With Rocket Lab shares up around 50 per cent since its US share market listing, around 100 past and present staff have seen the value of stock options granted under a bonus scheme balloon to about $1.5 million apiece.
Levi Fawcett, who spent five years as a lead engineer at the company, is not one of those in on the action.
"I had to give up my options to go and do this," says Fawcett - "this" being Partly, the auto parts database startup he co-founded and runs as chief executive.
"I do look at that now that's on the Nasdaq and think, 'Oh sh--, those shares would have been worth a lot of money - but Partly is looking pretty valuable as well."
That's an understatement.
Partly just raised $3.7m at a post-money valuation of $49.8m - valuing Fawcett's 52 per cent stake at just over $26m.
The round was led by Sydney-based Blackbird Ventures, which now has offices on both sides of the Tasman, and backing from Crown agency NZ Growth Capital Partners.
Blackbird also contributed to a $1.7m "pre-seed" round last year.
Rocket Lab founder Peter Beck has invested in Partly too, and also serves as an adviser.
"Pete supported both rounds. He's been awesome," Fawcett says.
The Partly team spent around three years developing its service, but the company was only officially registered in July last year, and has been selling its product for just on a year.
So what does it do exactly?
"Partly was born out of a huge unsolved data problem," Fawcett says.
"The automotive industry today has millions of vehicle configurations, and hundreds of millions of parts, but only manual and paper-based systems to link them. Our mission is to connect the world's parts by building cloud-based infrastructure to connect parts buyers and sellers at the right point in time."
The cofounder says the issue was that there were lots of different catalogues, but they were siloed, and had different ways of describing parts.
"Imagine you had a part number '1234'," Fawcett says.
"In Europe, that's a 'bonnet', but you also have part 1234 in America, where it's called a 'hood'.
"We create a link between the two. Scale that across about 4 billion connections and combinations of cars and parts, and that's where we run our algorithms."
Partly has its own PartsPal software for selling auto parts, but also creates an API - or applications programming interface - that lets car manufacturers, online marketplaces, dealerships and dismantlers talk to each others' databases using standardised parts descriptions that everybody can understand.
Why has no one done it before? Fawcett says the AI and machine learning involved is just very, very hard - but that his startup has cracked it.
The blunt measure of its smarts is that, despite only being in fully commercial operation for a matter of months, it's been able to raise capital at close to a $50m valuation.
And it's also managed to sign some of the largest players in the car industry as clients. Commercial confidentiality restricts what Fawcett can share on the record, but they include household names.
And it arrived in the $1.9 trillion global autoparts market just as pandemic supply chain issues were spurring many of its players to finally look for a digital solution.
It involves some big clients. "Our largest customer's got 350 million monthly active users," Fawcett says.
So what will it spend its $3.7m in new funding on?
"Mostly hiring," Fawcett says. "Because it's such a hard technical problem, the team we have now is really high-performing and exceptional. So most of this money is going towards helping us find other incredible engineers.
"And really, that's, that's what defines the company; that's where we make or break. It's all down to hiring really, really critical people."
The Christchurch-based Partly currently has 22 staff, all based in Christchurch bar one in Poland and two in Auckland, who are due to move south once border restrictions allow.
The complement includes 16 engineers.
Fawcett says he's looking to add another 10 over the next six to 12 months. Multiple roles are being advertised on its website now, including data scientist and data engineering positions.
Tech skills squeeze? Yeah, nah
Recruiting for specialised roles during a tech talent squeeze made worse by the pandemic seems like a hiring headache.
But Fawcett says, "We're not anticipating too many difficulties. We've built a name for ourselves in Christchurch as one of the best startups to work for.
"And the really hard technical problems we're solving make it quite exciting, so we're attracting pretty good people. As long as we're not trying to hire 10 in one month, we've got a pretty good chance of getting everyone we need."
Trio of new US backers
And word is spreading behind Christchurch.
Partly's latest seed round saw three new investors from the US come onboard: Figma design platform founder Dyland Field (who co-invested with Beck in Auckland startup Heartlab); Akshay Kothari, co-founder of project collaboration firm Notion, which recently raised capital at a US$10b valuation; and Connor Theilmann, an angel investor and VP for business operations at ServiceTitan, a platform for contractors that recently raise funds at a US$8.3b valuation.
Field said in a statement, "Partly has what it takes to disrupt the automotive industry: It has very quickly emerged as the ones to watch in this exciting new software category.
"The Partly team have built incredible tech based on deep insights and I'm delighted to be supporting the team as they grow to become a global category leader all the way from New Zealand."
Blackbird Ventures partner Samantha Wong, who heads the VC firm's Auckland office, said, "Partly is working on solving an unsexy but very complex problem - elegantly, on a global scale. The product and customer momentum is incredible."
And early Partly backer and advisor Beck added, "The progress the team has made in just over a year is impressive. They are certainly one of the most exciting startups in New Zealand.
"The global ambition of Kiwi startups like Partly are really contributing to New Zealand's tech reputation on the world stage."