Establishing a new business in an emerging industry takes drive, but a Business Mentor has helped power the rise of Hikotron, a vehicle charging specialist based in Hamilton. The journey so far is one that shows how the expertise and experience of a Mentor can help a team navigate their way towards growth.
Hikotron has three founders who bring a rare mix of technical skill and vision. Ron and Larry are engineers, and Stephanie has a background in urban planning and sustainability.
Passion behind Hikotron became a catalyst for transformation
Ron and Stephanie loved driving electric vehicles when living overseas. However, when they returned to New Zealand as EV drivers, they found a gap in the local EV charging market. They co-opted Larry, whose field is software and automation. Together, designed chargers that can be produced here in New Zealand work with our unique context and offer a first-class customer experience. Hikotron was born.
"We have the benefit of seeing what's worked and what hasn't overseas, so we can avoid mistakes. It means New Zealand can accelerate its progress and get to a much better place faster," explains Stephanie.
"From the start, we've also made a point of producing our hardware and software here – it's a point of difference. It means we can keep the quality high while also making sure the product is robust and foolproof."
Although they have a very clear vision of where they'd like to go, the Hikotron trio knew there would be a huge benefit in finding a Business Mentor. And Stephanie says it has brought all the connections and energy they'd hoped.
"You're looking quite inwards at the start of a business, and there's a lot going on. Mentoring has given us time and space to look further outwards and ahead."
Business Mentors matched Hikotron with Seumas McCroskey, who has immense experience in capital raising for new businesses.
Expertise helped power their potential
Seumas is Entrepreneurship Lead at Kiwi Innovation Network, where he works with science-driven businesses. He recalls being impressed by the team's readiness and the effort they had invested ahead of their first meeting.
"They're very clear about what they want to do next. And they also have a clear demarcation between their roles. I really love how they have really figured out where they are and who they are together and as a company. With three of them, you've actually got people you can lean on to get things done."
Stephanie says they are grateful to have such a strong founding team.
"I always thought people that try and do it on their own must be really going through things. As three co-founders, having that external voice of a Business Mentor does act almost like a moderator — someone who's challenging your questions and giving you a different perspective. I think what's most valuable is having that time in which to have those discussions.
Mentoring helped co-founders create a roadmap for growth
Stephanie is keenly aware that they're in an industry that is very capital-heavy and highly competitive. It was essential to find someone with start-up experience, which is exactly what Seumas brought. He says, "Hikotron's energy and passion are undeniable, and their vision is crystal clear. However, I know that the business world demands more – the ability to articulate critical points effectively.
"As a growing company, you need to consider where the next tranche of funding comes from. What is the next thing you'll do to show you're relevant in the world? It's a competitive environment, and it's vital to stand out amidst the noise."
Fortunately, there is a lot that sets Hikotron apart. Their chargers offer between 7kW and 22kW of charging power and are 'bring-your-own cable types'. This keeps maintenance costs down and makes chargers less vulnerable to vandalism.
Additionally, the chargers are 'smart', which means they can automatically adjust the amount of power going into the car to keep the load on the grid down.
Finding their way with funding was a first stop
Stephanie says that although their product is outstanding, Seumas has been invaluable in guiding them through the maze of capital raising.
"He's helped us understand how we can front load some of the work for funding. It's a very complex process, and the more prepared you are, the better. For example, we've set up a 'digital data room' to easily share critical documents and figures. That both speeds up the process now and in future because we have all that ready.
"Seumas has also been able to pre-empt questions that potential investors might ask, along with helping us to refine pitch and presentation."
The team's determination and authenticity have set them on the right course. With Seumas's support, they've not only raised funds successfully but have also entered a strategic partnership with Mercury Energy that will see them building 500 chargers across New Zealand by 2026.
They have other audacious goals for the next few years. Importantly, they aim to build New Zealand's largest and most reliable EV charging network.
Stephanie recommends anyone aiming for success in their business goals should consider the Business Mentors service.
"Mentoring is great. Everyone should give it a go, especially if you're a sole trader. Mentorship gives you that chance to be able to speak to someone external. And even if you're in a group, things can be so fast-paced. Talking things through with a Business Mentor can help you discuss things more and hear where everyone's thinking is.”
If you'd like to give yourself a chance to get both an external boost and some fresh energy, then get in touch with Business Mentors today. The range of expertise and experience among our volunteers is impressive. You can even find the right fit through our searchable matching platform.