Archive August 2012

Location-based intelligence industry a hidden NZ gem Peter Kerr Aug 30

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It’s one of those ‘hidden’ industries, ripe for an explosion in growth with the increasing use of smart phones and tablets, of which Joe Public is mostly unaware.

One of its (self-aware) challenges is its name – geospatial – which while accurate doesn’t lend itself to an ‘oh yes, I know that that means’ moment for users.

But, when you consider that location-based intelligence, or maps with information, is ubiquitous across so much of what we do, then the opportunities to do more from an NZ Inc point of view are extremely strong.

Spatial Industries Business Association is the umbrella organisation for about 100 organisations that play in this territory, and its chair, Mike Donald reckons a bit more of a NZ Inc collective approach could see major gains both in New Zealand and for sales of products and services overseas.

Location-based intelligence industry could contribute much more to New Zealand says SIBA chairman Mike Donald

Donald quotes a 2009 ACIL Tasman NZ Geospatial Strategy which estimated that the ‘spatial dividend’ could increase to $4 billion from $1.2b (at the time of the report). This hasn’t happened, not the least because central government are not prepared to invest, but also the capital investment scene is not strong in this country for untried ideas.

Spatial dividends are efficiencies able to be gained by the accessing and integration of spatial and aspatial information and visualisation of that information to aid decision making. This for example allows organisations such as Fonterra to be able to assist and monitor their shareholders’ fencing of waterways; insurance companies being able to make better risk assessments, or determining where a hospital should best be located (which, given traffic vagaries mightn’t necessarily be where a human-judgement would think is ideal).

“Overseas, because of the investment climate and the larger marketplace, investors are prepared will put up say $5 million before there’s any revenue been created, if they can see a good idea developed around location-based intelligence,” Donald says.

In common with many other good ideas in New Zealand, it simply doesn’t happen.

Another challenge for the industry Donald says, is that the government’s Geospatial Office is part of one small agency – Land Information NZ. Donald argues that there is a need to have a more centralised office as the spatial outcomes are so huge that it needs to be funded better and have more autonomy. The emergence and acceleration of the spatial industry and location based intelligence is so rapid and changing so quickly, that the fast pace means that in order to take advantage of it and not to miss the boat, The expertise and funding needs to be picked up- it cant be done under the current structure.

There is also concern about the NZGO looking offshore for ‘experts’ to do spatial work in NZ.
One thing that’s become clear, especially with the ‘forced’ group hug of different maps + data entities as a result of the Christchurch earthquakes, is that New Zealand and Australian skills and expertise in these areas are world class.

If anything, other countries should be coming to us.

For this reason Donald’s extremely keen on pushing the advocacy role of SIBA, and encouraging what (especially before the earthquakes) would’ve been competing companies who never would’ve talked to each other, to see how they can work together.

Of course another of the geospatial industry’s challenges is attracting new, clever people to the field. While it is part of the IT space, bright young things are these days often more attracted to app and other developments.

As Donald is well aware, and why his own company Terralink calls it location-based intelligence, that maybe the first thing geospatial people should change is its name.

Happy to consult to you guys – though location-based intelligence is a much better description.

Gunning for better play; Makerspace takes aim at crowdfunding Peter Kerr Aug 28

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The Wellington Makerspace [TWMS] wants to build a better gun, well that’s not strictly true.

The community actually play a lot of what are commonly known as first person shooters [FPS], such as Medal of Honor, Battlefield, Team Fortress and the like. Lots of action, shooting and online team playing.

“Normally a player will use a combination of Mouse and Keyboard [PC] and game controller [Console] but things are about to change”….

The guys at The Wellington Makerspace – a digital prototyping facility located in Hipster central, Wellington, New Zealand- have designed and built a working prototype USB-compatible game controller AKA “video game gun” using an OpenSource mini-computer known as an Arduino and a bunch of stuff including a tracking/guidance system and some clever coding.

They also fitted a recoil mechanism to the AK47 replica airsoft gun used to create version One’s more realistic experience -and hey presto the perfect gaming solution for more immersive play is born.

Makerspace which has a small suite of sophisticated machines that allow prototypes to be built very cost – effectively isn’t getting into the real armaments industry though – yet although they have been known to make some cool medieval weaponry in their spare time…

Its founder Lee Bennett wants to perfect the design of the controllers ‘guts’ but insists on the sharing ethos.

