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  • 04 Mar 2022 9:48 AM | Mike Hearn (Administrator)

    Drawing on his science education, tech career, an extensive US network, and long-time connection with New Zealand, Dr Mark Bregman of Quidnet Ventures campions science-based Kiwi startups demonstrating a “terroir” of innovation.

    Established in Auckland in 2021, and operating also out of San Francisco and New York City, Quidnet Ventures offers operational guidance – along with seed-stage and Series A funding – to Kiwi entrepreneurs who are ready to take innovations in science-based deep tech to the global market.

    Quidnet’s founder and general partner, Dr Mark Bregman, leads a team of advisors with collective executive work experience in Europe, China, Japan and India, as well as New Zealand. Bregman explains how his personal journey – from tech executive in his US homeland to corporate venture professional and hobbyist winemaker in his adoptive New Zealand – has given him the mind-set and expertise to help startups navigate early growth stages and make crucial connections, particularly with the US.

    The science of innovation
    Bregman’s interest in science-based tech was piqued in the 1980s during a post-doctoral fellowship in neutrino physics at IBM Research. Rubbing shoulders with visionaries such as Benoit Mandelbrot (the inventor of fractals) and Robert Dennard (the inventor of the single transistor DRAM), Bregman saw the “interesting and challenging areas people were working in that people cared about”. At the end of his post-doc, he decided to stay at IBM, moving into the microelectronics research division.

    The connection between academic research and commercially viable deep tech became a theme throughout his corporate career, as he studied and led innovation inside established corporates, such as IBM, and within the startup ecosystem.

    Visiting New Zealand regularly for IBM meetings with clients such as BNZ and Telecom, Bregman forged strong links with the country, in part through his interests in yachting and viticulture (he bought into a vineyard in the 1990s). “I became more plugged into the tech startup ecosystem here,” he explains. “Back then, it was in its formative days, but it was clearly growing rapidly.”

    He also saw how limited capital there was in the seed and Series A venture range, “so Kiwi companies had to look offshore to grow.”

    Marrying big corporate knowhow with fast-growth startups and funding

    After leaving IBM, Bregman worked at various enterprise software companies and start-ups – including VERITAS Software, Symantec and NetApp – before joining Vista Equity Partners in 2019. At Vista, he helped portfolio companies leverage innovation in the early fast-growth stage. He also led corporate venture programmes at Symantec, Neustar and NetApp, and co-founded an AI/ML startup, helping the publishing industry match readers to content.

    His ongoing connections with New Zealand eventually attracted him to pursue residency, and Quidnet Ventures was born from his fascination with place-based innovation and the exciting stage of the technology sector here. “There’s that maturing and vibrancy of the entrepreneurial technology ecosystem happening right now, which can lead to a real impact on jobs and economic growth.”

    New Zealand’s “terroir” of innovation
    For Bregman, one of the key attractions of Kiwi innovation has been that famous No. 8 wire thinking. He uses the viticulture term “terroir”, defined as the blend of factors – the soil, climate, terrain and human input – that shape the unique qualities of a wine. 

    As he sees it, New Zealand’s geographic isolation has bred a terroir of ingenuity and invention. And, with such a small home market, “Kiwis have had to think globally from day one. Many are motivated by making an impact first, money second. And this leads to better ideas – defensible ideas.” 

    He believes New Zealand punches above its weight in certain tech sectors. “The overarching goal in launching the fund is to accelerate the growth of a vibrant entrepreneurial technology ecosystem.” He lists Quidnet’s areas of special interest: deep-tech companies in New Zealand that operate in agtech, AI/ML and medtech, all of which are based in scientific, defensible intellectual capital. “We look to the ones where we can provide the leverage and specialist knowledge, and create the most traction in the US.”

    Investment strategy
    Two criteria in particular guide Quidnet’s investment strategy. “First, I ask, how does this company benefit from being in New Zealand? Second, do they work with science-based deep tech? Ideas need to be defensible and not easily copied, and this is the area in which I’m best positioned to help.” 

    That help comes in the form of operational guidance, as much as funding. Bregman is keen to avoid the general situation in the US, where, he says, too much money floods in too early on from financial investors who offer little advice on how to use the cash. 

    “We are hands-on, providing operational advice to give founders a clear road map as they launch in the US. We have advisors in deep tech, growth, sales and marketing, and through our networks we can introduce founders to the support they need.”

    The process of getting to know a potential investee can take a long time – several years, in some instances. Bregman pitches this as an advantage to investees. “We take the time to help with connections and introductions, and a stateside perspective. With our deep knowledge of US norms, we can ensure the cap table is clean and attractive for US investors. We can introduce investees to legal and IP experts, distribution channel specialists, venture capital funds, and more. But first we determine where a company is at, and its priorities, before giving advice.”

    A science-based deep tech portfolio
    Quidnet has made 10 investments in its first year and is on track to support more than 30 companies from its first fund. Among these are:

    • Dawn Aerospace, which pioneers new space transportation and satellite propulsion systems (including green fuels),

    • Litmaps, which has built a research platform that is revolutionising the use of peer-reviewed and patent literatures for scientists, engineers and other experts,

    • Winely, which develops real-time fermentation analysis that, via the IoT, gives greater control to vintners,

    • Arcanum, a feature-as-a-service platform offering enterprise AI solutions: products and platforms for machine learning, machine vision and neuro-linguistic programming, and

    • Marama Labs, a deep-tech sensor and data analytics company that develops advanced spectroscopy sensors for analysing the chemical composition of liquids. 

