SODA: Good ideas turn into successful businesses

By Peter Tiffany

My Apiary co-founders Darren Bainbridge and Carl Vink, and marketing intern Steph Fankhauser with the four Fieldays innovation awards the company won this year.
My Apiary co-founders Darren Bainbridge and Carl Vink, and marketing intern Steph Fankhauser with the four Fieldays innovation awards the company won this year.

SODA works with founders from all industry sectors as it says good ideas and opportunities can be found anywhere.

Two notable examples are a mastitis diagnostic tool for dairy farmers and new technology transforming the way beekeepers monitor and manage hives.

Auckland company Farm Medix developed Check-Up through SODA, secured a licensing agreement and now sells the fast-turnaround mastitis diagnostic tool under licence.

The tool identifies the pathogen involved in a case of bacterial udder infection and helps the farmer determine if cases of mastitis are treatable, contagious or incurable.

Another Auckland company My Apiary, working with SODA, has transformed the still very manual and labour-intensive techniques used in the management of bees.

"My Apiary came to us and we helped with the formation of ideas, with structure and business growth, advice, market validation and research, says SODA operations manager Rachel Adams.

The way beekeepers gather information and assess the colony health had always been labour-intensive and caused huge inefficiencies for the industry.

Now it has a full apiary management system, has built a sales structure and its hardware and software are much in demand in the business.

"My Apiary has now come back to SODA for the second programme, and is taking the next step with further support," Ms Adams said.

"SODA is about solving problems, finding solutions to real problems," says Ms Adams.
"We help the founders and the rest follows. We talk to 300 founders in a year and of these 20 are backed - it is a robust process," she says.

For those offered a place in the programme SODA looks for the best people who know what to do.

Farm Medix entrepreneurs Natasha Maguire and Leon Spurrell.
Farm Medix entrepreneurs Natasha Maguire and Leon Spurrell.

"We make connections and shoulder tap the right people and say 'we would like to pay you to work with these people'. We don't have an investment fund, because then the money becomes the customer. We take on the founders as the customers."

SODA looks at the founder and the business 50-50, and seeks businesses that are interesting and unique.

"New businesses put tax dollars into a stronger economy," says Ms Adams. "We have a success sharing model. We take a 5 per cent equity and use profit to fund future entrepreneurs."

SODA also runs a co-working space with more than 30 commercial client companies housing more than 80 people in Wintec House in the centre of Hamilton.

Founders in the Waikato can access these services while in an incubation programme.

- Hamilton News

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