Super Fund betting big on start-up
The Super Fund has increased its already large bet on a young United States company that manufacturers high-tech glass for buildings to $190 million.
The Crown-owned pension fund originally invested US$75m (NZ$104m) in California’s View Inc in 2015 as part of a move to diversify beyond traditional investments in listed stocks and bonds.
But spokeswoman Isabelle Brunton said it had since participated in another five funding rounds, investing another US$62.5m in the firm.
The last US$10m investment was made during View’s seventh funding round that closed last month, through which View raised a total of US$200m.
View Inc makes ‘‘electrochromatic’’ smart glass that is designed to maximise the natural light that can be let into buildings.
A thin coating applied to the surface of the glass darkens when an electric current is applied.
It can be controlled by a smartphone app and set to automatically respond to glare, heat and daylight.
Benefits include lower airconditioning bills and doing away with the need for office blinds.
View has competitors which include Pennsylvania-based SageGlass and Berkeley-based Heliotrope Technologies.
Heliotrope is in the much earlier stages of trying to commer- cialise a type of electrochromatic smart glass that it says is better at blocking heat and which may be cheaper to produce because its coating could be applied as a liquid.
There also are other active smart glass technologies – such as SPD (suspended particle device) glass – as well as more basic passive technologies, some of which work in the same way as polaroid sunglasses.
Although it has initially targeted premium office buildings, View is starting to supply glass for high-rise residential apartment complexes.
As a privately-owned firm, its sales and losses are not publicly disclosed.
The New Zealand Superannu- ation Fund’s investment in View represents less than 1 per cent of its total assets of $35b, but the lion’s share of its ‘‘expansion capital’’ investment in riskier, earlystage firms.
The fund revealed in April that it had written off its other large investment in a foreign start-up – a $47.5m investment in US windenergy company Ogin which failed to raise the money it needed to commercialise its technology.
Super Fund spokeswoman Karren Beanland said then that it also had about $100m invested in New Zealand venture capital funds.
Those domestic investments had generated an annualised net return of 15 per cent, she said.
When the Super Fund first invested in View it was at a reported company valuation of about US$750m.
US media reports said View had since raised money at a valuation of about US$1b but the company said the valuation implied by its latest ’’G-Series’’ funding round was confidential.
The valuations suggest the Super Fund would now own more than 10 per cent of View.
New Zealand Venture Capital Association executive director Colin McKinnon said the scale of the Super Fund’s investment in View didn’t sound unusual, given the size of the fund.