Anyone who's owned a boat or been out for a ride on one knows it's a bit of an awkward process actually getting a vessel into the water. But last year, Balex set out to change that with its invention of an hydraulically-powered automated boat loader that helps launch and retrieve boats from the water with the click of a button, while being three times as fast as an electric winch.
"Balex aspires for this remotely controlled system to become what garage door openers are to garages, and dishwashers are to kitchens – once thought an unnecessary luxury, but now the standard," its write up on its Snowball Effect equity crowdfunding campaign said. Investors were sold, with $300,000 raised by 80 people in October last year, hitting just above the campaign's minimum target.
However, it wasn't all smooth sailing. Liquidators were appointed to the company and sister firm Suelex in May when high costs and slow sales were taking a toll on the struggling company. Given and Oak were among the 80 investors who saw the potential for a game-changing product, so they decided to buy the Balex assets, including its IP, stock and work in progress.
Given is the managing director of the Hong Kong-based specialist manufacturing and supply chain management company, Gait International, while Oak is Gait’s director of operations in China.
Oak says seeing as though the maritime industry is booming in New Zealand and further abroad, the two saw huge market potential.
"There were many key considerations that were factored in before taking on the business, however the innovation and craft of such a timely and useful product made our decision an easy one," he says.
"There is nothing in the world market that provides the same user experience as the Balex System. Launching and retrieving a 2500kg boat at the touch of button was completely unheard of. The automatic boat loader is incredibly well engineered, utilises the best in high precision components and has already gained remarkable traction in the market. We only invest in companies that we really believe in and we saw the Balex automatic boat loader as something simply far too good to be allowed to fail."
He says essentially, the pair are now building a new company from scratch, but they felt Balex was worth continuing.
"The inventiveness behind the initiative was something that caught our attention more than anything. Considering the unique nature of the product and nothing else like it in the huge market gave us the incentive to make sure others saw the potential, ultimately hauling it back into the vend," Oak says.
"What makes Balex's technology so unique is that it has overcome all the detected challenges the maritime industry has failed to previously. By ensuring great user experience for any boat, trailer, or ramp in multiple weather conditions, inclusive of launching and retrieving 2500kg boats in 30 seconds at the push of a button is advanced technological innovation which reigns supreme."
He also says the lack of regulation surrounding boat safety, particularly when it comes to the offloading and loading process with a trailer, saying is a key factor in many injuries that occur year-round.
The goal is for Balex to become a global brand that can handle different sorts of water-bound vessels in different environments.
The relationship with Gait International will help with in-house engineering and manufacturing of Balex at its offices across Asia.
Balex's products will be rolled out globally in the coming months in countries such as The Netherlands, Germany, Austria, UK, Sweden, Portugal and Spain.
Given says it's "hugely exciting" to see an intuitive Kiwi invention take to the world stage.
"To us, growth is important. Showcasing New Zealand ingenuity on a world stage is something that is key to us as a company. Given another chance to gain the attention it deserves, the overseas market is the perfect place to boast the innovation behind Balex."
For the coming summer, the focus will be on the New Zealand market and it will then set it eyes on Australia for the following year. But most of all, it's about getting boaties on board with the new technology.
"It’s a rarity that a concept comes along to revolutionise a task," Given says. "We’ve received testimonials from boaties expressing how they can now purchase a boat bigger than they would previously never have imagined owning, due to now being able to safely handle the boat at the ramp."
Idealog has been covering the most interesting people, businesses and issues from the fields of innovation, design, technology and urban development for over 12 years. And we're asking for your support so we can keep telling those stories, inspire more entrepreneurs to start their own businesses and keep pushing New Zealand forward. Give over $5 a month and you will not only be supporting New Zealand innovation, but you’ll also receive a print subscription, an Idealog t-shirt and a copy of the new book by David Downs and Dr. Michelle Dickinson, No. 8 Recharged (while stocks last).