Invest in Punakaiki Fund

We at Punakaiki Fund are very happy to announce our crowdfunding investment offer to the public:

Snowballeffect.co.nz/punakaikifund

We are seeking up to $2 million, the maximum allowable under the applicable law, and will close the offer once we reach that limit.

Larger investors who miss out may be eligible for our private offer, but it is far easier (and on the same terms) to invest through the Snowball platform.

Any questions please ask below, on the Snowball Effect platform (preferably), email me at lance@lwcm.co.nz or call (64) 021 526239.

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Vibe acquires Melbourne based RackCentral

Vibe Communications continue their relentless growth – this time by acquiring RackCentral and bringing on board the much respected Shaun McGuane. Here’s the full press release.

Vibe acquires Melbourne based RackCentral (Cross posted from Vibe)
June 11, 2015
Rudi Hefer

We’re delighted to announce that Vibe Communications has acquired Melbourne based Colocation, Hosting and Virtual Server provider Rackcentral.

We have shown significant growth in New Zealand and Australia through our IP transit, International Layer 2, Access Wholesale and VOIP portfolios and our appetite for growth means we had to look beyond our core bsuienss.

RackCentral plays a unique role in Australia, providing customers with colocation, virtual private servers (VPS), self-managed cloud hosting and physical server hosting on month to month contractual terms, meaning that it generates customer loyalty though service quality and technical capability rather than term contracts.

There are tremendous synergies and value add opportunities for both our customer bases and we’re very excited about the products and services we’ll be able to take to market.

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Punakaiki Fund and Snowball Effect

22 May 2015

Punakaiki Fund will soon be presenting an offer through the Snowball Effect platform.

We are pleased to announce that we have selected Snowball Effect to present our fund raising offer to members of the public. Equity crowdfunding allows us to reach out to people who up until now have been unable to invest in Punakaiki Fund. This includes many of the investors who supported us in the 2013 Public Offer, when we did not reach the minimum.

Since April 2014 Punakaiki Fund has raised over $4 million from private investors, and invested into 10 great companies. We are seeing very strong growth in both revenue from those companies and in the overall value of the investment portfolio. The companies we have invested in are MindscapeBoardingwareVibe CommunicationsTimelyInfluxHQOnceitWeirdlyRedSeedSocial Code and Revert.

The crowdfunding offer will seek to raise up to $2 million (the maximum allowable under NZ law), will be alongside private offers to existing and new Exempt Investors.

Sign up
 to our mailing list and pre-register at Snowball Effect to ensure that you get early access to the investment. We do not expect to make another offer to the public in the next few years, but it is our intention to IPO in 2-4 years time.

Posted in NZ Business | Tagged | 2 Comments

When will electric cars take over?

I’ve been browsing a number of transport presentations from 2015 IPENZ Conference, which was held on 24 March. One, from Andrew Jackson from the Ministry of Transport has the following chart, as an example model of Electric Vehicle uptake.

I’ve previously done my own crude hybrid vehicle modelling, based largely on the uptake in Japan, and our future adoption of their fleet as ours. That resulted in the chart below, and estimated that new vehicle sales would hit 50% around 2025, and that the fleet itself would take a lot longer to transition.

However since then we have also seen the emergence of the Tesla Model S, which shows for me, and many others, that the superiority of the electric car is a foregone conclusion. While the Tesla is expensive, it’s also luxurious, quiet, extraordinarily quick, reliable, safe and has long range. Tesla and other manufacturers (like BMW with the i3 and i8 and an amazing ) are showing that as battery costs continue to decrease in cost and increase in performance the old internal combustion powered cars will become obsolete.

I would argue that the pace of change is going to be limited by the availability of batteries, which I also believe will be a highly competitive space, where giant capital investment will deliver temporary market dominance, similar to the computer memory game in the past. The first players to make are move are Tesla themselves, who along with Panasonic are building a so-called Gigafactory to produce batteries in Nevada. Those batteries will have a ready market in Tesla cars, homes (as power packs) and in other manufacturer’s electric vehicles. I anticipate this will be the first of many large battery factories, whether by Tesla or other enterprises.

Given enough gigafactories will we see a faster transition to electric vehicles? Will we see a chart like this?

