Jenny Morel, venture capitalist, invests in entrepreneurs in New Zealand
Image from Verve NZ
Many of us would be reluctant to implement a new business concept that has never been launched and trialed before in New Zealand. There would be far too many variables, not enough research, and no one who has done it before whose mistakes could be learnt from. Starting a venture capital fund that focused on the technology sector back in 1999 would have been a risky undertaking when technology expansion was still widely an IF rather than a WHEN. Yet back before the turn of the century, Jenny Morel was starting No 8 Ventures, and it truly was something completely new to the New Zealand business environment.
No 8 Ventures is a “Silicon Valley style venture capital fund to help grow young businesses going global.” As expected, during its establishment, challenges and obstacles were present in abundance. Jenny attributes this to the fact that there was no track record for them or the sector, no understanding of the tech company revolution happening in New Zealand and therefore the amazing deal flow.
“[There was] no understanding that our role would be more than just stock picking,” she said.
However, Jenny and her team of 3 stuck by their guns with No 8 Ventures. The result? They have built their success into an admirable portfolio. The increasingly popular Martin Jetpack was just featured on the Wall Street Journal magazine and website. The article was outlining that the jetpack’s next obstacle to overcome before it becomes widely available, is dealing with the legislation that surrounds it. According to CEO, Peter Coker, it is a motorcycle of the sky. It is like a microlight, but different. Martin Jetpack is currently accepting orders for the First Responder Jetpack, and already has a large number of deposits from people wanting a personal jetpack. No 8 Ventures invested in the Martin Aircraft Company, and as the jetpack takes off, so will No 8 Ventures’ success.
As entrepreneurs, we are obligated to ask for money, whether we are undertaking a funding round, seeking sponsorships, or withdrawing a loan. Jenny Morel has witnessed her fair share of pitches during her time at No 8, and has been able to define what areas she is looking at before No 8 Ventures decides to fund a project. One thing she’s certain about is it definitely doesn’t start with the numbers.
“In fact they [the numbers] follow a long way behind. It always starts from the market: What market are you addressing? Is this a big enough market to be interesting? What alternatives are there in the market or how do people do this now? And what gives you a sustainable edge in this market?”
What investors search for while you’re sweating it out during a pitch is what your proposal’s differentiating factor is. They’re looking for what gives you that competitive advantage that is going to help you win over loyal customers who have dollars to spend.
“In brief, we’re looking for the magic first, and then we look at what’s needed to win that market position – the business plan. And once we’ve invested we spend a lot of time de-risking the company. We can’t put the potential upside into a company, but we can help to ensure it’s realized.”
As well as providing funding to the tech sector in New Zealand, Jenny runs an annual event for entrepreneurs called Morgo. The feedback from these events is always overwhelmingly positive.
“Morgo started from a gathering of 12 tech companies who were clients of Morel & Co, the small investment bank working with tech companies that I formed before No 8 Ventures. We had such a great time that I decided a few years later to do it on a sustainable scale – 80 people the first year and now up towards 150.”
Entrepreneurs have a tendency to find themselves overwhelmed with loneliness. Rebekah Campbell, a speaker at Morgo 2013, has written several articles about battling isolation over the years. Morgo is proactively attempting to reduce that loneliness.
“The idea is to bring together the entrepreneurs who are building global businesses from New Zealand for an annual re-charge. It’s lonely being oriented out of NZ all the time. People get a huge amount out of simply meeting the other people who are at Morgo, and in addition we provide brain food with some great speakers. The most useful thing is the annual recharge.”
This year, Morgo was held in beautiful Queenstown. Recharging is not optional.