Technology is the fastest-growing industry in New Zealand and a Tauranga deep tech incubator company is helping local and national start-ups get out of the garage and on to the global stage.
WNT Ventures chief executive Carl Jones said it was ''brilliant'' to be involved at ground level and $8 million had been pumped into 13 businesses, which had created about 150 jobs and collectively raised more than $72m.
The businesses were funded in two phases over five years and, while two companies had closed, SoundSwitch - a Tauranga software/hardware DJ, entertainment integration business - had been bought out by American firm DJ Denon.
Sectors the company had invested capital into included artificial intelligence, robotics, agritech, cleantech, consumer electronics, high-performance computing and advanced manufacturing.
Among those companies were Mastaplex, which allowed precise diagnosis of mastitis, Mint Innovation, which recovers valuable metals from electronic waste streams, and TDRI, which used sensing technologies from agriculture and food for roading.
''We have had some fantastic results.''
Jones said WNT was also in the process of raising its third fund of up to $20m to invest into another 15 companies and worked closely with its partners who were key players in their respective fields.
''The returns we are targeting for our funds are three times the money invested, or 25 per cent per annum.''
WNT had also tendered for the next round of technology incubator funding with Callaghan Innovation.
It initially received funding from Callaghan Innovation five years ago but if WNT was successful again the contract would be for eight years.
Priority One chief executive Nigel Tutt said having a successful tech incubator like WNT Ventures was of huge benefit to the region.
''It makes us more attractive to tech-oriented growth companies and helps with the pathway for local companies to grow through access to capital and expertise.
"We are increasingly seeing the development of a comprehensive innovation ecosystem in Tauranga city, reflected in the growth of employment in knowledge-intensive businesses and the transition to a higher-wage economy.''
TECT general manager Wayne Werder said Tauranga needed to shake its $10 Tauranga tag.
''One of the ways to do this is to support new businesses that can provide long-lasting, higher-paying jobs. This benefits the community and drives economic growth.''
He said TECT had supported WNT Ventures as part of a wider plan to support the development of a strong investment ecosystem in Tauranga.
''This includes WNT Ventures, Enterprise Angels, Oriens Private Equity and the new Purpose Capital Fund. The fact that all of this exists right here in Tauranga is great for our growing region.''
Callaghan Innovation market and sectors general manager Erica Lloyd said New Zealand was a hotbed of deep technical and scientific research with the potential to solve many business, consumer and global problems.
''But we are nowhere near reaching our full potential in taking this deep tech down a commercial path. By lifting capability in this space, we create more successful high-value businesses, jobs and exports.''
Technology was the fastest-growing industry in the country and third only to tourism and primary industries, she said.
''So a huge chunk of future high-skilled jobs will be in technology, helping to lift our standard of living.''
SoundSwitch lights up DJs around the world
An integrated lighting system for mobile DJs designed by three mates in Tauranga is being used by famous music artists around the world.
SoundSwitch was the brainchild of Zak Meyers, Callum Jamieson and Matt Watkins who started the company with help from WNT Ventures five years ago.
They developed software which allowed DJs and music artists to control all their lights automatically, eliminating the need to hire someone.
The business is a major success story after being sold in 2018 to American firm DJ Denon - that falls under InMusic, one of the biggest production equipment manufacturers in the world.
Watkins, who still works for SoundSwitch as a product officer, said it had been "one helluva ride" and he has worked with some famous DJs like Eskei83 and artists including Dani Leigh.
''We have just made a yet to be released video with DaniLeigh and she is really blowing up at the moment.''
His job had also enabled him to travel to the United States and Europe where he attended music festivals, trade shows and nightclubs.
''It was super exciting, especially when these artists reached out to us, so it has been pretty cool.''
But it hasn't all been plain sailing and Watkins said SoundSwitch took seven years of hard work.
''The WNT team was great and really inspirational. They had had so much business expertise and we learnt a lot.''
After DJ Denon acquired SoundSwitch it opened another branch in Auckland and now it employs 45 people.