💌 Aussie Startup & VC Summary | 30th March 2024

Can laser beams melt steel drones?

G’day, and welcome to this week’s edition of Overnight Success! Your weekly download on all the important things that happened in the Aussie startup ecosystem. 🚀 You can read the full version without interruption here.

👀 Headlines 👀 

💸 Square Peg surpasses $1 billion in capital returns and prepares for its sixth fund

  • Square Peg has been operating for over 12 years and has now returned over $1.12 billion to its investors.

  • The returns come from various exits, including mergers and acquisitions, secondaries, and IPOs. On average, the exits have a multiple of 6.1x across 14 companies, with a 44% internal rate of return.

  • Looking forward to its 6th fund, Square Peg has now promoted its head of distribution, Leila Lee, to partner. The fund is targeting a raise of $843 million.

📝 NextGen Ventures Student Startup Funding Report reveals that student-founded startups have raised $1.2B since 2012

  • By volume of startups, climate tech was the most common sector for student-founded startups, having collectively raised $32M.

  • Blockchain & Web3 is the sector receiving the most funding due to the success of Immutable.

  • The University of New South Wales generated 24% of venture-backed founders. The full report is available here!

📉 Blackbird marks down its portfolio as public valuations remain low

  • The Blackbird portfolio's valuations are assessed independently by PwC, and the auditor valued Culture Amp down 21% and Eucalyptus down 6%.

  • It's important to note that startup shares are not traded on open markets where valuations occur daily. Instead, private portfolios are illiquid, making them difficult to value accurately. This point was well made by Jessy Wu in the comments section of the AFR's LinkedIn post.

🤝 M&A Activity: Canva and Culture Amp make significant acquisitions

  • 🎨 Canva acquires Affinity

    • In its largest acquisition yet, Canva has acquired 37-year-old Nottingham-based professional design software company Affinity. Affinity's photo editing software is a direct competitor of Adobe Photoshop.

  • 👥 Culture Amp acquires Orgnostic

    • Melbourne-based HR software giant Culture Amp has acquired Serbia-based Orgnostic, a people analytics platform that offers a plethora of HR data insights, such as employee lifecycle mapping, turnover modeling, scenario planning and more.

🍏 Kiki pivots back to subletting operations in NYC after pivoting away from subletting in NZ, Sydney and NYC 😜 

  • Kiki, previously known for subletting and a $7M seed raise, has returned to its original business model after a polarizing pivot to a "girls-only" social group in February (for which the founder, Toby Thomas-Smith, has since apologized). 

  • The startup faced criticism for handling the transition, including concerns over gender representation in its leadership, publicity stunts, and hiring practices. 

⚡️Startup Retro⚡️

Forever Network scores with $6M Series A to fund US launch and new sports verticals

Founders: Alex Sumsky and Nicholas Kelland

Sydney-based Forever Network, the sports media entity best known for Basketball Forever, has raised a $6 million Series A. Yolo Investments led the round, with Three Kings Capital and Astralis Capital also participating. The raise follows a notable 28% annual growth since its 2015 inception. With this growth, Forever Network has created a solid beachhead in the sports media sector among the 18-35 age group.

The funding will support Forever Network's expansion into the US, enabling the launch of new sports media verticals and introducing free and monetised games targeted at the North American market in the upcoming half of the year. The platform will leverage established partnerships with brands such as Nike, Adidas, and Under Armour.

Basketball Forever has 8 million followers across its social platforms and reaches 110 million unique users in 65 countries annually, generating 4 billion content impressions annually. The same strategy will be replicated across other major sports brands using a multi-faceted approach to provide content across socials, podcasts, betting markets and gaming.

This expansion signifies a major step in the company's aim to innovate within the global sports media landscape.

Illuvium lands $18.4M Series A to develop Pokémon like blockchain integrated games

Founders: Kieran Warwick and Grant Warwick

Illuvium, a Sydney-based cryptocurrency firm and video game developer has secured an $18.4 million Series A funding round to advance the launch of new blockchain-integrated games. The developer builds exclusively on the Ethereum blockchain and rewards users with collectable NFTs.

Since its founding in 2020, Illuvium has raised $60 million, with the latest round drawing support from King River CapitalArrington Capital, and Animoca Capital.

