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Business strategy

Ignition Lane’s Weekly Wrap: Hatches, matches & startup dispatches; all the raises; big tech’s reporting season

- August 2, 2021 7 MIN READ
Spriggy
Spriggy: Gav approved.

Welcome to Ignition Lane’s Weekly Wrap, where they cut through the noise to bring you their favourite insights from the technology and startup world. Ignition Lane works with ambitious business leaders to apply the Startup Mindset to their technology, product and commercialisation problems. 

This wrap goes out free to subscribers every Saturday. Don’t forget you can catch Gavin Appel discussing the week on the Startup Daily show on Ausbiz every Monday at 2pm. If you miss it, you can catch up on the week’s shows here.

Here’s their review of the week. 


Births, deaths & marriages v2

Births: Headphone startup Nura launched two new earbud models – the NuraTrue earbuds and its smallest, lowest-cost product to date, NuraBuds. The headphone market is tough, but Nura seem to be holding their own against the consumer electronics giants. Solid reviews so far.

Death (of a business relationship): New Aim retails and wholesales products ranging from bedding to furniture to ride on cars, and provides dropshipping services to businesses like Costco and Harvey Norman. It is one of Australia’s most successful ecommerce businesses – the company says it has delivered products to 40%+ of Australian residential addresses. In FY21 it sent more than 4 million items from its warehouses. It was ranked #205 in FT’s 2020 top high-growth APAC companies, and brought in $277m revenue and after-tax profit of $34m in FY20. That figure is expected to grow to $61m in FY21. The founders parted ways in April. Fung Lam bought out Werner Liu’s half of the business. The price tag? $101m. Sounds like someone got a good deal.

Marriages:

Unitec and GeneCrypt are partnering to protect DNA data with encryption software.

Eden Brew is partnering with NSW dairy cooperative Norco and the CSIRO to develop animal-free milk by using technology that creates casein micelles without the cow. It looks and functions just like cow’s milk, but is low allergenic, lactose-free and environmentally friendly. Alternative milks are a moo-ssive market – Oatly listed in May and is now worth over US$10b. This week NotCo, a Chile-based food tech company making plant-based milk and meat replacements, raised US$235m at a $1.5b valuation.

America’s fastest growing telehealth provider network FaceMyDoc has partnered with Sydney-based Cogsworth to provide scheduling technology to healthcare providers.

Time to celebrate! Wellington honoured its best businesses in this year’s Gold AwardsFix & Fogg took out the supreme prize. Its nut butters, including *drool* Choc Berry Everything, Granola Butter, and Coffee and Maple Peanut Butter *drool* are taking off around the world, seeing it secure contracts with US Whole Foods and Woolies in Aus. CoGo won the innovation award for its app that helps consumers track their real-time carbon footprint through their spending and bank data. Farm Focus won the cyber award for its farm financial management software.

Brad Pitt Kiss GIF by BAFTA

Local raising news: +1 Aussie unicorn & mainstream quantum computers

Culture Amp raised US$100m at a USD$1.5b+ valuation (double its 2019 val), led by TDM Growth Partners and Sequoia Capital China. Culture Amp started life in 2011 as an employee survey platform. Now it offers a raft of tools to help companies improve their employee experience and people management processes, including analytics (eg turnover prediction), a Skills Coach help managers develop “soft skills”, team goal tracking and 1:1 toolkits. Culture Amp is now used by more than 4,000 organisations including Salesforce, Unilever, PwC, SoulCycle and BigCommerce. Congrats to Didier and the 500+ CultureAmp team!

PsiQuantum raised US$450m at a US$3.15b valuation. Investors include Microsoft’s VC firm, M12, Ballie Gifford, Blackbird Ventures and Temasek, with BlackRock leading. Although the company is based in California, it deserves a spot on this local list because CEO and cofounder is Australian Jeremy O’Brien. PsiQuantum wants to build the world’s first commercially viable, fault-tolerant quantum computer.

Quantum 101: Quantum computers are like supercomputers on steroids. They use qubits (0 and 1) rather than bits (0 or 1) used by normal computers. That factor creates an exponential edge in computing power. Quantum computers are about to transform our world – they are the key to solving otherwise impossible problems that require large amounts of data, e.g. in healthcare, national security, aerospace, transport, energy, finance and climate.

PsiQuantum is special because it is solving for one of the most pressing issues that comes with having a magnitude more powerful computing: reducing the error rate.

IntelligenceBank raised $50m from Five Elms. IntelligenceBank’s marketing operations software is used by more than 400 brands, helping marketing teams manage digital assets, creative content projects & approvals and compliance. Founder and CEO, Tessa Court told us:

Five Elms are one of the few firms that really get Digital Asset Management and the broader Martech space. They will be a great partner for us. I’ve known the Five Elms team since 2018. That pre-existing relationship made raising capital via Zoom during Covid a lot easier. It also means that since finalising the deal, we are already up and running and haven’t missed a beat.

Spriggy raised $35m from NAB Ventures, Grok Ventures and Perennial. Spriggy is a mobile app with a linked prepaid card that helps kids learn the concept of digital money. Spriggy gets Gav’s seal of approval, “If you’re looking to teach your kids financial literacy early, it’s a great product for managing pocket money and incentivising chores,” he says, quoting himself in his own newsletter. #NotAnAd

Carbar secured $50m in debt financing, as it gears up for growth, with a focus on electric vehicles. The car subscription investment vehicle is the first of its kind in Australia.

Uptick received investment from Accel-KKR (undisclosed amount – likely a decent figure as this is its fourth round and Accel-KKR don’t mess about). Uptick provides field-servicing software for building compliance. Its technology is used to maintain over 25% of Australian commercial and multi-storey residential buildings.