    Another is PowerON, which aims to turn robotics from ‘clunky and dangerous’, in the words of CTO Dr Katherine Wilson, to soft multifunctional robots “that can interact with us and help us in daily life.” Potential applications include prosthetic limbs, lifelike medical models, and assistants for patients. 

    Launched in 2019, and based in Auckland and Dresden (a European centre for robotics), PowerON is a spinoff from the Biomimetics Lab at the Auckland Bioengineering Institute. It had early support and funding from Callaghan Innovation R&D (with assistance from Auckland Unlimited). In September 2021, PowerON closed an oversubscribed $3.1 million capital raise which included funding and support from Quidnet Ventures.

    “We were anticipating going overseas for early-stage investments,” says CTO Katie Wilson, “but were pleasantly surprised by the increasing number of venture funds operating in New Zealand supporting deep tech start-ups. We successfully raised pre-seed and seed funding from within New Zealand, with support from multiple groups including Quidnet Ventures. We are very encouraged by the confidence that the New Zealand investment community has shown in our team and vision for the technology.”

    Working within the Kiwi tech ecosystem
    Bregman is an Investor Fellow at the Edmund Hillary Fellowship. Working remotely from the US until borders reopen, he is helping New Zealand investees build links with the US (including Kiwi expats there); Quidnet has assisted with physical trips to San Francisco, as well as the AANZ/EHF virtual visit in 2021.

    His Edmund Hillary Fellowship also enables Bregman to pursue his goal of fostering nationwide tech excellence. “I’m of the opinion that Kiwi tech entrepreneurs should find ways to collaborate, get together, and build the fabric and network around innovation – rather than competing with each other – for collective success internationally.”

    Bregman mentors founders at the innovation spaces Te Ōhaka (Christchurch) and CreativeHQ (Wellington), and is on the Digital Technologies Investment committee for Return on Science – New Zealand’s national research commercialisation programme, which often meets at the University of Auckland’s UniServices.

    Matching the right investors for long-term relationships
    Quidnet strategically selects offshore limited partners, and all LPs typically have some link to New Zealand to help foster a connection with investees. These relationships are important for investors during the competitive second round of funding, as it gives them priority access based on existing relationships with founders and startups.

    “The advantage for investors (and investees) is that New Zealand companies are not overvalued like they are in the US. In the early stages, a lower valuation benefits everyone and fuels innovation; when founders maintain a significant shareholding, the drive and incentive to succeed  are even stronger.

    “I believe the combination of ambitious Kiwi entrepreneurs – the creative, resourceful, pioneering mentality of being far away, yet well-connected – and their global  mindset is creating an innovation nation,” concludes Bregman, “making New Zealand a really compelling place to be investing into right now.”

    Find out more

    Contact Investment Specialist Joe Rouse to learn more about venture capital investment opportunities in Auckland, New Zealand.
    Source: https://www.aucklandnz.com/

  • 27 Feb 2022 11:25 AM | Mike Hearn (Administrator)

    The $143 million contract is the largest spacecraft bus order placed with Rocket Lab to date, encompassing the design and manufacture of 17 state-of-the-art spacecraft for Globalstar’s newest satellites. 

    Long Beach, California. 24 February 2022 – Rocket Lab USA, Inc. (Nasdaq: RKLB) (“Rocket Lab” or “the Company”), a global leader in launch services and space systems, today announced that it has been awarded a subcontract by MDA Ltd (TSX: MDA), a leading provider of advanced technology and services to the rapidly expanding global space industry, to lead the design and manufacture of 17 spacecraft buses for Globalstar’s new Low Earth Orbit satellites. Globalstar, Inc. (NYSE American: GSAT) is a leading provider of Mobile Satellite Services including customizable satellite IoT solutions for individuals and businesses globally.

    Rocket Lab will lead the development of the spacecraft buses, while MDA will act as prime contractor to manufacture Globalstar’s satellites, lead the development of the payload, and perform the final satellite assembly, integration, and test. The partnership between Rocket Lab and MDA brings together two of the space industry’s most innovative satellite companies. The total initial contract value for Rocket Lab is US$143 million, with options to provide the satellite operations control center, launch dispensers, launch integration, and up to nine additional spacecraft with flexibility in timing to order such spacecraft. The satellites will integrate with and replenish Globalstar’s current constellation, ensuring service continuity. Globalstar expects to launch the satellites by the end of 2025.

     “We are thrilled to be collaborating with MDA to develop Globalstar’s new satellites and are honoured to have the trust and support of two of the space industry’s most innovative companies,” said Peter Beck, Founder and CEO of Rocket Lab. “With this contract Rocket Lab is executing on its strategy to go beyond launch and lead the new space economy by delivering complete mission solutions spanning spacecraft manufacture, satellite subsystems, flight software, ground operations, and launch.”

     “Cross-company collaboration and co-development is key to bringing new capabilities to market quickly to meet growing customer demand for advanced satellite technology,” said Mike Greenley, CEO of MDA. “Rocket Lab is a strong fit for MDA and working with them on this system is an opportunity to flex, expand, and strengthen the capabilities of both companies, now and in the future.”