I hope we will, but it won’t be  for a while. Tesla sold just over 10,000 vehicles in the first quarter of 2015, while about 3 million cars and light trucks are sold each month in the USA. Tesla’s ambition is to sell 500,000 cars a year by 2020, which is still a tiny fraction of the USA market. However I consider the Model S as the Apple iPhone of the car market, with a clearly increasingly superior product, fast development pipeline and the ability to increasingly capture the best segments and highest margins while the rest of the manufacturers scramble to deliver minimum economic volume and at low margins.

There is a very long way to go, and although we are very close to complete superiority of electric cars over internal combustion, let’s not forget how slow moving the car industry really is.

Posted in NZ Business | 3 Comments

Thanks for no insurance Air NZ (really)

It’s excellent to see that Air NZ has removed the default opt-in for travel insurance with their website sell process.  They have replaced the opt-in with the big orange button below.

I’ve tested the process and there is no need to deselect the insurance. The amount of space dedicated to the selling of insurance seems a bit over the top, I guess because internal fighting meant trying as hard as they can to retain the revenue. The issue is that this will introduce/retain more pain to the sales process and thus reduce overall flight sales. Experienced travellers will learn to ignore it.

Two previous posts referring to this insurance.

Posted in NZ Business | 2 Comments

“Arrives late for flight, if known”

It’s not rated as secret, but the Transportation Security Agency behavioural observation checklist and form for detecting possible terrorists has been disseminated on the web.

Unfortunately the checklist contains a large number of factors that are arguably simply normal behaviour when confronted by a wall of security, and the list has very low benchmarks for escalation.

I tried filling out the checklist for my own behaviours when flying. I’m not a good flyer – I don’t like crowds, can’t stand queues and loath inefficient systems. New Zealand’s airline systems are amongst the best in the world, but while going through security is usually a minor inconvenience, I can sometimes be a bit annoyed with it all.

The first section of the form is Observation and Behaviour Analysis for Stress, Fear and Deception Factors. I scored myself with 42 points, which is well above the limit for automatic referral to law enforcement officers of just 6 points.

The form starts badly, with the first item “Arrives late for flight, if known” (1 point) almost an automatic tick for me. The next item is “avoids eye contact with security personnel or LEO” (1 point), which, yes, I almost always do in a bid for efficiency at the security checkpoints. I have no interest in talking about my luggage, don’t want them to touch my stuff and lose 3 points with “Does not respond to authoritative commands” when I ignore the question of whether I have checked my pockets (I have). I can also lose points with the  “cold, penetrating stare” (2 points) that my be interpreted when I blankly ignore any inefficient security staff who are holding up travellers.

I also have my own rules about travelling with luggage – I never let it out of my sight, and don’t go through the personal scanner until my luggage is inside the luggage scanner. That loses me points for “hesitation/indecision on entering checkpoint or submitting to screening process” (2 points) and “does not respond to authoritative commands” (3 points) again, and as is becoming clear “displays arrogance and verbally expresses contempt for the screening process” (2 points) is potentially easy to pick up, especially when I am called out by the bomb screening people for the 5th time in a row.

Two of the easier ones for me to earn points are “scans area, appearing to look for security personnel or LEO” (2 points) which I do to figure out which is the shortest and most efficient queue, and “appears to be confused or disorientated” (3 points),  either because I am thinking about more important things or because the security system is new to me and I am seeking to understand what is happening.

The next part is something called SPOT resolution. I counted a score of 17 between the Signs of Deception and Unusual Items that I could carry. The limit for this section before escalation is just one – if you have tow or more then that law enforcement officer is called.

This part of the form reinforces that essentially everyone has to act to get through security. Travellers transiting from a long distance international flight, for example, could easily exhibit Signs of Deception like “delayed response to questions“, “Excessive comments about screening process“, “excessive perspiration” and, for those who forgot to brush their teeth towards the end of the flight “Covers mouth with hand when speaking“. Remember – any two of these and the law officer is called.

I’ve travelled through a lot of borders, and I do know that the best thing to do is to adopt a polite, submissive yet firm, and efficient yet endlessly patient approach. At some borders and security checkpoints you have to be very strict on yourself, and this form shows yet again that TSA security has very low tolerance for non conformance.

But I would strongly suspect that this list is not used, in practise, as rigidly as it is written, especially by experienced officers who are used to seeing, for example, a plane full of Kiwis transiting through LAX. But then again there is plenty on that list for an officer to escalate pretty much any passenger that they want to the next level. If the officers are experienced, well trained and well managed then that’s a good thing, but the reverse is true as well.

