The Brilliant adVenture
An overview of powerHouse
powerHouse invests in brilliance
powerHouse is an intellectual property commercialisation
company using private and public investment to develop
new spin-out ventures sourced primarily from research
partners such as universities and Crown Research Institutes.
A pioneer of seed-stage investment in New Zealand,
powerHouse focuses on the earliest stages of new
high-value technology development. Unlike incubators
that offer general business services to any innovative
companies, powerHouse is extremely focused and
selective. It rigorously screens each opportunity to identify
those with the strongest intellectual property value and the
greatest potential to gain an unfair advantage in global
markets. powerHouse then invests in these companies,
sourced from powerHouse’s annual seed-stage fund
Currently, powerHouse has a portfolio of eight companies.
It also manages the Christchurch Economic Development
Fund portfolio via The Christchurch Fund, a total of
powerHouse also runs an innovation education programme
for students and organisations.
In 2008, powerHouse began operating a model that
combines an incubator with a seed investment fund.
The model is designed to suit early-stage investing in the
powerHouse emerged from Canterbury Innovation Incubator
(Cii), an international award-winning high-tech business
incubator established in 2001. Since then it has built a team
of specialists in investment, intellectual property rights,
technology screening and business design, mentoring,
strategy and finance, along with a network of angel
investors and industry specialists.
powerHouse runs an incubator in Ilam and has satellite sites
at the University of Canterbury and Lincoln University.
It has formal commercialisation agreements with both
Great value is stored in the knowledge held by
research-based organisations. But it is internationally
recognised that the process of transforming academic
knowledge into successful business models, commercial
operations and sales is extremely challenging. This quest
is being tested around the world in a number of models.
powerHouse’s unique model has resulted in a high rate of
commercial “spin-out” companies from academic institutions.
These ventures are the culmination of intense screening of the
commercial potential of intellectual property – a major part
of powerHouse’s activity. IP must have the right alignment to
market needs, and be at the right stage of development to
be successfully converted into a commercial venture.
The journey faced by these ventures is challenging but
significant returns are possible for those that achieve global
success. In New Zealand last year, the 100 high-value
Technology Investment Network manufacturing and
technology companies (TIN100), some of which are based
in Canterbury, grew by 5% to record revenues of
$NZ7 billion. Exports grew by 4% to over $NZ5 billion.
powerHouse’s purpose is to create more high-value
technology companies like these.
powerHouse’s main customers are:
· Public and private investors who recognise that
powerHouse’s expertise can increase investee companies’
chances of success;
· Researchers and entrepreneurs whose disruptive
innovations could generate multi-million revenues or exits
with smart capital and strategic guidance;
· Universities and Crown Research Institutes, powerHouse’s
targeting capital to test assumptions so a robust venture
is ready for follow-on investment. powerHouse incubates
these companies, providing capital, business building
expertise, networks, recruitment and mentoring support.
powerHouse has developed its own methodology to
systematically commercialise intellectual property and
technology. This involves four main stages – screening
commercialisable IP, shaping the technology to fit identified
market needs, preparing a venture for investment, and
1. Screening (Can it be commercialised?)
powerHouse reviews intellectual property for
commercial potential. A specialist screening team
forms close relationships with researchers to understand
the technology and its potential applications, sometimes
securing pre-seed accelerator fund (PSAF) support
to prove the concept. Even if the IP is found to be
unsuitable for commercialisation, powerHouse feedback
can inform future research, focusing it on downstream
powerHouse invests from its annual funds and
incubates each venture. It appoints a management
team and board of industry and governance experts.
Prototypes are produced and assumptions are tested
via customer trials.
2. Shaping (Should it be commercialised?)
powerHouse defines the specific job that customers
would “hire” this technology to do, and forms the
venture around this value proposition. powerHouse
will not proceed unless it can prove the new
technology will deliver at least 25% greater value than
customers’ current solution, and the venture’s intellectual
property can be protected.
4. Follow-on funding
As the venture starts to grow, powerHouse secures
follow-on funding and co-investment to create channels
to market and stronger export capability.
This diagram shows the stages of incubation, beginning with pre-seed investigation of whether an opportunity can be
commercialised; then technology incubation to determine its fit with market needs and commercial potential culminating
in investment and key appointments, followed by business incubation as the venture starts to achieve its milestones.
Our unique methodology
Technology Incubation Business Incubation
In the year ended June 2011, powerHouse led the
investment of $3.1 million in eight ventures. This ranks
powerHouse alongside the best international examples
of commercialisation of research-based spin-outs.
powerHouse uses the limited partnership mechanism as
its main investment vehicle, issuing an annual seed-stage
powerHouse seeks opportunities with:
· the ability to operate in a clearly defined niche within
a fast-growing market;
· potential to become market leader;
· proprietary technology or other strong barriers
to market entry;
· a pathway to profitability;
· company valuations with an appropriate
CropLogic is a spin-out from Crown Research Institute Plant
and Food Research. It gives crop food processors and
growers an easy way to manage irrigation and nitrogen
requirements, monitor production and predict their harvest.