“We want an open source option rather than making or selling something proprietary,” says Bennett. “We’ll be able to make our own guns, cases and accessories to order here at the [Maker] Space and outsource for capacity if neded, but most importantly we’ll be aiming to provide what we’ve created for others to develop as they see fit.”

He says they may use Kickstarter, or PledgeMe (NZ’s first crowdfunding platform) as the capital raising method and are developing their own Bootstrapper add-on to TWMS current offering and Bennett envisages that there will be many people willing to contribute funds in return for receiving a completed V2 controller and case -or maybe just the internal electronics kit and code for individuals to hack their own weapon of choice.

Bennett states that ‘Version Two’ will be upgraded significantly with some very cool features – so watch this space, contribute and play better!

A suggestion for the ATI EB…..and a ‘to note’ Peter Kerr Aug 23

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With the makeup and function of the Advanced Technology Institute Establishment Board recently made public; dispensing a suggestion is decidedly easy before they get a huge job underway.

So, on that front, assuming the ATI’s brief is relatively wide ranging, something that should be well worth following up.

The government’s startup business investor, NZ Venture Investment Fund, takes an equity stake in the investee company as part of its ownership proviso.

Israel on the other hand at a country level has tended to increasingly shy away from equity investment in companies. Instead they provide a loan. (Some of this, plus a great and wider explanation of the Israeli startup investment scene can be found here).

Equally in New Zealand, we should recognise that it is taxpayer money at risk, but that going down a (repaid if the idea/innovation comes off) loan road is a much simpler model.

What’s the advantage?

Firstly it keeps the ownership structure clean. It also doesn’t mean there’s a contingent asset/liability on the capital providing entity’s books. And, if and when new capital is introduced to the startup, the founding providers of capital don’t get pushed to the bottom of the heap.

At the same time, should the startup go belly-up, the debt (loan) provider, has first call over the assets (which will often be a form of intellectual property).

Finally, if the startup does well, the loan capital plus interest is repaid – and able to be reinvested again.

Whether such a move would slow or even stop the (almost inevitable it seems) sale of promising and growing businesses to overseas would remain to be seen.

But it is clear that we need a level of other capital investment beyond the healthy angel scene.

To be noted

And while we’re on the subject of ATI getting up and running, an observation on the appointment of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s deputy chief executives.

The advertisements for these five roles were advertised on Friday 3 August, applications closed on Monday 13 August, and appointments (though this isn’t definitive) are lined up for Monday 27 August.

The advertising and selection process is all taking place in-house (i.e. no outside HR consultants involved).

Now, (presuming they’ve applied) these acting deputy chief executives may be the best people for the job(s). Equally, it could be argued that any outsiders with an interest in the DCE roles, would had their CV hot and heavy, ready to be posted.

But it’s a bit too close to being a stitch-up, cum fait accompli.

Why weren’t they simply appointed deputy chief executives in the first place and save everyone the bother of appearing to go through due process?

Not a good look fellas. Not very innovative.

US Federal Appeal Court upholds gene Myriad Gene patent after referral from Supreme Court Peter Kerr Aug 21


By guest blogger Doug Calhoun

A US appeals court has for a second time upheld the validity of the Myriad Genetics gene patent.  In its 16 August 2012 decision: the same judges again decided 2 to 1 in favour of Myriad for the same reasons as in their July 2011 decision.  Each of the judges expanded on her or his reasoning, but their conclusions remained unchanged.

The opponents to gene patenting could leave the matter here; or they could apply to have the case reheard by all 12 judges of the appeal court; or they could appeal to the US Supreme Court.  In either case it would be up to the higher court to decide if they would hear the appeal.

A bit of history 

In 2009, the New York southern district court gave a decision declaring that all the claims of the patents in question were invalid.  Myriad Genetics, the patent owner, appealed to the CAFC (Court of Appeal of the Federal Circuit), which in July 2011 overturned the district court decision on claims to isolated DNA sequences.  That decision was discussed in a Code for Life post:

The opponents to gene patents then appealed to the US Supreme Court.  Earlier this year the US Supreme Court unanimously declared a patent for a method of determining the optimum dosage of a medicine in a patient to be invalid on the ground that the method was merely applying a law of nature.  That Mayo v Prometheus decision is discussed in an earlier guest post:

The next day the Supreme Court “vacated” the July 2011 gene patent decision and instructed the CAFC to reconsider its decision in the light of the Supreme Court’s Prometheus decision.   For all three judges and the lawyers it was groundhog day and deja vue all over again.

