Aussie Startup & Venture Capital Summary | 3rd Feb 2024

An AI tool to help keep the kids under control + 2 solo female founders get funded

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. 🚀 

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👀 Headlines 👀 

💰Birchal crowdfunding report

  • Birchal has released its 2023 Crowdfunding Report which takes into account all the successful crowdfunding raises of the year.

  • The major takeaway was that 2023 saw similar volumes of funding and participants as 2022, despite venture capital seeing a significant cooling of deals.

  • Overall, $71M was raised over 82 crowdfunding campaigns with 35,000 investors participating. The Food & Bev sector took in 31% of that capital with Healthcare (largely cannabis) taking in 19%.

  • We got stuck into the the reports’ most interesting findings and trends here.

🌴 AirTree gets a new partner, fresh out of Silicon Valley

  • Former managing director of private equity giant General Atlantic, Kell Reilly, has joined AirTree’s partnership. The AFR reported that Reilly will use his connections and experience in California’s tech scene to facilitate the offshore expansion of portfolio companies.

  • The VC now features a total of seven partners: John Henderson, Helen Norton, Craig Blair, Jackie Vullinghs, Elicia McDonald and James Cameron.

  • Fun fact - according to their website’s Team pages, SquarePeg also has seven members in the partnership while Blackbird has nine.

🌶️ Canva’s spicy secondaries

  • Canva’s earliest investors and staff members are getting an opportunity to realise their investment gains through a share sale.

  • Goldman Sachs and the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan are among the new investors while Blackbird is selling off it’s Canva stake from it’s early funds and re-buying in with later stage focused funds.

  • AirTree is also looking to sell it’s early position as it’s reaching a maturity of 10 years, which is often the lifecycle of a VC fund and when LP’s expect to be paid.

  • The secondary share sale is reported to be in the range of $1.5B at a $26B valuation, but some investors apparently think $US30-34B would be a more accurate figure (AFR).

⚡️Startup Retro⚡️

Alt Leather stitches up $1.1M Seed round to create bio-based alternative leather

Founder: Tina Funder

Melbourne-based Alt. Leather, founded in 2022 by Tina Funder, has secured $1.1 million in a Seed round. Tina saw the opportunity through a previous venture with vegan 'leather' handbag brand Life On Mars, noticing the leather quality wasn't up to her standard. She now aims to create the first 100% plant-based leather alternative. The startup has gained the support of investors like Startmate, The Austin Group, Wollemi Capital Group, and LaunchVic's Alice Anderson Fund.

The funding will enable access to advanced equipment and research opportunities in collaboration with Melbourne's top universities. It will also support the filing of a provisional patent and the production of small-scale samples in partnership with undisclosed major brands.

Alt. Leather's mission is to provide a fully bio-based, petrochemical-free alternative to traditional and synthetic leathers, which are often petroleum-based. The company's innovative material is made from agricultural waste and regenerative plants, aligning with the growing demand from major brands for sustainable materials.

The company has expanded its research team, which is led by Chief Scientific Officer Tuan Nguyen. They focus on green chemistry innovation to develop durable, scalable, and patentable leather alternatives. The global market for synthetic leather is around US$70 billion, with only 3% currently met by sustainable alternatives.

Due Diligence: Smart Company

ProcurePro builds momentum with $6.15M Series A round to make procurement in construction simpler

Founders: Alastair Blenkin, Tom Newby, Nathan Dench, Jesse Dymond, and Tim Rogers

ProcurePro, a Queensland-based construction procurement platform, has successfully raised $6.15 million in a Series A funding round. This investment, led by AirTree and Saniel Ventures, is set to fuel ProcurePro's ambitious expansion into the UK market while solidifying it's market share in Australia and New Zealand. The funding follows a $2.6 million Seed round in 2021.

Founded in Brisbane in 2021, the business now employs 40 staff across Australia and New Zealand. Co-founders Rogers and Blenkin have relocated to the UK to drive the company's global strategy, quickly securing projects worth nearly $600 million.

The platform has already saved 200,000 hours in construction administration and aims to revolutionise procurement by integrating over 15 processes, typically run on a spreadsheet, into a single digital platform. This innovation offers builders greater visibility and control, halving the usual procurement time and helping increase the margin on projects.

ProcurePro's platform has been instrumental in over 1,000 projects totalling $30 billion in Australia and New Zealand. The platform is used by large contractors, including KANE, Roberts & Co, 2CONSTRUCT and Balmain & Co.

Due Diligence: Business News Australia

Amber Electric charges with $29M Series C to fuel global expansion of battery & EV automation technology

Founders: Dan Adams & Chris Thompson

Amber Electric, a platform transforming the retail energy sector with its variable wholesale pricing model, has secured $29 million in its latest funding round to push its technology onto the global stage. The Series C oversubscribed round saw a $12 million contribution from Gentrack, an ASX and New Zealand-listed software company. Other notable investors include Rubio Impact Ventures, Commonwealth Bank, NRMA, and Square Peg.

