Hectre management team
Hectre's management team, including CEO Matty Blomfield (R). Image credit: Hectre

Going global with Sprout: Meet 5 startups that graduated from the Kiwi accelerator

June 3, 2021

New Zealand’s Sprout will kick off its latest accelerator program next month, and any entrepreneurs or startups interested in participating have just one more day to submit their applications.

So if you’re at the last hurdle, wondering whether its worth spending the time to get your application in – who better to hear from than startups who’ve been through the program before?

AFN talked to five companies that have graduated from past cohorts to find out how Sprout helped them to hone their market strategies, grow their businesses, and expand on the global stage.

Scentian Bio is another past participant in Sprout’s accelerator program, subsequently becoming its first venture investment. Read more here

Read on to find out more – and remember to submit your application by tomorrow (June 4).


Ārepa

Image credit: Ārepa

Angus Brown (AB), co-founder of Ārepa (meaning ‘alpha’ in Māori), describes the Auckland-based startup as “working at the nexus between neuroscience and food technology to create the world’s smartest food.” He tells AFN that Ārepa’s mission is to delay the onset of neurological decline through accessible, sustainably-produced food products.

AFN: What has your business journey looked like since graduating from Sprout’s accelerator program?

AB: We’re now the market leader in New Zealand, selling the highest-value, fastest-selling health drink in major supermarkets. We’re also vertically integrated with our key ingredient supply chain – including the largest blackcurrant farm in the country and suppliers of our New Zealand pine bark extract, which is a natural alternative to Adderall. Professor Andrew Scholey, one of the world’s top botanical neuroscientists, has signed as our chief scientific officer, helping to manage our $3 million-worth of clinical research across five different trials. And Lain Jager, the ex-CEO of Zespri, is about to invest and join the board.

AFN: How has Sprout helped your company to expand beyond your home market?

AB: We recently launched into Coles [supermarkets] in Australia. We’re about to begin a pre-Series A capital raise and have a number of global multinational F&B companies interested. Our plan is to continue Australia and Asia expansion then launch into the US in mid-2022. We supply the likes of the All Blacks [New Zealand’s national mens’ rugby union team], Olympic athletes, and elite CEOs around the world.


Cropsy

Auckland’s Cropsy uses imaging technology and AI to help winegrowers understand the needs of every individual vine in their yard – and track how those needs change over time so they can improve their decision-making. “The best part is that we deliver this as a tractor add-on, so growers do all their daily operations while we keep eyes on the crop,” says co-founder Leila Deljkovic (LD).

AFN: Why did you decide to apply for the Sprout accelerator?

LD: The knowledge and experience within the Sprout team is really extensive. All the mentors are accomplished founders and innovators themselves, so the guidance young companies like us get is from people who’ve ‘been there, done that.’ They also have a global network of VCs, other founders, and industry professionals, so they’re able to get early-stage ventures in touch with the right people.

AFN: What was the biggest benefit of participating in the program, in your view?

LD: Our Sprout mentor has been invaluable; he’s always thinking ahead and has helped guide Cropsy in the right direction, and this is a solid relationship which has continued after we completed the accelerator program, and will probably continue for long beyond that. Aside from all the practical skills we learned during the accelerator — like pitching and negotiating — I’d say having experienced people with a fresh perspective, like the mentors, is the most valuable thing to help early-stage ventures.

AFN: How has Sprout helped your company to expand beyond your home market?

LD: The Sprout team saw bigger potential in Cropsy than even we did. That made a huge impact on us; there was a tangible shift in our mindset towards seeing the reach of what Cropsy can accomplish on a global scale. Our ambitions are certainly global, in part thanks to the Sprout team. Our technology delivers universal value to winegrowers all over the world, not just in New Zealand.

AFN: What would you say to startups thinking of applying for the program?

LD: If you’re an agritech or foodtech startup, whether you’re on the edge of taking your business to the world or you just have a solid idea, there’s no excuse to not apply! The Sprout team have a diverse wealth of knowledge under their belt and global contacts. I know we’ve made some great friends in our cohort too, with the other companies. It’s win-win.


Hectre

Hectre management team
Hectre’s management team, including CEO Matty Blomfield (R). Image credit: Hectre

This Auckland-based startup seeks to empower growers with a simple orchard management platform, including cloud-based software and an AI-driven fruit quality testing tool. This allows growers and packhouses alike to “manage their orchards from their back pocket,” says CEO Matty Blomfield (MB).

AFN: Why did you decide to apply for the Sprout accelerator?

MB: There was a perceived pathway to funding where we could learn more about building a company and bringing capital on board.

AFN: What was your biggest lesson learned from participating in the program?

MB: There are many ways to sell your product, build a company, and raise capital.

AFN: How has Sprout helped your company to expand beyond your home market?
They said: “Matty, you should get on a plane to the US!” So I did. Hectre is now used by growers from around the world, including Stemilt [US] and Fankhauser Apples [Australia].
AFN: What would you say to startups thinking of applying?

MB: A structured programme like Sprout’s is helpful to expand your knowledge quickly on how to grow a company.


Micropod

Micropod start kit
Micropod’s ‘indoor gardening’ starter kit. Image credit: Micropod

Also hailing from Auckland, Micropod wants to bring indoor gardening into people’s homes to inspire healthier lifestyles. Its hydroponic microgreen growing kits “are our way of sharing what we’ve discovered to empower anyone, anywhere to grow their own fresh microgreens using our fun, easy and sustainable process,” says CEO Jeff Xu (JX). “Just add water!”

AFN: Why did you decide to apply for the Sprout accelerator?

JX: Sprout was recommended to us by a friend. After reading and learning more about them online it was obvious that they had the knowhow to bring a small agritech startup to the world stage.

AFN: What was the biggest lesson learned from participating in the program?

JX: That we needed to be really customer-focused and understand their pain points more than ours! This allowed us really hone in on our MVP to solve the customers’ number one issue: the want to grow produce at home, but lack the space, time, climate, or knowhow.

AFN: How has Sprout helped your company to expand beyond your home market?

JX: We were able to leverage the contacts we made through the program and also the being a Sprout alumni gave us a lot of credibility when talking to people in industry worldwide.


Onside

This Christchurch-based startup provides operations software to connect and protect people and businesses in rural areas and remote locations. Its ultimate vision, according to CEO Ryan Higgs (RH), is to build a “global rural network” to provide next-generation tech for biosecurity purposes.

AFN: Why did you decide to apply for the Sprout accelerator?

RH: We wanted to have our thinking challenged, learn from other early-stage companies, and be connected into the Sprout network.

AFN: What was the biggest lesson you learned from participating in the program?

RH: Every early-stage company needs to learn to tell their story. It needs to be simple, clear, and compelling.

AFN: How has Sprout helped your company to expand beyond your home market?

RH: Ultimately, if you want to expand and do it successfully, you need to have strong foundations. Sprout helped us build those foundations. This year, we’ve begun to focus more of our resources on expansion into the Australian market and beyond.

AFN: What would you say to startups thinking of applying for the program?

RH: The Sprout brand has become well recognized, both here in New Zealand and also around the world. Their program will challenge your thinking, give you an opportunity to get out of the day-to-day, and connect you into a great network for people. It is well worth it!


The application period for Sprout’s July 2021 accelerator program close tomorrow (June 4). Head here now to find more details and register.

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