Being a Crowdfunding Investor

Simon Papa, down-to-earth lawyer with a penchant for crowdfunding, shares his thoughts on what you should expect and do as a crowdfunding investor in a NZ company.

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Crowdfunding is an exciting development but what does it mean to be an investor? When it comes to equity crowdfunding it means that you own a part of the company – you own shares.  You ultimately benefit if the company is successful, but you also risk losing your whole investment if it isn’t.  I’ve briefly considered below some of the things you can expect and can do once you’re an investor.

Communication

You can hopefully expect good communication from the company.  While at law the company has limited obligations to proactively communicate with you (and very few if you hold non-voting shares), there’s an expectation that crowdfunded companies will regularly update you on their progress.  If you have voting shares then you can expect an annual report before the annual general meeting (AGM).  Also, as a shareholder and regardless of the rights attached to your shares, you have the right to request information from the company, but they aren’t obliged to provide that information (and might impose an administration fee), particularly where it is commercially sensitive.  You do have a separate right to inspect and ask for copies of certain company records, including shareholder resolutions and financial statements.

The AGM

The company must hold an AGM (and invite you!).  It’s an opportunity to find out more about the company’s progress and future plans and to ask questions of the directors (the company might make it possible to attend using technology). Tea and biscuits (or something better) might be laid out for you.  Or they might not, so check beforehand if refreshments are your main reason for turning up! An AGM must be held within six months of the company’s financial year balance date so, if that’s 31 March (which it usually is), then you can expect an AGM to be held no later than the end of September.

Rewards

The company might have offered shareholder discounts as an incentive to invest.  So use them if they’re of value to you.  But if you’re getting more than minor discounts check to make sure that the company has made arrangements to deal with tax arising – some companies pay your share of tax for you.

Selling your shares

You can sell your shares, though the law places restrictions on sales in some situations.  There is currently no stock exchange for trading crowdfunded shares so finding a buyer might be difficult.  If you do want to sell you could contact the company to see if they know of potential buyers (though because of restrictions at law the company may have limited ability to assist).  However you may not be looking to sell.  Many investors invest with other goals in mind.  You might have invested because you believe in what the company is doing (and are less concerned about an economic return).  You may have invested to enjoy shareholder discounts, to earn dividends, or to benefit from a future sale of the company or its business (though this is by no means guaranteed).  Or you may have a  mixture of those goals.  Dividends are probably unlikely for long periods where the company is growing fast, since the focus is on reinvesting profits to support sustained growth and hopefully significant value add.

Enjoy the ride!

Enjoy the ride and remember that this post is a very broad (and incomplete) summary only and is not legal or financial advice.  The Financial Markets Authority provides useful information for investors.  The law is complex and investing is risky so make sure you seek appropriate professional advice before acting.

 

(A beautiful lawyer’s flourish at the end there, Simon!)

Simon is the director of Cygnus Law Limited. He’s passionate about providing sound, understandable and relevant legal advice that helps to add value.

 

What's Up Wednesday

Thought-Wired

Aug 24

For more than six million people around the world, daily communication is a struggle. Due to severe physical disabilities like cerebral palsy or motor-neuron disease, these people (who often have sound, healthy minds) cannot move or speak, and must rely on complex and convoluted methods in order to express themselves to their carers and families.

The team behind Thought-Wired decided that given the technology available today, that simply wasn’t good enough. And so they dedicated themselves to creating nous™: a brain-sensing technology that detects the user’s thought patterns and turns them into actions. By selecting words and images on a computer screen, people can communicate with those around them – and as the technology develops, the possibilities for how much more control they could have are endless.

Thought-Wired have successfully created and trialled a prototype of the software – now they want to take it to the market. That’s why they’re equity crowdfunding: they’re reaching out to their crowd to gain the funds they need to take their business to the next level, and improve the quality of life for their customers. Their campaign has only been open for a week and they’ve already raised well over half their minimum goal – so to find out more about why you should be getting on board, we had a chat to Founder and CEO Dmitry Selitskiy.

How are you finding the campaign so far?

We’re positively overwhelmed by the response and the support. We knew we had fans and interested investors alike, but running out of the gate like we did in the first 36 hours was a fantastic surprise. Now we’re about to cross the 2/3 of minimum target mark, and are already past 1/3 to maximum within the first week!
On top of that, there’s so much more activity happening surrounding the campaign besides direct participation of investors: new connections, new opportunities, and a continious stream of energy and support. It’s very humbling and encouraging!

