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The Top New Zealand Startups You Should Know in 2022
For an island nation floating at the bottom of the world, New Zealand has a surprising portfolio of global success stories. Homegrown startups like Rocket Lab, Soul Machines and Allbirds have paved the way, with many fledgling startups waiting in the wings.
The founders of Upstock.
By Findlay Buchanan
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7 minute read

For an island nation floating at the bottom of the world, New Zealand has a surprising portfolio of global success stories. Homegrown Kiwi startups like Rocket Lab, Soul Machines and Allbirds have paved the way, with many fledgling startups waiting in the wings to revolutionize industries, solve problems and carve out global success.

Tech is the fastest growing sector in New Zealand. Since 2015, on average, it has grown 77 percent faster than the country’s general economy, contributing $7.4 billion in 2020 (the third-largest contributor to New Zealand’s economy).

By 2025, the government aims to grow it further, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern voicing her ambitions to transform New Zealand from a nation of grazing sheep and cows into a country “leading the charge at the edge of the world.”

Recent news suggests the New Zealand tech sector is set to receive an extra $20 million over the next four years, according to the pre-Budget announcement made by New Zealand Minister for Digital Economy and Communications David Clark.

So, as New Zealand’s startup scene begins to stir, who should we keep an eye on?

eClean

Water contamination is a problem facing much of New Zealand's precious rivers and waterways, as the country continues to wrestle with solutions to farming effluence and industrial runoff.

It’s something eClean has ambition to solve, developing a technological solution using an engineered microbiome, which removes nitrates, E.Coli and heavy metals from lakes, rivers, farm drains, wells and bores.

It’s a handy contraption for a muddy problem in New Zealand, which threatens to taint the country’s clean green global image.

The engineered microbiome, eClean founder Ngārie Scartozzi said, “controls the input and output of the system, which basically means we put bacteria in and the bacteria removes the contaminants, ensuring the result of freshwater.”

The burgeoning startup has already installed its first reactor on the Avon River in Christchurch and formed a joint venture with Hugo plastics New Zealand. E-Clean has already raised nearly 1 million in investment alongside joint venture partner Hugo plastics, and is currently seeking funding of 3 to 5 million to enter into the US market.

Scartozzi says its vision will see the technology “installed on every dairy farm, point source contaminants like milk factories, meat works and all rivers, streams and lakes in New Zealand. Removing contaminants from water using bacteria is the future.”

It also hopes to expand globally and begin to clean up Australia, the U.S. and Europe.

Upstock

Somehow avoiding the hospitality headwinds of the pandemic and joining the list of exciting New Zealand startups is Upstock, which helps cafes, bars and restaurants restock food using digital solutions.

Its co-founder Philip Fierlinger said, “the world runs on ecommerce. But the wholesale side of business is still in the dark ages. Nearly all wholesale orders are still managed by paper, phone calls, emails and spreadsheets – causing a bottomless pit of time consuming, wasteful, expensive friction and mistakes.”

“We created Upstock – a wholesale ordering platform and marketplace – to remove all that friction and waste, resulting in massive economic and environmental benefits.”

Upstock raised $3.5 million in its first capital raise in 2020, but the app has already gained significant uptake in New Zealand with big players such as the Ministry for the Environment and New Zealand’s largest game developer, Pik Pok, using Upstock, and the list is growing.

Fierlinger added, “Our business actually grew almost 2000% during the pandemic. Hospitality businesses suddenly and urgently needed to find ways to cut costs, streamline operations, all while being able to work remotely.

“Our customers constantly tell us how it’s been a godsend finding Upstock to solve all those problems, and in fact it’s helped them grow their businesses too.”

Despite the news of restaurant closures and lockdown blues in cafes and bars, Fierlinger said, it’s allowed the time and tools for the industry to be more cost effective and efficient.

“The suppliers on Upstock are reaching a much larger audience through our platform, so they can expand into new territories, new segments, new product lines. Our customers are defying the odds and that’s thrilling to see.”

Asked what the vision for Upstock is in the next five year, Fierlinger said, “wholesale is broken everywhere, globally, in every sector”

“Upstock is designed as a global platform – we’ve already got customers across NZ, AU and the US. We’ve only scratched the surface on the efficiencies we’re able to achieve and the business growth we’re able to generate for our customers. We’re expanding the platform into more regions and a wider range of businesses, to scale up the economic and environmental benefits the world desperately needs right now.”

Outset Ventures

It would be unjust to list burgeoning startups in New Zealand without mentioning the work of Outset Ventures, an organization on a mission to facilitate and support early-stage deep technology ventures working on the edge of science and engineering.

Outset Ventures is the largest and fastest growing hub for deep tech startups in New Zealand. The company offers commercial laboratory and workshop facilities, incubation programmes and investment for early stage ventures founded on science and engineering breakthroughs.

It’s a stable of 21 deep tech ventures, and entrepreneurs backed by Outset Ventures can access its facilities and its expanding entrepreneurial community while preparing their companies for global markets.

Its Chief Executive Officer Imche Fourie told The Org, “Outset Ventures started as a community of 6 startups sharing about 2000 square meters of laboratory and workshop spaces. We have since raised a $12million investment fund, are expanding across 4,500 square meters of specialist facilities, with a community of 40 deep technology ventures in residence on-site or in the portfolio of investments.”

The company stands on the same premises which incubated two of New Zealand’s most successful deep technology companies — Rocket Lab and LanzaTech.

Fourie added, “The founders of both of these companies, Peter Beck and Dr Sean Simpson, serve on Outset Ventures' investment committee and are heavily involved in the companies that Outset supports.”

It’s built on a collaborative, community ethos, sharing equipment and experience across a cluster of local startups who aren’t able to function in a regular coworking space.

Fourie said, “there is also tremendous value in being around other startups, tinkerers, experienced executives, and bright young minds - the learnings that happen in corridor conversations are invaluable. Over time, Outset has also become known among investors as a place where early-stage ventures were blooming, so being in the Outset building often meant that investors would come to you, not the other way around.”

These only scratch the surface of startups you should know about from the bottom of the earth, with other honorable mentions such as the fastest growing company in the country Kami, new venture capital firm Alt Ventures which focuses on gaming, as well as Pyper Vision, which has developed technology to disperse fog for safer air travel.

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