Judge Lourie

For Judge Lourie the case was not about whether cancer patients were entitled to a second opinion, nor whether Myriad had acted improperly or for other extraneous reasons.  The case was solely about:

“…whether the claims to isolated BRCA DNA, to methods for comparing DNA sequences, and to a process for screening potential cancer therapeutics meet the threshold test for patent-eligible subject matter.”

His response to the Supreme Court concern about laws of nature was:

“The isolated DNA molecules before us are not found in nature. They are obtained in ingenuity. While they are prepared from products of nature, so is every other composition of matter. All new chemical or biological molecules, whether made by synthesis or decomposition, are made from natural materials. For example, virtually every medicine utilized by today’s medical practitioners, and every manufactured plastic product, is either synthesized from natural materials (most often petroleum fractions) or derived from natural plant materials. But, as such, they are different from natural materials, even if they are ultimately derived from them. The same is true of isolated DNA molecules.”

“… [T]he district court disparaged the patent eligibility of isolated DNA molecules because their genetic function is to transmit information. We disagree, as it is the distinctive nature of DNA molecules as isolated compositions of matter that determines their patent eligibility rather than their physiological use or benefit. Uses of chemical substances may be relevant to the nonobviousness of these substances or to method claims embodying those uses, but the patent eligibility of an isolated DNA is not negated because it has similar informational properties to a different, more complex natural material. The claimed isolated DNA molecules are distinct from their natural existence as portions of larger entities, and their informational content is irrelevant to that fact.”

“The Supreme Court in Mayo focused on its concern that permitting patents on particular subject matter would prevent use by others of, in Mayo, the correlation recited in the method claims. Plaintiffs argue here that they are pre-empted from using the patented DNA molecules. The answer to that concern is that permitting patents on isolated genes does not pre-empt a law of nature. A composition of matter is not a law of nature. Moreover, as indicated earlier, a limited pre-emption is inherent in every patent: the right to exclude for a limited period of time.”

“When the patent expires, the public is entitled to practice the invention of the patent. That is true of all inventions; during the term of the patent, unauthorized parties are “pre-empted” from practicing the patent, but only for its limited term. The seven patents being challenged here all expire by December 18, 2015. “

Judge Lourie also relied on the principle that the US patent law allows for patents over a broad subject matter spectrum.  Patents have been granted for isolated DNA sequences for over 30 years.  If this is to be changed it is up to Congress not the courts:

(“[W]e possess neither the expertise nor the prerogative to make policy judgments. Those decisions are entrusted to our Nation’s elected leaders, who can be thrown out of office if the people disagree with them.”). Congress is presumed to have been aware of the issue, having enacted a comprehensive patent reform act during the pendency of this case, and it is ultimately for Congress if it wishes to overturn case law and the long practice of the PTO to determine that isolated DNA must be treated differently from other compositions of matter to account for its perceived special function.”

Judge Moore

Judge Moore did show a bit more deference to the Supreme Court ‘s referral:

“While the Prometheus decision does not control the outcome in this case, it is nonetheless instructive regarding the scope of the law of nature exception. As an initial matter, the Prometheus discussion of laws of nature (process claims) clearly ought to apply equally to manifestations of nature (composition claims). Myriad’s argument that Prometheus is constrained to methods is an untenable position.”

However, she did agree with Judge Lourie that earlier Supreme Court precedents on composition claims were more relevant than Prometheus.

Judge Moore made a distinction between shorter strands of isolated DNA and a full-length gene, the former clearly having a different utility from the latter and therefore being clearly eligible for a patent.  But she had her doubts about the eligibility of full length isolated DNA sequences:

“If I were deciding this case on a blank canvas, I might conclude that an isolated DNA sequence that includes most or all of a gene is not patentable subject matter. The scope of the law of nature/manifestation of nature exception was certainly enlarged in Prometheus. But we do not decide this case on a blank canvas. Congress has, for centuries, authorized an expansive scope of patentable subject matter. Likewise, the United States Patent Office has allowed patents on isolated DNA sequences for decades, and, more generally, has allowed patents on purified natural products for centuries.”

