Things seem to be coming into much sharper focus at Nyriad, the Cambridge-based supercomputing startup born out of NZ’s ultimately-unsuccessful bid to cohost the multi-billion Sky Kilometre Array (SKA project).
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It’s previously been a little hard to fathom exactly what the company – founded in 2015 – would eventually sell, or to whom.
Now, Nyriad has just completed an $11 million Series B round, with the funds drawn from existing shareholders – led by Guy Haddleton -and simultaneously converted $22m convertible note into equity.
Haddleton says the upshot is that the company now has $15m in cash to fund its market entry into the US, where he expects it to make its first sales.
At the same time as the raise, there has been sweeping change at the top.
Nyriad was co-founded by Matthew Simmons and Microsoft US alumnus Alex St John
St John left last year, while Simmons stood down as chief executive last week. He will still have some input as a consultant.
Haddleton has become chairman, while Herb Hunt – who has decades of experience with blue-chip management roles in North America, including a longtime stint as a VP at IBM – has been appointed Nyriad’s new CEO.
Was Simmons a classic case of an inventor-geek founder who needed to be replaced by someone with more people-management and business skills?
Haddleton has no comment on that point. “He just decided to resign,” he says.
There’s been talk of cutbacks at Nyriad, where Simmons previously promised to employ hundreds of engineers. In 2018, after Nyriad’s US$8.5m Series A raise, Simmons said the company had “just under 100” staff.
Today, Haddleton said the number was “in the 40s”.
Nyriad has made forays into a number of areas, including the blockchain technology that underpins cryptocurrencies.
Haddleton says after a review, it was decided Nyriad should focus purely on a high-performance storage controller, which it sees as the successor to the RAID technology that has long controlled how data is stored on a drive, or array of drives.
The chairman says the product is still at a pre-commercial phase, but Hunt is charged with opening an office on the US West Coast, the better to each the North American corporates who he sees as the anchor customers for the product.
What of Simmons’ plan to conquer the world from Cambridge, with a plan that was heavy on varsity interns?
“We’ll still hold on to some of Matt’s vision,” Haddleton says. Product development will continue in the small town.
But cracking the North American market will require boots on the ground in the US, he adds. Recruitment is underway for “experienced talent”.
Haddleton says he’s ready to chip in more of his own money if a Series C round is required.
The Nyriad raise caps a busy week for the rich lister – a former SAS captain who became an early investor in Xero and, with is wife Susie, co-founded two business-planning software ventures: Adaytum (sold to IBM for US$160m in 2003) and Anaplan (listed on the NYSE in 2018; today, its market cap is US$7.9b),
He has also been talking up another of his new investments, Covid-19 Vaccine Corporation (CVC), set up in May, which has just raised $3.3m for its homegrown effort to fight the coronavirus.
And after putting $15m into cannabis startup Helius Therapeutics, he’ll be keeping a close eye on the referendum result due this afternoon. The entrepreneur sees the bid for legalisation being defeated, given enrollment and voting numbers for the under-25s remained low next to more conservative demographics.
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