohen, Senior Vice President of HITCO Carbon Composites was the keynote speaker. HITCO is a US-based supplier of composite solutions, mainly to the aerospace and defence industries. About 20 years ago the company had to make some hard choices in order to remain competitive and grow. Centrally, they chose not to emigrate, i.e. move to a country offering cheap labour – Leslie’s comment was that employing inexpensive but unmotivated people ends up being incredibly expensive in the long run!  Their other option was to automate, a decision which has led to increased success and market share for the company.

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Dr Leslie Jay Cohen

Leslie shared several lessons that HITCO had learned during this change.  He talked in particular about the importance of getting your processes right, mainly focusing on inventory processes, and of empowering your people – if they do not feel that they can hit the ‘stop’ button on your automated production line because the product is not up to specification, automation will be of no benefit.

As interesting as these lessons were, the key question in my mind was this: are New Zealand composites manufacturing companies going to be faced with this same choice?

Having had discussions about the potential impact of automation on New Zealand advanced materials companies with a number of people previously, my thoughts are that automation could be a double-edged sword for our companies.  If they don’t automate, there is the chance that they will be priced out by larger (automated) international competitors.  However, if they do automate, they risk losing a key advantage that New Zealand companies in this space can offer: nimbleness (or as a colleague put it, the ability to offer “fast, flexible and few” manufacturing).

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Goodrich Aerostructure: automated fiber placement machine

Given the range of composites, and materials-based companies in New Zealand (in terms of size and focus), no single conclusion on this topic will fit all those that might be affected.  I would instead suggest that if you are not already talking about this balancing act internally, it might be good to start the conversation. Callaghan Innovation provides connection to leading experts across a range of fields, so if this is a conversation your business is starting to have, and would like input from those with experience, get in touch with me:

kirsten.edgar@callaghaninnovation.govt.nz

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Start-up highlights March 2016

Sprout

On Thursday March 17th Sprout companies presented to a handpicked group of investors and agribusiness leaders at the 2016 New Zealand Agribusiness Investment showcase in Palmerston North. This was part of the wider New Zealand Agri Investment Week designed with a focus on problem solving and innovation in agritech.

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Photo: @NZTEnews http://www.scoopnest.com/user/NZTEnews/710341165879566336

 

Lightning Lab XX

Lightning Lab XX was officially launched on International Women’s Day (March 8th) in Wellington. Read more on the highlights including sessions by Annette Presley (Co-Founder of Slingshot), a screening of Code in celebration of International Women’s Day and the meet and greet with Lightning Lab XX mentors. Here’s a great article about Lightning Lab XX written by The New Zealand Herald.

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Shiobhan Bulfin of Melon Health kicked off the first day of the programme

 

Lightning Lab Auckland

For Lightning Lab Auckland the past week has seen teams work on customer validation and initial branding. “Speed dating” sessions have been underway, where over 30 mentors met with the companies on the 16th and 23rd of March. A key feature was a presentation on the Microsoft Azure cloud computing platform by Vishesh Oberoi.

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Start-up Digest

Coming up during May 9th – 11th in New York is the highly anticipated TechCrunch Disrupt conference.  Entrepreneurs, investors and influencers come together to discuss hot tech topics, and be part of the Start-up Battlefield competition. Other past events included the Entrepreneurs Unleashed event on the 29th of March in Auckland and the Wellington PHP Meetup also on the 29th at the Bizdojo.

 

Wintec Innes48 Competition

The 2016 Wintec Innes48 Competition powered by Soda Inc and sponsored by Wintec and Gallagher will soon go ahead in an action packed weekend during April 8th – 10th in Hamilton. The competition is an opportunity for up to 15 teams innovate and create a business within 48 hours – the top 6 teams will pitch their newly created business to a panel of judges and an audience of 300 people. Applications for teams are now open, with the chance to win over $10k in cash while competing in New Zealand’s largest 48hour business start-up competition.

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Photo: http://www.sodainc.com/images/uploads/Innes48%20Image(1).jpg

 

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New Zealand company leads the world in eczema research

A breakthrough eczema treatment has propelled a New Zealand scientist into the spotlight, leading to the invitation to deliver a keynote speech at the top global dermatology conference later this year.

Dr. Iona Weir, CEO of Auckland-based Decima Health, will be a major attraction at The International Conference on Clinical and Experimental Dermatology (ICCED) in Chicago in May on the strength of the work done on Atopis, a treatment for eczema that convinces the body’s immune system to attack the affected area.

