Five innovative young New Zealand technology businesses have been selected to begin the Vodafone xone Partner Series programme next month – an accelerator programme powered by two of the best-known brands in the country, Bank of New Zealand and Vodafone New Zealand.
The programme beginning in January sees Vodafone New Zealand and Bank of New Zealand co-deliver an intensive three months of mentoring, workshops and unique testing environments for fledgling businesses. The aim is to develop the businesses to a point where a corporate partnership or commercial deal is possible.
Applications closed at the end of November, with ten shortlisted businesses invited to pitch to a panel of five experts in a high-pressure VC style format. From the ten pitches, the judging panel welcomed five businesses onto the accelerator programme.
Vodafone New Zealand Head of SME Richard Phillimore-Smith says the calibre of applicants bodes well for the next generation of technology businesses in New Zealand.
“There are some incredibly innovative solutions being developed and brought to market right now,” he says.
“It was a tough decision picking the businesses that were the best fit for this round of the Vodafone xone Partner Series. However, we are confident that the businesses that will be joining us in January have fantastic digital solutions that will benefit so many SMEs throughout the country.
“We can’t wait to see some or all of these exciting new businesses succeed in the same way as other distinguished xone alumni companies such as Spalk, Evnex, Ambit and Aware Group.”
The first cohort of the Vodafone xone Partner Series for 2020 includes solutions such as digital assistants using data analytics, artificial intelligence to act on voicemails, a 360 customer insights application, a “no-code” credit risk automation platform and an end-to-end Internet of Things solution.
BNZ General Manager SME Karna Luke says “Small-to-medium enterprises want to be more productive, more efficient and faster to react with the resources they have. The companies we have selected for the Partner Series have the potential to enable our customers to achieve this.
“We know how difficult it can be to get a new business off the ground. With the backing of BNZ and Vodafone New Zealand, the Partner Series is designed to accelerate the business growth and help connect with markets that matter to them,” he says.
The businesses starting the Vodafone xone Partner Series programme in January 2020 include:
Aider – a digital assistant for small business. Connecting to the cloud apps businesses use, the Aider mobile app delivers easy access to answers for data-led decision making.
Head of Marketing Kari Viccars pitched to the judges alongside Head of Partnerships Sarah Dobson and said the invitation to join the programme was a validation of the hard work the team had put into the business.
“The next stage in our business is to develop partnerships with businesses who are just as passionate about their customers as we are. To be able to join the Vodafone xone Partner Series is exactly what we were hoping for,” says Viccars.
Vxt is a smart phone application that helps users save time by converting their voicemail to text and automating tasks like event scheduling.
University of Canterbury students Luke Campbell (CEO) and Lucy Turner (CTO) were momentarily speechless when they were told they were accepted onto the programme.
“It’s amazing,” says Campbell. “To have businesses with the credibility and scale of Vodafone and BNZ invest in our business it means so much.”
Micado uses artificial intelligence and data analytics to produce customer insights, helping businesses create better customer interaction and ultimately a better customer experience. Micado’s Sales and Marketing analytics empower business to win, grow and retain customers.
Founder and CEO Hans Arz says he is looking forward to what the programme will mean for his business.
“The mentorship and assistance that the Vodafone xone Partner Series provides will open doors for Micado and accelerate the pace we can bring our solution to market,” he says.
Credisense is a “no-code” credit risk automation platform, from digitising customer on-boarding and risk decision-making to billing engagement.
Sales and Product Manager Richard Brooks says he is really looking forward to leveraging the knowledge of Vodafone and BNZ to drive the business forward.
“January can’t come soon enough. I can’t wait to get started and work with the xone team to strengthen our business,” he says.
PiP IoT has an end-to-end Internet of Things solution comprising a unique IoT device, plus data analytics and visualisation services, to support a wide range of business use cases with ‘out of the box’ simplicity.
Nigel Sharplin (CTO) said getting the business going had been a long, and sometimes lonely, journey.
“Until now, pursuing potential partnerships has been less of a focus as we have worked hard to get our product absolutely right. So the timing for this could not be better and we are delighted to have found a phenomenally good fit with xone,” says Sharplin. “Thanks to the assistance of Vodafone and BNZ, we are looking forward to now being able to make a real impact.”
Vodafone Head of IoT and South Island Michelle Sharp says the team looks forward to welcoming the businesses onto the programme in January.
“Aider, VXT, Micado, Credisense and PiP IoT all have different and innovative solutions. The xone team are really excited to be working with them all and to see these solutions make a real impact on New Zealand SMEs in the very-near future.”