“As I explain below, I believe we must be particularly wary of expanding the judicial exception to patentable subject matter where both settled expectations and extensive property rights are involved natural products for centuries. There are now thousands of patents with claims to isolated DNA, and some unknown (but certainly large) number of patents to purified natural products or fragments thereof.”

She then expanded on this:

“The settled expectations of the biotechnology industry – not to mention the thousands of issued patents – cannot be taken lightly and deserve deference. This outpouring of scientific creativity, spurred by the patent system, reflects a substantial investment of time and money by the biotechnology industry to obtain property rights related to DNA sequences. The type of fundamental alteration in the scope of patentable subject matter argued in this case ‘risk[s] destroying the legitimate expectations of inventors in their property.’  I believe leaving intact the settled expectations of property owners is particularly important in light of the large number of property rights involved, both to isolated DNA and to purified natural products generally.”

The Supreme Court has warned that ‘courts must be cautious before adopting changes that disrupt the settled expectations of the inventing community.’ The settled expectations of the inventing community with respect to isolated DNA claims are built upon the broad language of the statute, judicial precedent.”

“To change so substantially the rules of the game now, ‘after more than a century of practice, ‘could very well subvert the various balances the PTO sought to strike when issuing the numerous patents which have not yet expired and which would be affected by our decision.’”

“This case typifies an observation by the late Chief Judge Markey, our first Chief Judge, that ‘[o]nly God works from nothing. Men must work with old elements.’ Human DNA is, for better or worse, one of the old elements bequeathed to men to use in their work.”

“We cannot, after decades of patents and judicial precedent, now call human DNA fruit from the poisonous tree, and punish those inquisitive enough to investigate, isolate, and patent it.”

“I will not strip an entire industry of the property rights it has invested in, earned, and owned for decades unchallenged under the facts of this case.”

Judge Bryson

Judge Bryson on the other hand had no such inhibition:

“We … should not shy away from deciding the issues of law that the parties have brought to us. Although my colleagues believe our analysis of the legal question in this case should be influenced by purported expectations of the inventing community based on the PTO’s past practice of issuing patents on human genes, that is in effect to give the PTO lawmaking authority that Congress has not accorded it. There is no collective right of adverse possession to intellectual property, and we should not create one. Our role is to interpret the law that Congress has written in accordance with the governing precedents.”

The main thrust of his dissent is:

“Myriad is claiming the genes themselves, which appear in nature on the chromosomes of living human beings. The only material change made to those genes from their natural state is the change that is necessarily incidental to the extraction of the genes from the environment in which they are found in nature. While the process of extraction is no doubt difficult, and may itself be patentable, the isolated genes are not materially different from the native genes.”

He continues:

“[I]t is an oversimplification to say that something that can be characterized as “isolated” or “extracted” from its natural setting always remains a natural product and is not patentable. One could say, for example, that a baseball bat is “extracted” or “isolated” from an ash tree, but in that case the process of “extracting” the baseball bat necessarily changes the nature, form, and use of the ash tree and thus results in a man made manufacture, not a naturally occurring product. In that setting, man has defined the parts that are to be retained and the parts that are to be discarded, and he has molded. … The result of the process of selection is a product with a function that is entirely different from that of the raw material from which it was obtained. In the case of the BRCA genes, by contrast, nature has defined the genes as independent entities by virtue of their capacity for protein synthesis and, ultimately, trait inheritance. Biochemists extract the target genes along lines defined by nature so as to preserve the structure and function that the gene possessed in its natural environment. In such a case, the extraction of a product in a manner that retains the character and function of the product as found in nature does not result in the creation of a human invention.”


The main point of agreement between the two majority judges is that the expectations of the biotechnology industry based on both the policy of the US Patent Office and the lack of any express prohibition from Congress dictate that isolated DNA sequences are patentable.

The main points of disagreement are over the nature of an isolated DNA molecule.  For Judge Bryson, “The medium is the message” (Marshall McLuhan).  For Judge Lourie, the message is not relevant – the patent is for the medium.  For Judge Moore, the medium may be the message, but it is now too late to turn back the clock.

It remains to be seen if there is an appeal and if their decision is upheld.  Keep posted.

The situation in Australia remains unchanged from what it was in this guest post:

The challenge to the Australian Myriad gene patent was heard in the Federal Court in February and the decision was still pending as this post went to press.

In New Zealand the GM Royal Commission recommended against any ban on gene patents and the government subsequently accepted that recommendation.  There is no prohibition against gene patents in the Patents Bill now before Parliament.

