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Who's who cast as high-tech fairy godfathers

By Aimee McClinchy

Friday 28th July 2000

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Stephen Tindall
The Warehouse founder Stephen Tindall, who in recent months has been actively investing in dotcoms, is believed to be considering buying internet service provider Watchdog.

The Whangaparaoa-based ISP, which until April was known as FamilyNet, provides pornography-free, filtered internet access to corporates, schools and university campuses. Watchdog chief executive Peter Mancer declined to comment.

Meanwhile, Mr Tindall is one of a group of the who's who of business leaders playing fairy godfather to emerging companies with a new $15 million venture- capital fund.

Figures including Mr Tindall, Telecom chairman Roderick Deane, accountant Trevor Scott and retailer David Levene have been revealed as key figures in a special partnership with the University of Auckland's Uniservices, called the New Zealand Seed Fund Partnership.

Through one of his investment vehicles, K One W One, Mr Tindall has contributed $4 million to the Seed Fund, the biggest contribution made so far. The fund, which has raised $11.5 million locally and is still talking to overseas investors, will be housed at Uniservices in Auckland but overseen by New York-based investment adviser Ulysses.

Dr Deane has been named as chairman, with Mr Scott and former Mainzeal chairman Peter Menzies as board members. Mr Menzies is acting as nominee for a group of investors who have given $600,000 to the fund while Mr Scott's company, Essex Castle, has contributed $400,000 and Mr Deane's vehicle, Cordyline, has given $250,000.

Other investors include: Todd Ventures with $1 million; David Levene's property vehicle Lewis Holdings, $1 million; Stock Exchange chairman Eion Edgar's Sinclair Investments, $500,000; Ferrier Hodgson receiver Michael Stiassny, $350,000; former executive of Jarden & Co and chief executive of Credit Suisse First Boston Paul Baines, $300,000; former Fletcher Challenge chairman Kerry Hoggard and partner Malcolm Woods, $250,000; and Auckland viaduct property developer Adrian Burr's WestMed Development Capital, $250,000.

Uniservices chief executive Dr John Kernohan said seed capital - or initial first-stage funding - would be awarded to technologies emerging from all the country's universities and Crown research institutes.

This type of funding would cover the gap left by venture capitalists, who provide later or second-stage funding, usually of over $1 million, to companies that are already established.

"We identified this opportunity a year and a half ago," he said.

Technologies considered would include those in biotechnology, medical devices, information systems, electronics, engineering and agricultural biotechnology. The fund was looking at five or six opportunities and would probably make its first announcement next week. Although the fund was founded by Dr Kernohan it is to be operated at arm's length from Uniservices and overseen by Ulysses because it will be open to technologies coming out of all universities.

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