Last month, the creme of New Zealand’s early-stage investors gathered for craft beer and proper champagne at the foot of the main stairwell in Spark’s Auckland headquarters. They (I would say ‘we’ if I had the means to invest in such things) were there for ICE Angel’s 6th New Zealand Angel Investment Showcase.
Before the pitches, the powerful and connected talked loudly to one another, while the lonely and studious grilled their potential investments, who had set up little stalls around the edge of the room. If you’ve got a little money to spare, and no risk-version to scare, this was the place to be.
I talked to someone from ThunderMaps about mapping hazards to make a safer world; Glory League about how I could track my stats in a game of pickup basketball; oDocs about its 3D printed hardware that could change the way the world does optometry, particularly in the developing world; and I tasted wine (correctly!) with Wine Grenade, who told me the oak barrel industry was about to be disrupted like the taxi industry.
After switching from proper champagne to proper Bordeaux, I followed the well-dressed hordes to the staircase where we were seated at large round tables filled to the brim with notebooks, pens, waters, beers and wines.
The tables seemed to extend off into every crevasse of the open lobby. This was the largest ICE Angels showcase yet with over 400 registered investors. I sat next to Suse Reynolds, founder of Angel HQ, Wellington’s angel investment network, and board member of the Angel Association. Reynolds is an angel investment evangelist, not for the capital gains (although she has some good exits) so much as the “buzz” she says she gets out of investing in companies in their early stages when everything’s possible and anything could happen.
The risk isn’t hidden – this is no confidence trick – but it is the wild successes that were heralded. In his opening address, ICE Angels CEO Robbie Paul talked excitedly about the recent victories: Nexus 6 (now Adherium) which rewarded early investors with a 10-12x exit and Crimson Consulting, recently valued at $220 million, giving early investors returns of over 20x. Also: 8i, Wipster, 90 Seconds, 1 Above, Parrott Analytics. He says that we’re seeing the “coming of age of the investor class” in New Zealand.
Then there were the pitches, which are all confident, on-point, and surprisingly open about numbers, goals, competitors and exit strategies. As someone with no money to invest, the best thing about the evening (as opposed to conferences or TED-esque talks) was hearing optimistic yet relatively-forthright details of the companies and technologies. You’ve obviously got to bullshit a little to make world domination (or at least a sale to Facebook) seem possible, but bullshit too much and no-one’s going to invest, they’re just going to think you’re full of shit.
Dale Clareburt, Weirdly
Wine Grenade – who owes me a prize of some sort for guessing which wine was matured in an oak barrel and which was micro-oxidized (I guessed that the more oak-y one was micro-oxidized – I know that game);
Spoke – which wants to disrupt your corporate phone system and was quickly heckled by Spark CEO Simon Moutter;
iMeasureU – a biomechanical analysis start-up which we won’t blame for the Philadelphia 76ers lack of success despite using its product;
Mish Guru – the guys who fill your Snapchat with marketing (thanks guys!);
TNX – which moved to New Zealand from the US due, in part, to the availability of angel investment;
Avertana – which makes industrial commodities out of waste steel;
Glory League – which make amateur sport gamified, statistical, and social (as in social media);
ThunderMaps – which will tell you where all the asbestos is in your town before you just start busting down walls;
Halter – an Uber for cows (ha - not really, more like a remote control for cows) and
Postr – which turns your phone’s home screen into a paid ad platform to earn you money (true story: in 1999 I made about $50 a month from an ad-funded internet browser, mostly by cheating it with an auto-refresh).
As I said, I wasn’t there to invest, but here’s my unofficial, uninformed, unsophisticated, un-due-diligenced guide:*
If you’re investing to feel good about your contribution to the world: oDocs
If you’re investing so your kids/grandkids will think you’re cool: Mish Guru
If you’re investing as an excuse to drink more: Wine renade
If you’re investing for some cool merch: Weirdly
If you’re investing to make a bucket load of money: Um ... TNX?
As I left, I filled out my investor card with suspiciously low amounts, just to get the gift bag. And when I say gift bag, I mean gift bags. Plural. There was so much gift, I could barely carry it. My Uber driver looked concerned as I loaded up his back seat.
Here’s the bounty:
But, aside from the utility and deliciousness, there’s some stories to be told here. As well as sponsors, the gift bag highlights some of the big ICE Angels success stories:
Joiy – a pre-mixed sparkling wine brand which presented at the 2014 Showcase, and ICE Angels liked it so much Joiy became one of ten funded by Ice Angel’s Showcase Fund 2. ICE Angels invested over $300,000 this year and have a seat on the board.
1Above – the flight drink brand presented at the 2012 Showcase and raised money from ICE Angels and Sam Morgan with Movac as a cornerstone. 1Above has since grown from one kiosk at Auckland Airport to hundreds of retailers around the world.