Dear ATI Establishment Board, Peter Kerr Aug 16

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Welcome to the gig.

You have an interesting (to say the least) and challenging brief to frame up the Advanced Technology Institute (your terms of reference will be most enlightening).

I do worry though when I hear rumours of outside consultants already writing business plans for this new hybrid. It’s before we really know what it is we’re making, so slightly premature don’t you think?

I hope too that you’re given the licence to enhance the whole system, including the technology-rich products and services.

I hope you will listen carefully to and balance the perspectives of:

  • Industry (but avoid the risk of candy floss science)
  • IRL and other research groups. Keep them engaged and get their buy-in, but don’t create IRL in drag.
  • Government (should be able to find the best models of overseas practices)

Thus far the third of these has dominated the conversation, so I look forward to the ATI EB redressing the balance.

And while we’re in advice mode, never forget, that the ATI must be research based to gain the respect of, and add value to industry. At the same time, transferring critical research areas to universities will castrate the animal before it is born

Sir Peter Gluckman noted in a recent National Radio interview about “What do scientists know about economics’, that an innovation-led future will have to have an NZness, and can’t simply replicate Israel’s or Finland or others’ models. Gluckman’s talk is here).

I also hope your brief allows you to explore other impediments to technology-led international growth.

  • Routes to market/partnering
  • Capital

If, apparently, there’s no shortage of ideas in New Zealand, while knowing half will ‘fail’, how do we best ferment an environment of give-it-a-go—–professionally and with purpose.

So, your job, as much as anything, is to best fertilise the idea/institute/pre/market ecosystem. And not just in Auckland and Christchurch.

The way this new beast is structured is a crucial opportunity to add a missing part appropriate to our culture and circumstances.

An idea is easy. Pulling it off is the trick. The ATI has the potential to be a crucial player, a Sonny Bill Williams even, in cranking us up a couple of gears in clever tech stuff.

Good luck. May you sail before the wind.

‘White label’ opportunity for number one food app Peter Kerr Aug 14

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While there’s a great deal of satisfaction in creating a mobile device app that people use, and come back to frequently, there’s a bigger game eyed for Fast, Fresh & Tasty.

The Wellington-originated app provides updated recipes, with a strong seasonal element. It was recently #1 in Apple’s iTunes store Food and Drink category as well.

And while the $5.39 price brings in some revenue for FF&T’s creators, Click Suite, the business model has a complementary market – food partners.

Partnering with food marketers is one of Fast, Fresh & Tasty’s big opportunities says Emily Loughnan

Food partners pay to be in some of the app’s recipes, and as FF&T expands internationally (other regions in other countries can also have a recipe app that features local produce), this will be the important play.

For example, in New Zealand Silver Fern Farms, Campbell’s Real Stocks, George Weston Foods, the Seafood Industry Council, Hansells and Rangitikei Corn Fed Free Range Chickens are all partners with FF&T.

“Now we’re getting other people knocking on our door wanting to be partners; more of the artisan producers in particular,” says Click Suite director, Emily Loughnan.

“For those artisans, getting the exposure to consumers who care costs a fraction by being part of Fast, Fresh & Tasty compared to making an app themselves, or even other forms of advertising.”

And, using New Zealand as a test market, the app will be available for other markets. Because it particularly links into seasonally available, and local produce, Loughnan sees the app (and more particularly its backend brains) being of huge appeal to others around the world.

Given that there’s also a strong measurement and feedback as Loughnan and her team keep an eye on FF&T’s viewing and download metrics, the package it is potentially able to offer to others has strong appeal.

Tasty indeed!

“So Makerspace, can you create this?” – workshop eases into existence Peter Kerr Aug 09

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A couple of months into its life, and The Wellington’s MakerSpace is finding its feet, getting into gear as a physical product incubator for people testing their ideas.

Co-founder Lee Bennett says as businesses around the place learn of its existence, situated at 6 Vivian Street – near its creative Courtenay Place locale- is being approached to produce all sorts of things (See a sticK story on its opening here).

“These range from the quirky to the complicated, from restaurants to sports wear manufacturers,” he says.

One (slightly ironic given Wellington’s movie making pedigree and the fact that Bennett has worked in the industry) are people wanting something that they’ve seen on-screen.

“Some people want movie prop quality, but at a Bunnings price,” he says.