The waitlist for the upcoming gaming platform has hit over one million registered users. The platform promises interoperability with various non-fungible tokens (NFTs) across a network of games that are targeting a Q2 release.

Illuvium has a unique revenue-sharing model that sends 100% of in-game revenue to staked investors, a strategy they believe will pioneer future gaming ventures. The studio, which was founded in 2020, is set on delivering the blockchain's first AAA-quality game.

Due Diligence: Capital Brief

Funding the Balance | Weekly Edition

Aussie Startup Funding x Gender Scorecard

# of raise announcements

$ value of raise announcements

Total Funding

9

(incl. x1 undisclosed)

$61,300,000

Gender Minority Founders

(Women, Non-binary, Transgender)

0

$0

(0%)

Mixed Team

2

$10,900,000

(17.8%)

Men-only Team

7

$50,400,000

(82.2%)

Want to learn more about why we’re reporting these figures? Read about the ‘Funding the Balance’ initiative here.

🎉 Wins 🎉 

  • The contract is for the sale of counter-drone lasers, marking the ADF’s first acquisition of a prototype directed energy weapon for field trials.

  • AIM Defence’s Fractl:2 laser can burn through steel and remotely take out drones travelling at speeds of 100km/hour at a range of kilometres. The product’s slogan is to Dazzle, Disrupt and Destroy.

  • AIM will take the Fractl system to the Canadian government’s Innovation for Defence Excellence and Security CUAS Sandbox 2024 later this year, where it will compete for a CA$1 million grand prize.

💉 HEX is officially ATAR accredited in South Australia and the Northern Territory

  • The HEX High Accelerator Program allows Year 11 and 12 students to complete a 10-credit stage 2 course, with scaled score equivalents ranging from high distinction to pass, contributing to SACE credits.

  • HEX aims to bridge the digital skills gap by delivering innovation, entrepreneurship and ‘exponential skills’ programs.

🔬 UNSW Emerges as the top university for Venture Origins, producing 24% of student-founded startups

  • The NextGen report revealed that UNSW was the leader in generating venture-backed student founders, with 21 in total, including 19 men and 2 women. 

  • This was followed by Melbourne University, with 16 founders, and Sydney University, with 13 founders.

👯‍♀️ Tech Incubator Cicada Launches HealthTech Hub in Western Sydney

  • The new HealthTech Hub is a part of the Westmead health and biomedical precinct and will home early-stage health companies and provide offices, co-working and residency.

  • Supported by a grant from Investment NSW, the incubation facility aims to accelerate the commercialisation of medical technology and devices, cancer research, and other health-related endeavours.

📌 Notice Board 📌 

🎤 Pitch Opps | 🚀 Accelerator/ Program |💰 Competition/Grant | 📅 Event

📅 Tickets are available for Blackbird’s Sunrise festival! 📍Sydney

  • Held over two days from Wed May 1 to Thurs May 2, Blackbird has announced a solid lineup with tickets available here - get in quick before they sell out!

🎤 Applications still open for the Cicada x Tech 23 pitch event 📍Sydney

  • The Cicada Tech 23 pitch will showcase 23 startups and aims to connect founders with a community of investors, leaders, and innovators. Applications close April 12 and you can apply to pitch here! The event will take place on Wed August 7.

🚀 Antler Australia is taking applications for their 12th cohort 📍Melbourne/Sydney

  • This is an 11-week in-person residency where founders can bring their visions to life. It has been backed by Australia’s only truly global VC since day zero. Starting August 5, apply to partake here! Attend their Ask-Me-Anything session on April 9 here.

🧠 KaaS (Knowledge as a Service)

Will’s Pick 💁🏻‍♂️ The 8 KPIs That Actually Matter—And How To Measure Them (SaaS Focus) by Sam Richard from Open View

  • Did you know that according to ProfitWell, two out of five SaaS companies incorrectly calculate ARR (which means they’re messing up Annual Growth Rate, too).

  • This very digestible blog post explains all eight important metrics, the context of why they’re important and how to calculate them.

New Newsletter Alert 🔔 

Pulse Check will be your monthly download on the emerging trends & insights shaping the Aussie startup ecosystem, written by people at the grassroots of what’s really happening.

Check out the first edition here!

Have we missed something? Got some feedback? We love emails, so send one over!

‘Til next time,

👋 Will, Gemma & Kate