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Sipreme's bold steps to startup success in China Fundertech campaign

23 Sep 2016

It's no snail's pace for Fundertech hopefuls Sipreme, which is currently living a productive and fast-paced journey in China this week.

Sipreme, a startup that has developed specialised 'future' food for tech lovers: A liquid-based three course meal that's designed to help people do away with the greasy takeaways and skipped breakfast with a smooth formula that eliminates that greasy-finger smear on your keyboard.

Earlier this year the company was mentored by Lightning Lab XX about how to boost their startup's power, and now at Fundertech they're taking things much further.

BizEDGE has been documenting the journeys of four finalists involved in the Fundertech campaign, which is a lucrative opportunity for startups to pitch their business ideas in front of a Chinese investor club. The club comprises 500-800 angel investors. The finalists can also meet visiting venture capitalists at the China Global Investment Summit.

Dené Steyn, Sipreme CEO, tells Techday about how Sipreme has found the process so far. Colleagues Bri and Lui partnered with David, Fundertech's Partner for an initial reconnaissance mission which she says has really helped their integration into the Chinese business scene.

"Our team made a great connection both personally and professionally with the first Chinese startup to come to a NZ business accelerator - Liangma - during Lightning Lab XX this year in Wellington. They have invited us to their wedding in October - a real honour."

Steyn says Chinese business relationships are closely tied to personal connection, and it happened that the family welcomed Bri and Lui with open arms. The family also had a background in commercial construction, so promised to insure investment before returning to New Zealand.

"I decided that our team will stay in Chengdu for two months - I feel a week is not long enough to build the relations that are so important in their Chinese culture but also business in general," she says.

And with that, the company headed to China's hot, foggy, humid and yet extravagant climes, language barriers and gestures as they marvel at the country's development and innovation.

"The first pitch in Chongqing was to a room of 100 people, 15 of which said they were representatives of other large companies. The pitches went smoothly and after our Sipreme pitch there were many questions and keen interest," she says.

"The room did empty out before the other teams finished pitching, leaving about 30 interested people - an interesting phenomenon to note. The investors who did stay, seemed extremely keen and asked us more in depth questions in the conference room afterwards. Some wanted to immediately discuss large scale distribution deals with Sipreme in China."

As of yesterday, the team was on a bullet train to Chengdu for the big pitch event to 300-500 investors.

"We feel confident about securing investment, as Sipreme's NZ origins is widely respected and the Chinese investors can clearly see the large scale of the opportunity Sipreme represents. This big picture view, combined with the capital to make big things happen, has been a very refreshing experience," she says.

Steyn also sings high praises for Rob Thomas, the supportive Fundertech organiser who has helped make the entire journey possible.

"While in conversation with him I mentioned that I personally feel I want to become an investor and give much more support to NZ startups. It seems a sad reality that to succeed, Kiwi entrepreneurs need to leave the country to grow (case in point: 42 Below Vodka, Flight of the Conchords and others)," she says.

She also mentions the wonders that Tenby Powel, a Kiwi business leader, has been doing for local NZ startups, and encouraging others to support them as well.

This is difficult when "Investors in NZ are risk averse and do not have the cash needed to grow companies to their full potential," she explains.

Steyn says Sipreme is fortunate to have support from Dr Rick Ede (CEO of Unitec Institute of Technology). As an investor and mentor, he has witnessed Sipreme's strength and admires their talent.

"The team from Sipreme has taken a bold step in looking beyond New Zealand  in order to more rapidly take advantage of the worlds largest potential market for their product, the much deeper capital pool, and with an investor base who take a more tolerant approach to start-up risks. In doing so they are taking a leaf out of the 'go global immediately' playbook pioneered by start-ups emerging from countries like Israel," Ede says.

He believes this is a risky, smart and brave, but those combinations create better success opportunities than just keeping it cautious and local through the 'NZ market first' approach.

"All three of the Sipreme founders are in their mid-20's and I am just so incredibly proud of how hard and how smart they are working in order to achieve their business dream," Ede concludes.

Find out more about Sipreme and their products here.