Unlocking the value: the Astute Access story

Nick Mooyman, founder of Astute Access shares the backstory and vision of Punakaiki Fund’s latest investment. As told to Vincent Heeringa.

Ever locked the keys inside your car? Or stood at the office door and wondered: what’s the security code again?

Frustrating, right? Now imagine that on an industrial scale. Thousands of office workers calling security every year. Hundreds of telco technicians on remote hilltops trying to open locked cabinets. Or farm workers standing at padlocked gates.

It doesn’t take much to grasp just how big a problem keys and locks are – and the opportunity that Astute Access has to fix it. Astute Access is pioneering mobile phone-enabled cloud-based software that supports a network of Bluetooth smart locks.

Goodbye lost keys. Hello Astute Access.

Astute Access is a pioneer of enterprise smart lock solutions

“We’re solving an issue that’s been around for centuries,” says CEO and founder Nick Mooyman. “There's a real opportunity to disrupt the entire locking market and completely eliminate the need for physical keys, swipe/key-cards, fobs, pin codes, and move to a fully keyless solution based on mobile application using cloud software.”

The numbers, when you think about it, take your breath away. An Australasian utility, such as a telco or energy company, might have as many as 40,000 locks that could switch from ‘dumb’ to ‘smart’. 

Smart Padlock in action with Astute Access’s LockVue Mobile App
Digitising these mechanical locks represents a huge leap in operational efficiency. Astute Access has contracts with Wellington Water, Napier Council (water), Wellington City Council (parks), Indara (cell towers across Australia), Queensland Government, Timberlands, and many others seeking to automate their locks.
“It’s a multi-billion market, and we’re at the cutting edge of it.”


Bluetooth Revolution

If you’ve spent a frustrating time trying to get your Bluetooth speaker to connect to your phone so you can hear that Taylor Swift banger, you might wonder why Astute Access is so confident it can roll out a secure service on such a large scale.

Bluetooth has changed since we first used it.

“The old Bluetooth was pretty unstable. But in 2009 when Bluetooth 4.0 came out – what they call Bluetooth Low Energy or BLE – it opened up a whole raft of opportunities in the tech sector. I could see what was happening and I thought there’s an opportunity here.”

Mooyman was well placed. He co-founded iDefigo, a smart-camera business that was growing fast and attracting outside investors. It’s now based in London and powers the cameras in IoT devices around the world. The experience provided Mooyman with insight into the utility sector – including major issues with access to sites (due to woeful management of physical keys). With his roots in product development and fresh thinking, Mooyman created a prototype for NZ Post in 2014 – it’s still used today. Lock manufacturers saw the same opportunity and started releasing Bluetooth-enabled locks – but not addressing the bigger challenge of software, leaving the field open for Mooyman and his cofounder and wife Tania Bastianello. An early win was partnering with Noke, a Utah-based hardware lock manufacturer, which saw the Noke locks being integrated into Astute’s smart lock software platform; LockVue®. Others followed.

“I went to all the different tech shows around the world to identify a bunch of companies building Bluetooth-enabled locking technology. We formed distribution partnerships and secured licensing agreements to enable integration of these locks into the LockVue® software. We then had to become very proficient at selling a full solution, which saw us bundling the hardware and software subscription. That really helped grow our brand and put us on the map.”

In the early stage of the business, things were running on the smell of an oily rag. However, the increasing ubiquity of smartphones and the improvements in the ‘Bluetooth stack’ meant that by 2016 the time for smart locks had arrived. It was time for Astute to make a splash in the B2B and enterprise market.

In 2018 Astute Access scored its first big customer, a manager of vacation rental properties with $2 billion of assets on its books. And then Covid hit and vacations were off the agenda.

“It meant that overnight everything changed so we pivoted our focus to the utility space, which we were already working with but we doubled down on that given it’s so pandemic and recession proof”

Astute Access won big with Wellington Water, which has five councils in its network, and has rapidly added trans-Tasman clients, including Club Assist, Rio Tinto, QGC (Shell Subsidiary), Queensland Rail, Queensland Government, Indara, TATA, and John Holland.

Organisations with remote assets can benefit from improved, keyless access control

SaaS and Some

Astute Access has two core offerings: enterprise smart lock software and smart lock hardware (proprietary and third-party)

The main software-as-a-service (SaaS) product is LockVue®, an app which opens and closes the locks and provides a high level of control for data tracking and administrator-based permissions. The app does have offline functionality (though it needs to be online to receive updates). LockVue®is compatible with a large number of third-party smart locks.

A second, emerging opportunity is manufacturing the locks themselves. Mooyman says that after a decade of working closely with some of the world’s best lock manufacturers, Astute Access has developed deep expertise about how such locks could (and should) work.

“There’s a significant prize to get it right…We’ve already built our own solution, which controls every auto gate, every door, any electric motor, electric strike, and any electric lock of any type through our Bluetooth control system. That’s been in the market for a while and has been very successful. Now we’re miniaturising that technology and building it into other mechanical locks, converting them into a Bluetooth-enabled locks that seamlessly integrate into our software platform.”

Current revenue streams includes both the LockVue®platform (SaaS) and smart lock hardware sales (Astute Access’s own smart locks & third-party). Astute is also developing additional revenue streams including OEM, licensing partners, and pursuing contracts in several verticals. 


Until 2023, Mooyman and Bastianello bootstrapped the business, using his own capital and sales revenues to keep the cash flowing. But when Astute Access was a finalist in the 2023 Hi-Tech Awards, Mooyman started talking to Lance and Nadine from Punakaiki Fund – sponsor of the Start Up of the Year category.

“I realised there was a pretty good fit for our business. They really seemed to gel with us – they got it right from the start. We’re quite a special company with a huge growth curve ahead and there’s no one else playing in this space that comes anywhere close to matching our capability.”

Mooyman also liked the fact that Punakaiki Fund is an evergreen fund.

“There's a lot of emphasis in VC on exits, especially if there's a finite number of years for the fund. Punakaiki Fund has a much longer term view, which suits us because some of our sales cycles are quite long. Being forced to make a trade sale at the wrong time is far from optimal.”

The investment round just completed raised capital from two investors, with Punakaiki Fund’s investment staged over two tranches, one of which has been paid. Punakaiki Fund also holds options to invest again.

The money will be used to fund growth, says Mooyman. “We’re through the start-up phase. This is all about funding sales and growth, including personnel – with some directed to product development.”



With Astute Access his second rodeo, Mooyman is thoughtful about what it takes to grow a successful company.

He says that early on the company spread itself too thin – too many things for too few people. Narrowing the focus helped improve both product development and sales.

“We aim to become the chosen smart lock platform and the platform players is where the real growth is.”

And speaking of which: “I think probably the biggest lesson – and people don’t talk about this enough – is that nothing is more important than sales. Team culture’s important and product is very important but it’s absolutely vital that the sales machine cranks up early and proves that there’s a strong product-market fit. It’s the lifeblood of the business. The market will decide whether or not they want to buy your goods and services.”

Mooyman is critical of start-ups that rely on fundraising to survive cash flow problems. He wonders if there’s too much emphasis on fundraising when the energy should go into a sales machine.

Xero of Locks

The future looks, ahem, locked for Astute Access with a strong customer base, good products and a market hungry for its solutions.

“The big picture here is that we want to be the Xero of the smart lock world. Our vision is that you can bring any smart lock device, from any manufacturer in the world, onto our software platform and know that it will be secure, scalable and can seamlessly be unlocked from any smartphone”

“And we’ve proven that it works. Global manufacturers are quite keen to white-label and licence our software. We’re pushing the boundaries of what’s possible and now the market is coming to us.”