Last week, the Bay of Plenty Times published an article which talked about the progress that WNT Ventures (WNT) was making. Yesterday, I took part in a WNT Board call from my office in Silicon Valley. The location was fitting, but more of that later.

First however, a quick recap. WNT is one of the three new tech-focused Incubators that Callaghan Innovation supported in New Zealand last year. WNT came about through a unique collaboration model. Three tech hubs in the Bay of Plenty; Wharf42 (ICT), Newnham Park (AgTech) and TiDA (High Value Manufacturing) submitted a single, collective bid for the Incubator with other key members of the region’s fast-growing innovation ecosystem. Key partners included (and today still include) investment networks Enterprise Angels and Quayside Holdings. The bid also secured significant wider central north island support from entities such as Tauranga City Council, regional EDA, Priority One, Tauranga Chamber of Commerce and the University of Waikato. This was one region intent on working together to make great things happen. Callaghan concurred.

The Bay of Plenty, New Zealand: Home to WNT Ventures

The Bay of Plenty, New Zealand: Home to WNT Ventures

Back though to last week’s BOP Times article. It included interviews with Carl Jones, WNT CEO and Bill Murphy, Executive Director of Enterprise Angels. According to the Times, (and I quote);

The boss of Bay of Plenty startup funding group Enterprise Angels says it is working closely with WNT Ventures. “We’re able to refer opportunities that are at too early a stage for Enterprise Angel to WNT, and we’re able in all kinds of ways to be able to give more certainty to that next round of funding at the angel stage,” executive director Bill Murphy said.

Enterprise Angels is a shareholder in the incubator through its sidecar fund EA1, and sits on its investment committee. That involvement could include providing expert guidance and appropriately qualified directors for the incubated company.

As an example, Mr Murphy said the Scion nanofibre research was at too early a stage for angel investors because the commercial possibilities were still being worked out. “We’re really pleased to see Scion is able to take some of its really cool research into WNT and give us the opportunity to invest in it at a later stage.”

WNT chief executive Carl Jones said the incubator to date had three companies that had received the full $600,000 available from a combination of Callaghan Innovation repayable grants and the incubator’s 1:3 matching funding.

Bay of Plenty-based Onesixone has developed a software-hardware solution, which bridges the gap between industry standard DJ software and entertainment lighting systems.

IPO, based in Dunedin, is developing a point-of-care bovine mastitis diagnostic test, which will guide antibiotic treatment decisions. The technology only requires minimal laboratory requirements through vet practice or on farm, a simple sampling procedure.

Mr Jones said he was not yet able to provide details of the third company, which was in the software sector, for reasons of business confidentiality. There was also an agri-tech company at the same pre-incubation stage as Scion’s nanofibre project’.

Sitting here, what really excites me about WNT is how it is managing to harness the range of skills and experience held by so many individuals and entities in Tauranga, the wider Bay of Plenty and central north island. That strong sense of collaboration has given WNT the opportunity to identify and begin to commercialise complex research and IP that is emerging from across a wide range of New Zealand Universities and Crown Research Institutes.

Back now then to Silicon Valley. Wharf42 is not only a co-founder of WNT. Like the other co-founders, we are also investors in the Incubator. I personally sit on the WNT GP Board and the Incubator’s Investment Committee. This provides me with great visibility of the amazing potential deal pipeline that the WNT executive team led by Carl are currently dealing with.

Connecting one Bay to another.....

Connecting one Bay to another…..

Going forward, Wharf42’s position in Silicon Valley provides WNT with another major potential opportunity. At some point, it is not hard to imagine that WNT may decide that some of its investments should establish a presence in the Valley. Our networks here are positioned to support such a move. Thinking Global from Day 1 is a key tenet for WNT.

I call it the ‘Bay to Bay’ scenario. It’s where I think Wharf42 will, over time, add an extra dimension to WNT that will help scale those incubated businesses as only the Valley can.

It’s exciting times in the Bay!

You can follow Wharf42’s adventures in Silicon Valley on Twitter at @Wharf42HQ