Aussie Start-up & Venture Capital Summary | 18th November 2023
G'day and welcome to Overnight Success! 👋
It’s a long and juicy one this week, so we’re going to get straight into it. Enjoy! 👯
Housekeeping: Does your OS newsletter get cut off by Gmail’s pesky mobile app? You can read the full version without interruption here.
🤖 Sam Altman has been fired as CEO for Open AI (Forbes)
Open AI’s board said Altman was ‘not consistently candid in his communications with the board’ and had lost its confidence.
⚖️ Defence Trade Controls Export Bill could have unintended consequences for deep tech startups (Innovation Aus)
The Federal Government is progressing a complex bill as part of the ongoing AUKUS partnership process, designed to allow for tighter defence and critical tech information sharing with the US and UK. With only a week allowed for consultation and feedback from industry, it’s clear the government is looking to move swiftly.
While the legislation could reduce red tape for some, concerns have been raised about its potential to make it harder for deep tech companies who want to share information outside of these markets, including with non-permanent resident employees who may be classified as ‘foreign persons’.
Potentially impacted companies and their investors (particularly those with dual-use technology - that’s, military and civilian use cases - in the areas of quantum sensing, communications or computing, cyber security or AI) will want to watch this one closely.
💁🏻♀️ No, gender-based harassment in startups isn’t a new thing (AFR)
While their record in this space is far from perfect, the AFR wrote a great summary piece this week on the difficulties women in the tech startup industry are facing with sexism and harassment in the workplace and online.
We get the sense (and hope!) this is just the start of a larger industry movement towards preventing and protecting women and non-binary people from this behaviour, however, many are noting the lack of male ecosystem voices currently in the conversation 👀.
🤑 Boosting Female Founders funding could be delayed to 2024 (Smart Company)
Since the first round of applications opened more than 18 months ago, 700+ female founders have applied for this Federal Government grant, which offers majority-owned or led-by women-grants (with a condition of matched funding) between $25,000 and $480,000 to assist in scaling up their business.
Smart Company revealed this week that final decisions on who will receive the funding might not be made until January 2024, leaving hundreds of applicants waiting with their matched funding in hand.
💼 ACS thinks we’ll need even more new tech workers by 2030 than the government thinks (Innovation Aus)
The Australian Computer Society ‘Digital Pulse Report’ has this week proposed that Australia will need at least 100,000 more tech workers than the current Federal Government target of 1.2 million by 2030 (adapted from a Tech Council recommendation). They estimate we currently have ~928,000 tech workers.
Also, part of their recommendations - a revised approach to educating the next generation of tech workers by focusing on future-proofed skill sets rather than role-based training that quickly becomes outdated.
🤝 Are we set for a tech startup M&A wave? (AFR)
Sparked by the news of the acquisition of Brisbane tech firm Reekoh by US giant Autodesk, this article proposes we might be.
The AFR’s Sier suggests, “As Australia’s technology sector grapples with dwindling resources, companies with healthy cash balances are moving in to acquire intellectual property and customer lists from smaller players struggling to raise capital”, particularly as company valuations are declining amidst more challenging economic conditions.
🍿 What’s in a name? A big headache by the sounds of this legal case… (Capital Brief)
Two big names in VC are currently fighting a trademark battle over their (almost) identical company names - Telsa Chair, Robyn Denholm’s Wollemi Capital Group and ex-Macquarie CEO Tim Bishop’s Wollemi Capital. Both were likely named after the Wollemia pine endemic to Australia.
Not only do the companies share a similar name, but they also have a very similar investment focus. Both look to back positive impact, future-focused companies. Get out your popcorn, kids!
MedTech / BioTech
Psychae Therapeutics raises $4.5M to combat mental health issues with botanical and psychedelic therapies
University of Melbourne spinout Psychae Therapeutics has secured a $4.5M capital raise. This investment is part of a collaborative effort involving the university's Genesis Pre-Seed Fund and Tin Alley Ventures, a joint venture with John Wiley's Tanarra Capital. This capital is complemented by a $2 millions MRFF grant to complete their Phase 2 clinical trials.
Founded by Associate Professor Daniel Perkins and Professor Jerome Sarris, the startup focuses on developing botanically-derived treatments and psychedelic-assisted therapies to combat mental health issues such as PTSD, anxiety, and addiction. These therapies are emerging as effective alternatives to traditional treatments, offering fewer side effects and rapid results.
The collaboration with CSIRO's Botanical Extracts Lab highlights Psychae's commitment to integrating cutting-edge research and commercialisation expertise. This partnership will aid in the development of novel psychedelic medicines aimed at obtaining medical registration for pharmaceutical-grade products tailored for specific patient groups. This new investment is set to bolster Psychae Therapeutics' business and research strategies, pushing the boundaries of mental health treatment.
