Aussie Start-up & Venture Capital Summary | 11th November 2023
G'day and welcome to Overnight Success! 👋
Gemma is officially back from her holiday in Japan and happy to report that she ate her weight in sushi, ramen and udon 🍣 🍜.
A fun one to kick off your weekend… This story didn’t quite fit in any of our usual newsletter sections, so it’s found itself with pride of place in the introduction. A startup founded by a Hungarian-Australian is offering tourists the opportunity to pay to be guests at Indian weddings so they can experience this unique cultural tradition first-hand without actually knowing the bride and groom first. Amazing.
Finally, make sure you check out this week’s latest drops on the OS website 👇🏻
A wrap-up of the Burning Heroes Awards from our very own Will Richards, who was also a judge for the event. Read all about it here.
A fascinating deep dive on carbon accounting software startup, Avarni, from OS Guest Writer Lea Rausch.
Now, onto this week’s Aussie startup news…! 🕺🏻💃🏻
Housekeeping: Does your OS newsletter get cut off by Gmail’s pesky mobile app? You can read the full version without interruption here.
This week’s newsletter is powered by…
Experienced founder Luke Rix is running a free masterclass on ‘Converting Capital to Revenue’. Founders - join and build a plan to maximise your raise.
🙅🏻♀️ GiveTree founder resigns following sexist behaviour (AFR)
Sam Joel, the founder of GiveTree, a startup that allows people to donate to charity in cryptocurrency, has stepped down from his role after being called out for his sexist and misogynist behaviour.
Whilst the final straw was broken by online comments Joel made in response to a post from prominent ecosystem figure, Elaine Stead, it has been reported that multiple women across the ecosystem have also been subjected to similar deplorable behaviour. Joel has subsequently released an apology.
💵 NSW Government MVP Ventures Program is back (but not better…) (Smart Company)
After a six-month hiatus, the program has been re-launched at a maximum value of $50,000 per grant, 25% of its value when the program was abruptly paused.
The program offers between $25,000 and $50,000 of matched funding to early-stage startups to support commercialisation efforts. Learn more about eligibility requirements and the application process here.
🤝 Australia and the UK agree to partner on advancing quantum tech
According to a joint statement released earlier this week, the arrangement will open channels for more investment between UK and Australian companies, facilitate research exchanges and increase expertise-sharing between the two countries.
Australia is emerging as a world leader in quantum computing with several local startups receiving accolades and funding in recent months, including Silicon Quantum Computing, Q-CTRL, Quantum Brilliance, Diraq and Analog Quantum Circuits.
ROLLER reins in $78.6M of growth capital to expand venue management platform for the attractions industry
Melbourne-based ROLLER has secured $50 million in growth capital from Insight Partners to enhance its venue management software for the leisure and attractions industry. The investment will fund the expansion of ROLLER's platform, which aims to provide technology that facilitates exceptional guest experiences at leisure and attraction venues. It currently offers a myriad of features including ticketing, point-of-sale, integrated payments, CRM, memberships, gift cards, self-serve kiosks, cashless wallets, and analysis tools such as the Guest Experience Score.
Roller has also achieved more than 5X revenue growth over the last 3 years without going overboard on marketing spend. The company supports over 1,500 venues across 30 countries and has seen significant growth since it last raised $22M in December of 2022. Customer industries include theme parks, water parks, museums, zoos, rock climbing gyms, and soft play centres.
Currently, the deal is subject to approval by Australia's Foreign Investment Review Board. Once given the green light, the capital injection is intended to help ROLLER grow its international presence. Insight Partners specialises in late-stage growth with a portfolio of over 800 companies. It has taken 55 of these to IPOs and offers hands-on expertise to support companies through growth phases.
Robotics / Aged Care / AI
Andromeda Robotics raises $1M to provide the elderly with companions and launches live trials
Andromeda Robotics, a Melbourne-based AI and robotics company, has launched trials of its humanoid companion robot, Abi, in partnership with Allity, an aged care provider. The trial announcements closely follow a $1 million capital injection led by Galileo Ventures. The funds are earmarked for further product development and trial expansion.
Abi utilises Chat GPT-4 AI and is designed to interact conversationally with aged care residents, recognising them and tailoring interactions based on previous encounters. This trial in Victoria represents a pioneering step in the aged care sector globally.
The aged care facilities see Abi, which can gesture and move its head and eyes, as a valuable tool for enhancing resident interactions, especially given the staff shortages in aged care. The belief is that robots like Abi can significantly improve residents' quality of life without replacing human caregivers.