     All 17 of the 500kg spacecraft will be designed and manufactured at Rocket Lab’s Long Beach production complex and headquarters, where a new high-volume spacecraft manufacturing line is being developed to support growing customer demand for Rocket Lab satellites. Leveraging Rocket Lab’s vertically integrated space systems capabilities, the satellites will feature components and subsystems produced by Rocket Lab’s recently acquired companies including solar panels and structures from SolAero Technologies in Albuquerque, New Mexico, software from ASI by Rocket Lab in Denver, Colorado, and reaction wheels from Sinclair Interplanetary in Toronto, Canada. The telemetry and control radio for all spacecraft will also be a C-band variant of Rocket Lab’s Frontier Satellite Radio (Frontier-C).

     The contract is the result of a very detailed and highly competitive bid and evaluation process and Rocket Lab is honoured to have been selected by MDA. We believe Rocket Lab’s proposal met MDA’s and Globalstar’s stringent technical and schedule requirements, offered efficiencies through Rocket Lab’s high level of vertical integration, and that there is also strong cultural and operational alignment between the companies to deliver innovation and agility in today’s satellite market.

     Rocket Lab’s suite of spacecraft components and subsystems include reaction wheels, star trackers, space solar power, radios, flight software, ground software, and separation systems. More than 1,000 spacecraft globally have successfully flown with hardware from Rocket Lab and the four companies it has acquired since 2020.

    Source: https://www.rocketlabusa.com/


  • 23 Feb 2022 12:59 PM | Mike Hearn (Administrator)

    On February 23, the U.S. Chamber submitted business recommendations to the administration on its efforts to develop an Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF). The comments commend the Biden administration’s recognition of “the strategic importance of the Indo-Pacific to America’s global leadership and security” but argues in favor of re-joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), which has entered into force and is attracting new applicants despite the U.S. withdrawal in 2017.

    Even so, the Chamber encourages the administration to act quickly on IPEF. The document contends the administration should move swiftly, draw on trade disciplines the U.S. has developed and applied in other contexts, take advantage of IPEF’s flexible framework to achieve desired outcomes on different timetables, and engage with public and private stakeholders.

    The Chamber outlines important elements that could be achieved through IPEF and highlights the following as points for inclusion in the new framework:

    • Digital trade—To counter foreign trade barriers, IPEF should include an enforceable digital trade agreement that builds upon the high standards the U.S. has already negotiated in its agreements with Japan and in the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA);
    • Customs administration and trade facilitation—The IPEF should expand on the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) and customs measures in U.S. FTAs to streamline procedures and ease logistical impediments to the free flow of goods and services;
    • Good regulatory practices—The IPEF should explore opportunities for regulatory cooperation by incorporating and building upon provisions from the Good Regulatory Practices and Technical Barriers to Trade sections in USMCA and the recently concluded WTO Reference Paper on Services Domestic Regulation;
    • Anticorruption—The IPEF should include measures to prevent and combat bribery and corruption, such as those found in the U.S. trade protocols with Brazil and Ecuador;
    • Government procurement—The IPEF should include commitments on government procurement procedures, such as those in the USMCA, and increase funding for IPEF partners under the U.S. Trade and Development Agency’s Global Procurement Initiative;
    • Health systems—The IPEF should include a health track for dialogue to strengthen health systems;
    • Medical products—The IPEF should support tariff elimination on health products, reiterate commitments to refrain from export restrictions, and strengthen regulatory cooperation and capacity building;
    • Infrastructure—The IPEF should include U.S. commitments to infrastructure development in the region, including the development and deployment of 5G. It should also include active coordination of research activities and dialogues to support supply chain diversification and domestic production capabilities;
    • Sustainability—The IPEF should include near-term initiatives that support resource efficiency, low carbon energy projects, supply chain resiliency, and other sustainability goals;
    • Energy transition and climate change mitigation—The IPEF should include regulatory alignment on clean energy technologies and other decarbonization efforts, cooperation on strategic minerals, and tariff elimination on a list of environmental goods;
    • Intellectual property capacity building—The IPEF should incentivize global participation in ecosystems for innovation through IP capacity building;
    • Technology standards—The IPEF should preserve a market-based approach to technology standards and establish common standards for procurement-based innovation; and
    • Export controls—The IPEF should contain an agreed framework for member countries to consult on an ongoing basis on the commercial implications of the evolving export control regime for sensitive technologies.

    On February 18, the Chamber also joined a multi-associationletterurging the administration to develop an ambitious IPEF that seeks to “open markets, promote inclusive trade and economic growth, enable rules-based commerce, increase sustainability, and promote shared values and interests.”

    The Chamber is meeting with administration officials engaged on this effort to convey these messages. For further information, please contact Senior Vice President for Asia Charles Freeman (cfreeman@uschamber.com).

    Source: www.uschamber.com

  • 17 Feb 2022 8:19 PM | Mike Hearn (Administrator)

    New AWS Local Zone will deliver single-digit millisecond latency performance at the edge of the cloud

    AUCKLAND—Feb. 17, 2022—Today, Amazon Web Services, Inc. (AWS), an Amazon.com, Inc. company, announced plans to launch a new AWS Local Zone in Auckland. The AWS Local Zone will complement AWS’s existing infrastructure in New Zealand, including Amazon CloudFront, a content delivery network service built for high performance, security, and developer convenience, AWS Outposts, a fully managed service that extends AWS infrastructure, services, APIs, and tools to customer premises, and a NZ$7.5 billion investment in a new infrastructure region planned to open in Auckland in 2024.

