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Callaghan Innovation: best businesses you've never heard of

Hemi Rolleston has plenty on clever businesses to talk about.

OPINION: As Kiwis, we're often not the best at blowing our own trumpets.

Real or imagined, the tall poppy syndrome is one that people are wary of and no more so than in the business world.

Entrepreneurs are wary of showcasing their success as nobody wants to be, in the words of one former deputy prime minister about a then-future prime minister, a rich prick.

Pushpay CEO Chris Heaslip and chairman Bruce Gordon

But we at Callaghan Innovation have no hesitation in pushing our purpose of helping businesses succeed through technology and we're enormously proud of the achievements of New Zealand businesses at home and abroad.

That got us thinking – we hear a lot about the shining lights of New Zealand technology but there are many who aren't as well known in the public as they could be.

So, without further ado, and in no particular order, here are the best nine New Zealand companies you've never heard of.

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A Kiwisat satellite transmitter, made by Havelock North company Sirtrack, which was fitted to the penguin Happy Feet.

Auror

How often have you heard people say that it's not worth the time and effort of reporting a crime? With the vision of start-up tech company Auror, that effort can be largely taken out of the equation along with increasing the chance of catching offenders and preventing future crimes. 

Auror's software streamlines reporting to police, matches offenders with crimes, and even helps predict where they might strike next.

Callaghan Innovation has been privileged to work with Auror to put them in touch with major retailers who could use their services and to help them grow the business faster.

Pushpay

Pushpay has gone from whoa to go at lightspeed, growing its revenue at over 4500 per cent in the past year, making it the fastest growing company on the Deloitte Fast 50 list this year.

Callaghan Innovation helped Pushpay scale up and develop its payment platforms, which started with a coffee shop app and moved to the giving market with a focus on churches in the USA.

In three years, they have gone from two engineers to close to 90 and a total staff of 300. It's the type of investment that is likely to pay dividends for the New Zealand economy.

ADInstruments

ADInstruments may be one of the companies that helps make it all happen for others. It aims to make tools that help advance science research and education.

Starting with one Macintosh computer-connected system for Otago University over 30 years ago, they're now supplying to over 10,000 organisations around the world. Their tools range from software to help teach physiology, medicine and nursing, through to measuring devices capable of recording hundreds of thousands of samples.

We love their statement that they support science heroes producing ground-breaking research.

Ossis, OssAbility and Enztec

We're cheating here with a three-companies-for-one entry. It's an unfortunate fact for many people that as they get older, they need a hip or a knee joint replaced. Until you require one, you're unlikely to know the companies making the tools and implants to make that happen.

These three have connected in the past year in a Christchurch medical technology cluster. While they're in similar markets, they aren't direct competitors and working together means they can help each other with design issues and roadblocks.

Ossis designs and manufactures 3D printed titanium hip, knee and elbow joints, custom-fitted for an exact surgical fit. This year they produced their 100th custom-designed hip joint.

OssAbility also produces high-tech implants and a range of world-leading tools – for animals -- meaning vets can perform surgery with better results. They're at the absolute forefront of 3D printing in New Zealand.

Enztech make products for orthopaedic surgery, focusing on exceptional design and manufacturing ability.

Telogis

If those three are about getting your body running right, Telogis is about getting your fleet running right. Their technology helps getting the right number of vehicles on the road, going the right way at the right speed, and even making sure truck drivers wear their seatbelts.

Telogis are investing heavily in research and development. Callaghan Innovation's been able to help with a growth grant, which helps New Zealand meet targets to raise levels of R&D spending to levels closer to those of our international trading partners. 

Pro-Form

If you've ever had cause to look in the back of a ute in the past 20 or so years, you might have seen a protective lining made by Waikato-based Pro-Form.

They're exporting to 65 countries and what our team notices about Pro-Form is its design approach and business smarts. From designing the items that make it easy to transport things in the back of the ute, to making them so they can be packaged and transported efficiently.

Pro-Form is performing strongly in the highly competitive international auto market with big players.

Umajin

Umajin (like imagine but starting with "you") are not just building apps, they've produced a platform that lets non-coders build apps.

Described by one of Callaghan Innovation's people as "digital superstars", Umajin's plan is for businesses to be able to get apps ready to be used in days rather than months. The genius is in making app design visual rather than requiring everyone to be able to code.

They're also doing really well where some New Zealand businesses have struggled in the past – expanding. Their programs are built into many of the world's biggest hardware manufacturers.

Sirtrack

From its Hawke's Bay base, Sirtrack supplies animal tracking devices around the world, for everything from giant wetas to elephants, and emperor penguins to turtles.

It was Sirtrack's equipment that was used to see where the penguin dubbed Happy Feet went to when he was re-released in Antarctic waters in 2011 after washing up on a Kāpiti beach. The company's trackers have been used on over 550 wildlife species.

Sirtrack is pushing the boundaries of what's possible, currently looking at how to get tracking working under the ocean.

Sentient

Sentient are another company flying under the radar because what they do is make it easier for other organisations to keep track of what they've got happening.

It produces cloud-based software that can let everyone in an organisation see progress across key initiatives. Sentient has completed Callaghan Innovation's Build for Speed programme, designed to accelerate software development and speed up project delivery.

It's working with some of New Zealand's biggest companies, councils and government departments.

Circuband

We might be pushing it here to say this is a company you've never heard of because it has some high-profile users of its fitness resistance bands, including the Defence Force, New Zealand Rugby and Cricket Australia.

Circuband equipment is designed to be used anywhere and by anyone and is exporting around the world.

They've also contracted Callaghan Innovation to help develop high-tech sensor equipment for the bands, with 3D printed prototypes being part of the process. 

Manuka Health New Zealand

Te Awamutu-based Manuka Health is taking a value-added approach to the already celebrated manuka honey.

It's using R&D and high-tech industrial processes to see honey not just as the finished product but as the source for a range of health products and dietary supplements.

They've invested heavily in a new honey processing facility and laboratory and made good use of R&D grants.

Hemi Rolleston is the Callaghan Innovation interim chief executive.

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