What have you got planned for the rest of the campaign – anything for us to look forward to?

Our campaign launch event was a wild success but unfortunately not everyone could make it. We’re busy thinking up ways of how to get more people to experience the nous™ tech, meet us, ask questions and provide feedback. Stay tuned for announcements!

Anything you want to shout out to your crowd?

Just the biggest Thank You! We could not get here without your ongoing support and encouragement. Together we can really change the world!

P.S. just in case you have not seen it still, check us out on last week’s Seven Sharp!

To find out more about Thought-Wired and help change the lives of disabled people worldwide, check out their campaign right here.

What's Up Wednesday

Cult Wine

Aug 17

Looking for a wine that will rock your world? We have the campaign for you.

Back in early 2015, Jules van Costello and Asher Boote had just founded Hillside Kitchen & Cellar in the heart of Wellington. Thanks to its creative European-style cuisine and its enticing wine list, this restaurant quickly became a favourite among Wellingtonians, and earned accolades from the likes of the Dominion Post and Cuisine Magazine. But Jules and Asher noticed something else, too: as their restaurant grew in popularity, so too did the demand for the kinds of wines they championed: wines with “character, personality and integrity”. So often, those wines were only available to buy from their little outlet in Thorndon – but they were determined to change this.

So they came up with the idea for Cult Wine, a subscription-based service offering some of the best wines available in NZ. Each month, subscribers will receive 6 bottles of wine to try, chosen not only to reflect the season but also, with three tiers of membership available, chosen to reflect their budget.

Clearly, this is something kiwis are keen to get behind. Don’t believe us? Check out Cult Wine’s campaign page, where they’ve already more than quintupled their campaign goal! We had to hear more about this roaring success, so we got in touch with Jules himself:

How are you finding the campaign so far?

Amazing, we are thrilled by the support. It’s always tough to gauge a new market when launching a new business but the support we’ve had already is telling us there is a real desire for the kinds of wines we are going to be offering.

What do you have planned for the rest of your campaign? Anything for us to look forward to?

Wellington on Plate is underway, so I’m going to be at Hillside pouring wine quite a lot over the next few weeks. Likewise we were also at the NZ Chocolate Festival pouring some amazing wines to match with Chocolate on Friday and Saturday last week.

Anything you want to shout out to your crowd?

Thank you! Thanks for all your support and thanks for sharing the message. Remember, you’re not just supporting us but you are supporting all of the small producers we buy from!

To share the message more and get a subscription while you still have the chance, check out Cult Wine’s campaign page here.

Our results and our friends

TL:DR, we didn’t hit our forecast last year, and we’re ok talking about that.

It’s a funny beast, transparency – since we went out and crowdfunded ourselves, our forecasts are out there in the ether (and journalists’ hard drives). And when it’s time for us to post our annual accounts as a Financial Service Provider, our results are there for the world to see.

Not that we mind – transparency is our bread and butter. We truly, deeply believe that openness and accountability make the world a better place. (That said, it grates a bit when commenters on news stories about us can still hide behind a pseudonym, and frankly, behave like schoolyard bullies).

It’s true, we didn’t hit our forecast last year. For a whole bunch of reasons. Because educating companies through the process takes time, because we’d calculated our forecast on two strong months at the start of the year, because the market got crowded, because the first blush of being in a new industry faded, because we stick to our fee structure in the race to the discount barrel bottom, because it’s fucking hard work in start up land.

But the explanation for what happened in the past really isn’t important, what is important is what we’ve done since last financial year. Which, in start up time was light years ago. 

We’ve:

  • Launched an education programme to help companies through the process, CrowdfundingU – better supported, well prepared companies are more successful.
  • Gotten two new board members to help build our strategy, Jessica and Mel, with expertise in financial markets, sales and marketing.
  • Launched our lending platform, with Eat My Lunch hitting the ball out of the park on their Lunch Bond campaign. PledgeMe.Lend will enable more great NZ companies AND organisations access the funding they need. 
  • Changed our structure (with our team, not against them) to better match the evolving market and demands of our business.
  • Had over 1,000 successful campaigns through the platform. Yep, 1,000+ campaigns have gotten funded through us.