    AWS Local Zones are a type of infrastructure deployment that places AWS compute, storage, database, and other services at the edge of the cloud near large population, industry, and information technology (IT) centres—enabling customers to deploy applications that require single-digit millisecond latency closer to end users or on-premises data centres. AWS Local Zones allow customers to use core AWS services locally while seamlessly connecting to the rest of their workloads running in AWS Regions with the same elasticity, pay-as-you-go model, application programming interfaces (APIs), and toolsets. To learn more about AWS Local Zones, visit aws.amazon.com/about-aws/global-infrastructure/localzones.

    The new AWS Local Zones will give customers in New Zealand the ability to offer end users single-digit millisecond performance designed to suit applications such as remote real-time gaming, media and entertainment content creation, live video streaming, engineering simulations, augmented and virtual reality, machine learning inference at the edge, and more. AWS manages and supports AWS Local Zones, meaning customers in New Zealand do not need to incur the expense and effort of procuring, operating, and maintaining infrastructure to support low-latency applications. AWS Local Zones also allow customers with local data residency preferences in New Zealand to run parts of their applications in on-premises data centres and seamlessly connect to AWS while ensuring ultra-low latency for these types of hybrid deployments—all while using familiar AWS APIs and tools.

    The new AWS Local Zone in Auckland will join 16 existing AWS Local Zones across the United States and an additional 31 AWS Local Zones planned to launch in 25 countries around the world over the next two years—delivering single-digit millisecond latency performance at the edge of the cloud to hundreds of millions of people worldwide.

    “We know that delivering ultra-low latency applications for a seamless user experience matters for many businesses and industries, so we are excited to bring the edge of the cloud closer to more customers in New Zealand to help meet their requirements,” said Tiffany Bloomquist, Country Manager for Commercial at AWS in New Zealand. “AWS Local Zones will empower more public and private organisations, innovative startups, and AWS Partners to deliver a new generation of leading edge, low-latency applications to end users, taking advantage of the cost savings, scalability, and high availability that AWS provides. This new AWS Local Zone is a continuation of our investment to support customers of all kinds and commitment to accelerate innovation by bringing cloud infrastructure to more locations in New Zealand.”

    TVNZ is New Zealand's state-owned, commercially funded broadcaster that reaches more than two million Kiwis daily. “TVNZ brings viewers the best local and international content, and the launch of a new AWS Local Zone for Aotearoa will provide an even faster and more reliable way to deliver our services and content to New Zealanders,” said Jean-Louis Acafrao, General Manager, Technology at TVNZ. “AWS Local Zones will help us provide the best possible quality streaming experience for our TVNZ OnDemand viewers, ensuring continued audience growth for our platform. We’re excited to take full advantage of this investment in local digital infrastructure.”

    Spark is New Zealand’s largest telecommunications and digital services company that provides services to a wide range of leading New Zealand organisations through Spark Business Group which unites Spark’s services with its specialist businesses, CCL, Leaven, Qrious, and Digital Island. “We welcome AWS’s continued local investment in advanced cloud capabilities and infrastructure, which is an important enabler for businesses across Aotearoa,” said Heather Graham, CEO of CCL, Spark’s cloud business. “As part of our hybrid cloud portfolio, we look forward to helping our customers take advantage of the low-latency and performance benefits the new service offers.”

    Deloitte New Zealand is an AWS Premier Consulting Partner that brings together more than 1,400 specialists, providing New Zealand with a wide range of high-quality professional services. “Deloitte is focused on transforming New Zealand companies, and our collaboration with AWS enables us to help customers modernise, bring products to market quicker, and innovate rapidly,” said Damian Harvey, Deloitte New Zealand Cloud Transformation Lead. “An AWS Local Zone in Auckland will bring the cloud even closer to our customers, enabling ultra-low latency cloud solutions that process data closer to source to improve response times and customer experiences. It's a great addition to AWS's already significant investment with the upcoming AWS Region in Auckland, and together will help accelerate cloud adoption, and drive our digital economy forward.”

    About Amazon Web Services
    For over 15 years, Amazon Web Services has been the world’s most comprehensive and broadly adopted cloud offering. AWS has been continually expanding its services to support virtually any cloud workload, and it now has more than 200 fully featured services for compute, storage, databases, networking, analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), mobile, security, hybrid, virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR), media, and application development, deployment, and management from 84 Availability Zones (AZs) within 26 geographic regions, with announced plans for 24 more Availability Zones and eight more AWS Regions in Australia, Canada India, Israel, New Zealand, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Arab Emirates. Millions of customers—including the fastest-growing startups, largest enterprises, and leading government agencies—trust AWS to power their infrastructure, become more agile, and lower costs. To learn more about AWS, visit aws.amazon.com.

    About Amazon
    Amazon is guided by four principles: customer obsession rather than competitor focus, passion for invention, commitment to operational excellence, and long-term thinking. Amazon strives to be Earth’s Most Customer-Centric Company, Earth’s Best Employer, and Earth’s Safest Place to Work. Customer reviews, 1-Click shopping, personalized recommendations, Prime, Fulfillment by Amazon, AWS, Kindle Direct Publishing, Kindle, Career Choice, Fire tablets, Fire TV, Amazon Echo, Alexa, Just Walk Out technology, Amazon Studios, and The Climate Pledge are some of the things pioneered by Amazon. For more information, visit amazon.com/about and follow @AmazonNews.

  • 17 Feb 2022 2:29 PM | Mike Hearn (Administrator)

    Auckland, New Zealand, 16th February 2022 – Vista Group International has announced the acquisition of US entertainment software company Retriever Solutions, demonstrating strong belief in the cinema market following pandemic-related disruption.

