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  • 06 Sep 2021 2:07 PM | Mike Hearn (Administrator)

    Comvita, global market leaders in Mānuka Honey, are delighted to announce a strategic partnership with Caravan, a Joint Venture with entertainment and sports agency, Creative Artists Agency (CAA). Central to this partnership is the formation of a celebrity-backed lifestyle brand, using the natural healing properties of Mānuka Honey and Propolis for topical use. Commenting, Comvita Group CEO David Banfield said, “At Comvita, we are relentless in looking for opportunities to extend our global leadership. Our partnership with Caravan, and its celebrity reach, has some significant and far-reaching benefits for Comvita. Despite the progress we have made recently, the benefits of Mānuka Honey and Propolis are relatively unknown in North America. Our partnership with Caravan will amplify the awareness and benefits of Mānuka Honey and Propolis through the eyes of celebrities who turn to Comvita for solutions. At this point, exact details of timing and products are commercially sensitive, but we look forward to sharing more details in due course.”

  • 04 Sep 2021 11:25 AM | Mike Hearn (Administrator)

    WASHINGTON – Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) today was joined by SFRC Ranking Member Jim Risch (R-Idaho) in addition to Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) in introducing a Senate Resolution to honor the 70th anniversary (September 1) of the signing of the Security Treaty between Australia, New Zealand, and the United States, known as the ANZUS Treaty. In addition to celebrating the countries’ history of cooperation rooted in shared values of democracy, respect for human rights, and adherence to the rule of law, the bipartisan legislation also reaffirms Congressional support for expanded opportunities that strengthen military, security, and economic relations among the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand.

    “Today we introduce this bipartisan Resolution not only to honor the U.S.’ enduring partnership with Australia and New Zealand, but to celebrate our longstanding dedication to foster economic prosperity and safeguard our collective security,” Chairman Menendez said. “As we seek to confront current challenges to regional and global stability, public health, free and fair trade, and our ability to address climate change, we must continue to build upon our countries’ shared commitment to diplomatic, security, and scientific cooperation. I look forward to our future multilateral engagement to boost respective competitiveness on the world stage and support a free, open, and booming Indo-Pacific, unimpeded by economic coercion.”

    “The 70th anniversary of the ANZUS Treaty is a fitting time to recognize the United States-Australia alliance is a force for good in the Indo-Pacific and around the world. The United States remains committed to this alliance,” said Ranking Member Risch. “Over the last century, the armed forces of both Australia and New Zealand have made significant contributions to peace and security across the globe. We look forward to strengthening security collaboration among the United States, Australia, and New Zealand in the years ahead.”

    “For the last 70 years, Australia and New Zealand have been trustworthy and valuable allies to the U.S. This year, we commemorate this long-lasting partnership and look forward to a shared bright future thanks to the continuation of the ANZUS treaty,” said Senator Durbin.

    “The 70th anniversary of the ANZUS treaty is an opportunity to reflect on the shared victories and sacrifices the United States, Australia, and New Zealand have experienced as allies,” said Senator Blunt. “This resolution marks an important milestone as we continue building on the foundation the treaty has provided for the strong and enduring friendship between our countries. Together we will continue working to advance security and prosperity in each of our nations and throughout the Indo-Pacific region.”

    Click here to see the resolution.

  • 28 Aug 2021 5:27 PM | Mike Hearn (Administrator)

    ModuSense's SaaS software complements FreeWave's IoT and wireless hardware.

    Colorado developer of industrial wireless machine-to-machine systems FreeWave Technologies has bought a controlling 51 per cent stake in Waikato-based ModuSense.

    FreeWave offers an ecosystem of edge intelligent radios and solutions to optimise the extreme edge of remote industrial operations and create more connected enterprises. 

    However, to transform geographically dispersed industrial operations, visibility to intelligent data at the edge was required as well as the ability to manipulate it and make it actionable. 

    That's where ModuSense came in, adding its full-stack of off-the-shelf software-as-a-service (SaaS) systems and more flexible, agile gateway sensing.

    “Our combined portfolio delivers a super powerhouse of capabilities to customers who are hungry for integrated solutions designed to make industrial remote operations more efficient, make critical data more intelligent and help save money to make money," ModuSense CEO Bruce Trevarthen said.

    ModuSense has been focused on developing its industrial internet of things (IIoT) platform for the last four years.This included solutions for real-time asset tracking and resource monitoring across the agriculture, water and transportation industries.