The platform technology focuses currently on potatoes – the
world’s fourth largest crop. Supported by ongoing research
and development by Plant and Food Research, the company
has the capability to introduce its technology to new crops,
and new markets.
powerHouse’s No.2 LP fund and co-investors have provided
seed capital to enable CropLogic to gain a foothold in the
United States and prove its value.
Led by powerHouse venture partner Jane Hill, CropLogic is
now working with blue-chip crop processing multi-nationals
in Australasia and the United States.
CropLogic was named a finalist in the 2011 Deloitte Fast
50 Rising Stars Category, and in the Ministry of Science and
Innovation Start-up category of the 2012 Hi-Tech Awards.
Dr David Rankin’s research interest in wireless
communications led to his founding Indigo Systems in
2004, which started as a vineyard frost monitoring system.
powerHouse identified what performance measures the
technology would have to reach to achieve market success,
and it was then developed to meet these requirements.
The technology capability was extended into a full
sense-and-control system taking soil moisture readings and
adjusting vineyard irrigation to suit, managing and saving
water and other resources.
With initial investment from powerHouse’s No.1 LP fund
and co-investment, Indigo has moved into export markets,
working with vineyards in Australia. The company has also
secured a research partnership to explore dairy applications.
David Rankin, CEO of Indigo Systems
The powerHouse team
Board of directors
Phil Holliday (Chair)
An industry figurehead who achieved success through the
multi-million dollar sale of his electronics and wireless
company to UK-based iTouch plc.
Broad management and investment experience in globally
competitive research, development, manufacturing and
distribution companies in the marine, electronics and
Experience as CEO of leading high value manufacturing
sector companies, currently Managing Director of
Dr Grant Ryan
Founder of a number of successful international
Chief executive and directorship experience across
a broad range of industry environments.
Dr Peter John
Director Research and Commercialisation at Lincoln
University since 2005.
Dr. Stephen Hampson, CEO
Successful international commercialisation career, inaugural
CEO of Canterbury Innovation Incubator and founder
Stuart Whitham, CFO
Chartered Accountant (ex PWC) with international
fund management and capital markets experience.
Has worked with numerous young growth companies.
Leah Scales, COO
Chartered Accountant with management experience
in human resources, ICT, finance, executive account.
management and legal services
Miles Hockley, Senior Partner
Over 25 years of experience in IP commercialisation,
technology start-ups, strategic management consultancy
and international finance.
Tim Chapman, Venture Partner
Significant general management experience, including
a corporate technology spin-out that licensed its technology
to a global industry leader.
Dr Rachel Wright, Education Manager
Experience commercialising biotechnology; developed
and delivers powerHouse’s Science and Entrepreneurship
Anya Hornsey, IP Rights Manager
Over 10 years experience in patent portfolio management,
IP strategy development and licensing negotiations.
Co-inventor in a corporate technology spin-out.
Brooke Marshall, IP Rights Specialist
Experienced commercial solicitor who has specialised
in intellectual property rights throughout her career.
Charlie Tomlinson, Venture Analyst
Experience includes collaborative research with industry
and local authorities; currently studying for a PhD through
the University of Birmingham, UK.
Dr Stuart Lansley, Venture Analyst
PhD from University College London, former University
of Canterbury lecturer and post-doctoral Fellow in
Simone Gale, Incubator Manager
Leadership of University of Canterbury entre programme
fostering entrepreneurship in students and graduates.
Professor XiaoQi Chen, Director of Mechatronics
Engineering at the University of Canterbury (UC) developed
a non-contact adhesion pad powered by compressed air
that enables small mobile robots to climb up walls and
across ceilings. powerHouse and the University of
Canterbury secured Pre-seed Accelerator Funding (PSAF)
proving the concept and strength of the intellectual property.
powerHouse appointed James Robertson as CEO to the
new company, Invert Robotics, which licensed the patented
IP from UC.
powerHouse’s No.2 LP fund and co-investors have helped
Invert to commercialise the technology. Under powerHouse
guidance, the technology has been further developed for
new applications, which has led to a new patent and paid
customer trials. Invert is now in growth mode, attracting new
staff and developing the capability to provide a leading
industrial surface inspection service.
Invert Robotics was named a finalist in the Ministry of
Science and Innovation start-up category of the 2012
Invert Robotics CEO James Robertson, with the University of Canterbury Vice Chancellor Dr Rod Carr.
Photo courtesy of the University of Canterbury.
Phone: +64 3 364 2219
39 Creyke Rd, Ilam, Christchurch
Postal: PO Box 161, Lincoln 7608
Follow us on:
LinkedIn – Powerhouse Ventures
YouTube PowerhouseNZ Channel –
Facebook – Powerhouse Ventures
Twitter – PowerhouseV
Some of the students and graduates who participated in the 2011/12 powerHouse intern Summer Programme.
Of the 16 who took part in the programme, seven got jobs with the companies whose IP they were screening.