Alyona studied Natural Language Processing before most of us had heard of AI. To start her company she looked for a problem worth solving & found the need for customer feedback analysis. Thematic is an AI-powered platform that transforms feedback into actionable insights. Alyona talks about how she built an initial product, talked to the market to find a fit, persuaded her husband Nathan Holmberg to join her, and the difference that YCombinator made for them.
Mary Vance & Nick McDonald founded Cemplicity in 2013, with Blaik Wilson taking the CEO reins in 2020. Cemplicity keeps patients remotely connected to their care teams as they go through a health service, alerting care teams when action is needed. Cemplicity has worked with over 3,000 health facilities in 8 countries and over 5 million patients. Mary & Blaik talk about building their global business in the challenging field of digital healthcare.
Ambit is an AI platform for customer service at scale. Tim & his co-founders started Ambit in 2016, seeing the opportunity to leverage the power of Generative AI to provide deeply personalised, automated conversations for customers – increasing customer satisfaction while reducing the cost to serve them. He talks about how tough it is to sell to the IT teams in large enterprises and how relationships drive almost everything.
Inhibit Coatings is a science-based company producing high-performance antimicrobial coatings for use in food safety and medical applications. It works with resin manufacturers and end-users to develop bespoke antimicrobial solutions with high effectiveness and long-lifetimes using novel nanotechnology. Eldon talks about the journey from his PhD research to first commercial sales and pursuing a licensing model to grow fast.
Futureverse is a media tech unicorn at the intersection of AI, Gaming and Web3. Its platform simplifies Web3 for developers and users and it works with brands to power their experiences, such as a recently released AI powered game built with FIFA. Aaron talks about how he & his co-founders started by building a portfolio of companies for Web3 and last year rolled up and acquired 11 companies to create Futureverse, which now has 250 people across 16 countries.
Asantha founded PaySauce to bring new technology and deep domain knowledge to small businesses wasting time and energy on paying their people. Asantha talks about the journey –learning the real pain points to solve for small businesses, and commitments to excellent customer service and to providing a great place to work. Its automating top-up pay for dairy farm workers and its pre-pay day lending are revolutionary.
Pultron Composites makes glass fibre composite materials. Peter Holdsworth invented the technology for fibreglass fence posts. His wife Bronwen built the business & ran it for 20 years. Her son, Jasper, now runs it. This is a great story of innovation and building a global business. The core of the company remains in Gisborne where they experiment, make 20 product lines & build the machines for the offshore JVs in Saudi Arabia and the US.
Sam is the co-founder & the CEO of LawVu, a software platform for in-house legal teams. Lawyers using LawVu gain visibility over all their legal work, improve productivity & show legal’s value to the wider business. Sam talks about the journey: spending 3 years building the product with trial customers before going to market, winning an RFP for a legal team of 200 – which accelerated their product development, scaling rapidly to 125 people and learning about fundraising along the way.
John saw the need for a seamless SaaS platform for commercial training providers: automating all the processes for promoting, selling and delivering courses. John talks about starting out with sweat equity, spending a lot of time with customers to design the product, always appearing as a global operation even when they were working from his house, and how rewarding it has been to build to in a company of 60 people processing $500m p a which has trained over 7m people around the world.
Kea Aerospace’s mission is to improve life on earth using insights from the stratosphere. Solar-powered, remotely piloted stratospheric aircraft will fly continuously in the stratosphere for months to collect frequent high-resolution aerial images. Mark became fascinated with space a long time ago, and was the co-Director and seed investor of Rocket Lab. In addition to building Kea Aerospace, Mark has been instrumental in establishing an aerospace tech hub in Christchurch.
Forbury provides commercial real estate investment modelling software to customers in the UK, Australia, Singapore, Japan & New Zealand. Scott joined the founder, Steve Surridge, to build the business, with Steve focussing on new products and Scott building the team. He talks about how important it is to focus on the people who will deliver your business outcomes, and how Covid was an advantage for them and has accelerated expansion into offshore markets.
John Penno and Maury Leyland started Leaft Foods to create a new food system by capturing the most abundant protein on the planet - Rubisco from green leaves. Leaft integrates with existing farming systems, extracting the Rubisco from common forage crops & producing a high-quality silage feed as a co-product. This reduces the total nitrogen loading in the farming system & lessens the carbon footprint of farming while producing products that taste good with high nutritional value.
Spice is a founder & the CEO of Marsello, an all-in-one marketing automation platform for small & medium retailers. Marsello uses data from retailer point-of-sale and eCommerce to recommend marketing and measures the impact of that marketing in sales. Thousands of retailers & hospitality operators around the world use Marsello. Spice talks about focussing on product-market fit and execution, and about coping with the roller-coaster of building a business.
Tim is the founder & CEO of Runn.io, a resourcing and capacity planning platform. Tim previously co-founded SilverStripe, whose open-source content management system is used by thousands of organisations worldwide. He started Runn because of the frustration of being able to get company-wide visibility across sales, projects and the people needed to deliver them. Runn has employees and customers around the world, including very large companies.
Socialites is a full-service social media agency which helps organisations thrive in the dynamic digital world by using social media to bring a brand’s DNA to life, creating communities of loyal customers. The Socialites Group has grown by acquisition. It runs multi-language, multi-platform campaigns across Asia, Europe, Australasia, the Middle East, the United States and Canada.
Max founded Lumin to create a better way for people to annotate and collaborate on PDF files. He bootstrapped it to 30M users based on ad revenue, then made a very rapid switch to being subscription funded – in just 2 months! Lumin now has 80M users and 80 staff around the world and many documents being signed every second. Max’s vision is to solve the pain of digitally managing, signing and sharing documents.
Izon Science isolates & analyses nano-biological particles. Its products are sold for medical R&D in 50 countries. A step change in the size of Izon’s business will be driven by one of its customers taking a product currently in testing to market – such as a cancer test. Izon has 50 staff in NZ, the USA & France. Hans talks about funding a company when it’s cash negative, getting focused on marketing and continuing to innovate to find the product-market fit.
CerebralFix is an international game development studio which games for large international companies. Its talented team of more than 70 developers, artists, and designers work tirelessly to bring their games to life: from brainstorming new ideas to coding, testing, and polishing the final product. Tim talks about the challenges of staying current while technology is changing so rapidly.
The challenge in getting to space is to marry the scalability of the aircraft industry with the performance of spacecraft. That is a scalable, reusable rocket. Dawn Aerospace is currently building a craft that can get to space and back again twice a day. They gained early revenue by building a green fuel propulsion system for in-space mobility - manoeuvring satellites into position. Dawn now employs over 100 people in NZ, the Netherlands & the US.
Bill Buckley is New Zealand tech royalty. Do listen to this! Buckley Systems makes ion implanters to put the metal into silicon chips (300 lines in the width of a human hair); its ionising machines make all the flat panel screens for your phones, iPads etc; and they make medical devices and R&D machines. These are all based on using huge precision magnets to direct & accelerate ion streams. They ship over 1,000 tonnes per month from Auckland to the world.