The big winners at this year’s NZ Hi-Tech Awards spanned from e-commerce to AI to space.
Cin7 was named the 2023 NZ Hi-Tech Company of the Year at a Christchurch ceremony tonight - overcoming a post-Covid hangover that saw it cull 15 per cent of staff in April as the lockdown-fuelled online shopping boom subsided.
The Auckland-based e-commerce specialist was founded in 2011 by Vietnamese refugee turned entrepreneur Danny Ing, and assists firms that want to sell through Amazon and other e-commerce platforms. Most of its customers are overseas. It was bought by US firm Rubicon in a 2019 deal pegged by the Overseas Investment Office at $133 million.
The judges said Cin7 was a shining example of “how Kiwi companies can win in highly-competitive global markets competing against the biggest global software vendors”.
The Auckland-founded company now employs over 350 people across six countries and has continually invested in employees at all levels while maintaining a consistent Kiwi ‘get stuff done’ culture.”
Two startups picked up two awards.
Christchurch-based Dawn Aerospace won both the Hardware and Emerging Company categories, while Auckland’s Formus Labs took the Software and Deep Tech categories.
Dawn Aerospace has two products: a prototype spaceplane, which is still in the very early stages of development, and a propulsion, fuel tank and control system that’s already used by 12 operational satellites, with more on the way.
The company recently signed a major deal with Lynk, which is in the early stages of building a network of 5000 low-Earth orbit satellites to compete with Elon Musk’s Starlink, and numbers 2degrees and Spark among its early trialists. Six Lynk satellites due for January launch will be powered by Dawn Aerospace systems.
Formus Labs, a maker of an AI-powered orthopaedic surgery planning tool has just made a key breakthrough in the US
In May, the firm received 510(k) clearance from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for Formus Hip as the first “automated radiological image processing software” for hip replacement pre-op planning.
Founder Dr Ju Zhang has already seen his software adopted by surgeons across Australia and New Zealand - now, on the back of the FDA clearance, he’s lining up top US hospitals in a market that sees some two million joints replaced per year - a number that’s seen doubling by the end of the decade. Zhang told the Herald that rather than replace medical clinicians, his company’s technology helps to cut long waiting lists for operations by helping surgeons plan more quickly and safely.
This year’s “Flying Kiwi” lifetime achievement award went to Guy Haddleton and his wife Sue, who passed away last year.
The Haddletons founded two business-planning software ventures: Adaytum (sold to IBM for US$160m in 2003) and Anaplan, which raised US$263.5m when it listed on the NYSE in 2018 at a US$3 billion valuation.
The Haddletons were also early backers of medicinal cannabis, putting $15m into Helius Therapeutics in 2018.
The past couple of years have held some choppy moments for the couple’s latest investments. Guy Haddleton stepped in as a white knight for struggling Waikato storage startup Nyrian - an effort that’s still a work in progress. He also backed Covid-19 Vaccine Corporation, a Kiwi startup with a promising line on a T-Cell-based vaccine, which held potential for future pandemics. But CVC folded earlier this year after the Government refused to provide a follow-through for its initial funding.
Guy Haddleton is also managing director of Lodestone Energy, which is seeking to disrupt the energy market. It recently raised $300m from backers including Rod Drury and Sir Stephen Tindall to build five solar around NZ. Construction on the first, near Kaitaia, is already underway.
Although 2023 has been up and down for their portfolio, it’s shown Haddleton - a former SAS officer - is still willing to mix it up on the front lines by backing some of NZ’s most cutting-edge startups.
2023 NZ Hi-Tech Award winners
Xero Hi-Tech Young Achiever: Fraser Paine (a Hamilton-based data scientist who has been evangelising machine learning - a branch of AI)
Spark Best Hi-Tech Solution for the Public Good: Recycle a Device
IBM Most Inspiring Individual Winner: Janine Grainger (founder of Easy Crypto)
Tataki Auckland Unlimited Most Innovative Hi-Tech Creative Technology Solution: Writer’s Toolbox
Callaghan Innovation/Poutama Trust Hi-Tech Māori Company of the Year: AskNicely
Duncan Cotterill Most Innovative Hi-Tech Software Solution: Formus Labs
Braemac Most Innovative Hi-Tech Hardware Product: Dawn Aerospace
Kiwibank Most Innovative Hi-Tech Service: Tend Health
NZTE Most Innovative Hi-Tech Agritech Solution: Halter
Consult Recruitment Best Contribution to the NZ Tech Sector: Digital Future Aotearoa
Punakaiki Fund Hi-Tech Start-up Company of the Year: Zerojet
ASX Hi-Tech Emerging Company of the Year: Dawn Aerospace
Soul Machines Most Innovative Deep Tech Solution: Formus Labs
PwC NZ Hi-Tech Company of the Year: Cin7
Tait Communications Flying Kiwi Award: Guy & Sue Haddleton