Startup Investment New Zealand

The magazine for angel investors


Startup Investment Magazine October 2021

Welcome to the October 2021 edition of Startup Investment magazine.

In this edition we look at the flourishing startup ecosystem and the opportunities that arise from this. We talk to established ventures UBCO and Dawn Aerospace about their growth journeys, investigate the founder / investor relationship of impact investing and explore the potential of New Zealand’s gaming sector.

Go big or go home

Welcome to the October 2021 edition of Startup Investment magazine. 

The startup ecosystem in New Zealand is thriving. Not only is it showing continued signs of maturity but the first half of 2021 has delivered record growth in the number of deals and capital invested, with almost $60m invested by Early Stage Investors (a 78.4% increase from the same period in 2020). Software continues to receive the largest proportion of total investment but this is now closely followed by deep tech, which received 42% of total funding during the first half of 2021. 

In this edition of Startup Investment we take a closer look at values-based investment as a key driver for success. We start with Dawn Aerospace and UBCO that are demonstrating the ethos of “go big or go home”. For both companies, their growth journeys have been supported by investors who not only provide financial investment but also invest their time and expertise towards a shared value proposition. We share the perspectives of Katherine Sandford (early stage investor and now Chief Executive and Chair, UBCO), James Powell (Co-Founder, Dawn Aerospace) and Mark Stuart (Partner, Movac). We also speak with the founders and early stage investors of Jobloads who have successfully aligned their passions and purpose by taking a values based approach to investment. 

One area of the New Zealand startup ecosystem that has the potential to “go big” is gaming and virtual reality. This sector grew significantly during the global pandemic as people looked to find alternative sources of entertainment and social connection. While small when viewed against the global scale, New Zealand gaming companies are already making their mark, and there is considerable potential for the sector to expand. 

We hope you enjoy this edition of Startup Investment.

Anand Reddy
Partner, PwC

Uniquely Aotearoa

Companies founded in Aotearoa have an excellent and well-earned reputation for their ability to punch above their weight. Tucked away at the bottom of the world, founders know they have to aim globally and this “Go Big or Go Home” aspiration makes them hugely attractive to investors. 

To achieve this outside of a major metropolitan centre - many of which boast thriving startup ecosystems and innovation hubs - is even more of an achievement. The endeavour isn’t for the faint of heart, but regional standouts UBCO and Dawn Aerospace have catapulted internationally.


It’s a story that a script writer could only dream of. Developers Daryl Neal and Anthony Clyde introduced early prototypes of their Utility Electric Vehicle (UEV) at the National Agricultural Fieldays in 2014  and came to the attention of commercialisation expert Timothy Allan by winning the Fieldays Innovation Award.  Seeing the potential, Allan bought his multi-disciplinary product development company, Locus Research, into the project and the following year the three launched UBCO. 

It was shortly after this that Katherine Sandford met the trio at an angel event in Tauranga. Recently returned from offshore, Katherine was looking for something to sink her teeth into.

“I got talking to the founders at this event and was blown away. Here was a hardware company that was technology driven, with global aspirations - it was a dream come true.”

As part of the angel group investment she wrote them a cheque and shortly after began working in the business a few days a week. Over time she became more and more invested in UBCO and is now Chief Executive and Chair. 

Having worked for a US public company, Katherine knew what would be required to be successful in international markets, and she says the business approach was mature from the outset with regards to challenges around distribution and servicing. 

Funding was always going to be essential to get the business global and the founders shared the aspiration to build a $100m business out of the gate. Even with all the odds in UBCO’s favour, Katherine says it wasn’t easy. 

“Raising money for a hardware business is really hard because it’s capital intensive to build a motorbike at scale. You need the investments and partnerships in place and the banks and debt providers won’t have a conversation until that’s there.”

Success at each stage means redefining what the next goal is, and UBCO is eyeing up cracking $1billion, having just completed a $US10m convertible note round and currently raising a $US30m Series B.

“I believe that the greatest impact an angel can have isn’t the money, it’s getting stuck in. UBCO is the one I’ve chosen even though I’ve got 20 others that I support. I’ve really rolled up my sleeves because I’m so invested on a personal level. It’s exciting to be part of something that’s been created from nothing in NZ and the potential to be the dominant player.”

Katherine Sandford

Katherine Sandford, Chief Executive & Chair, UBCO 

Dawn Aerospace

Can space exploration really be affordable, reusable and environmentally friendly? 

Dawn Aerospace co-founder James Powell believes so, with the company creating sustainable rocket-powered aircraft to facilitate suborbital and orbital flight. James founded Dawn with his brother Stefan and three European engineers in 2017. Their mission is to operate much like a fleet of aircraft, carrying satellites and cargo into space multiple times per day from all over the world. 

