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Dutch business builder comes to Perth

FLEDGLING WA businesses can now get their enterprise off the ground and establish markets in Europe.

Former Chesterton International Technology Park park manager Peter Why has formed a joint venture with Netherlands-based zero stage funder Zernike.

Zernike is considered Europe’s most successful zero stage funder with $75 million under management.

“Often a lot of venture capital companies are not interested in low stage funding,” Mr Why said. “Zernike also found management was necessary for new entrepreneurs.

“It can help the companies it develops to market and distribute products.”

One example is WA anti-grafitti paint producer Guardian International.

“Zernike did market tests on the product and found what competition was around,” Mr Why said.

“About two months ago Euro Guardian was established – owned 50:50 by Zernike and Guardian.”

Guardian managing director Gary Dwyer said the company had been trying establish in Europe for the past three years.

“We have an Australia-New Zealand franchise agreement that we took into Europe,” Mr Dwyer said.

“However, it’s difficult to coordinate people in Europe from here. We needed to have someone on the ground there to get things in place.

“We had a manufacturer in place who made commitments to do certain things for us. Because we are here and they are there, they put our products into the background,” Mr Dwyer said.

“Now we have someone in place to drive it.”

The only thing holding Euro Guardian back now is labelling.

“In Switzerland the labels need everything written in three languages,” Mr Dwyer said. “That’s not easy with our one litre bottles.”

Mr Why said, in addition to Euro Guardian, he had more than twenty projects under evaluation.

“What I found in my years working at Technology Park was the difficulty people had finding whether there was a market for their product,” he said.

“We’re currently doing some evaluation work for Curtin and the University of WA to see if some of their research work can be commercialised.

“We’re also looking to expand to the eastern states. We’ll be able to take products from Perth and put them into Sydney and vice versa.

“We’ll also be able to bring technology from Europe to Perth through Zernike and eventually take it into Asia.”

Mr Why said he was also looking to tap into the BITS incubator networks.

From the Telstra sell-off there will be funding of $78 million for each state.

Mr Why has already set up networks with other incubators around Australia.

Zernike runs similar incubator networks for the Dutch Government.

Mr Why said the Zernike approach was something he’d wanted to do for years.

“However, there is only so much you can do in a real estate company so it was time to move on,” he said.

Zernike also runs a business college in Holland and two scholarships have been set up for Curtin students.

The students will be able to go to Holland to learn about and work with a business that is looking to expand to Australia.

Dutch student Grietje Jongsma has been working with Guardian for the past five months.

On completion of her studies she will work for Euro Guardian.

“I already have a good background in the company plus all the contacts here,” Ms Jongsma said.

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