While the concept of companion robots isn't new, recent technological advancements, especially in AI and machine vision, have greatly enhanced their interaction and emotional connection abilities. Andromeda’s planned trials will help evolve Abi's capabilities. To date, collaborations with animation experts from Pixar and DreamWorks have been crucial in making Abi's body language empathetic. The additional funding, including participation in Amazon's AWS Robotics Startup Acceleration Program, aims to bring a fully functional robot to the market within 18 months.
Kashcade lands $5.5M to expand debt financing capabilities to the startup ecosystem
Sydney-based Kashcade, the debt-providing alternative to traditional venture capital (and venture debt) for SaaS startups, has secured $5.5 million to expand its operations. This round includes $1 million in equity and $4.5 million in debt, with contributions from existing investor Prandium Capital and several startup founders. Kashcade hopes their debt and equity capital raise strategy will help provide a very close-to-home example of why debt is a viable option for startups.
Founded by ex-CBA strategist Alex Simmons and former Apple software engineer Patrick Nappa, Kashcade is carving a niche in the venture debt space, targeting startups that are revenue-generating but too small for larger venture debt financiers like OneVentures and Marshall Ventures.
Kashcade's business model revolves around offering approximately $250,000 in loans at a flat 15% fee, translating to an effective 20% interest rate. The requirements for a startup are MRR of $25k+ and 6+ months of revenue and runway. Kashcade don't require equity stakes, warrants, or restrictive covenants on borrowing. Moreover, Kashcade's software enables rapid loan approvals and funding within 48 hours; a significant speed advantage over traditional VC firms' lengthy due diligence processes.
So far, Kashcade has executed 14 deals, mainly with businesses earning between $1 million and $10 million annually, primarily through a SaaS model. Loans are secured against the startups' assets, typically their intellectual property, without burdening founders personally. They have also demonstrated flexibility in loan size, recently extending a $1 million loan to ASX-listed Mad Paws Holdings.
Phantm secures $2M Seed round to develop plastic accounting and reduction platform
Phantm, a Victorian-based envirotech startup, has secured $2 million in Seed funding to address plastic waste using their SaaS dashboard. Black Nova, Salus Ventures, and CoVentures led this round. The company, helmed by CEO Elliot Costello, collaborates with major companies like MECCA and Starbucks Australia, providing an A-R-T (Assess, Reduce, Transition) methodology to help businesses reduce their plastic footprint and transition to sustainable alternatives.
Phantm understands that recycling may not be the solution to solving the plastic crisis and stresses the importance of adopting various materials to replace petrochemical plastics. As the global plastics industry stands at a massive $600 billion and is projected to double by 2050 potentially, Phantm's strategy is to teach businesses to understand their plastic usage, reduce it and then move away where possible ~ often a complex journey for businesses.
With the new funding, Phantm plans to expand into Asia, North America, and Europe, focusing on areas with high plastic use and poor recycling facilities. Their approach emphasises gradual, transparent steps for companies to improve and adopt more sustainable practices.
Lounge lands $4M Seed round to help Gen Z connect via events and communities, replacing out-of-date social networks
Lounge, a London-based social media startup co-founded by Australian expat Jack Symonds and Wulfie Bain, has raised $4 million in a Seed round to redefine community organisation for Gen Z. The funding round was led by Square Peg, with participation from Carthona Capital and private investors. Lounge's mission is to fill the gap left by Facebook's declining popularity among young people.
Lounge's platform has traction with university campuses across the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. It allows users to create and organise communities, host events, and discover groups, focusing on real connections rather than a traditional newsfeed. The platform has attracted over 250,000 users, and emphasises mental health and user well-being, positioning itself as a healthier alternative to conventional social media.
The new capital will primarily fund team expansion and platform development, with a focus on distinguishing Lounge from multi-billion dollar competitors.
Accounting / Professional Development
Tax Nuggets Academy raises $700K Seed round to improve professional development in accounting
Tax Nuggets Academy, a platform founded by former tax accountant Joyce Ong, has raised $700K in Seed funding to revolutionise professional development in accounting. Aimed at tackling the "tedious" world of accounting education, the platform seeks to make learning more engaging and accessible for professionals.
The platform stands out by gamifying learning with games, quizzes, and sound effects in its online courses. These courses are delivered by individual practitioners who share revenue, incentivising them to innovate and create compelling content, like Only Fans for accounting. This model contrasts with traditional providers like Chartered Accountants ANZ and CPA Australia, whose programs are closer to "ticking a box”.
