BetterLabs, the innovation arm of Western Australian motoring club and mutual organisation RAC, has launched a $3 million seed fund to invest in early-stage startups.
As well as the mobility and insurance spaces, the BetterLabs Venture Fund aims to invest in around 10 companies. It is looking for opportunities in areas including cleantech; community; life, work, and money; and ‘third age’, or ideas supporting the transition of the ageing population into their next stage of life.
The Fund will be led by Western Australian entrepreneur Derek Gerrard, who has also come on board as entrepreneur in residence. Gerrard was previously cofounder of sustainability software startup Greensense, and is director of Go Capital.
“Seed funding is vital in supporting the growth journey of a startup, so I’m excited to be a part of launching the BetterLabs Venture Fund. Innovation is part of our future and I’m looking forward to finding the right people with the right ideas, so we can work with to help make WA a better place,” he said.
BetterLabs was launched three years ago, following several years of RAC working in the startup space: the organisation first linked up with Perth coworking community Spacecubed in 2012, and in 2014 worked with Spacecubed to launch the RAC Seedspark accelerator.
RAC’s executive general manager strategic innovation, Erica Haddon said BetterLabs has allowed the organisation to incubate new businesses, startup-style.
“We recognise that while part of building a successful innovation culture is to incubate our own businesses, we also understand the value in backing other entrepreneurs to access new technologies, business models and growth opportunities,” Haddon said.
“We are excited to launch our first venture fund to partner with some of WA’s best startup companies.”
The BetterLabs Venture Fund already has its first investment under its belt, with BetterLabs in 2016 investing in Perth-founded Power Ledger, which has developed blockchain-based applications to trade renewable energy.
The BetterLabs fund is the latest move from a motoring club in the startup space.
Victoria’s RACV earlier this year invested in Landchecker, which helps prospective buyers access detailed data around a property’s zoning and related information.
The two are working together to launch a new service, Claim My Property; this will allow users to register their ownership, receive property reports, and monitor buyer interest, with the service also sending them relevant market updates and legislative changes that may have an impact on the value of their property.
Meanwhile, the Queensland-based RACQ last December bought a 30 percent stake in Brisbane artificial intelligence company Blackbook.ai, which specialises in services including robotic process automation, digital automation, and chatbots.