    Under the deal, Vista Cinema will acquire all Retriever’s software, IP and customers, with an offer of employment to all current employees. Employees will continue to work from Retriever’s existing premises in Owosso, MI and Denver, CO.

    This transaction will see Vista Cinema add over 100 new customers further strengthening its market share in the US and cementing its position as the leading cinema software provider in that market.

    “This was an irresistible opportunity to work with a talented team who produce great cinema management software and have built a loyal customer base. People can’t wait to get back to the cinema after the challenges of the past two years and we believe the industry has a really strong future. By joining forces with Retriever, we’re in an even better position to deliver on that potential as the world’s leading software company serving the cinema industry,” said Vista Group CEO, Kimbal Riley.

    All Retriever’s software will continue to be supported, including its web services, signage, back office, multi-site management, film rental and point-of-sale solutions.

    “After the acquisition it will still be business as usual for Retriever’s customers. I’m confident Vista Cinema will provide a welcoming new home for our team and I’m looking forward to seeing them innovate on behalf of Retriever’s wonderful customers,” said Ed Kearney, CEO of Retriever Solutions.  

    Through the acquisition, Retriever customers will get a closer look at the benefits of Vista Cinema’s core cloud products, Vista Cloud and Veezi. This will enable industry players around the world to have faster access to the ongoing stream of innovation Vista has invested in its new cloud delivery model.

    Vista Cinema CEO, Leon Newnham, said the business’s continued growth demonstrates that the appetite for cloud technology from customers, alongside audiences’ ongoing love of the cinema, are creating the perfect environment.

    “There’s nothing quite like going to see a movie where they are meant to be seen – in the theatre, having the whole experience amplified by rows of people around you laughing and reacting at the same time – people have missed that. When technology also helps deliver a seamless experience for customers, it makes them want to come back again, and that’s when the industry really grows. We’re constantly innovating and evolving our technology, that’s why we launched Vista Cloud to the market last year to sit alongside our other products like Veezi. Now we’re excited to bring on a great team of people at Retriever who share our passion for cinema and innovation, and work with amazing new exhibitors to give audiences even better experiences in future,” he said.

    About Vista Group International:

    VistaGroup International Ltd (Vista Group) is a public company, founded in NewZealand in 1996 and listed on both the New Zealand and Australian stock exchanges in 2014 (NZX & ASX: VGL). The Group provides software and additional technology solutions across the global film industry. Cinema management software is provided by Vista Entertainment Solutions (‘VistaCinema’), the originating business of the Group. Movio (authority in moviegoer data analytics), Veezi (cloud-based software for the independent cinema market), Maccs (film distribution software), Numero (box office reporting software for film distributors and cinemas), Powster (creative studio and marketing platform for movie studios) and Flicks (moviegoer ‘go to’ portal for movie information) provide an innovative range of complementary products across additional film industry sectors, from production and distribution, to cinema exhibition through to the experience of the moviegoer. Vista Group has offices located in New Zealand (Auckland HQ), Sydney, Cape Town, London, Amsterdam,Groningen, Timișoara, Shanghai, Beijing, Los Angeles, and Mexico City.

    Source: https://cloud.vista.co/

  • 17 Feb 2022 1:55 PM | Mike Hearn (Administrator)

    Auckland-based corporate affairs firm Sherson Willis has announced it has become FTI Consulting’s strategic communications affiliate in New Zealand.

    Under the affiliate agreement, Sherson Willis will work closely with FTI Consulting – the global business advisory firm with a strategic communications arm – to provide seamless local support for FTI Consulting’s clients.

    Director Trish Sherson says the affiliation agreement is a recognition of Sherson Willis’s market leading offering in New Zealand and gives the firm access to world class corporate affairs expertise.

    “As an independent business with local expertise, this affiliation with FTI Consulting broadens our client capabilities and global reach.

    “It allows us to tap into FTI Consulting’s outstanding resource of business and financial expertise and insights to strengthen our current offer in New Zealand, while also giving us access to FTI Consulting’s network of offices in 29 countries to meet any international needs of our clients.”

    Sherson Willis has worked collaboratively with FTI Consulting since 2018 on projects and the relationship has now been formalised with the affiliate agreement coming into place.

    Sherson says the firm has worked alongside FTI Consulting’s Australian and United Kingdom offices for clients from sectors including media, energy, pharmaceuticals and healthcare.

    FTI Consulting Managing Director Strategic Communications Ben Hamilton says, “It was clear to us that Sherson Willis is highly regarded as local market leaders and shares FTI Consulting’s pursuit of excellence in strategic corporate affairs, financial communications and public affairs.

    “With the COVID-19 pandemic casting uncertainty globally, now more than ever, our clients are looking for trusted partners on the ground in markets around the world.

    “We’re delighted that Sherson Willis has joined our affiliate network so we can ensure our clients can navigate business critical issues in New Zealand with confidence.”

    In addition, Sherson Willis also announced it has strengthened its senior leadership team by promoting Thomas Pryor to the role of Principal.

    In this newly created role, Pryor will continue to provide counsel to clients, while also working alongside Directors, Trish Sherson and Rewa Willis, to set the strategic goals and direction of the business.

    Director Rewa Willis says, “Thomas has provided our client base with excellent corporate affairs advice and expertise over his five years at Sherson Willis.