    The combination of both companies’, which they described as a joint venture, also promised to deliver accelerated global hardware and software IIoT development capabilities.

    Founded in 1993, FreeWave brought decades of manufacturing discipline, governance and due-diligence to ModuSense's agile innovation process. 

    "We make a formidable team in the industrial IoT market and look forward to developing out of the box solutions that will have immediate market impact," Trevarthan said.

    FreeWave Technologies CEO Kirk Byles said the joint venture expanded the company's portfolio and accelerated its ability to bring fully integrated, "game-changing" IIoT solutions to market quickly.

    “Their entrepreneurial model will ultimately provide us access to a flexible, agile innovation centre allowing us to respond to both customer and market needs faster with both off-the-shelf and fully customised IIoT solutions," he said.

    "We are energised by the possibilities and work has already begun on our integrated solution roadmap.”

    ModuSense, a Reseller News Innovation Award winner, is perhaps best know for its "internet of bees" IoT platform for the honey industry.

    Both FreeWave and ModuSense are private companies and the terms of the transaction were not disclosed.


  • 27 Aug 2021 2:58 PM | Mike Hearn (Administrator)

    Iconic New Zealand bus company Ritchies is to be sold to US global investment firm KKR, pending Overseas Investment Office approval.

    Founded in Temuka in 1935, Ritchies is one of the largest public transport companies in the country with a fleet of more than 1600 vehicles and 42 depots.

    Contracting to government, local councils and private customers, it operates in Auckland, Christchurch, Timaru, Dunedin, Queenstown and Whangarei. The company employs 1800 staff. It runs nationwide school bus services in urban and rural areas and operates inter-region, long haul charter and tour bus services.

    It is a major local employer in regions, with administrators, drivers, mechanics and cleaners on its payroll. The company has a driver training facility in Auckland.

    The sale price is not disclosed.

    New York-based KKR said it was the firm's first infrastructure investment in New Zealand.

    The Ritchie family will continue to hold a stake in the 86 year old company, with Andrew Ritchie to be appointed chief executive, as managing director Glenn Ritchie retires.

    KKR in a statement said it saw continued demand "for high quality, greener public transport solutions in New Zealand".

    "Buses account for 75 per cent of total public transport trips made in the country and play a critical role in connecting people to places," it said.

    "Our investment also reiterates KKR's strong commitment to investing in critical infrastructure assets in New Zealand and globally through our expanding portfolio."

    The NYSE-listed investor said it looked forward to working closely with the Ritchie family and in partnership with the Government to deliver safe, reliable and sustainable public transport services.

    KKR was making the investment from its Asia Pacific Infrastructure Fund.

    Founded in 1976 by Henry Kravis and George Roberts, the firm had US$429 billion ($617b) of assets under management as at June 30. It has 109 portfolio companies in its private equity funds. They generated US$244b in annual revenues as at March this year.

    The deal was subject to customary closing conditions and OIO approval, which was expected within four to five months.

  • 20 Aug 2021 4:38 PM | Mike Hearn (Administrator)

    Agribusiness mobile app developer Hot Mustard’s Sales App Centre’s mobile app development business will be acquired by software specialist Company-X on September 1.

    The acquisition comes after Sales App Centre managing director Paul Bell sought Company-X out.

    “We were a specialist software company focused on agribusiness with a small team looking for an opportunity to work with a larger development company with more expertise and resources,” Bell said.

    “One of the reasons we approached Company-X is that it has some agribusiness clients, and a very good understanding of the agribusiness sector.”

    DeLaval, the worldwide leader in milking equipment and solutions, is a long-term Company-X client. Company-X built a global e-learning solution for DeLaval. Company-X used the text to voice editor it built, Voxcoda, to provide narration in multiple languages.

    Sales App Centre was incorporated in March 2012 and developed the first mobile apps for Ballance Agri Nutrients, DairyNZ and Zespri International.

    “We specialise in apps for agribusiness, ” Bell said. “Including a lot of farmer-facing apps that need to work in the field where there is no internet connectivity.”

    Other Sales App Centre clients include CRV Ambreed, Farmlands Co-Op Society, Giltrap Engineering and Primary ITO.

    Company-X will assume responsibility for app and systems development, including the associated databases and application programming interface (APIs). Hot Mustard’s new business unit Hum will retain responsibility for website development.

    Bell said Sales App Centre clients could only benefit from the acquisition, as they will be working with a larger, better resourced, broadly experienced team, with a proven software development track record. Company-X also had comprehensive testing and support services.