Amber will use the funding to launch an EV-to-grid automation product, enabling electric vehicle batteries to store and sell energy, similar to home battery systems. This move aims to financially benefit households by leveraging the wholesale price of electricity, especially during high-demand periods. In other words, EV owners can sell back into the grid when prices are high.

Additionally, Amber is looking to license its technology to utilities worldwide through a white-labelling scheme in partnership with Gentrack. This strategy aligns with Amber's broader vision of supporting the transition to renewable energy by making battery storage and electric vehicles integral components of the energy market. This platform will see the two companies develop, sell, and deploy the tech together.

Yume snags $2M Seed round to connect food manufacturers’ surplus stock with charities

Founder: Katy Barfield

Yume, a Melbourne-based food redistribution platform aiming to tackle food waste, has secured a $2 million Seed investment to enhance its technology and support global expansion efforts. This funding round, led by Investible's Climate Tech Fund, along with its Early Stage Fund 2 and Club Investible syndicate, also saw participation from LaunchVic, Goodrich Group, Veolia, and angel investor Pitzy Folk, bringing Yume's total funding to $7 million.

Founded in 2016, Yume connects food manufacturers with excess stock to businesses and charities, facilitating the redistribution of surplus food. To date, Yume has redistributed nearly 8 million kilograms of food, donated over a million meals to charities, and generated $22 million for companies using its platform.

This initiative not only addresses Australia's significant food waste issue but also aids in reducing the environmental impact of unused food. Current partners include Mars Food, Kellogg's, Snack Brands Australia and Unilever. The capital will be used to double its workforce in 2024.

Due Diligence: Startup Daily

Marama Labs decants $2.85M Seed raise to grow wine analytics toolkit

Founders: Dr Brendan Darby, Dr Matthias Meyer and Professor Eric Le Ru

New Zealand-based Marama Labs, a technology specialising in wine analysis, has successfully secured $2.85 million in Seed funding, led by European AgTech VC, The Yield Lab. The round also saw participation from New Zealand Growth Capital Partners, Icehouse Ventures, Quidnet Ventures, DeepIE, Radar Ventures, NZVC, and various Kiwi angel groups, alongside high-net-worth individuals from Ireland and Germany.

The funding aims to enhance the company's hardware manufacturing capabilities in New Zealand for its CloudSpec spectroscopy instrumentation and data analytics tools designed for the life sciences sector. While the product currently focuses on the wine market, it has applications in analysing wastewater, beer, milk, live cells and non-soluble molecules.

Founded in 2019 as a spin-out from Victoria University of Wellington, Marama Labs has a more efficient way of analysing opaque liquid samples, like fermenting wines and nano-medicines, than existing technologies. Wine producers see benefits in the tech to help optimise production processes significantly throughout the wine-making process, even when the grape is still on the vine!

The company plans to use the investment to expand its global presence in the wine industry and introduce its first product to the life-sciences market within the year. Prominent Kiwi wineries such as Giesen and Cloudy Bay, along with top US producers, are making use of the technology.

Gaia EnviroTech raises $4.3M to turn bio-waste into energy through modular shipping container platform

Founders: Sandy Gray, Michael Renehan

Gaia EnviroTech, a Victorian-based regional organic waste management technology specialising in organic waste management and bioenergy, has secured a $4.3 million investment from RFC Ambrian Funds Management's Decarbonisation Fund.

Gaia EnviroTech has developed a end-to-end waste management system to develop bioenergy that is modular and saleable. The main product, an anaerobic biodigester, breaks down biodegradable material in near-optimum conditions to create biogas. That gas can then be utilised for power.

The deal, which concluded at the end of January, aims to accelerate Gaia's efforts to commercialise its anaerobic biodigester system. This technology is designed to help decarbonise sectors, including food production, manufacturing and agriculture.

Gaia EnviroTech is set to enhance its portfolio with more proprietary technologies, including a rapid composter. The team also works with its clients as consultants to help build the perfect modular system depending on the volume of feedstock, location, site size and potential energy production.

Due Diligence: AFR

🤑 New Funds, Who’s This? 🤑 

Virescent Ventures $200M Climate-focused fund

  • The $200 million climate-focused fund was raised following growing interest from family offices and companies driving the global energy transition. The VC has committed more than $260 million to climate-specific tech startups over the last six years.

  • The fund will be managed by the Virescents' three partners, Kristin Vaughan, Blair Pritchard and Ben Gust, the team responsible for the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

  • It will target decarbonisation technologies across various industries: transport, electricity, food and agriculture, the Internet of Things (IoT), grid management technologies, green hydrogen, the circular economy and resources sector.

