NZ's PowerbyProxi lands $US4m Samsung investment; talks up power plug-free future

PowerbyProxi, the Auckland company that develops wireless charging technology, has landed a $US4 million investment from Samsung Ventures - the giant Korean company's venture capital arm.

The $US4 million has bought Samsung a 12.47% stake, implying a private equity value for PowerbyProxi of around $US32 million ($NZ40 million).

The deal will also see Samsung license PowerByProxi's technology, and Samsung Ventures America senior investment manager Michael Pachos join PowerbyProxi's board.

The deal is significant because it builds on an a $US5 million investment from US industrial electronics component maker TE Connectivity (formerly Tyco) in April, and takes PowerbyProxi's Series C funding to $US9 million

But, more, it could open a lot of doors. As well as being one of the world's biggest consumer electronics companies full stop, Samsung is now the world's top seller of cellphones, and neck-and-neck with Apple in smartphones. Smartphones could emerge as a key market for one of PowerbyProxi's products under development - a wireless charging power mat.

The deal, which closed Friday, involved two years of negotiations, chairman and CEO Greg Cross tells NBR ONLINE. Samsung gets a board seat as part of the package.

Mr Cross says it's possible Samsung will introduce its first consumer products incorporating PowerbyProxi wireless charging technology as early as the second half of next year.

Charging mats are already available (Nokia has one for its Lumia smartphone series) but are sold as after-market accessories, and often require phones to be inserted into a special sleeve. Mr Cross says sales are tiny; he sees the technology only going mainstream when it's incorporated into phones themselves - a possibility under PowerbyProxi's hookup with Samsung.

Earlier, at the Morgo conference in Queenstown, Mr Cross told NBR that in a decades time, we could see new homes being built without power plugs being put into the world.

"They'll be a proliferation of wireless charging pads - initially onto counters and desktops, but eventually as a part of furniture."

He also sees wireless charging in vehicles, and in industrial manufacturing.

He quotes an analyst report out this month that sees wireless charging growing from a minscule industry today to $US33 billion by 2019.

IPO talk
Mr Cross won't reveal the privately-held company's financials, but says its board's aim was to get a major electronics component maker and a major consumer electronics maker to invest. With US company TE Connectivity and Samsung filliing those two slots, and momentum building, the chairman is now talking about going public.

He says an IPO in the next 12 to 18 months is possible. 

And while he won't be pinned down to a specific exchange at this point, he tells NBR, "We’re very encouraged by the interest the NZX has in NZ tech and growth companies recently."

Commercialising research
Born out of research at Auckland University in 2007, PowerbyProxi is developing systems for wirelessly conducting power for everything from industrial machinery to wind turbines to its recently demo'd gadget for wirelessly recharging batteries without having to take them out of a consumer electronics gadget. It also has a "Proxy-Fi" prototype for wirelessly recharging smartphones.

Other investors include Movac, NBR Rich Lister and majority Datacom owner John Holdsworth, The Icehouse, Auckland University research commercialisation arm Uniservices, CEO Fady Mishriki and chairman Greg Cross. Movac's managing partners include another Morgo regular, NBR Rich Lister Phil McCaw.

Gunning for profit
PowerbyProxi has around 50 staff, including Mr Cross who recently moved from being executive chairman to a full-time role as chairman and CEO (with former CEO Fady Mishriki becoming senior vice president and chief technology officer).

While he won't comment on the privately-held company's financials, Mr Cross says PowerbyProxi is ontrack to become profitable over the next year.

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