    Sales App Centre business analyst Adrian Searle, who has worked on almost every project in the last seven years, joined Company-X in the acquisition and will continue to support clients.

    Bell said he was “pretty excited and energised” by the acquisition.

    Company-X co-founder and director Jeremy Hughes said: “We recognise that Hot Mustard’s key strength is media and design and having Company-X own the software development space lets the two companies work to their respective strengths.”

    Company-X co-founder David Hallett said: “Company-X is looking forward to partnering with our new clients and providing them with superlative service.”

    Hot Mustard will continue to work with Sales App Centre through Company-X.

    About Company-X

    Company-X offers software savvy delivered with a Kiwi can-do attitude.

    Founded in 2012 by software specialists David Hallett and Jeremy Hughes, Company-X immediately won contracts with New Zealand government departments and a US multinational.

    The Company-X team has grown to nearly 60 New Zealand-based software specialists, with only the best and brightest passing the Company-X interview and assessment process. The team prides itself with experience in a wide range of technologies and languages and loves challenging problems.

    Company-X is the first Australasian reseller of RealWear head-mounted tablets.

    Company-X ranked on the Deloitte Technology Fast 500™ Asia Pacific, a list of the fastest-growing technology companies in the Asia Pacific region, in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

    About Hot Mustard and Sales App Centre

    Hot Mustard is a combination of an experienced advertising team with an experienced digital team with a reputation for producing great integrated campaigns across social, digital and traditional media. Hot Mustard has creative, media, design and tech all under one roof, making them agile, efficient and accountable. Collaborative, informed, focused. Hot Mustard is a small but highly specialised team developing new ways of working to meet the demands of an ever-changing world.

    Sales App Centre was formed a decade ago by Hot Mustard to specialise in the development of agribusiness applications for mobile devices. Sales App Centre took its understanding of the industry’s business processes, to produce leading edge business apps.

  • 13 Aug 2021 4:19 PM | Mike Hearn (Administrator)

    Auckland software startup Portainer has a Forbes' ranking of the hottest cloud companies.

    The Hobsonville Pt firm was named as one of 20 Rising Stars in cloud software - an adjunct to the iconic American business title's annual "The Cloud 100" list of the top privately-held companies in internet-based software.

    Forbes says its top 100 list was ranked by growth, sales, valuation and culture criteria, plus a reputation score derived in consultation with 34 CEO judges and executives from their public-cloud-company peers.

    The Rising Stars were defined as a weight-class as cloud software companies that had raised less than US$25 million.

    Online payments platform Stripe is at No 1 on the 100 list - and is also the highest-valued startup in the US full-stop with its worth of some US$95 billion, Forbes says. No 2, Databricks, is valued at US$28b, which would place it about halfway down the S&P 500 if it were public.

    No 3 is Australian online content creation firm Canva - one of only six companies of the 100 run by a woman). One of Canva's key backers, Sydney-based Blackbird Ventures, now has an office in New Zealand, and an NZ-focused fund backed by a $21.5m million contribution from Crown agency NZ Growth Capital Partners.

    Canva's private-equity valuation has grown from US$6b to US$15b over the past year.

    Portainer - at a much earlier stage of its life - has yet to reach those kinds of dizzying heights - but did recently raise $10m in a round led by Silicon Valley venture capital firm Bessemer Venture Partners (best known in NZ has an early supporter of Rocket Lab) and supported by local VC outfit Movac.

    The young firm, founded by Neil Cresswell, makes "container" software that allows an app to be developed once, then ran anywhere, from a desktop to a server hosted in the cloud.

    Cresswell earmarked funds from the raise, in part, for expanding staff from 30 to 50. Highly-skilled Kiwis returning home amid the pandemic are one of his key targets (read more about Portainer here).

    Meanwhile, Bessemer now has its hands in another Kiwi pie. A firm backed by the Silicon Valley VC firm, DroneDeploy, revealed today it has taken over Auckland robotics specialist Rocos.


  • 12 Aug 2021 4:00 PM | Mike Hearn (Administrator)

    The next Electron rocket on the pad is the first of three dedicated missions for BlackSky scheduled for lift-off from late August through September.

    Long Beach, California. August 10, 2021 – Rocket Lab, a leading launch provider and space systems company, has today announced its next mission is part of a rapid launch schedule of three dedicated Electron missions for Spaceflight Inc.’s customer, global monitoring provider BlackSky.