    “As Principal, he will be instrumental in helping to drive our business strategy and long-term vision forward.”

    Source: https://www.shersonwillis.com/

  • 17 Feb 2022 1:48 PM | Mike Hearn (Administrator)

    Round Led by Softbank Vision Fund 2 with Participation from Cleveland Avenue, Liberty City Ventures and Solasta Ventures.

    SAN FRANCISCO, Feb. 14, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Soul Machines, the groundbreaking company pioneering the creation of autonomously animated digital people in the metaverse and the digital worlds of today, announced its US$70 million Series B1 financing led by new investor SoftBank Vision Fund 2. Additional participation in this round comes from new investors Cleveland Avenue, Liberty City Ventures and Solasta Ventures. Existing investors including Temasek, Salesforce Ventures and Horizons Ventures also participated in this round. The latest round of funding brings total investment in the company to US $135 million.

    Soul Machines was founded in 2016 by serial tech entrepreneur Greg Cross and Academy Award winner Mark Sagar. Soul Machines believes every sector will deploy digital people as a digital workforce to represent themselves and their brands in the metaverse. The future of Customer Experience in digital worlds is going to be key to winning in all the digital worlds people do business, work and play. The company will use its latest investment to continue its rapid growth in the Enterprise market, with a specific focus on continuing its deep tech research on its Digital Brain technology and launching the future of digital entertainment for the metaverse with hyper-realistic digital twins of real life celebrities.

    “I am thrilled to continue to work with innovative, global brands who understand the power of digital people to communicate, engage and interact with the world,” said Greg Cross, Co-Founder and Chief Business Officer, Soul Machines. “We are in a transformational era where brands need to introduce different ways of personalization and ways to deliver unique brand experiences to customers in a very transactional digital world.”

    “Global brands are investing more in how AI can create an intimate, personalized experience with their customers at scale,” said Anna Lo, Investment Director at SoftBank Advisers. “With strong R&D capabilities and advanced back-end solutions, we believe that Soul Machines is at the cutting edge for creating digital people that can support companies across functions including customer service, training and entertainment. We are thrilled to partner with Greg Cross, Mark Sagar and the entire Soul Machines team to scale and deliver their cutting-edge digital people to companies across the globe.”

    “Soul Machines is truly bringing life to the metaverse with its astonishing humanized AI platform that has the power to enable a digital workforce to be deployed throughout the digital world,” said Murtaza Akbar, Managing Partner at Liberty City Ventures. “We are extremely proud to be working with Greg, Mark and their world-class team to build the future of animated lifelike digital avatars in the metaverse. Their AI can capture and preserve part of the human essence bringing immortality to the digital realm.”

    Soul Machines is focused on creating the future of Customer Experience, which delivers highly personalized brand experiences at scale while it collects detailed customer insights in a way that has not been possible before. Soul Machines works with global brands and celebrities including Carmelo Anthony, NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE®, P&G, Twitch, The World Health Organization, The Pan American Health Organization and more.

    “We’re excited to be investing in Soul Machines and believe it is poised to help lead brands through the massive shift we are seeing in CX,” said Mingu Lee, Managing Partner, Cleveland Avenue, LLC. “Our values align when it comes to providing innovative solutions for a new generation of remarkable companies. By bringing together global innovation leaders and industry expertise, Soul Machines and Cleveland Avenue will demonstrate new possibilities in AI, digital experience and robotics.”

    ABOUT SOUL MACHINES
    Soul Machines is a leader in the creation of autonomously animated digital people in the digital worlds of today and the metaverse. The company brings digital workforces to life for some of the biggest brands in the world as they imagine and innovate the future of brand interaction and personal customer experience in the way they do business. Soul Machines is creating digital twins of celebrities to reimagine the future of digital entertainment and fan engagement. For more about Soul Machines, visit www.soulmachines.com

    ABOUT CLEVELAND AVENUE, LLC
    Founded by Don Thompson, the former President and CEO of McDonald’s Corporation, Cleveland Avenue is a venture capital firm that invests in lifestyle consumer brands and technology companies that positively disrupt large and growing markets. Learn more about Cleveland Avenue at clevelandavenue.com and follow us on TwitterLinkedIn and Instagram.

  • 17 Feb 2022 1:26 PM | Mike Hearn (Administrator)

    Wellington, New Zealand, February 17 – The New Zealand Rugby (NZR) Board and the New Zealand Rugby Players Association (NZRPA) Board today announced that they have approved a partnership agreement between Silver Lake, NZR and the NZRPA, providing capital to invest in the game at all levels and supporting the development of new capabilities and the pursuit of new global opportunities enabled by digital technologies.

    This partnership marks the beginning of a transformational phase for the entire game in New Zealand and will allow us to pursue exciting new opportunities for rugby. Under the terms of the agreement, which remains subject to ratification by the Provincial Unions and Māori Rugby Board, Silver Lake will invest NZD $200 million in a new commercial entity that will house all revenue-generating assets of NZR, with additional co-investment of up to NZD $100 million to be offered to New Zealand-based institutional investors later in 2022. Silver Lake, NZR and NZRPA will also establish “Global Rugby Opportunities” to invest together in rugby-related businesses outside of New Zealand.

    Stewart Mitchell, NZR Chairman said: “In the privileged role we hold as guardians of our national game, we are proud of where we have landed with this partnership. I want to acknowledge that the journey to get here hasn’t been easy at times, there was healthy debate and some adjustments by all parties, but always with the good of the game at the heart of this process. The NZR Board are looking forward to continuing our conversations with the Provincial Unions and Māori Rugby Board and anticipate ratification in the coming weeks.”