Movac, New Zealand’s largest technology investment firm, came onboard in May 2021 to help scale production of Dawn’s existing in-space propulsion products, which have been sold to customers globally since 2019, and progress its suborbital plane to a fully-fledged commercial service. 

Movac partner Mark Stuart was first introduced to the Dawn crew late last year, and says that despite his initial skepticism of the company’s goal, once he had the opportunity to meet the team and see how much they had already achieved first-hand, he was a true believer.

“I was conscious of how much money and resources have gone into creating space planes around the world, with little success. But, the era of space commercialisation is here, and with Dawn it’s a case of the right bunch of people, in the right place, at the right time. The ideal investment for us is a massive opportunity, and they don’t come as big as what this team could accomplish.”

Stuart says an ideal investment depends on three interconnected needs.

“It all comes down to a big market, a fantastic team and a moat - something that gives them an unfair advantage against well-funded competitors around the world. In New Zealand, we may not have the money that overseas competitors have, but we’ve still got to have the same ambition.”

Powell says the financial value of investors is only half of the equation. A long-term vision and common values are also important.

“Your investors need to be strategically valuable and people who will help your personal growth, because you have to adapt fast and learn so quickly. Aerospace is a profession where people have an intrinsic love and passion for what they do, and the motivation to tackle any hurdle. You need your investor to have that same mindset.”

Note: This is a shortened version of a story featured in Startup Investment magazine. To read the full version please click here.

James Powell- Dawn Aerospace

James Powell, Co-Founder, Dawn Aerospace

James Powell- Dawn Aerospace

Mark Stuart, Partner, Movac

Passion and Purpose

There is a magical spark that happens when an angel and a founder realise they share the same values. When the enterprise is purpose-led and values driven, that bond is even stronger. 

That’s certainly the case for Jobloads founder Candice Pardy and angel Kirsty Reynolds, who share a similar determination to change the world. The pair met through SheEO, when Reynolds helped Pardy with her application and selection process. 

“I was reading through Candice’s application and was struck by how many things we had in common; we both came from large whānau and understood the importance of family, we had experiences of childhood hardship, and we’d both had corporate journeys before embarking on our own projects. These experiences, particularly our childhoods, made me determined to create a better life for myself and that’s what I saw in Candice too.”

Jobloads is a digital hiring platform that connects seasonal workers with horticultural employers. What makes it different from anything that’s gone before is the underlying belief that there is dignity in every job and people can find mana at work.

“Aotearoa has a competitive labour market and the horticulture industry hasn’t caught up with that. We need to provide ethical, more attractive working conditions - that’s the sweet spot for solving the underlying problem. There are huge economic benefits for employers who provide excellent working conditions for their workers.”

While values-based business models don’t appeal to all investors, Pardy says it has helped her align with those that believe in the same thing.

“Values-based attracts a certain type of investor, that’s their jam. Our mission is clear, we want every job experience to be right and because there’s an underlying problem that we’re trying to solve, that drives the decision for an investor.”

Reynolds credits Pardy with having a determination and hustle that commands respect, and says it’s one of the reasons she was keen to jump on as an investor.

“It’s rare to meet a founder where you feel they’re doing their life’s work. Candice is providing people with a pathway from minimum wage to meaningful career, and that’s an important problem to solve.”

She says SheEO has played a huge role in Jobloads’ success to date and is an important network for women to find alternative sources of funding as they start up businesses that will have a positive social and environmental impact on society.

For Pardy, working to address a problem that’s worth solving is what gets her out of bed every day.

“This totally rocks my boat and is the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”

Note: This is a shortened version of a story featured in Startup Investment magazine. To read the full version please click here.

Mark McCaughan
Kirsty Reynolds

Kirsty Reynolds, Director and Investor

Brough Johnson

Brough Johnson, Co -Founder, Narrative Muse

Candice Pardy

Candice Pardy, CEO Jobloads

Game on

While the gaming sector was in growth mode pre-pandemic, COVID-19 increased interest, both from new audiences and those seeking an alternative form of entertainment, alleviating boredom and loneliness during lockdown. According to Adroit Market Research, the market for gaming content is on track to be valued globally at $US79 billion by 2025. 

To put it mildly, gaming is huge.

While small when viewed against the global scale, New Zealand gaming companies are already making their mark, and there is considerable potential for the sector to expand.

Anand Reddy, PwC New Zealand Partner, says there is international interest in investing in the local gaming sector.

