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Wellington startup secures $1.25m, looks to develop team and tech

By Catherine Knowles, Thu 1 Jul 2021

Marama Labs, the Wellington-based deep tech startup, has secured $1.25 million in new funding as the business looks to expand.

The round was co-led by US-based venture capital firm Quidnet Ventures and New Zealand Growth Capital Partners (NZGCP), with support from several New Zealand investors.

Marama Labs’ chemical analysis tools give industrial customers, such as wineries, chemical insights on their products.

According to the company, when combined with its cloud-based data-analytics platform, Marama Labs helps customers control and optimise their production processes, save money, and build products and brands that connect with consumer demand.

The company states that the funds will be used to expand the team, grow its customer base, and further develop the Marama Labs proprietary hardware and software platform.

In addition, the investment will allow Marama Labs to continue to expand its reach to international customers and markets in the US and Europe.

Marama Labs CEO and co-founder Dr Brendan Darby, “With a customer list already including several leading New Zealand and Australian wineries, and international distribution partnerships in place in Australia and in-discussion in Europe.

"Customer feedback shows users are already seeing significant value from the product and understanding what it can do to help them transform their businesses.”

On the company's unique value proposition and potential for growth, Darby says, “The science behind our sensors is pretty groundbreaking, and our customers are already telling us they’re unlocking new value since adopting the platform.

"It’s allowing them to respond proactively to the changes in the global wine landscape in ways they just couldn’t before.”

He says, “Winemakers spend millions of dollars each year producing some great products, and they’re truly skilled at what they do.

"Yet before Marama Labs, there had been no simple way to understand, manage, and control several of the most critical chemical components that underpin the best wines. Wine is such a complex product.

"We’re using light to track colour and flavour characteristics from essentially the grape to the bottle. This gives winemakers the best science right when they need it - in the loop between wine producer and wine consumer.”

Darby says Marama Labs is excited to enter its next phase of growth.

NZGCP investment director Marcus Henderson commented on the funding round.

He says, “Co-investing alongside the likes of Quidnet Ventures allows global experience and connection opportunities that help foster Kiwi innovation. We’re excited to be backing Marama Labs via our Aspire fund and supporting them on their next phase of growth."

Quidnet Ventures says that they immediately saw the potential for Marama Labs’ technology platform, and it aligns well with the experience of the fund’s team.

Quidnet Ventures founder and general partner Mark Bregman says, “Leading the investment round in Marama Labs is a natural step for Quidnet Ventures. Given my background in experimental physics and the wine industry, I see Marama Labs revolutionising the way winemakers characterise their wine and target the desires of their customers."

Bregman says, “Brendan and the team’s vision to transform process control in liquid production systems is both brave and refreshing. Many wine companies rely on the inertia of consumer demand and very traditional prestige brand positioning.

"Marama Labs is right on the frontier of the changing models being driven by technology adoption in this market, both on the production and consumer sides, and is fast-tracking the winemaking experience into the digital era. I am excited to be supporting their growth.”

Marama Labs has initially focused its efforts on targeting the wine industry. However, its spectroscopy technology has broad application in a range of other industries, including other beverages, water testing, and pharmaceuticals.

Expansion into different industry verticals is part of the company’s longer term roadmap, according to Darby.

He says, “We are building a future where a wide range of industrial customers can use our platform to seamlessly monitor, manage, and tailor their production processes to both improve quality and improve sales. It’s an exciting journey.”

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