“Often we’ll be able to do it, although people should realise that what they’ve seen in a movie might have cost $50,000, but they want it done for a budget of say $800- it’s hard to accommodate sometimes” and there’s hopefully a growing understanding that one minute of laser cutting on MakerSpace’s large 1400mm x 900mm CO2 laser cutter/engraver can often require an hour or more’s ‘consulting and project discussion’ before it takes place – it all takes time.

As well as such bread and butter income generating business, the other aspect of The Wellington MakerSpace (which also has a 3D CNC router and a 3D printer) that excites Bennett is the development of a making focussed community – one that’s willing to share ideas, willing to help out and many create income streams for the community as a whole.

MakerSpace provides a shell where the spark of creativity can be expressed – “It is where people, resources and ideas can come together in a way you don’t necessarily see in everyday life,” Bennett says.

To that end, MakerSpace is soon to have a market stall/shop front that will be (quickly) erected each Saturday morning at the waterfront’s Frank Kitts Underground Market…

It is a place where people can quickly test their newly made products such as jewellery, trinkets and other cool stuff on the public.

“It is a product validation and test,” Bennett says. “You don’t really know what people want till you ask them, and the stall provides a quick turnover and feedback.”

From there, products can be made and sold worldwide – mostly through the internet via The Wellington Makerspace’s online shopping portal which will also be completed very soon.

Bennett sees MakerSpace as providing an incubator environment, the success of which will be entirely separate from The Wellington Makerspace, as new creative physical businesses branch off and grow from ideas created within the Space.

Along the way MakerSpace is also teaching people new skills -or renovating some old one’s -making people aware that they can actually design, create and make things themselves – not only consuming what the market offers.

As well as offering it’s own Wednesday evening “intro to using the digital equipment”-type courses, The Wellington Makerspace has teamed up with another newly formed and Wellington Home Grown enterprise – and together they now offer a whole gambit of creative and learning workshops.

An extremely popular series of courses introduced to adventurous Wellingtonians is themed around an impending ‘Zombie Apocalypse’, and includes survival weapon-making especially Longbows, crossbows and PVC Pipeguns – demand for the sessions has leapt and they now have long waiting lists for many weeks in advance. Checkout here for details.

“We’re introducing people to the idea of being kids again,” Bennett says. “Making, playing, experimenting, being part of a wider community.”

He considers that part of MakerSpace’s attraction “is for oddballs like me.” This is particularly for people who possibly ‘don’t quite fit’, but who are creative and are looking for an outlet and place to express that.

Bennett’s also keen to work with schools – particularly the lower decile ones and be able to provide positive experiences for what he terms the “rough diamond” kids in particular.

“Often these kids aren’t bad kids, a little wayward maybe? Bored? or could it be that they’re just not academic [or even too clever?],” he says. “If we can provide them with the opportunity to do cool stuff now – help them realise that they can create their own futures, maybe we’re going to help stop them from getting in trouble when they’re older.”

The Wellington Makerspace is located on Lv1, 6 Vivian Street, Te Aro, Wellington.. [above Nood]
tel: 04 381 0365
Lee’s Mob: 021 999 539

Take that Jamie Oliver! – F,F & T the app-ening thing Peter Kerr Aug 07

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Today New Zealand, tomorrow the world, the Fast, Fresh & Tasty app is ready to be adapted for any region’s local produce says Emily Loughnan

There’s something intrinsically appealing about a company that plies its trade as digital media consultants pulling off a coup in the smart phone app area.

Wellington Click Suite, an 18 year veteran in the interactive space, “uses our skills for our clients during the day,” says managing director, Emily Loughnan.

“We use our skills for our own purposes by night,” though strictly speaking, its Fast, Fresh & Tasty app gets used all during the day; particularly around the 5.30 – 6pm slot as people decide what they’re going to cook for their evening meal.

The NZ$5.29 app recently went to the top of Apple’s food and recipe apps (beating Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson among others!), and Loughnan takes great delight in tracking its metrics, plus comments about FF&T through different social media. It’s about now that thoughts of walking the walk and talking the talk filter through the subconscious.

This included the investment of $50 on Facebook advertising over a month. “That allowed us to test a whole lot of ads,” Loughnan says. “We could see in realtime what worked, what was making a difference.”

FF&T grew out of a Karen Grice idea to set up a kiosk in a supermarket that had recipes. The challenge of being reliant on one of two supermarket chains in New Zealand showed that the business model couldn’t work.