Due Diligence: Startup Daily
PropTech / No-code
Sitemate snags $7.5M pre-Series A to double GTM team and streamline workflows in the built environment
Sydney-based no-code software firm Sitemate has raised a $7.5 million pre-Series A funding round. The investment was led by Marbruck Investments and supported by existing investors, including Blackbird Ventures and Artesian. Sitemate's platform addresses inefficiencies in workflow and compliance in the built world using no-code tooling for custom solutions.
Sitemate offers solutions like data collection and attendance tracking for workforce personnel. This round follows a $5.2M raise in August 2022 led by Blackbird Ventures. Since then, the platform has expanded into North America and Europe and continued its growth in Australia and New Zealand. The funds will be used to double its global go-to-market team by the end of 2024. Customers include the likes of Downer, TransGrid, John Holland and Arcadis.
Sitemate originated from the University of Sydney's startup program in 2015. The company then rolled through the Startmate Accelerator back in 2017. Sitemate, formerly called Construction Cloud, has grown its workforce from 18 to over 70 in the past 18 months.
Sitemate has also released Flowsite Integrations Cloud, a no-code integration and automation platform tailored for the built world. It further enhances its offering by connecting its Dashpivot Systems Cloud with tools like Xero and PowerBI.
PropCode secures a $400K pre-Seed round to simplify planning legislation jargon into usable insights using AI
PropCode, a Sydney-based property development analytics startup, has secured $400,000 in pre-Seed funding. This round saw participation from Skalata Ventures, Brisbane Angels, and existing investor Antler Australia. The funds will be invested in enhancing PropCode's AI-driven regulatory analysis engine for the construction industry.
Founded in 2022 by Will Sullivan and Jonah Turnquist, PropCode leverages AI to decode complex planning legislation into concise and actionable reports. This tool aids homeowners, professionals, and councils in understanding permissible developments at specific residential addresses with an initial pilot in New South Wales.
PropCode aims to solve the pain of navigating thousands of state-varying regulations, which impede the country's efforts to address its housing shortage. PropCode's technology not only aids in planning new builds but also elucidates reasons behind past proposal rejections. The startup's AI technology, "Rules as Code," converts legal documents into machine-readable code, ultimately generating human-readable summaries.
The raise follows the Federal Government's announcement to build 1.2 million new homes in 5 years. Additionally, PropCode has introduced the PropCode Library, a free tool that simplifies finding, reading, and searching through NSW planning regulations.
Upworth lands $1M in angel funding to democratise sophisticated wealth monitoring tools
Upworth, a Sydney-based platform that aims to empower individuals with tools for financial independence and wealth growth, has raised $1 million from angel investors. Upworth was co-founded by CEO Alexandre Chavotier, CTO Carlos Rios, and COO/CMO Maxime Chaury.
Upworth's platform offers a comprehensive dashboard for users to track all assets and liabilities, including bank and investment accounts, superannuation funds, real estate, cryptocurrencies, mortgages, and more. It provides access to 170,000 securities across over 70 global exchanges, allowing users to monitor and understand the evolution of their wealth.
Upworth’s control tower, which employs open banking and AI, offers insights for wealth growth and provides options for more suitable products. This includes a mortgage refinancing module, enabling users to assess potential savings on loans quickly. As an authorised credit representative in Australia, Upworth collaborates with over 30 lenders, including major banks like ANZ, Westpac, NAB, and Bankwest. Upworth will look to expand revenue options with the release of other financial products.
B2B SaaS / HealthTech
Splose splashes with $1.5M Series A for practice management software suite targeting the NDIS sector
Adelaide-based health management platform Splose, specialising in the allied health industry and NDIS sector, has impressively raised half of its $3 million Series A target within just 24 hours. The funding comes from a group of HNWs. This follows a $1 million over-subscribed Seed round last year. Founded by CEO Nick Sanderson in 2018, Splose has witnessed a remarkable 350% revenue increase in the past year, with its user base expanding from 1,500 to 7,000.
Splose's success lies in its intuitive software that simplifies practice management for healthcare providers, particularly NDIS service providers. In particular, the focus is on automation and streamlining client management and billing processes while ensuring compliance with NDIS protocols. It has positioned itself as a vital tool in a sector struggling with high demand. The platform integrates with the likes of Xero, and features like digital service agreements and progress notes are credited with saving clients an average of $30,000 annually per practice.
The fresh capital influx will be directed towards further investment in automation, artificial intelligence R&D, and international expansion. Sanderson highlights the company's organic growth so far, with the new funding set to enhance marketing efforts and brand visibility.
EV / Logistics
EVenergi lands $10M to help transition to zero-emission vehicle fleets
EVenergi, the Sydney-founded electric fleet management software company, has secured $10 million of growth capital from US investor Aligned Climate Capital. The cash injection marks its entry into the US market.
