Aussie Start-up & Venture Capital Summary | 12th August 2023
Canva valuation update, Aussie banks hesitate on VC plus Renewables, Cyber, Ecommerce all raise!
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🎨 Canva holds a strong valuation post-secondaries sale (AFR)
Blackbird, a major investor in Canva, has found two US-based investors (ICONIQ Capital and Coatue Management) to purchase $150M of its holding at a $39B valuation - down only ~$1B from its most recent raise in 2021, when the world was awash with cheap money and valuations were sky-high.
It's a critical data-point that comes at a critical moment, demonstrating the real potential of Aussie VC investments to provide strong returns, which is particularly important for superannuation funds that provide a large share of investments and credibility to the Aussie VC landscape.
Some more context… Local VCs began to see significant inflows of funding from major super players (like AustralianSuper, Hostplus and Aware Super) from 2015, with early tranches of these investments now rapidly reaching their 10 year maturity just as valuations are under pressure and some companies are looking to delay exits. Combine this with closer scrutiny from prudential regulators on the value super funds attribute to 'unlisted assets' like VC-backed start-ups, and the reassurance of proving a strong valuation for one of Australia’s leading start-up success stories will allow many to breathe a sigh of relief.
🪰 Bardee cut staff as they look to fly towards a brighter future (Startup Daily)
Melbourne-based fly larvae-enabled food waste recycler Bardee has been forced to cut 30 staff in a move to reduce costs and quickly hit profitability.
It's the latest blow for the business which has had its share of troubles over the past couple of years, including an employee tragically dying in June this year during a waste pickup, and a Blackbird partner resigning from the board in early 2022, allegedly due to disagreements with management, not long after closing their $5M Seed round in late 2021 (led by Blackbird).
It's hoping major deals (such as supplying fertilisers nationally through Bunnings) will be enough to bring its fortunes in line with peer Goterra (who's latest raise we covered last week).
🤔 What’s happening with the Big 4 banks’ VC firms? (AFR)
It was revealed this week that Westpac and Reinventure were not able to agree on terms for a fourth venture fund, apparently ending a program that had deployed $150M.
This follows a shift from CBA's x15venutres, which says it is now looking to double down on investments with a few companies rather than pursue a broader VC-play. ANZ's i1835 has also taken a hit after losing its leader and other seasoned staff.
The banks are not alone, with other major corporates retreating from VC plays in Australia, including IAG Insurance (which sacked 50 digital innovation staff in July) and Salesforce (which closed its local VC arm in January).
🥳️ SE Asian founders celebrated at the SAARI Collective Launch
The SAARI Collective, a publication celebrating South Asian Australians, has released its Startup Founders List and Insights Report.
The Founders List was built to highlight that despite being a driving force in the Australian start-up landscape, South Asian Founders receive less visibility in the media.
Some pretty impressive high-level statistics from the list and report; 78% of start-ups have raised funding since 2013, totalling $1.12B. 84% of start-ups are generating recurring revenue. SaaS, IT, MedTech, Fintech and EdTech were common themes and over half we worth between $1-5M!
Solar / Renewables
Upstream lands $20M to revolutionise solar adoption
The solar energy and storage installer, Upstream, has landed $20M of growth capital from MA Financial Growth Ventures. The funding follows the deployment of energy solutions to clients like ANZ and Beacon Lighting across 400 sites, with 15 megawatts currently generated. The fresh capital will allow Upstream to deploy photovoltaic panels across the pipeline of 3,000 sites.
Counter-positing traditional energy models, Upstream allows its clients to pre-purchase renewable power at lower costs. Clients like ANZ can “displace” 60% of energy emissions across 11 sites. Upstream will lease vacant roof space for property owners to generate additional income of circa $30/sqm and provide 20% lower energy costs for tenants.
Due Diligence: AFR
Kivera secures $5.1M Seed round to take on the US with its Cloud Security platform
The Sydney-born cloud security platform, Kivera, has secured a $5.1M Seed round. The round was led by Canada’s Round 13 Capital and New York cybersecurity investor General Advance, with participation from tech giants like Amazon, Google and senior executives from Shift5, ServiceNow, and Zscaler. The North American investors come following the relocation of the HQ to New York and a focus on US expansion.
Kivera’s platform offers cloud protection features, including data security, compliance simplification, and cloud agility. The new funding aligns with Kivera’s vision to shift from a detective measure to a preventative security action. This is done by addressing the backlog of misconfiguration detections that can plague security teams. For the non-cloud security engineers, Kivera helps teams configure their cloud settings properly to limit the exposure of company documents and data to the internet.
Awayco we go with an $11M to capture eCommerce growth
Sydney-based e-commerce platform, Awayco, has raised $11M, led by the Thorney Investment Group. Awayco has developed a modular software suite for retailers that works across in-store and online operations.
Awayco was founded in 2019 to aid retailers in offering rental and service appointments but developed during the COVID-19 pandemic to take on the fragmented e-commerce landscape. Awayco’s platform integrates with existing retail systems, allowing for consolidation and management of inventory, aggregation of data, and unification of transactions across various platforms and channels. Strong traction has included a pilot with Patagonia and other customers such as PETstock, Cheap as Chips and Firewire Surfboards.
The funding will enable Awayco to grow its Australian team and expand its offerings. The company recently increased its capacity to serve large retailers by acquiring Barcode Solutions, with its leader Shanti Kumar staying on as CEO of POSConnex, Awayco’s unified e-commerce solution.
Due Diligence: Business News Australia
Programa raises $7.5M to revolutionise the interior design industry
Founded during the COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020, Programa has impressed investors with over 2,000 paying interior designers and traction in 65 countries. The platform has been used for over 25,000 projects.
