Smoothing the rocky road to commercialisation

Smoothing the rocky road to commercialisation

ANOTHER government-funded endeavour has been launched to light a fire under New Zealand technology companies in a bid to speed up their route to market.

Connect Canterbury is an 18-month trial supported by New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) and Canterbury Development.

While business incubators nurse startup companies through their growing pains, Connect Canterbury is for businesses that already have products developed, some sales underway and are possibly facing a strategic move into new markets.

Phillip Ridge, Connect’s business development manager channel and capital, says a viable technology sector has emerged in Canterbury due to good incubator and product development programmes over the years.

Now the region has 300 software and 100 electronics companies covering traditional technology, agritech and biotech markets with the vast majority falling into the small to medium enterprise (SME) category.

“The difficulty facing this sector is around the theory of market development. It can be a long haul to take a product to the international market, with a huge cash burn-rate. In the meantime, the clock is ticking on the IP [intellectual property] of the product, with plenty of competition from others in the market,” he says. Ridge estimates he will work with between 12 and 15 companies this year, bringing them to a table of around seven experts consisting of accountants, venture capitalists, IP lawyers and experienced marketers.

“It’s somewhere between a dream team and the NZ Idol judging panel, with a mass of expertise all focusing on one company.”

Once the round table has met it issues a series of recommendations and Connect Canterbury takes over, working with the company as a case manager. The company pays a $500 fee for the service, but as part of its transition it may need to outsource some services, which incurs additional costs.

Ridge says one of the failings of SMEs is the provision for external service providers, whether it be for marketing, pricing or compliance purposes.

Connect was established in 1984 through the University of San Diego to springboard the commercialisation of technology companies and was later replicated through Global Connect.

Its aim is to accelerate the growth of high-potential companies by acting as a connector to the people and partners necessary to access national and international markets.

The model has been replicated in countries of similar size to New Zealand, including Scotland, Denmark and Norway.

Ridge says Connect Canterbury will use the networks of NZTE, the New Zealand Venture Capital Association and Global Connect to identify suitable channel partners, distributors and suppliers.

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