Because the issue here is that the “bad people” know about this list, have trained  for getting through security and tested themselves. Getting caught this way (without outside information) seems very rare – while the TSA brags about finding firearms on occasion, they seldom if ever talk about catching people with firearms who had intent to use them.

And there are giant holes in the system. Airline and sea cargo are the biggest gaps, but sadly in the last two years the major cause of (deliberate) aviation disasters appears to have from  actions from someone in the cockpit.

The economic cost of security, and most of it is borne by the passengers and airlines, needs to be appropriate to the size of the risk. I’m not convinced that we are close, even in New Zealand where our security systems are generally efficient. We are unfortunately, largely at the mercy of the US TSA, which drives international conduct. The TSA in turn is largely at the mercy of the US Congress who probably don’t even realise that they are the only ones that can fix this.

Posted in NZ Business

Air New Zealand challenges loyal customers to move elsewhere

Yesterday Air New Zealand suddenly changed their credit card loyalty program, switching from BNZ to Westpac. There are, apparently, “probably over 100,000” customers affected. And I’m one of them.

It’s a privilege

It’s a privilege to have Air New Zealand as our national carrier. For a number of years now they have been at the forefront of the global airline industry, bringing in a series of customer-focused innovations. Above all the front line staff are consistently friendly, sincere and have a can-do attitude.

It’s a privilege to be able to fly at all really. It’s fanciful even that we can choose to commute through the air to and from another city in a day, and Air New Zealand makes that sort of commuting easy. It’s a privilege to live in a society where so many can afford to do so, with Air New Zealand carrying over 1 million passenger journeys in January 2015 alone.

It was inspiring to bear witness to the Air New Zealand turnaround. Back in the early 2000s Air New Zealand was atrocious, but under the leadership of first Ralph Norris then Rob Fyfe it gradually improved. Those leaders put the customer experience at the centre of everything, and as the changes appeared, the staff were increasingly happier and therefore we customers enjoyed the experience even more.

In 2010 I summed it up – Air New Zealand is the best – here are some reasons, finishing “well done Air New Zealand – you have made us proud.”

We care

Complaining about airlines is perennial fun it seems, as most airline travel seems contrived to increase stress levels of everyone in the airport and on the plane. So it does seem a little petty to hold Air New Zealand to account when they still easily exceed the experience on offshore equivalents.

But hold them to account we shall. For it’s not about our own experiences, but about the country, as a great national carrier brings strong economic benefit to us all. Tourists are far more likely to come here, we are more likely to fly to see each other internally and  we are all more likely to travel domestically and offshore for business. The more we fly, the better the wheels of commerce turn, the better the economy does and the more tax we pay. The primary shareholder of Air New Zealand is the NZ government, and they should be contemplating the value of the airline in this way.

Enter the rot. 

For me it was the strawberry jam, when, back in 2011, then new CEO Christopher Luxon talked about switching out the decent strawberry jam for a cheaper alternative, bragging that the new jam was “good enough.” It wasn’t.

But it’s also the insistence on retaining the opt-out $10 insurance per flight, something which the Commerce Commission is finally taking action on. It’s the removal of drinkable coffee, the desperately unhealthy snacks and regional fares that are not fair and the increasingly cramped flights to Australia.

And of course Air New Zealand are still partnered with the execrable United, the only airline in world to consistently misplace my bags and the source of much customer hate.

“We’re making changes to our Airpoints earning credit cards”

Yesterday we learned that the BNZ Air NZ cards are being swapped out for Westpac cards. Apparently “you’ll need to consider a different credit card.

This is a big change and there is a lot at stake here – Westpac CE David McLean is quoted by NZ Herald saying:

“There’s [sic] a lot of customers who from the first of April won’t be able to earn airpoints on their BNZ credit cards, probably over 100,000.

and

“We know from our research into this type of customer base, that these are people to whom earning airpoints is really, really important.
“They love travel and they want to keep earning it on their spend so they’re going to need to be looking around for a credit card that does help them earn airpoints”
“It’s a really compelling offer and we’re going to compete very, very vigorously,” McLean said.
“We’re very confident we’ll win a large proportion of these customers, but we’re not putting a target on it.”