🎉Wins 🎉 

LVLY co-founder launches AI-assistant, Goldee

  • Verity Tucker, founder of gifting business LVLY which was sold for $35 million in April 2022, has launched an AI assistant called Goldee, aiming to help parents manage family schedules and alleviate burnout, particularly amongst women, who often shoulder an estimated 70% of the household's mental load.

  • The AI assistant was built with the help of Shadowboxer, who has also taken an equity stake in the business through its creative capital model.

Sapia.ai gains solid customer traction with ASX100 companies

  • The Smart Interviewer platform aims to improve diversity outcomes by eliminating unconscious bias in candidate screening by using a conversational natural language processing (NLP) AI chatbot to conduct interviews, assessments and screen for talent.

  • Amidst an increase in Corporate Australia's adoption of new technologies, 10% of ASX100 companies are now using the Sapia.ai. Customers include Medibank, Suncorp, SparkNZ, Kmart and Target, all a part of the Wesfarmers portfolio, as well as Woolworths and Qantas (Business News Australia).

Autodesk acquires Melbourne software prop-tech Payapps for an undisclosed amount (Business News Australia)

  • Autodesk is a public, California-headquartered global software company. It specialises in developing software tools used to create 3D models, simulate processes, and design various projects, seeking to ease the creative and technical aspects of the design and construction process.

  • Founded in 2013, Payapps is a Melbourne-based construction industry payment software company.

Antler Australia kicks off its 11th residency in Australia

HealthTech company Eucalyptus allows early employees cash out with $8M employee share sale

  • The share sale comes at a flat valuation with the secondary share sale set to return some (valuable) cash to 20-30 longstanding Euc staff. (AFR)

PLUS (something to aspire towards…) - Atlassian had it’s first ever billion dollar quarter with $1,060M in revenue 🤯 

😍 We love sharing your startup wins! Have something you’re celebrating? Send Gemma an email via [email protected].

📌 Notice Board 📌 

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

🚀 Flying Fox Female Founders Program 📍Victoria

  • Applications are open for this pre-accelerator for VIC-based female founders who might have a killer idea but need help getting started!

  • Apply - before 10th Feb

  • Thanks to Chenelle Tanglao for giving us the heads up on this one!

🚀 ThincSeed 📍Adelaide

  • ThicSeed is a tailored accelerator program, run by ThicLab and backed by the Adelaide Economic Development Agency, which propels startups towards success, preparing them for a compelling pitch to a broad network of Australian angel investors.

  • Apply - before 18th February

  • Shoutout to one of our OS Super Fans, Mary Kelly, who participated in the 2023 program for her startup, Reusably!

📅 🎤 Fintech Australia Reverse Pitch 📍Sydney

  • Fintechs and non-Fintechs are invited to this event where ANZ and Westpac will present problem statements (across themes of sustainability, payments and fraud and scams), which they are invited to respond to with their solutions.

  • Register to attend - 21st Feb | Submit a solution - before 20th March

🚀 LuminaX HealthTech Accelerator📍 Gold Coast

  • Officially in its fourth year, applications are open for this accelerator program which offers $300k investment + $50k worth of in-kind support to selected startups. Based in QLD with mandatory in-person sessions, interstate founders are provided with a $4k travel allowance.

  • Learn more | Apply - before 11th March

💰 JCI Australia’s Emerging and Creative Young Entrepreneur Competitions 📍 Australia

  • If you’re an aspiring or early-stage entrepreneur based in Australia, and aged 18-40, JCI Australia is hosting TWO competitions to help you gain national and international recognition, increase your network and score some prizes!

  • Apply - before 9th Feb

🚀 Farmers2Founders (F2F) TEKWOMEN Program 📍Victoria/ Hybrid

  • The TEKWOMEN Program is designed to help women entrepreneurs launch a successful AgTech business while being guided by expert industry mentors.

  • Learn more & apply (ASAP)

🧠 KaaS (Knowledge as a Service)

Gemma’s Pick 💁‍♀️ The Cloud Under the Sea (Documentary), ABC

  • When was the last time you thought about how the internet actually works? If you’re like me, you probably take the “magic” of the internet and all the amazing technologies it enables completely for granted.

  • This (somewhat confronting) documentary looks at the potential risks of geopolitical instability on the cohesion of the global internet and shows just how devastatingly fragile it can be when the underwater cables that make it all possible, are cut off (sometimes by accident, sometimes not…). If you’re wondering if you should care, it’s worth knowing that the likes of Google, Microsoft and Meta definitely do 👀 .

Will’s Pick 💁‍♂️ The ultimate guide to fundraising for first-time founders by the Hustle Fund

  • This was sent by my favourite design friend, Joumana Elomar of Skale Studio. The PDF is quite large, 148 pages to be exact, but is packed with useful information, especially if you’re a first-time founder. The advice covers everything from how a SAFE note works (with simple examples) to questions a VC might ask you on your first call. There’s also some quite interesting stuff in the back end of the document on how VC funds work and deploy capital.

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

‘Til next time,

👋 Will, Gemma & Kate