    David Kirk, NZRPA Chairman said: “The partnership is the outcome of long and considered discussions and has been approved by the NZRPA board. This is a pivotal moment for rugby in New Zealand. The agreement provides capital on a sound economic basis and Silver Lake brings additional capability to execute on the new growth opportunities. The proposed investment by New Zealand institutions provides an opportunity and natural pathway for New Zealanders to share in the growth of rugby over time.”

    Mark Robinson, NZR CEO said: “This partnership presents rugby with an extraordinary opportunity to secure its future and unleash its true potential. We are truly excited by what we can achieve together with Silver Lake’s world class capabilities: from fostering and growing our grassroots, to enhancing the experiences we can create for New Zealanders, and truly maximising our potential on the global stage.” 

    Rob Nichol, NZRPA CEO also cemented the NZRPA’s support: “NZRPA is excited for this partnership and what it means for the future of rugby. It addresses our fundamental principles ensuring a true comprehensive partnership, allowing us to invest together in rugby globally, and establishing the right governance models. Silver Lake have shown great integrity and a commitment to getting the right deal in place.  They were willing to listen to everyone and understand what rugby means to people in our country.  We are confident that Silver Lake is the right investment partner.”

    Sarah Hirini, NZRPA board member and Black Ferns Sevens captain said: “The proposal brings new investment and capability into the game and will help us go after some exciting new opportunities, especially given 2022 is such a big year for women’s rugby.  There’s a lot of change in rugby globally and this partnership will position us well.”

    Sam Cane, NZRPA board member and All Blacks captain said: “We are excited about this agreement and have confidence that it is a great outcome for rugby on all levels.  We are impressed by Silver Lake’s thoughtful approach and what they can contribute to help us become better at what we do off the pitch. This partnership is a great step forward for the game.”

    Silver Lake Managing Director Simon Patterson remarked: “New Zealand has a phenomenal track record in rugby, with a great history and culture of leadership, inclusion and teamwork. Silver Lake is fully committed to rugby in New Zealand, to help build on all these past successes at a key moment in the development of the game globally.”

    Silver Lake Managing Director Stephen Evans added: “Digital technologies are transforming all sports, and we look forward to bringing our global network and resources to help New Zealand rugby drive innovation and take advantage of all the opportunities ahead.”

    In summary, the partnership agreement comprises the following components subject to necessary approvals: 

    • Establishes NZR CommercialCo under the control of NZR that will contain all the revenue-generating activities of NZR.
    • Silver Lake invests NZD $200 million into NZR CommercialCo at an NZD $3.5 billion valuation in the form of a perpetual convertible security at a low interest rate, which can convert into ordinary equity after three years.
    • Later in 2022, an additional co-investment will be offered to New Zealand-based institutional investors so that domestic capital can have the opportunity to also participate in the investment. A minimum of NZD $62.5 million will be offered, with the potential to seek up to NZD $100 million if parties agree. Silver Lake will underwrite this institutional syndication if it is not fully subscribed.
    • At the conclusion of the additional co-investment, Silver Lake will own between 5.71-8.58% of NZR CommercialCo (representing NZD $200-300 million investment, depending on capital needs and the uptake of New Zealand-based institutional investors) vs. the 10-15% stake that had been previously proposed.
    • An increase in valuation compared with the prior proposal driven by the improved future financial outlook from broadcasting and sponsorship, resulting in NZR raising a substantial amount of money whilst selling a smaller share of the entity, allowing NZR to fund all its investment needs and putting the game on a sound financial footing for the future.
    • Silver Lake, NZR and NZRPA will through “Global Rugby Opportunities” (GRO) together invest in global rugby and rugby-related technology businesses, earning NZR and NZRPA a 15% share of the profits of GRO (split 50/50) in return for their contribution of sports expertise, know-how and relationships.

    Under this partnership, the protections and controls for NZR remain in place as previously agreed.  Silver Lake would be a minority investor and NZR will retain full control over rugby as well as the commercial strategy. The new NZR CommercialCo entity board will be controlled by NZR and will comprise a new independent chair, and other independent directors, to assure high governance standards and at the same time business acumen to make NZR CommercialCo a success for everyone interested in rugby in New Zealand. The NZRPA will have a seat on the NZR CommercialCo board.

    Separately and subject to ratification, NZR and NZRPA have agreed terms for a new collective agreement which continues the current revenue sharing arrangement and governs the new relationship between NZR, the players, and NZR CommercialCo. Further, NZR will undertake an independent review of its governance structures and processes to ensure it is fit-for-purpose for this new chapter. NZRPA will also be reviewing its constitution and governance structures in 2022 as part of a strategic and business planning process it is undertaking.

    About NZR
    New Zealand Rugby (NZR) is the governing body of the game in New Zealand, with a vision to inspire and unify people through rugby. NZR has a significant responsibility to lead, support, grow and promote rugby at all levels, from the community grassroots through to representative Teams in Black.


