News & Analysis

Paul Little’s seed round fund, Skalata Ventures, has made its first investments, including F1 engineers using driving simulators to make roads safer

- June 24, 2019 3 MIN READ

Skalata Ventures chairman Paul Little with the fund’s COO Maxine Lee and CEO Rohan Workman

Melbourne billionaire Paul Little’s new seed investment firm, Skalata Ventures, has revealed the first 10 of the 60 startups it plans to invest in over the next three years.

The former Toll Holdings boss set up the fund this year with fellow business leader Carol Schwartz and CEO, Rohan Workman, the former Melbourne Accelerator Program (MAP) director. LaunchVic tipped $3 million into the venture.

Skalata offers up to $250,000 in funding to early-stage businesses as part of a push towards transforming Australia into a knowledge economy. The investment also includes a six-month tailored program, offering operational support, access to the Skalata network of investors, prospective customers and advisors.

The 10 startups chosen range from agtech to a key delivery service for Airbnb, a customer engagement platform and a service matching volunteers with not-for-profit groups. Skalata Ventures is looking to invest in 60 ventures in total over three years – another 20 next year and 30 in 2021.

Here are the 10 they chose first up:

Smart Paddock is developing smart ear tags for the livestock industry capable of tracking the health status, behaviour, and geo-location of animals.

Melbourne-based Choovie, co-founded by Sonya Stephen, the former CEO of the Cathy Freeman Foundation, has developed a smartphone app that brings demand pricing to cinema tickets through independent cinema chains in Australia and New Zealand. That means you could see a latest release film at prices well under the mainstream chains.

KeyNinja is a 24/7 key delivery service platform for Airbnb hosts, homeowners and property managers.

Rebotify automates the customer service process, making virtual agents accessible to all business owners.

Vollie, an online marketplace that connects skilled people with non-for-profits for online volunteering.

Preezie, a customer engagement platform designed to increase lead generation and conversions.

Explorate, an ocean freight booking platform for shippers.

Hearables 3D, which can make custom-fit in-ear devices on demand.

Reputationaire fast-tracks trust in assessing applicants and in any registration process.

Gamyra Tech, founded by two former Williams Formula 1 engineers from the racing team’s Qatar-based tech centre, is using high-end simulation to teach more than 12,000 novice drivers how to be safer on the road.

 

Skalata Ventures Chief Operating Officer Maxine Lee designed the program’s framework following five months of market research last year after speaking to investors, seed stage founders as well as those post-Series A to pinpoint the challenges facing early-stage companies.

“One of the most commonly cited issues from founders was customer growth. To address this, we’ve developed a specific module in the program which includes hands-on sales coaching, the development of customer personas and user journeys to inform communications and ensure customer experience is managed, as well as systems to manage these customers at scale,” she said.

Sara Khorasani and Raffat Zreik, who founded Gamyra Tech five years ago, hope to save some of the 3000 lives lost daily globally on roads and believes it has applications to improve safety in other workplaces. 

“Gamyra Tech’s vision, and technology, is expanding to span a myriad of other industries including occupational health and safety, and medical,” Khorasani said.

The pair subsequently moved their venture to Australia because they saw more opportunity and a strong startup ecosystem. 

Also accepted into the program is Smart Paddock, an agtech business that provides Australian cattle farmers with the relevant tools to run their operations more effectively. Through the creation of a Bluebell smart ear tag, Smart Paddocks enables farmers to monitor the animals’ activity, whether it be health related or simply knowing if cattle are in the correct paddock.

Matt Boyd and Tanya Dontas founded Vollie in 2016, with the hope they’d break down the barriers to entry with volunteering. In their first 30 months of operation, they’ve connected more than $500,000 worth of volunteer value to 550 projects. 

Dontas said that the investment in their venture was the backing a social venture such as Vollie needed. 

“Businesses that are a couple of years in can find it very challenging to reach the current expectations of VC’s regarding monthly recurring revenue and this can stifle growth,” she said.

“It’s a huge leap going from being a startup to an established sustainable company and there’s not a lot of support for companies in that pre-venture capital stage.”

 

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