 

And, we’re excited. Really excited. Tired, but excited.

Things like ParrotDog are happening, things like Eat My Lunch are happening, things like The SpinOff are happening. These are all campaigns, across our three types of crowdfunding, that have done what our platform does best: activate their own networks to make their plans happen. And, their plans are so much more than just about making some investor they’ve never met a 30 times return. They’re about strengthening communities, building brands, and making a change in the world (even if it’s a beer based change).

Project successes in last week

 

But, these campaigns can be hard to find, hard to nurture, and hard to support. So that’s where you come in.

We want to launch a new idea today: PledgeMe.Friends. We think there’s really nothing more powerful than our own crowd, you’ve shown us time and again that you back us when we ate our own dog food (twice), when we made a magazine, when we wanted a new board member, and when you all decided I seriously needed a holiday. 

What we really need most right now is more companies and organisations we can help through project, equity and lending campaigns. That’s where you come in:

If you are the first person to shoulder tap a company to run a campaign, and they end up running a successful campaign, we’ll give you a $500 success fee (either direct to you or pledged towards the campaign for you). The campaign needs to meet its goal by its deadline, and it needs to raise more than $50,000.

 

How is this going to work?

  • Fill out this form here.
  • If you’re the first person to recommend that company, we’ll get in touch and ask for an intro (if you can do it)
  • The more details about how we can help the better
  • You could even help them get to their goal – support, share their campaign, be their cheerleader (with benefits).

 

Yep – you can be from the company. If you aren’t the first person on board to recommend someone we’ll let you know, and send a high-five your way.

The path to changing how New Zealanders do business was always going to be tough, and we’re so thankful to our crowd for supporting us. Here’s to the next great campaigns that come through our doors. Hopefully with your help, friends!

What's Up Wednesday

Wise Boys Burgers

Aug 10

9 months ago, the team at Wise Boys Burgers had a dream: to create the nation’s first fully plant-based food joint. Armed with nothing but that dream, some meagre savings and a whole lot of gumption, they worked tirelessly to build a trailer, and took their burgers to the people.

And the people loved them! Customers went mad for these meatless burgers, and their food truck was praised loudly by everyone from Heart of the City to Urban List. But as they’ve grown more popular, they’re struggling to keep up with demand – and so they want to expand, so that more people can enjoy their wonderful burgers.

This is why they’re turning to PledgeMe. In order to do things properly, they need to refit their entire trailer. They’re putting up half that cost, but they need the help of their crowd to get them the rest of the way. They’re offering some phenomenal rewards, including a date with the Wise Boys team, a jar of their amazing aioli, or even a chance to name their new truck!

We wanted to hear more about their planned revolution, so we got in touch with the brilliant Beka, the girl behind Wise Boys!

How are you finding the campaign so far?

It’s been rad! We’ve had a tonne of verbal support and it’s cool to see that translate into a tangible thing. On the first day someone bought one of our higher value rewards to win the rights to naming our trailer, which got us pretty hyped about the whole thing! It’s also quite nerve-wracking though, because you’re putting yourself out there and just hoping that you’ve communicated well and that people get it, and are up for supporting you.

What do you have planned for the rest of your campaign – anything for us to look forward to?

We have a few more rewards that we’re going to launch! And then of course you can look forward to coming and getting a burger from our pimped out trailer once we’re done!

Anything you want to shout out to your crowd?

On our last night hundreds of you guys stood in the rain waiting for our burgers, which just reinforced why we’re doing this whole thing. Thanks for being part of the food revolution, thanks for your kind words, thanks for eating our burgers, thanks for telling your friends. Let’s keep making this thing a whole lot bigger than just us!

To find out more about Wise Boys and make burgers not war, head over to their campaign page (or check them out on Instagram!)

 

What's Up Wednesday

The Spinoff’s War for Auckland

Aug 3

The Spinoff has been delighting us with smart news stories since it was launched in 2014. Offering an alternative take on traditional media coverage, they’ve discussed everything from Radio Hauraki’s mispronunciation to women’s position in Gloriavale. And now, they’re once again turning their focus to something that should concern us all: the future of Auckland.

