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Matū’s Ken Erskine and RosterLab’s three co-founders discuss what makes a good investor/founder relationship. 

Article source: CaffeineDaily, Fiona Rotherham

Matū partner Ken Erskine’s side hustle is running the VentureLab incubator at Auckland University’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. That involves working with the five winning teams from the centre’s annual Velocity $100k Challenge, a programme he helped kickstart in 2017.

It was through Velocity he met Isaac Cleland, Sunny Feng and Daniel Ge, the co-founders of RosterLab, which helps health providers solve staffing challenges with AI-powered rostering solutions. The trio won the 2020 challenge after Cleland, an engineering PhD student, made a last-minute entry to the competition.

The idea for RosterLab was based on Cleland’s research at Auckland University with Associate Professor Andrew Mason and Dr Michael O’Sullivan into developing new techniques for mathematically optimising complex roster models. The company is initially targeting healthcare clients such as hospitals and aged-care facilities where poor staffing compliance, and time and labour inefficiencies incur direct costs. 

VentureLab works with the five winning teams for six months, connecting them to industry leaders and a range of mentors and providing them with free office space.  

RosterLab gained a total of $25,000 in investment through the programme.

“We have moved from what was the theory and a few good conversations forward into a real-life business, which is what the guys are operating today,” says Erskine. 

When the startup went looking for seed funding in late 2021, Erskine thought it would be a good investment for Matū, though he says that was a separate decision from his mentorship.

The $500,000 seed round was led by Matū Fund, which has a 7.7 percent stake, with participation from Quidnet Ventures and the University of Auckland Investors’ Fund.

Caffeine talked to Erskine and RosterLab’s founders about how they make their relationship work.


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