“We’ve seen some great successes, including companies such as Grinding Gears, KiwiNinja, MYTONA and RocketWerkz. Gaming uses a lot of creative talent - including talent from the film industry - which has been abundant and, providing the content is creative and scalable, companies are making money.”

For those used to traditional investment models based on research or product, gaming can seem completely foreign, but Reddy says that’s just a matter of education.

“It’s a different approach than typical tech ventures and shouldn’t be viewed the same. Investment in gaming is about people, not product. Not all games will be successful and even those with great promise may be scrapped, but it’s a sector that generates new IP quickly, and in that respect it’s similar to film, but achieved at a lower cost.”

Learning to understand the sector 

Tim Ponting, Establishment Director, CODE - New Zealand Centre of Digital Excellence, is a gaming industry veteran, with over 30 years experience in the sector. During his career he has been both game developer and investor, which gives him something of a unique perspective. 

Ponting says one of the most common investment mistakes is a disconnect between the games company and potential investors, with both sides failing to understand what the other is looking for. 

“It’s important for startups to know what each category of investor wants. An angel investor is looking for a chunk of equity in return for a small amount of money at the riskiest moment. At that point you want an angel with the experience and skill to help you, not your next door neighbour who’s made money in engineering.”

He encourages investors to learn to recognise the qualities that make games developers good at what they do. These include leadership ability, creativity and - where possible - working with people who have failed.

“Fresh teams can be successful, but most of the hugely successful game developers have failed before they succeeded. I’m always keen to see a team that’s learnt from their failure and gone on to do a better job.”

Tim Ponting

Tim Ponting, Establishment Director, NZCDE

The power of storytelling

One area Aotearoa is making waves is in indigenous content, driven by the demand from gamers for authentic experiences. Ponting says indigenous content is compelling because it offers an immersive experience, something that gamers crave.

Ask about indigenous game content in Aotearoa and one name is on everyone’s lips; Maru Nihoniho, founder of Metia Interactive. Nihoniho walks a fine line between creating compelling content and staying true to the cultural heritage that is the source of her success.

“It would be tempting to make the content more mainstream but what makes Metia different is the Māori content; it’s the stories and the reo, and I can’t risk that being told without the authenticity behind it,” she says.

This means a caution in her approach in how and who she pitches investment to, which slows her growth down, but is testament to the responsibility she bears for te ao Māori on the gaming platform. 

While technology has made connecting with offshore investors easier than her early startup days in 2003, when she had to be present in the markets she was selling to, there are still challenges.

“It’s definitely easier to get investment from offshore, but the hard part is knowing which publisher is the right one for your content and how to connect. What are their expectations? What are they looking for? I’m developing games that are seen as niche, so it’s important to get that pitch right.”

Maru Nihoniho

Maru Nihoniho, Founder, Metia Interactive

The future is fun 

One of the things people in the industry find so exciting is the intersection of technology and entertainment. That’s certainly the case for Jessica Manins, Co-Founder of social VR and gaming company, Beyond. 

“Games have so much potential to positively affect people. When people are together socially they are happier and healthier and gaming, particularly Virtual Reality (VR), can provide that same presence and social connection as in person.”

Despite the size of the global market, Manins says the potential for New Zealand to make an impact is huge, particularly as it’s possible to be successful as an indie game studio. 

“People may think the gaming market is saturated, but it’s not - especially in the VR space. There’s actually only around 300 titles in the Oculus Quest Store and one of the biggest performers, BeatSaber, is from a small studio. Seven of the top ten selling titles in the past two years were from indie studios.”

What’s more, New Zealand has the ability and talent to make it happen, and can use cross over talent from the film industry. Manins says the work is done in the same engine with the same work pipeline, just with different content. “Film or games, it’s the same talent we need.” 

When engaging with investors Manins believes honesty is important.

“I’m simply not the type of person to pretend and I’m very open around areas of weakness. I also strongly believe in kindness. That can be hard in an industry like this which, at times, can be aggressive - particularly when you’re raising capital.”

Note: This is a shortened version of a story featured in Startup Investment magazine. To read the full version please click here.

Jessica Manins

Jessica Manins, Co-Founder, Beyond

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By PwC New Zealand and the Angel Association of New Zealand.

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PwC is dedicated to helping startups with great ideas to make their way in the world. We provide support through tailored financial reporting, tax advisory and compliance, structuring, strategic advisory services as well as networking opportunities. We collaborate with others in the local ecosystem including NZTE, the Angel Association of NZ, KiwiNet, and other New Zealand VC funds. Alongside publishing StartUp Investment NZ, we are sponsors of Southern SaaS, KiwiNet Awards and the NZ Hi Tech Awards.

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Anand Reddy

Partner, Private Business Leader, PwC New Zealand

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