The venture capital sector continues to stir back into life after the shock of the Covid lockdowns.
Auckland-based VC outfit Pacific Channel says it has secured a $20 million contribution from Crown agency NZ Growth Capital Partner's Elevate fund toward its $50m Pacific Channel II fund.
The fund currently stands at $45m.
Cofounder and managing director Brent Ogilvie told the Herald the Elevate contribution was conditional on the Pacific Channel II fund reaching its target $50m. He was confident it would over coming weeks.
Pacific Channel II was already up and running in the interim, Ogilvie said.
It has recently made its first two investments.
One is in InsituGen, a sports-doping specialist that has emerged from research at the University of Otago, which is working on a test that can detect any type of steroid.
The other is Orbis Diagnostics, which grew from Auckland University, which is developing a quick-testing device for detecting if someone has Covid-19 antibodies.
Olgivie sees this pin-prick immunity test - which could process 16 blood samples at a time on a device costing less than $10,000 - could find a market for passenger processing at airports, and to help test the effectiveness of vaccines.
Ogilvie said Pacific Channel's focus was on "deep tech" or startups based on patented or pantable technology breakthroughs.
His company's model was often to pose a problem to the academic and private research community, then invest in proposed solutions.
He said a classic case was Pacific Channel's earlier investment in Auckland University spinout Engender Technologies, which came up with a laser-based solution to dairy farmers' problem of sorting bull sperm by sex. In November 2018, Engender was sold to Dutch farming conglomerate CRV International for an undisclosed sum - said to be a 10x return for early investors.
The $300m Elevate fund, confirmed at Budget 2019, was established with $240m from the NZ Super Fund, and the balance from NZGCP (formerly NZVIF or NZ Venture Investment Fund).
Elevate - whose $300m fund equates to roughly double the funds distributed by NZVIF over the past two decades - is designed to jump-start the quiet local VC industry by providing matching money for new early-stage investment funds created by the private sector.
NZGCP earlier put $21.5m into Australian VC company Blackbird Venture's new Blackbird NZ fund, which is looking to raise up to $60m.
Separately, state-owned KiwiSaver provider Kiwi Wealth is to invest in the technology sector through a fund run by venture capital firm Movac.
Kiwi Wealth, which manages more than $5 billion in KiwiSaver investments and is the sixth-largest provider, has committed up to $54 million to the new Movac Fund 5 technology fund.
The Movac Fund 5 is a $200m to $250m growth capital fund which has a New Zealand focus and will invest in technology start-ups and growth companies.
Peter Beck, Icehouse Ventures and others backed the new $10m Level Two fund, launched last month, which will focus on "deep tech" opportunities as it seeks to find the next Rocket Lab or Lanzatech.
More of the same, more or less
If re-elected, Labour says it will continue the Elevate fund.
National says it would maintain the same $300m Crown contribution but spread it across three separate $100m funds, which it maintains would have more focus. Like the existing Elevate, all would contribute to private funds that offered at least matching investment.