The team at the Spinoff believe the upcoming elections and Unitary Plan are “the most important political events in Auckland in decades.” And they’re concerned traditional media will become bogged down in the worries of NIMBYs and fail to do these stories justice. They want to step up and frame the election as the crucial event it is – but to do so, they need your help.

And so many of you have provided help already! Less than two days after their campaign launch, the Spinoff had already doubled their target. With over 300 pledgers, they’ve now passed $23,000 – but they’re hoping to get even further. If they raise $25,000 they can create more noise, and add more fulltime staff to cover the stories. With awards ranging from bespoke tweets to exclusive advertising rights, there’s no reason not to get on board – but we got in touch with editor Duncan Greive to hear even more reasons why you should.

How are you finding the campaign so far?

Overwhelming. We were initially debating whether to go for $5000 or $10,000, and only put in the stretch goal at the last minute, almost as an afterthought. Not because we didn’t have a thousand great ideas on which to spend the money – but because we’d never asked before, and had no idea how our audience would respond. So to have so many people join the War so quickly, and be so passionate about it – it’s humbling and almost intimidating. We’ve talked a big game, and are determined to deliver.

What have you got planned for the rest of your campaign – anything for us to look forward to?

We’ve already hired economist Shamubeel Eaqub part-time through the election to do analysis and fact-checking – his ‘Shamubeel calls Bullshit’ series is going to be a good time. We’ve commissioned a piece of web development which we’re really excited about. And there’s a collaboration between an incredible illustrator and feature writer which we think will frame the issue in a quite stark way. And a tonne more. But I really don’t want to spoil the surprise.

Anything you’d like to shout out to your crowd?

Just that we love them, and have felt both the excitement and the sadness coming off them since we launched. This was really about trying to cover this incredibly important moment in a way which reflected the voices which have too often been shut out of this debate. We’ve heard a lot from people who might have a terraced house go up next to their property while also having the land further escalate in value. I’m not nearly so concerned for them as for those we haven;t heard from – the generations of young and less well-off who have been locked out due to the excessive amount of concern for the first group. We’ve been delivered a very good Unitary Plan. Now we want to watch to make sure it passes relatively unravaged.

If you’re passionate about the future of Auckland and want to see the Unitary Plan go unravaged, head over to The Spinoff’s campaign page and support them here.

What's Up Wednesday

Sonny Southon’s Third Album

Jul 27

 

This singer/songwriter grew up in Upper Hutt – but her quest to sing has taken her much further. In her ventures overseas, Sonny sang for everyone from Sir Bob Geldof to Duran Duran, before signing a contract to take her talent solo. Now she’s striking out on her own once again – and this time, she’s inviting you along for the ride!

After two critically acclaimed solo albums and two self-funded singles to raise money for charity, Sonny is looking to fund her third album. In order to raise the funds she needs to get there, she’s offering her crowd awesome rewards like singing lessons, lunch dates, and even a full concert via skype. We caught up with Sonny to find out a bit more about her campaign.

How are you finding the campaign so far?

Great. Very happy with how PledgeMe is helping me promote and get it out there.  It’s an awesome opportunity to get help to record this album.

What do you have planned for the rest of the campaign – anything for us to look forward to?

I had a gig last Sunday @ Days Bay Pavilion in Eastbourne.  A nice acoustic set with a log fire and great pizza. Other gigs and events are updated on my website.

Anything you want to shout out to your crowd?

Just a massive thank you to every who has donated.  Having fans who want to hear my music inspires me to keep going.

Seeking new onesie wearing People Wrangler

PledgeMe is onesie central, and while our Chief People Wrangler Tash may never have worn a onesie, she’s taking it one step further and growing a whole new person to rock a onesie out. A PledgeMe baby! (yes, we are patiently waiting to see whether bubs will wear a dinosaur or a panda onesie…)

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[This is what the team would probably look like while discussing Panda’s vs. Dinosaurs – that’s Tash in the red]

Which means we’re after someone to fill the Tash sized hole in our lives while she is on maternity leave. Chief People Wrangler is an all-encompassing title, which means you may end up doing anything and everything to help ensure the PledgeMe boat sails smoothly. You’ll be the first and last point of contact for Projects, as well as making sure enquiries around PledgeMe.Lend and PledgeMe.Equity are taken care of by the right people.

