Bill Smale has put $1 million of seed capital into a startup founded by a Westlake Boys High School alumnus and an Auckland Grammar grad.
The deal values Niesh, a smartphone app that offers student discounts, at $10m.
The Smale family has an estimated wealth of $250m, most of it realised from the 1990s when its 70-year-old farm next to Westlake Girls High School - located just down the hill form Westlake Boys on Auckland's North Shore - was converted to a commercial site that now houses Vodafone NZ and others.
Until its conversion, Smales Farm hosted livestock, but was best known as the go-to area for Westlake girls to smoke, and the main staging area for Westlake boys as they bid to make lunch-time contact with said girls.
Bill Smale has been Niesh's financial backer and business mentor since it was founded in April 2016 by Jae Yoo and James Koo, who both studied toward Commerce degrees at Auckland University then dropped out to start Niesh. Smale remains its sole outside investor.
"The capital injection was a simple decision based on two drivers," says Smale. "Firstly, I am convinced of company's ability to deliver an industry-leading application, as evidenced by the traction behind their platform. Secondly, the business has the potential to disrupt the education industry globally – this is only the start of a much bigger vision that I believe will be realised."
Its founders say Niesh has had 32,000 downloads so far, and is growing fast.
It connects its users to brands like Burger King and STA Travel offering student discounts.
"We're a data-driven company, and we're using what we know to benefit students and the companies giving them rewards, discounts, and jobs," said Jae Yoo.
"Our vision is to create the biggest student platform in New Zealand. We're growing extremely fast and as we expand to other regions we'll reach every student in New Zealand. And reaching students is made easier thanks to the breadth of our business partnerships, of which we have more to be announced soon."
The company's next step is reaching more universities and getting more students on the app. Niesh currently focuses on Auckland and Wellington. It wants to go nationwide.
"The student market is the premier spot for reaching the ultimate influencing market, the fashion, technology, and beauty for 18-to-25-year-olds. It's a fickle segment that many have tried and failed to capitalise on. Niesh is curating an ecosystem that understands and rewards students with what they need most – financial relief and job opportunities. That premise will endure the test of time," Smale says