Marlborough Express - The Saturday Express, Marlborough
Aiming high to boost businesses
A Marlborough investment group has pumped about $19 million into more than 50 companies in the last five years, becoming one of the largest angel investor groups in the country.
Launched in 2017 Angel Investors Marlborough (AIM) supports up and coming businesses. It has 141 members.
Auckland-based Cropsy Technologies co-founder and chief executive Ali Alomari said the Marlborough group had been ‘‘exceptional’’ in helping them launch their agri-tech company.
AIM lead investor Tracey Atkin led the seed-funding round for the company.
‘‘Generally with fundraising, you always need someone to lead the deal, and Tracy was the person who took that risk and worked with us for about five months, to secure a lot of investors,’’ Alomari said.
‘‘She was the key person and effectively started that wave.’’
The company has created an AI-enabled software to analyse crops raised $1.5m in an oversubscribed round.
Alomari said Angel Investors Marlborough had also helped build direct relationships with clients in Blenheim, particularly in the wine industry.
‘‘It naturally meant that they knew all the people that we needed to talk to, in order to progress the technical side of our company and also the business and commercial size of our company.
‘‘Angel Investors Malborough have a big active portfolio, and they invest in a lot of active companies.
‘‘Not many firms in New Zealand do that, so they’re almost visionaries when it comes to that.’’
Founded by four engineering students, the company now has a team of nine full-time engineers and scientists.
‘‘So far, we’ve scanned two and a half million vines since the start of the year, that’s at least 1000 hectares scanned since January, so that was a big milestone for us.
‘‘And we’re going to try to hit 10 million vines by the end of 2023, that’s an internal goal for the team,’’ Alomari said.
AIM manager Brian Dawson said the group’s portfolio was performing well.
‘‘More importantly, we have helped 54 great founding teams and are helping grow and foster innovation in New Zealand and creating high-end jobs the country needs through our investment and the investment of others.
‘‘It’s improving people’s lives and improving the environment.
‘‘These are highly scalable, high grade companies looking to take their products to the world,’’ Dawson said.
One of AIM’s earliest investments was in the local film industry, especially in Northspur, a feature film based in an apocalyptic future Marlborough.
Dawson said it was exciting to see Northspur having its world premiere in Blenheim.
‘‘We are delighted to have played a part in that film being made.’’
AIM was also the major sponsor of the recent StartUp Marlborough weekend, where potential entrepreneurs came up with business ideas and built businesses in the space of 54 hours.
The investment group was set up by Picton-based businessman Richard Coon, who has been the only chairman since founding.
Angel Association New Zealand executive chair Suse Reynolds said AIM had made a real mark on Aotearoa’s early stage investment landscape in the last five years.
‘‘It’s great to see such terrific enthusiasm for early-stage investment from the regions and not just the main centres.
‘‘Marlborough has built a really vibrant and engaged angel investment community,’’ Reynolds said.