    Scheduled to lift-off from Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula in late August, the ‘Love At First Insight’ mission will be Rocket Lab’s 22nd Electron launch overall and fifth mission of 2021. ‘Love At First Insight’ is the first in a rapid succession of scheduled Electron launches between late August through September that represent the company’s fastest launch turnarounds to date.

    The ‘Love At First Insight’ mission is the latest in a multi-launch agreement signed earlier this year for BlackSky between Rocket Lab and Spaceflight Inc., which is providing integration and mission management services for BlackSky. This mission will deploy the eighth and ninth satellites of BlackSky’s planned constellation as part of that rapid-launch agreement, with another four Gen-2 smallsats across the two additional Electron dedicated missions to follow. 

    Electron will deploy two of BlackSky’s high-resolution, multi-spectral, Gen-2 satellites to low Earth orbit, expanding BlackSky’s network in space and offering of real-time geospatial intelligence and monitoring services. BlackSky combines high-resolution images captured by its constellation of microsatellites with its proprietary artificial intelligence software to deliver analytics and insights to industries including transportation, infrastructure, land use, defense, supply chain management, and humanitarian aid. 

    “Dedicated launch on Electron means a bespoke service for satellite operators who want control over their schedule and orbital parameters,” says Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck. “Rapid launch with these three back-to-back missions enables BlackSky to fast-track their plans for a constellation that meets the hunger for real-time data produced by multiple images within 24 hours, rather than one image at the same time each day.” 

    “We’ve been partnering strongly with Rocket Lab over the past several months to gain high confidence in a launch campaign that will increase the capacity of our space network,” said Brian E. O’Toole, CEO of BlackSky. “This cadence of rapid launches demonstrates the accelerated pace at which we are able to expand our constellation and reinforces our commitment to delivering real-time data and intelligence.” 

    The ‘Love At First Insight’ launch is set to bring the total number of satellites launched by Rocket Lab to 107, joining a collection of successfully deployed satellites from various sectors including Earth-observation, Internet of Things, weather and climate monitoring, academia and scientific research, civil government, defense, and more. Information about the ‘Love At First Insight’ launch window will be made available in the coming days.


  • 11 Aug 2021 9:19 AM | Mike Hearn (Administrator)

    DroneDeploy has acquired Rocos, a New Zealand-based robotics software company. The acquisition will enable DroneDeploy customers in construction, energy, agriculture, and more to deploy and orchestrate both aerial and ground robots on their job sites. This acquisition will make physical workflow automation possible, creating more efficient and safer workplaces.

    “Companies are undergoing a digital transformation accelerated by challenges surrounding labor shortages and COVID-driven remote operations. As a result, the market demand for automatic site documentation and digital twins has soared,” said Mike Winn, CEO and co-founder of DroneDeploy. “With the Rocos acquisition, we are enabling our customers to automate ground-level data capture, moving several steps closer to a complete automation solution.”

    DroneDeploy is already the market share leader in drone software, powering the world’s largest companies to capture an instant understanding of their assets and operations through aerial imagery. Now, with the extension to on-the-ground robots, workers will soon be able to establish automated routines within the platform from both the air and the ground. For example, a solar technician could program a drone to fly over a solar power plant, identify thermal hotspots, and automatically activate ground robots to walk under the hotspot to identify the exact problem – no human intervention needed. This process will save time, resources and human labor, freeing workers to focus on other tasks.

    “A few years ago, drones made the leap from hobbyist toys to enterprise tools. Now, ground robotics is on a similar trajectory,” said David Inggs, former CEO and co-founder of Rocos, now DroneDeploy's Head of Ground Robotics. “With the addition of the Rocos’ ground robotics technology, DroneDeploy can now automate critical data workflows across both air and ground use cases, enabling greater safety and efficiency for the whole worksite.”

    DroneDeploy has already begun integrating Rocos’ robotic control with its indoor data processing technology to deliver autonomous 360 Walkthrough and inspection at scale. The company will launch the new offerings at its annual DroneDeploy Conference this October.

    The acquisition follows DroneDeploy’s recent $50M Series E funding round and continued growth, as enterprise drone data collection operations increased 95% in Q2 2021.

  • 06 Aug 2021 3:06 PM | Mike Hearn (Administrator)

    The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) today announced a multi-year agreement between the New Zealand Space Agency and LeoLabs, Inc. to develop the world’s most advanced Space Regulatory and Sustainability Platform. The platform will improve the ability to implement responsible stewardship of space by commercial and public sector space entities.