Founded in 2016, EVenergi specialises in assisting organisations with transitioning to zero-emission fleets. The investment will focus on team growth, software R&D, and enhanced marketing efforts while maintaining a substantial workforce in Australia. EVenergi is a leading player in fleet decarbonisation due to its versatile software platform and hardware-agnostic approach.
So what does EVenergi actually do? Taking the City of Bendigo as an example, Evenergi conducted a comprehensive analysis of the City's public transport fleet (mostly buses). This included data collection and fleet suitability analysis. Then, it provided a cost-effective strategy for transitioning to a low-carbon and electric vehicle fleet, considering future energy demand and recharge requirements for Bendigo. BetterFleet has been instrumental in decarbonising over 60,000 vehicles across more than 200 fleets globally, creating a digital twin of vehicle networks to optimise power requirements.
Due Diligence: EVenergi Raise Announcement
AI / Productivity
Spruces secures an oversubscribed $2M Seed round to make cleaning staff more productive using AI
Spruces, the AI-driven worker monitoring technology based in the Gold Coast, has raised $2 million. The technology, which includes on-body cameras, is designed to enhance productivity and worker support in the cleaning industry. The capital, which was originally set out to be $500,000, was secured from backers including FuseLabs, AngelLoop, and AngelLoop's CEO, Simon Horne. The investment will fund the development of the app and its AI components. Spruces already has a viable commercial cleaning business with customers including hismile, Balter, and Princess Polly.
Co-founders Leo Plaza and Broden Johnson aim to solve the productivity crisis in the sector, especially given the current skills shortage. Spruces' approach is not just about speed but quality of work. Their technology aims to recognise and reward diligent cleaners, potentially increasing productivity fourfold. Spruces offers on-demand commercial cleaning services and has seen unexpected demand from large companies needing help to meet their own needs.
New Funds, Who’s This?
Uniseed has doubled its backers, with five new universities joining the partnership (Startup Daily)
Uniseed claims to be Australia’s oldest venture fund (started in 2000), bringing together universities to support startups focused on research commercialisation. The organisation estimates it will now be able to support more than half of all commercial research output generated by Australian institutions.
First Australians Capital has secured $3M from Block Inc (NYSE: SQ) to empower Indigenous-led businesses (Business News Australia)
Block Inc is run by Jack Dorsey, founder of Square and Twitter (now X), and also owns Afterpay. The investment will go towards the FAC Catalytic Impact Fund and comes from a much larger US$100 million social impact investment fund established by Block in 2020, of which US$10 million is allocated for markets outside the US.
💊 Psylo founder features at TEDxSydney
Psylo participated in Startmate’s Winter 2021 Accelerator cohort and secured $5 million in Seed funding in late 2022. Check out a recording of Josh Ismin’s talk here!
❤️ Humantix makes its largest donation yet
The company has just donated $4 million to charity, with the funds collected via its event booking platform, which was founded in 2016.
🍔 Cultivated meat startup Magic Valley opens up its pilot facility
The facility is at Co-Labs, a bio-innovation co-working space in Melbourne, and will allow the company to “safely enhance its cultivated meat production capabilities, fostering innovation and efficiency”.
🍼 BYO Water Bottle startup Refilled confirms their Seed raise of $1.3M
🎉 Anyone Can Start Winners announced
Anyone Can Start is a program run by The Creative Co-Operative, founded by Priyanka Ashraf and is part of the social enterprise’s mission to “close the intergenerational and intersectional wealth gap experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, Black and Women of Colour through the creation of a new economy”.
The Anyone Can Start program helped take a cohort of 10 founders from “idea to action”, culminating in a pitch event and the selection of three impressive winners: Tando Matanda, Lina Xu and Jasmin Jenkins. Check out the LinkedIn announcement here.
📆 Overnight Success now co-hosts the Aussie & NZ Startup Events calendar, created by Startmate and supported by The Community Collective.
KaaS (Knowledge as a Service)
As someone who’s never had to build a data room, the process sounded pretty overwhelming to me, until I read this article. There’s a lot in there, but having a clear checklist will surely calm any type-A founder’s nerves. Kudos to my fellow Adelaidian, Josh, for pulling this very handy resource together!
Chris challenges the myth of the two-week raise, a common myth that the media, investors and the ecosystem look to discuss. A startup in this newsletter claims to have $1.5M of capital committed in 24 hours! I also love this article as Chris also subtly name-drops the original name for this newsletter, Overnight Successes.
For most startups, raising is not a quick two-week process but often involves at least 12 months of preparation, networking, and strategic groundwork. Check it out! 👨🍳
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‘Til next time,
👋 Will & Gem