“But we did find that there were a very high percentage of people with mobile broadband who searched for a recipe while they were in the supermarket,” Loughnan says. “Other research showed that most New Zealanders have five to seven dishes that they cook on a regular basis.” “So we knew people had a limited repertoire, but were searching for new ideas”

The Click Suite goal was to inspire, extend and collaborate with makers of local produce.

The app is a collaboration with some of these; for example Silver Fern Farms lamb and venison products.

“In the minds of consumers, we wanted something useful in the ‘what’s for dinner tonight?’ scheme of things,” she says. “We’ve answered that, and given brands an opportunity to be in an app space, at a fraction of the price of doing their own, and give them some cut through to the consumer.”

The app itself provides a number of routes to solution for the ‘what’s for dinner’ question.

Consumers may start with a main ingredient, and can click through to various recipes for say chicken. Along the way a consumer might have an ingredient such as saffron quickly explained.

Alternatively, a consumer may be interested in a particular style of food such as a salad, a soup or barbeque food.

At the same time as they’re browsing, consumers can add products required for a recipe to their shopping list (as part of the app), which in turn can be texted or emailed to a friend if so desired.

However, the killer feature of FF&T, and where none of the global competition has yet gone, is the seasonal approach to providing recipes. The classic hockey stick sales growth graph is proof that the approach is working.

“Normally when people use a recipe app, they use it a bit, but after a while don’t go back to it,” Loughnan says. “But FF&T is used really regularly.”

Part of the reason for this is each season, several new recipes are provided. Currently there are 150 recipes, “which is cheap for a whole cook book with updates.”

Loughnan says that Click Suite went through the same process it applies to outside clients using the digital media company’s services.

This included an initial briefing and research as well as testing throughout development using real consumers.

Click Suite also made a mock up of what the app could look like on an iPhone (without doing any coding), in order to find out peoples’ priorities for functionality.

“That way, we didn’t build functions that weren’t required.”

Loughnan’s clear that FF&T isn’t for every home cook.

“It’s for people who have a high value mobile device, are often busy, and want tasty weeknight meals,” she says. “They’re also more likely to spend more on good quality ingredients.”

The app must be doing something right as there were over 12,000 access to it last month alone.

FF&T’s up for three awards in the upcoming TVNZ Marketing Awards. It is a finalist in the best new emerging business, best technology and best marketing awards.

It also has an exciting international expansion plan underway; bringing local seasonal food ideas to regions all around the world. But that’s another story …

If they win, expect this to be part of the ongoing story as well.

Find out more at

Startup junkie looking to bring weekend experience to Northland Peter Kerr Aug 02

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Northlander Larissa Matheson found the Auckland Startup Weekend (June 15 – 17) so inspiring, she got herself down to the Wellington version (July 27 – 29).

Considering that two days before the Auckland event she’d never heard of the entrepreneur/business building competition, she obviously enjoyed the experience.

That may’ve been because she was, and still is, part of the Queen City’s winning team – SmileToday (Larissa’s on the left of the photo). (SmileToday is a social entrepreneurship model where you not only donate money, you also donate a smile. The charity then gets to use the smiles however they like, but you also receive a smile in return).

But Matheson also wanted to have another go in Wellington at pitching her own idea around helping people practice their job interview skills.

The pitch was one of ten in Wellington that were successful, and NervesFree was born and developed as a modified concept. Under this model, jobseekers upload a video simulation of an interview, and through crowdsourcing, career professionals can provide feedback.

Jobseekers will pay for this service and feedback, and in turn the video advisors will be paid.

NervesFree attracted the all-important web developer, Paul Sinclair and designer/brander Mui Leng Goh to the team, complementing Matheson’s business development skills.

Matheson, who lives in Whangarei, says it was great to be in a room of “can do” people.

“It is really a unique experience, quite uplifting,” says the entrepreneur, who is also a mother to threeyoung children.

“I’ll probably go to another Startup, and next time wouldn’t mind trying to be on the other side [organsing, advising].”

This includes possibly trying to attract such a weekend to Whangarei.

“There’s probably a lot of like-minded people, who like being around positive and energetic sorts – but just don’t get the opportunity because of their location,” Matheson says. “It could be really good for the economy up there too. I think I’ll take it to the local Chamber of Commerce.”

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