Tax Nuggets Academy's subscription starts at $40 per month, significantly lower than the typical $100 to $150 per hour charged by conventional CPD providers. This pricing strategy, along with its engaging content, aims to make knowledge more accessible, especially for younger learners. Australian accountants are required to complete 120 hours of CPD every three years, and Tax Nuggets Academy positions itself as a disruptive, engaging, and affordable solution in this mandatory training landscape. Tax Nuggets Academy is an Antler portfolio company.
🚁 AMSL Aero, a Sydney-based aviation startup, has received $5.43 million from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) to advance its hydrogen-powered aircraft, Vertiia, aimed at assisting first responders and emergency services in regional and remote areas. (Hydrogen Central)
The ARENA funding will be utilised to develop a hydrogen fuel cell system for Vertiia, enhancing its range to up to 1,000 kilometres and facilitating its use for air ambulances, emergency services, and passenger and cargo transport.
🌏 Travel industry startup Exceptional ALIEN is looking to raise between $300k and $1.5M as it looks to capitalise on falling trust in user-generated reviews in a world of AI. (Business News Australia)
The funds will target expansion of the company’s cohort of vetted (and high-profile) travel experience reviewers, which currently includes household names like Mick Fanning and Collette Dinnigan, as well as names from the world of food (think Icebergs Bondi), culture (The Australian Ballet, MoMA New York, Harry Styles’ guitarist), and fashion.
It comes on the back of revenue growth of 4X in the past year, and a new partnership with travel giant Skyscanner.
The team has developed AI tech to increase the odds of success in the aptly named rare earth and critical mineral discoveries. The tech helps them to both target drilling locations and ensure all potentially valuable minerals are assessed in each sample.
The software is combined with EarthAI’s modular drilling technology, which lowers the cost of physical exploration to make a compelling double-act. The new funds will be used to scale-up this hardware side of the business. (Yes, it’s complicated - but you can read more here if you’d like to get into the weeds).
With its focus on education and waste diversion, Grow it Local has seen 227% revenue growth in the last year to over 500K. The community has a pre-money valuation of $5.7M and the platform currently has 32K members and over 5.5K vegetable patches.
Goterra’s technology will soon be implemented in one of the city’s most popular dining locations, Howard Smith Wharves (located under the Storey Bridge), churning through at least 1 tonne of waste every day to be turned into fertiliser and pellets of chicken feed.
👾 Immutable partners with gaming giant Ubisoft (Press Release)
Despite chatter that the hype around Web3 has been ‘replaced’ by the AI bubble, the Aussie unicorn keeps pushing ahead with major milestones, this week announcing it will work with French game maker Ubisoft (ever heard of Assassin’s Creed? Yep, they’re big) to “explore the benefits of Web3 and digital ownership for players”.
🛰️ Fleet Space is going to the moon (literally) (Innovation Aus)
The startup which raised $50 million in May in a funding round led by Blackbird is set to have its equipment land on the moon in 2026, supported by a new partnership with Texas-based Firefly Aerospace, and will be on a mission to examine the mineral profile of the surface and search for water ice deposits.
💦 NT-based water purification startup exports its product to the Phillipines (Australian Defence)
Life h2o has reportedly “cracked” the defence sector, with its technology set to be exported for use by the Philippines military by way of the Australian Defence Cooperation Program.
📆 Overnight Success now co-hosts the Aussie & NZ Startup Events calendar, created by Startmate and supported by The Community Collective.
it's my first day at Optus, I am in charge of pressing the button to make the internet work, but i am lost in the car park and for some reason my phone isn't working
— Patrick Lenton (@PatrickLenton)
Nov 8, 2023
KaaS (Knowledge as a Service)
Gemma’s Pick 💁♀️ Coming Soon…The AI Pin by hu.ma.ne
In just under a week, people in the US will be able to start ordering this pretty incredible new piece of AI-powered hardware that’s reminiscent of a Star Trek communication badge. While it may not replace traditional smartphones in the short term, it will certainly give smart watches (or glasses) a run for their money with its discrete design and apparently highly intuitive functionality.
Will’s Pick 💁♂️ The secret ingredients of great hospitality, TED Talk by Will Guidara
I recently read Unreasonable Hospitality by Will, and it took me back to my days working in hospitality. While some of those skills transfer into the startup world, many don’t. What does transfer, and what can elevate you and your team above your competitors, are the values of hospitality. People want to be welcomed, feel seen and have a sense of belonging. They may not remember your idea, but they will remember how you made them feel. This TED Talk gets across the book's main points in under 13 minutes.
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‘Til next time,
👋 Will & Gem