Programa’s platform allows interior designers to manage projects and track orders and will soon facilitate sales between suppliers and customers. Designers can now operate their entire design business in a single platform with the ultimate goal of creating a detailed product schedule. On the supply side, data-driven intelligence allows suppliers to understand how their products are performing in the market through live analytics.
Due Diligence: The Australian
HAL Systems lands $850K to manage building climate better
Melbourne-based ClimateTech start-up, HAL Systems, has raised $850K in a Seed round led by the Alice Anderson Fund. Additionally, the round received investment from the Victorian Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Change.
HAL Systems is the product of innovation inside the founders’ own home, the iconic Featherstone House. The founders, Julian and Vicky Featherston, realised their predictive energy-efficient climate control system’s commercial potential and they launched HAL as a solution for commercial buildings, tackling the challenge of heating and cooling evenly and efficiently.
HAL’s technology uses self-learning AI to calculate real-time HVAC costs, utilising weather and location data to optimise energy and cost efficiency. According to the company, HAL can save 10-25% of HVAC energy while maintaining comfort, even addressing problems like inconsistent temperature across different spaces.
The jury is out on the name. Would you be happy installing an AI system in your house with a name like the AI from 2001: A Space Odyssey?
Due Diligence: Smart Company
If you're a founder or investor who has just closed a round, please reach out to us at [email protected]
New Funds Who’s This?
Side Stage Ventures launches a $15M fund, “founded by founders for founders” (Business News Australia)
Backed by investors including Go1 co-founder Andrew Barnes, Airtasker co-founder Tim Fung, UK-based venture fund LocalGlobe, Linktree co-founders Alex and Anthony Zaccaria, Tractor Ventures co-CEO Matt Allen, and Unified Music founder Jaddan Comerford, Side Stage has officially moved from being a syndicate to launching their own fund.
They’ll be writing $500k cheques to support early-stage founders across a range of sectors and leveraging the impressive knowledge and experience of its co-founders and general partners Markus Kahlbetzer and Ben Grabiner.
🧼️ STUFF is crowdfunding to make more…(good) stuff (Birchal)
🔫 Defence Tech VC Beaten Zone, is seeking backers from ‘patriotic investors’
Well-known investor Steve Baxter (co-founder of TEN13 & ex-Shark Tank investor) is bullish on the importance and potential of weapons-related investments, despite hesitations and some down right rejections from some. (AFR)
♀️Femtek is seeking interest for its Seed round
Founder Olivia Orchowski announced on LinkedIn this week that the company’s pitch deck would be hitting Aussie VC inboxes next week. The company claims to have created “the first menstrual health-focused smart ring built to elevate women's lives and provide them with a new level of cycle literacy; all while they sleep”.
Stride Equity invests in companies before offering them on their crowdfunding platform, and LifeBid is the first investment since its launch earlier this year!
LifeBid is a digital platform aiming to make life insurance more transparent and cheaper. The platform has 2,000 Aussie advisors on the waitlist. This crowdfunding campaign aims to allow those advisors (and any other keen beans) to participate.
💰 nVest wins SmartCompany’s early-stage start-up competition, “The Pitch” (Smart Company)
nVest is a B2B bank-grade API that allows platforms to integrate fractional stock trading into their application or service. The company landed $100k worth of AWS credits and $15k worth of consultancy services from BlueRock.
💪 Body Fit Training (BFT) expands to Malaysia and Spain (Business News Australia)
The Aussie fitness franchise, which has already seen traction in the UK and Singapore, is now expanding its global footprint by signing contracts with partners to open additional branches by 2024. BFT was founded in 2017 in Melbourne by Cameron Falloon, who was formerly the personal trainer to the late Princess Diana.
ModnPods have quadrupled their space, tripled their workforce and reduced build times by 70% to now create 200 pods annually.
🏃 Startup Striders hits 550+ members and gets a media mention! (Smart Company)
The running group started by Startmate CEO Michael Batko has quickly gained traction across most major Australian cities with vibrant WhatsApp groups and a line of merchandise on the way (running hat anyone!?).
🌱 EnergyLab’s Climate Solutions Accelerator reveals the 10 start-ups participating in its 2023 cohort (Business News Australia)
The 6-month accelerator program has supported the success of well-known Aussie start-ups such as Amber and Sicona Battery Technologies. Check out the full list of this year’s up-and-coming participants here.
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KaaS (Knowledge as a Service)
Gemma’s Pick 💁♀️ Empiraa’s pricing structure lessons for other start-ups
Pricing strategy might not be ‘sexy’ but boy is it important. Perhaps most important (especially for early-stage start-ups) is the ability to successfully change your strategy when you need to, which can be challenging if it fundamentally changes your growth projections. The team at planning management software start-up Empiraa have bravely shared the lessons they’ve learnt over the last 12+ months after significantly changing their approach to pricing their B2B SaaS platform and the messaging that positions it. Well worth a read!
Will’s Pick 💁♂️#1 Threads and the Social/Communications Map by Ben Thompson
This blog by Ben on Meta’s new product, Threads, is a great update on the social media landscape in 2023. The strategy behind Meta releasing Threads and why it might (and might not) work.
Will’s Pick 💁♂️#2 James Harrisson (Playbook Ventures) returns to the airwaves with 3 episodes dropped in one week! (Spotify link)
Interviewees include Mark Woodland (Xplor & Kismit), Micheal Watson (Google, Leesy) & Rohit Bhargava (Playbook Ventures & One Future Football).
Have we missed something? Got some feedback? We love emails, so send one over!
‘Til next time,
👋 Will & Gem