 

No two days are the same, except for the fact that you are constantly inspired by amazing people doing cool things the length of New Zealand.

 

Now, here’s a list of Tash specific things that we’ll miss, but that you’re not required to bring to the table:

  • Her ability to knit and talk at the same time
  • Her good humour, even in tense Twitter situations
  • The way she just gets shit done, like the manual she decided to write for you (yes, you). It covers everything you could want to know and she decided to revamp it to be the most useable guide on the planet.
  • The fact that one day she’ll knit us a PledgeMe onesie. Right, Tash??

 

Here’s are the general qualities we’re looking for in the perfect People Wrangler:

  • Not afraid to be a bit quirky. We occasionally wear onesies to the office (but only on Wednesdays).
  • Attention to detail – passionate about inbox zero (TBH, inbox ten is fine too)
  • Tech able. No, you don’t need to be able to code C#, but you should know you should be able to work your way around embed code and excel spreadsheets.
  • Empathetic. You need to want to help people, and get the best out of every project creator that comes through your inbox / our office.
  • Able to think on your feet (and office chair). Happy to point out things you think could be improved, then leading the charge to fix ‘em.

 

What this actually means day-to-day:

  • Responding promptly to correspondence regarding projects, an understanding of CRM’s would be a bonus!
  • Supporting creators during project creation, and managing all the steps from reviewing initial request to project close out.
  • Financial management – you’ll be in charge of reconciling pledges, and creating payments to be authorised.
  • Answering enquiries in a timely manner – and forwarding on when help needed
  • Support at events (every few months – it’ll be fun, promise)
  • Picking up on the details around what we do on a daily basis, and finding ways to fix or improve our processes.

 

Hours: 10-15 hours per week – Must be able to work at least 2 hours per day (Monday to Friday)

Location: Wellington (though flexibility to work from home)

Rate: $20-25 p/h (depending on skills and experience)

Applications close EOP 29 July, and we’ll look to conduct interviews 2nd week of August. Please send your application through to anna@pledgeme.co.nz with an email talking about why you love crowdfunding and a link to your LinkedIn (or CV if you really want).

 

Ps. We’re really going to miss you Tash!

South Island Roadie: Part II

Over 7 days we met with over 200 entrepreneurs, doers, and supporters.

We travelled from Invercargill to Westport, and stopped a bunch of places in between. I wrote about the first leg of our roadtrip here, and this is what happened after we left the furthest Southern town (aside from Stewart Island that is).

 

Dunedin

Dunedin is my home town, so returning to the stomping ground of my youth is always a little bit disconcerting. Gone are many of the highlights of my university days (oh, Gardie), but replacing them are start up spaces, beautiful and massive street art, and an amazing re-use of the old commercial district.

We held our evening event in the Abacus Bio offices, which is part of a beautiful historic building on Moray Place. We had everything from berry farmers to tech start ups, from priests to students, ready to learn more about crowdfunding for companies. The room was packed, and it was at this exact moment we ran out of Crowdfunding magazines (sorry everyone!).

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There were some great questions, and a good of bit of weighing in from the attendees on their thoughts around investment, the law, and what a good campaign could look like.

Afterwards, we went out to Thai with some of the attendees, and got invited to park up outside of one of their houses for the night (well – I was outside, Kelsey got a bed!).

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Timaru

The next day we continued on our way to Timaru, where Shaun and the team at Vetta Technologies hosted us in their new co-working space. We had a mix of alumni there (Sam and Rachel from the Super Power Baby project came along to listen) through to cafe owners and local charities. We even had a shareholder, Craig, host some after event drinks downstairs.

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After a night in Timaru (thanks for the bed, Sam and Rachel!) we wove our way up to Christchurch.

It’s around this time that I introduced Kelsey to the podcast Serial. Our driving got a lot more intense after that, as Kelsey was listen with a renewed focus to what was happening over the sound system.

Christchurch

There we were lucky enough to have a crowd of our shareholders give us a place to stay, host us for our event, and be the overall fantastic folk that they are. The turn out for our crowdfunding talk had a similarly diverse feel with youth workers to a company that listed in 1999 showing up to learn more.

