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Meteoroid to launch next year to plug kiwi startups into Silicon Valley

Monday 1st December 2014

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A nationwide roadshow aimed at attracting startup and early stage New Zealand ICT companies into a new programme that will plug them directly into Silicon Valley will kick off early next year.

Bay of Plenty business connector, Wharf42, has done a soft launch of the Meteoroid Program and an associated Meteoroid Growth Fund which will invest in the companies participating in the scheme. Wharf42 is run by Peter Wren-Hamilton, the founder of Tauranga-based software company Pingar which developed tools for searching and analysing company information.

Wren-Hamilton is not keen to say too much about the programme or fund until the formal launch on Jan. 23 next year but his website blog said it was the first time a fund had been established to support a New Zealand-managed programme in Silicon Valley, the world’s leading innovation hub.

“We’re looking to identify the best startups and early stage ICT businesses that New Zealand has to offer and are at that point of development where establishing a present in Silicon Valley is now a key element of their global growth strategy,” he said.

The fund will co-invest with other New Zealand and US-based venture funds to support a portfolio of companies chosen under the programme who are seeking angel and venture funding. Decisions will be made on participants by the end of April and the programme will kick off in June.

The programme will be run out of the Plug and Play Tech centre, the valley’s largest business incubator, which Wren-Hamilton got to know while being based there when growing Pingar. He’s since stepped back from running Pingar to focus on Wharf42.

Founded in 2007, Plug and Play’s Sunnyvale campus houses 300 tech startups, has links to 180 investors, and was an early investor in Paypal and Dropbox.

Wren-Hamilton describes Meteoroid as an NZ Inc initiative with the roadshow designed to put together a team of advisors and partners representing cities and regions across the country.

Wharf42 is also one of three key partners in WNT Ventures, one of the new type of business incubators funded by Callaghan Innovation to encourage more innovative and complex technology-based startups. The other two partners in the incubator are Tauranga horticulture innovation business hub, Newnham Park, and TiDA, the titanium industry development association.

WNT Ventures chief executive Carl Jones said it is already doing due diligence on one company and has identified another three or four as potentials to join the Bay of Plenty incubator. The focus initially is to play to the strengths of the three partners in ICT, agriculture, and high-value manufacturing.

It has set up a limited partnership which now has seven of the required 10 investors who will kick in $300,000 each to add to the government funding which includes $1.8 million annually to incubate four companies each year.

Jones said the aim is to take intellectual property from within universities and crown research institutes and wrap an experienced management team around them and access to investor networks to build spin-out companies of scale. He hopes to invest in and have the first company join the incubator in the first quarter of next year.


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