    “Our partnership with LeoLabs has allowed us to better understand what’s in space, which is key to upholding our duties as a launching country and ensuring the responsible use of the space environment,” says Dr Peter Crabtree, General Manager Science, Innovation and International.

    The responsibilities of a launching state include monitoring the satellites launched from it, and making sure that they are complying with the license and rules that permitted the launch. This complex task has been made simpler for the New Zealand Space Agency through a contract with LeoLabs to develop a world-leading Space Regulatory and Sustainability Platform. The cloud-based platform uses data from LeoLabs global radar network, one of which is based in Naseby, to continuously monitor satellites in low Earth orbit.

    “Our investment and activities in New Zealand, including the Kiwi Space Radar, have been a string of successes, both in terms of supporting the goals of MBIE, but also of projecting New Zealand onto the global stage as a leader in space sustainability,” said Dan Ceperley, CEO and co-Founder of LeoLabs.

    “We appreciate the opportunity now to take this to another level and operationalize the Space Regulatory and Sustainability Platform. This is truly a model for every other space agency around the world.”

    Following a pilot phase, the platform is now fully embedded into the operations of the New Zealand Space Agency which can track the position and orbit of individual satellites and where they’re heading, view historical orbit records, obtain reports on changes in a satellite’s orbit and receive alerts when a satellite is not complying with its licensing agreement. The partnership between MBIE and Leolabs was brokered through the Innovative Partnerships programme, and in October 2019 saw LeoLabs unveil their first ‘next-generation’ space radar in Naseby, Central Otago. The phased-array radar tracks small satellites and space debris – the first of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere.

    “Our partnership with LeoLabs helps put us at the forefront of monitoring satellites and taking a sustainable approach to the use of space. We look forward to continuing to work together in the years ahead,” says Dr Peter Crabtree.

  • 04 Aug 2021 2:57 PM | Mike Hearn (Administrator)

    Tauranga legal software startup LawVu has raised $17 million in a Series A round led by New York-based venture capital firm Insight Partners with support from Australia’s AirTree Ventures.

    The chunky raise follows the May revelation from founder and CEO Sam Kid that his firm has inked a deal with a giant US social media platform.

    LawVu makes cloud-based software for in-house legal teams, helping with tasks such as creating contracts, collaboration and sharing documents. Its platform can work with a range of other software, including Outlook and e-signature service DocuSign.

    Kidd and co-founder Tim Boyne got the idea when they were working in and around corporate NZ in the early 2010s; Kidd for a startup that integrated accounting software with IRD’s systems, Boyne as an IT operations manager at a law firm in 2015.

    “Often in a big firm, there’s a lot of repetitive legal work, or sometimes the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing,” Kidd said.

    The pair thought in-house legal teams needed their own software platform, just as sales people had Salesforce.

    AirTree also supported a $2.5m seed this year, which was supported by American VC firm Shashtra Ventures and the Crown-backed NZ Growth Capital Partners – which in turn complemented a $3.8m seed round the same year led by former Russell McVeagh lawyer turned investor Kent Gardner and supported by Icehouse Ventures.

    LawVu increased staff numbers from 20 at the start of last year to more than 70. Kidd said that with its new funding, it will end the year with more than 100.

    Tauranga City Council became LawVu’s first customer, and something of a test-bed. Dunedin City Council came next, followed by top-tier corporates.

    LawVu’s twin raises this year follow big wins across the Tasman where Telstra and Nissan Australia have adopt the company’s software.

    In New Zealand, Fonterra, James Hardie and Sky TV are hero customers. PwC and lead-services provider Axiom are partners.

    The funds raised this year are earmarked for expansion further into the US and other territories.

    LawVu has usually pitched against software companies that are much larger, but also offering on-premise (pre-cloud) ELM (enterprise legal management) software, Kidds says, which can be complicated and require a big implementation team. The Kiwi startup positions itself as a modern, nimble, cloud-age contender.

    Kidd said the company would remain headquartered in Tauranga.

    In LawVu’s early days, the location was a drawcard. “We were paying Auckland and Wellington salaries in an area with much cheaper housing and a great lifestyle,” he says.

    The housing price gap has since narrowed, but “now, remote working is the new normal”, he adds. Recent hires are working from various provincial locations, including Queenstown and Invercargill. “We fly people in when we need to.”

    Kidd declined to give a post-money valuation, but a Companies Office update after the $17m raise shows new investor Insight Partners with a 15.5 per cent stake and the topped-up AirTree on 6.3 per cent.