For Dr. Weir, this is the culmination of over twenty years’ of ongoing research and product development, while she also worked as a company director of various natural product companies, playing a central role in growing several start-ups through to successful commercialisation.  This has included the number one gastrointestinal health product, Phloe™ in the New Zealand over-the-counter laxative market.

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Dr Iona Weir

“Atopis™ has its origins in the research from my PhD from 1997 which proved there is a process of programmed cell death called apoptosis that occurs in plants.  This research was groundbreaking at the time and won an international award for best PhD.”

The research continued to gain accolades and a Marsden Fund grant allowed Weir to prove that, unlike animals, apoptosis in plants is reversible.  This discovery was able to be applied to human health needs and has been the basis of Dr. Weir’s ground breaking research.

Critical reactions that occur in plants were carefully extracted and scientifically combined and set in a natural carrier cream. When applied to the surface of the skin they gently permeate to encourage the body’s natural immune response to attack the affected area and repair damaged cells.

“By manipulating this reversibility in plants I have been able to create Atopis™ to manipulate apoptosis and immune function in human cells to stimulate cell repair and growth.  A small clinical trial in the United States verified this and opened the door to a larger study”

The trial was recruited and fully completed within a time frame rarely seen in New Zealand – Iona Weir

A Callaghan Innovation grant helped ensure a second larger double blinded placebo controlled clinical trial of Atopis™ went ahead in New Zealand, and both the trial itself and the results it produced were impressive.

“Due to an innovative design and recruitment strategy the trial was recruited and fully completed within a time frame rarely seen in New Zealand and the trial results are very conclusive, showing ‘outstanding’ clinical significance in efficacy,” says Dr. Weir.

So outstanding, that when she submitted the conference abstract to the ICCED, the organisers invited Dr. Weir to share the story as a key note speech with the assembled global leading dermatologists, product scouts and experts and pharmaceutical company scientists.

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Eczema on hands

“To be chosen as a key note speech on a new experimental product at an event like this, signifies that the organisers saw Atopis™ as one of the most innovative and exciting new scientific breakthroughs this year.”

Bionona Ltd, a subsidiary of Decima Health will look to partner nationally and internationally to release Atopis™.  Dr. Weir said that Callaghan Innovation’s support has helped to progress the business and ensure ongoing trials and research remain a uniquely New Zealand story, where the IP, patents and research are wholly New Zealand owned.

http://www.bionona.com/

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The level playing field

When it comes to game development, is being small the secret to making it big? Some industry players discuss where the culture of innovation resides in game dev.

Andrew Stairs, director of escpodgames and Rox Flame, KiwiGameStarter winner for Dynabrick, opened indie game dev co-working space LevelUp in January, with eight workstations in Wellington’s Cuba Quarter.

Within weeks the space is full and breaking even. Expansion plans are already being hatched.

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LevelUp’s Rox Flame and Andrew Stairs: unconcerned by mace-wielding goblins

LevelUp draws its inspiration from Melbourne’s The Arcade, an 80-person space which has also spawned an Auckland namesake.

The pair did a feasibility survey among gamers in Wellington and talked to Melbourne’s Arcade founder and Australian Game Developers Association CEO Tony Reed before starting their venture.

“We did an agile process on the business,” says Flame. “We started it with a minimum viable product then expanded it once it was up and running.”

Currently that minimum viable product is a space with eight permanently-rented workstations.

“In many ways it’s good that their big companies closed down because it’s never been easier to make a game.”

Stairs says expansion is highly likely in the medium term, with a lot of indie developers making games in their bedrooms under the radar, and looking for a home.

He is unequivocal that, when it comes to developing games as an indie, small teams are often better.

“Indies want to be indies – working for larger companies is often a good stepping stone or fallback option.

“When the large Australian studios shut down that’s when the Arcade started. So in many ways it’s good that their big companies closed down because it’s never been easier to make a game.”

Flame says they want LevelUp to achieve the key innovation benefits of co-working, in particular retaining the nimbleness of a small operation while being able to scale up to get the work done.

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EPIC, Christchurch: game developers CerebralFix are a key tenant

“A space like this allows indies to form small teams – one person on art, someone else on code – so the diversity of talent produces lots of good ideas, and the collaboration with other devs gets the game into production.”

By seeding the initial space with some experienced developers they aim to provide for informal mentoring as well.

Stephen Knightly, New Zealand Game Developers Association chairperson, agrees the genius of co-working is that it emphasises collaboration rather than competition.

