Company-X teams with LA émigré in new Waikato-focused VC fund

Company-X teams with LA émigré in new Waikato-focused VC fund

Rob Vickery impressed with innovation and opportunities in the Waikato

Rob Vickery (Hillfarrance)

Rob Vickery (Hillfarrance)

Credit: Supplied

Hamilton-based agile software specialist Company-X has invested in a $40 million fund established by Hillfarrance Venture Capital founder and managing partner Rob Vickery.

Vickery immigrated to New Zealand eight weeks ago after a decade in venture capital in Los Angeles, one of the most competitive markets in the world.

He was the founding partner of one of Los Angeles’ most active enterprise software venture funds, Stage Venture Partners, which was launched in 2014.

Vickery said he is aiming to make around 20 investments over the next few years from his future base in the Waikato.

Company-X, which was co-founded by David Hallett and Jeremy Hughes, did not disclose the sum invested.

“We’ve been working in the start-up space for decades,” Hallett said. “The issue has always been capital constraint. Most of the people that we've dealt with have sold their houses."

Vickery, who said he appreciated the technical capability offered by the University of Waikato’s Computer Science department, said he preferred to back “outsiders”.

“The University of Waikato continues to produce hundreds, if not thousands of graduates who are pursuing ideas in the worlds of artificial intelligence and machine learning and this is a major focus of our fund,” Vickery said.

“They are going to come up with some really cool ideas.”

When Company-X was offered the opportunity to support Hillfarrance Venture Capital fund for New Zealand entrepreneurs it was a no brainer, said Hughes.

“Company-X has helped US-based Fortune 500 companies with innovation for nearly a decade, and this fund is an opportunity for us to help New Zealand entrepreneurs in the same way," he said.

By supporting the Hillfarrance fund, he said, investors were also promoting and encouraging Waikato entrepreneurs and the growth of the tech sector in both the region and New Zealand.

The University of Waikato is renowned for producing world-leading technologists, including Google Maps creator Dr Craig Nevill-Manning and co-founder of Google DeepMind Dr Shane Legg.

Vickery has allocated more than a million dollars for investment by highly connected “scouts” with aspirations to become venture capitalists themselves.

“These people are subject matter experts in a broad range of fields, from biochemistry to blockchain,” he said.

“We have already added one Waikato-based scout to the team, Bryn Little, and we look forward to expanding that number soon."

The fund also had the ability to serve Maori and Pasifika entrepreneurial community that had been activated by the Kokiri Accelerator at the Wananga o Aotearoa. 

"I have already funded one start-up Kwotimation, that emerged from the latest cohort and I hope to do many more in the future," Vickery said.

An abundance of large corporates in the region, especially in agriculture and logistics, could also provide opportunities to start-ups who are solving problems in their sector.

As well as ICT services, Company-X has been exploring augmented reality and virtual reality applications since it bought Pepper Creative in mid-2019.

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