Start-up businesses, especially tech start-ups, are always in a race against time.
Many will fancy they have a first-mover advantage, but that will only last so long before competitors emerge. They also have limited capital and need to grow fast to cut their cash burn rate.
Failure is not only possible, it is the most likely outcome for any start-up business.
Pushpay, the big winner at the 2017 Hi-Tech Awards on Friday, came within days of just such a failure back in 2012. A year after raising just $1 million in funding, co-founder of the mobile commerce firm Chris Heaslip had to front staff to tell them wages could not be paid.
It could easily have ended there: another promising but under-capitalised Kiwi tech company gone to the wall. At the last minutes, however, Auckland-based investor Peter Huljich saved the day, buying a cornerstone stake in the business for $2 million.
It was a dream investment by any measure. Pushpay has never really looked back, entering a phase of hyper growth that now sees the company valued at nearly $449 million and listed on both the NZX and the ASX.
In April it announced record quarterly growth, increasing its annualised committed monthly revenue (ACMR) by US$8.3 million to US$50.5 million.
“Pushpay remains in a position to achieve US$72 million in ACMR and breakeven on a monthly cash flow basis prior to the end of calendar year 2017,” the company told investors.
While year-on-year ACMR grew by nearly 158%, average revenue per customer also grew strongly, by 44%.
On Friday, Pushpay took the major garlands at the Hi-Tech Awards, winning the PwC company of the year category and the IBM innovative company award.
The international judges said Pushpay was first to recognise a worldwide unserved market need: credit and collections help for churches and charities.
“They have combined hi-tech with an innovative business model and quickly gained impressive traction both locally and in America; as a result they are now in a strong position to dominate those markets even as they diversify their product line towards more conventional commercial customers.
“Pushpay is solidly profitable and a truly great example of nimble, fast-moving Kiwi innovation."
Also at the awards, RedShield Security, won the Duncan Cotterill Innovative Software Product Award and the Kiwibank Innovative Services Award.
RedShield uses a clever combination of security shields and consulting services to protect and mask clients’ security vulnerabilities and extend the life of their complex, high-value web applications, the judges said.
“This approach allows fast, secure deployment, whilst the underlying security flaws in clients' core applications can be addressed over time. RedShield's IP is a complex set of algorithms and processes, which scan and shield web-apps to address both technical and business logic vulnerabilities.”
The 2017 Flying Kiwi was Frances Valintine founder and Chair of the MindLab by Unitec and recent founder of the TechFutures Lab.
New Zealand Hi-Tech Trust chair Wayne Norrie said it’s great to be able to recognise her achievements.
“She is changing the way people think about technology and the pivotal role that it plays in our lives, not only today, but critically, how important it is to our future as a country,” said Norrie.
The 2017 NZ Hi-Tech Award winners are:
2017 Flying Kiwi and inductee into the Tait Communications Hi-Tech Hall of Fame
Xero Hi-Tech Young Achiever Award
Winner: Aliesha Staples
Highly commended: Kendall Flutey
Qual IT Best Hi-Tech Solution for the Public Sector Award
Winner: Orion Health & HealthOne
IBM Innovative Company of the year Award
ATEED Best Hi-Tech Solution for the Creative Sector Award
Winner: Shotover Camera Systems
Callaghan Innovation Hi-Tech Maori Innovation Award
Duncan Cotterill Most Innovative Hi-Tech Software Product Award
Winner: RedShield Security
Endace Most Innovative Hi-Tech Hardware Product Award
Kiwibank Most Innovative Hi-Tech Services Award
Winner: RedShield Security
Highly commended: Navilluso Medical
NZTE Best Hi-Tech Solution for the Agritech Sector Award
Quick Circuit Most Innovative Hi-Tech Mobile Award
Winner: oDocs EyeCare
New Zealand Venture Investment Fund Hi-Tech Start-up Company of the Year
Coretex Hi-Tech Emerging Company of the Year
PwC NZ Hi-Tech Company of the Year Award
The full list of finalists, announced in March, is here.