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We had the Sunday off after our Christchurch workshop, and had some great conversations overlooking Christchurch while listening to this playlist:

 

Westport

Our last two events were held over mountains in Westport. There was so much interest there, we held two events, and met with everyone from the Mayor to a powerbar company. We need to say a major thanks to Peter Howard, from Buller REAP for sponsoring and coordinating the events for us, and for Epic Westport for letting us use their beautiful (and new!) space.

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Massive thank you time

To all the attendees that crowdfunded to get us down South: thank you!

For all the event organisers & supporters who gave us spaces to speak / sleep: we couldn’t have done it without you.

And to the amazing folk (especially Rachael) at Jucy who sponsored the van we slept in: a HUMONGOUSLY HUGE THANK YOU! You made it possible for us not only to visit our crowd down South, but to sleep outside their houses in a non scary way :)

With over 200 of our crowd met while we toured the South, we feel like a North Island tour needs to happen. Do you agree? If you want us to come to your town, let us know in the comments below.

South Island Roadie: Part I

For someone that gets carsick, typing this blog in the back of our Jucy caravan while we drive to across Central Otago wasn’t the smartest move I’ve ever made. But, watching the terrain and inspired by the folk we’ve met, I thought I should share what we’ve seen and done and learnt so far on our South Island Roadie.

Our road trip kicked off on Tuesday, with Kelsey, Nick and I converging on Queenstown. After a delayed start (nothing like a diversion to Christchurch so we could find a bigger plan to fly in on) we arrived in beautiful cool Queenstown. Barely a cloud in the sky, dotted with parachutes and gliders weaving between the hills.

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Innovation Queenstown, Queenstown Resort College, and the University of Otago hosted 12 entrepreneurs for the first stop on our South Island roadie. We had everything from a fashion start up  to brewers to winemakers learning about the fundamentals of equity crowdfunding. We shared stories from our learnings, and heard more about the local experiences of the founders from Queenstown, Wanaka and Cromwell. Of developers working in hostels, ex Google employees finding work internationally but not in NZ, and entrepreneurs desperate to create companies that solved local and global problems.

We had the invite of a place to stay from one of our alumni, Craig, who created the Wonky Donkey man, and spent the night talking about life, creative funding, and watching shooting stars from his spa pool.

In the morning, we thought that the ice on the windshield would be easy enough to scrape off. Only after a first attempt did we realise that the ice was actually on the inside of our caravan, making us a bit late for our first meeting of the morning.

While our Chair completed some work skypes in the van, we met with a local entrepreneur to talk about her start up and Queenstown. After one of the best breakfasts we’ve ever had at Bespoke Cafe, we jumped in Ting’s car to see the magical spaces she works from (at Sherwood). We were sold.

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On the way to Invercargill we stopped in Cromwell, to visit Brendan who had attended our session the night before. He’s starting up an urban winery in Dunedin – bringing Central Otago grapes into the inner city to make his wine, and then bring it back to Central until it’s ready to consume. We got to taste test it a bit early.

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In Invercargill we were met at the Pride offices, and quickly shuttled to the Community Trust of Southland board room, where 35 locals converged on the offices to hear more about crowdfunding (and experience some beautiful local brews, care of Nash and Invercargill Brewery).

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We talked about crowdfunding for not for profits, had a gentleman break out his bubble blowing hat (he told me he was a better bubble blower than I was!) and met founders, social entrepreneurs, and event organisers.

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After a few (awesome) Invercargill Brewery beers, we headed out for dinner at Louis’ with some of the attendees. We learnt about the local economy, films, attempts to keep young people local, Swedes (the vegetable, not the people), and why everyone there stayed in Invercargill.

In the morning, we headed over to Invercargill Brewery (in our PJ’s) for a shower and a tour.

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Day three Post_3 - smallAfter our tour, we met up with the Love Local crew to learn more about urban farming, vegetable bags, feeding locals who live below the poverty line and Brexit (because, Brexit even affects folk in Invercargill!).

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Thanks so much to the 50 entreprenuers, founders, and doers that we met with over our first two days on tour. Here’s to you, you inspiring people.

Next up: our talks in Dunedin, Timaru and Christchurch!

Big thanks to Jucy for sponsoring us to take this entire road trip, and to Innovation Queenstown, the University of Otago, Queenstown Resort College, Pride Real Estate, Innov8 Invercargill for all supporting this leg of the trip.