Co-working spaces dedicated to gaming are opening across New Zealand. As well as LevelUp and The Arcade Auckland, Christchurch’s EPIC Centre has CerebralFix as its biggest tenant, which has expanded to Westport, while Dunedin has just opened its own co-working space.

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The NZ game dev sector in 2015

But Knightly – perhaps not surprisingly, as he represents the whole industry – has a slightly different take on the role of indies vs big players.

“A healthy industry has a mix of larger projects and small projects. There’s a role for those 50 – 100 person productions to provide experience, skills and international publishing connections.”

Knightly notes that many of the residents in Level Up are alumni from Wellington’s largest games studio PikPok who have started their own businesses.

To Knightly, the term ‘indie’ can easily encompass a studio with dozens of employees.

“There are two senses of the term ‘indie’ – the indie ethos of unconventional and original work, and being independent in the sense of owning your own IP.

 

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“There are two sense of the term ‘indie’ – being unconventional and being independent.”

“For indies, doing something alternative that doesn’t initially appear ‘commercial’ is in fact a smart business ploy.  Innovation in a creative industry means originality and novelty, something people haven’t seen before.  There are a number of two-to-three person game studios in New Zealand with plus-million dollar revenues. But having New Zealand-owned IP is what makes the industry sustainable.

“When you own your IP, you are the publisher as well as the developer, so you have more vertical integration. You manage the marketing and the customer experience, and it means higher margins for your work.  With a hit game and a scalable digital product, those margins can be significant.”

Knightly says just 15% of game development revenue in New Zealand comes from off-shore contract and service work, a figure he contrasts with the screen and IT industries, where the bulk of work is service work for others.

A key difference is the lower cost of entry.

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Stephen Knightly

“For a smaller initial investment you can put something in the market, measure success then continue to expand. You can treat the game as a service and update it as you get feedback from players.  Game startups typically get far faster market traction than most SaaS startups, although there are many other business similarities.”

So when it comes to game development, it seems the indie culture of innovation can transcend size and scale.

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Start-up highlights: February 2016

There’s a faint chill in the evening air, and days are getting shorter already, but you can relive the summer with highlights from all the emerging business action from February.

Sprout

The fourth and final block course in the Sprout series, “Capital Raising and Finance,” took place at the ILT Stadium Southland Centre. The primary focus of this block was information on early stage company capital in NZ, seed stage company valuation, pitching, founder roles, the exit journey and start-up governance.

Teams are now preparing for the 2016 Agribusiness Investment Showcase. The showcase on 17 March is a core part of NZ Agri Investment Week where people can meet to learn, collaborate and invest in New Zealand’s agri sector.

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Julian McCurdy and Peter Bennett of Bee’z Things touch down in Invercargill for the final Sprout block course

Designer Wardrobe

After the completion of Lightning Lab AKL in 2015, Designer Wardrobe – co-founded by Donielle Brooke and Aidan Bartlett – has continued to grow and currently have approximately 45,000 users. Their last funding round attracted $700,000 of investment from ICE Angels and SCIF, at a valuation of $855,000.

Following the recent exit from The Icehouse, they are embarking on new plans to expand offshore.

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Designer Wardrobe co-founders Donielle Brooke & Aidan Bartlett (pic: stuff.co.nz)

Lightning Lab XX & AKL

Lightning Lab XX, New Zealand’s first ever female founder-focused business accelerator and Lightning Lab AKL have announced the teams that have secured a spot in its 2016 programmes. Take a look at the LL XX teams here, and LL AKL teams here.

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XX Factor: Lighting Lab XX has announced the starting line-up for 2016.

Lightning Lab CHC and Property Plot

A company that helps people manage their property portfolios is the first Christchurch Lightning Lab team to close its investor funding after raising more than $200,000.

Property Plot, co-founded by Nicola Valentine and Seth Reid, was one of 10 hi-tech companies to take part in the inaugural Lightning Lab in Christchurch in 2015. You can read more on Property Plot here.

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Property Plot’s Nicola Valentine and Seth Reid

P2P

Leading a start-up can sometimes be lonely. Peer-to-Peer (P2P) is a programme designed to create a peer-support advisory environment for start-up CEOs, guided by an experienced facilitator and an investor-as-a-mentor. Four start-up companies of similar business stage and wider technology bases – Vigilance, iotStream, Moxion and Fishery Logistics – will comprise the 2015 Auckland P2P cohort.

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