Air New Zealand’s GM of Loyalty is Hamish Rumbled, and he said “More than 20 per cent of all credit card spend in New Zealand is on Airpoints earning credit cards.”

So 100,o00 people are affected, they are all fans of BNZ (they have the card) and of Air New Zealand, and now Air New Zealand and Westpac are asking them to change loyalty.

How much are these 100,000 customers worth? 

It depends whether they are transactors or revolvers.

Transactors pay their bill each month, and so the bank nets 0.5-1% (I really don’t know) from the merchant fees, along with the annual fee. With these assumptions if you spend $2,000 a month then the bank might net $100-250 per year. But these loyalty cardholders would arguably spend a lot more than the average cardholder, as they have to buy a critical mass of airline tickets for the program to be worth it, so I am going to estimate (or guess)  that the average transactor is worth $500 per year.

Revolvers are much more valuable though, as they hold their credit card debt over each month, and at 19% or so that’s an expensive thing to do. So a revolver holding a $10,000 average balance pays about $1900 a year. I don’t know what the average balance would be, so let’s choose an equally arbitrary $1500 per year average for loyalty card revolvers.

What’s the split between the two? Again I have no idea, so let’s choose to go with $800 per customer, which implies something in the order of $80 million of net return is at stake. Overall I’d be surprised if the potential net value for these cardholder wasn’t in the range of $50-300 million per year.

This excludes the bigger prize of acquiring customers who bring their mortgage (especially) and other business across, worth more thousands per customer per year.

I have no idea how the deal between Westpac and Air New Zealand works, but when we see this much value at stake we can easily argue that Air New Zealand seems to have  chosen the prospect of more money now over customer happiness and loyalty.

Challenging our loyalty

In New Zealand we are lucky to have some very fine banks, standing almost alone in the world in weathering the economic storms of the global financial crisis. I like BNZ, my bank, and have a lot of business with them. I tried and failed with Kiwibank a few years ago, have an account with ASB and have no affinity with the undoubtedly fine folks at Westpac of ANZ.

I want to stay with BNZ. They happen to be in a good customer-centric place right now. So why should I reward them by leaving?

This is a deliberate attempt by Westpac and Air New Zealand to challenge the loyalty of 100,000 valuable Air New Zealand and BNZ customers. Some will move – perhaps to Westpac, or maybe to Kiwibank, ANZ or American Express, who also have Air New Zealand loyalty cards (for now). Others, probably most, will not move and so their Air New Zealand experience will move down a notch, yet again.

So these customers will be challenging their assumptions about their airline loyalty. It’s not that painful to switch airlines for international travel, not nearly as as painful as switching banks.

 

Not a nice way to do business

The way this news was released was poor. It appeared on the Air New Zealand website and stormed through media well before customers were told. The Twitter exchange below is insightful (start from the bottom):

The allegations are that Air New Zealand was working with Westpac for some time on the deal, and that BNZ was only informed at the last minute. That’s certainly true for at least some customer facing people working at BNZ, who should have known earlier.

If true this is not the nice way to do business, especially for a NZ icon like Air New Zealand, who should be a guardian of our defining kiwi value of fairness.

I threw rocks at BNZ on Twitter, unjustifiably it seems. They say they are responding to this change by moving from regarding with AirNZ Airpoints Dollars to rewarding with New Zealand Dollars (a far more negotiable currency). We have yet to see what else they can conjure up to retain customers. I hope they do it well.

New Zealand is a small place, and we have each one set of ethics. My set makes me react fast to unfairness, and to aggressively fight to help great companies that place customers first continue to do so. That meant a long series of tweets last night about this issue, and this article.

I feel that Air New Zealand board and executive team need to examine the way this played out versus Air New Zealand’s values. Was this fair? Can this be fixed? What’s the next erosion of customer experience?

Times change. Like many I used to choose Qantas over Air New Zealand, and it appears that Qantas is on the rise again, even making an offer, now closed, to Air New Zealand Gold status holders to get the Qantas equivalent for free.

In summary

I’d rather not have to write such tirades.

I’d rather the businesses I choose keep understanding that long term customer centricity has far more value via than short term profit taking.

But Air New Zealand seems to keep falling for these short term profit-centric answers, and this is at the expense of not just long term value for shareholders, but also for the entire New Zealand economy.

Enough.

Posted in NZ Business | Tagged , | 4 Comments