    About NZRPA
    The New Zealand Rugby Players’ Association (NZRPA) was founded by New Zealand’s professional rugby players as their independent representative body in 1999. Through the NZRPA, the players work with the game’s administration to address issues of importance to players and the ongoing development of the game, including negotiating the Collective Employment Agreement (CEA) between the professional players and New Zealand Rugby, Super Rugby Clubs and Provincial Unions. A key focus of the NZRPA’s work is to encourage, educate, challenge and support players in their personal and professional development both on and off the field in order to help them thrive in all aspects of their life. “It is through the NZRPA that the Players’ individual and collective role within professional rugby is defined and activated”. The NZRPA is a founding member of New Zealand Athletes Federation, International Rugby Players and the World Players Association.

    About Silver Lake
    Silver Lake is a leading global technology investment firm, with more than USD $90 billion in combined assets under management and committed capital and a team of professionals based in North America, Europe, and Asia. Silver Lake’s portfolio companies collectively generate more than USD $227 billion of revenue annually and employ more than 567,000 people globally. For more information about Silver Lake and its portfolio, please visit Silver Lake’s website at silverlake.com

  • 15 Feb 2022 11:48 AM | Mike Hearn (Administrator)

    A24’s new 10-episode TV series Mr. Corman written, directed and starred in by Joseph Gordon-Levitt (500 Days of Summer, Inception, Don Jon) is a dark comedy featuring a melancholic teacher in crisis.

    The setting for Mr. Corman is the San Fernando Valley - the suburban sprawl north of Los Angeles - and the production had decided to film in the area. However, shortly after filming began, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic suddenly shut down production. Discussions began about what solutions there could be to continue and the idea was put forward to complete the season in New Zealand where, because of the country’s ability to keep out the virus, production continued.

    When the production relocated to New Zealand, Wellington stood in for suburban Los Angeles and a predominantly New Zealand crew were headed by Producer Pamela Harvey-White. Episode 109 was entirely shot in Petone mainly on Victoria Street.  

    When it came to recreating the look of Van Nuys, California, that fell to New Zealand production designer Brendon Heffernan, who took over the reins from Meghan Rogers.

    “All of the skills I’d learned on fantasy, science fiction and other big art department shows was suddenly applicable to Mr. Corman, in the way that my team and I would have to make things disappear,” says Heffernan. “We had to create Van Nuys in New Zealand but not make it jump out or let it distract from the characters. That was exciting to me.”

    Heffernan created concept drawings, but they would only be references, as the beauty of the design would be in the familiar, the aspects in our environment that we often take for granted. “I had to learn quickly what Joe responded to in terms of what was familiar and what wouldn’t read as Los Angeles," recalls Heffernan. “Those initial scouts were where I learned Joe’s language and what he wanted.” To effect the transition, houses were clad in different finishes and the art department turned green lawns to shades of brown to better match the drier California climate. The art department changed signage, graphics and added practical lighting.

    Other set pieces - including Josh and Victor’s apartment - were able to be transported from Los Angeles to New Zealand. “It was surreal shooting in the same apartment that we were shooting in in L.A.,” recalls Castro. “I walked in and was so disoriented, because I knew I was in New Zealand, but I was also in an apartment in L.A..”

    “I was able to work with two of my favourite crews in my whole career, our L.A. crew was phenomenal. Shutting down in Los Angeles was like a dagger in our hearts, but when we shifted to New Zealand we found another crew that was just as amazing. We were really, really fortunate.”   Jaron Presant, Director of Photography.

    Source: https://www.nzfilm.co.nz/

  • 14 Feb 2022 2:09 PM | Mike Hearn (Administrator)

    South Taranaki’s Egmont Honey plans to meet a growing appetite for mānuka honey in the US with an expansion from online into bricks and mortar in the huge market.

    The business founded by father and son team Toby and James Annabell in 2008, but now controlled by US$20bn Singaporean hedge fund CDH Investments, sells its honey, sourced from more than 4,000 hives, in supermarkets domestically.

    Around 90% of revenue come from exporting its range of health, skincare, and honey products to more than 20 countries.

    These include China, Korea, Japan, the United Kingdom, France, as well as Australia where distribution covered circa 700 Coles and 900 Woolworths stores. The UK was its biggest market, with New Zealand accounting for about 10% of overall sales.

    However, it was a growing appetite for mānuka honey in the US that the company was now looking to tap into.

    Egmont had been selling into the US online through Amazon for a couple of years, with its 250g jars of MGO 50+ multifloral raw and unpasteurised mānuka honey. It added the iHerb online platform late last year, and was now looking to make the move into bricks and mortar.

    “We’re seeing big retailers now stocking mānuka honey, so you’ve got Costco’s, Walmart, places like this that are huge store footprints and exposure, are now exposing new consumers to mānuka honey,” chief executive James Annabell said.

    He added the company was currently in talks with a number of retailers – including some well-known names – and was “making good headway”.

    “To have exposure offline and under key banners, or key brands, would be huge for us.”

    He added it was business as usual for the firm, despite an ongoing sales process.

    Macquarie Bank was appointed around this time last year to offload CDH-controlled group The Better Health Company, whose brands include Egmont Honey and vitamin label GO Healthy.

    At the time, the bankers said The Better Health Company would record $137m revenue and $30m EBITDA in the year to March 2021.

    They said revenue would be split four ways: 26% would come from selling GO Vitamins in New Zealand, another 16% would be made selling the same products in Australia, and 28% – around $38m – would be from the Egmont Honey.

    The remaining 30% was The Better Health Company’s New Zealand health manufacturing arm, which produces vitamins, minerals and supplements.

    Source: 14th February 2022 By Jonathan Mitchell | jonathan@foodticker.co.nz | @foodtickernz