Visionary Machines raised $7.5m led by Folklore Ventures and with co-investment by Our Innovation Fund. Visionary Machines is revolutionising 3D spatial sensing using camera arrays that allow machines to see, navigate, measure distance and perceive objects more effectively.

Ofload raised $3.8m from Danish shipping giant Maersk, Foundamental, Global Founders Capital and Flash Ventures. Ofload connects small and medium-sized carriers with shippers, enabling shipments to be delivered more quickly and affordably by taking up what would have been empty space in delivery vehicles.

Circle In raised $2.275m for its software that enables managers to better support employees through parenthood. Its customers include Medibank Private, Atlassian, Culture Amp, EY, GAP and Estee Lauder.

My Auto Shop raised from Trade Me for its mechanic marketplace.

Investor news

Spaceship hit $1b in funds under management. Nearly 200,000 people have invested funds using the superannuation and investment platform.

Lighter Capital raised over US$100m in debt and equity led by Credit Suisse and i80 Group. Other Lighter Capital investors include NAB, Silicon Valley Bank, and Voyager Capital. Lighter Capital offers revenue-based financing, with a strong presence in Australia.

If you want to learn more about alternative funding mechanisms like revenue-based financing, NZTE is hosting an all-star local panel (Tractor Ventures, PFG, SVB, Clearco and Lighter Capital) on Weds 11 Aug. Register here.

Related: Tomasz Tunguz says early stage venture debt is on the decline because valuations have nearly doubled.

King River Capital raised US$95m in first close for fund two. King River primarily makes early through growth stage minority equity investments in Australia and the US. Its first fund spanned fintech, digital health, logistics, industrial automation, gaming and enterprise software.

New Airwallex ecosystem VC. Airwallex’s cofounders are launching a fund (Capital 49) to invest in technology-enabled companies powered by Airwallex’s infrastructure. Capital 49 plans to raise US$200 million (A$270m) through the Airwallex founders and other investors.

Quidnet Ventures launched a new fund for “bold and courageous Kiwi entrepreneurs.” Quidnet is founded by Mark Bregman who led innovation consulting at Vista Equity Partners. Bregman has previously invested in Aider, a digital assistant for small businesses; Dawn Aerospace, a sustainable space transportation company; Winely, a real-time fermentation analysis company; and Marama Labs, a deep-tech sensor and data analytics company that develops advanced spectroscopy sensors for analysing the chemical composition of liquids.

TelstraVentures led a US$15.5m round in MGA reThought Insurance. reThought writes flood coverage for complex mid-tier commercial risks and high net worth properties and is also developing offerings for other perils, supported by a proprietary model convergence engine and high-definition risk data engine. How handy would a quantum computer be to predict weather?!

Will Ferrell Lol GIF by NBA

Big tech’s growth don’t stop (yet)

It’s quarterly reporting season!

Tl;dr (quarterly results, year-on-year): Microsoft delivered its strongest quarterly revenue growth in years, up 21%. Alphabet reported whopping revenue growth of 62%, net income up 166%! Facebook’s revenue is up 56%, while Zucks is all-in on his metaverse vision that will require “very significant investment” for years to come. Every part of Apple’s business expanded, resulting in a 36% revenue increase. Amazon’s comparatively slowpoke growth of just 27% surprised a few analysts. Its profits nearly hit a new record at $7.8 billion.

Make It Rain Disney GIF

Don’t expect these YoY growth rates to continue – most warn next quarter will slow.

Other big data points: Shopify’s revenue grew 56% to $1b. Tesla passed $1 billion in quarterly net income for the first time. Pinterest’s reported 125% revenue growth. Spotify’s user growth rate has been trending down, with 22% more MAUs compared to the same period last year (365 million in total).

Na na na na na na na na FANGMAN

Alphabet

  • Revenue +62% to $61.9 billion
  • Net income + 166% to $18.5 billion
  • Operating profit 31% (usually ranges between 20% and 26%)
  • Google Cloud +53%; losses down 58% to $591 million

Apple

  • Revenue + 36% to $81.4 billion
  • Net income +94% to $21.7 billion
  • iPhone +50% $39.57 billion

Amazon

  • Revenue +27% to $113.08b (compared to revenue growth of around 40% for the past four quarters)
  • Net income +48.4% to $7.8 billion
  • AWS +37% to $14.81 billion

Microsoft

  • Revenue + 21% to $46.2 billion
  • Net income +47% to $16.5 billion
  • Azure +51%

Facebook

  • Revenue +56% to $29.077 billion
  • Operating margin jumps to 43% from 32%
  • Net income doubled to $10.4 billion

“I expect people will transition from seeing us primarily as a social media company to seeing us as a metaverse company… What is the metaverse? It’s a virtual environment where you can be present with people in digital spaces. You can kind of think of this as an embodied internet that you’re inside of rather than just looking at.” – Zucks


Around the world

Robinhood IPO’d raising $2.1bIt set its own share price at $38 – the low end of its range, seeing it list with a $32b market cap. But it closed the day down 8.37%. Why so bad? Potentially because of the way it structured the IPO. Usually the bulk of an IPO is allocated to institutional investors. Pops occur where there is unserved retail demand for the shares (scarcity tactics). But Robinhood reserved 35%—a sizeable chunk and one of the largest allocations ever given to retail investors —of the IPO for its own customers. No demand, no pop. Flop.

Chinese regulators = investors shaking in their boots. Regulatory crackdowns have caused a Chinese tech stock selloff in recent weeks, wiping out $1 trillion in market value. But public markets aren’t the only companies affected – startups are feeling the pinch too. While every other major market has seen a massive uplift in venture funding last quarter, China saw its second straight quarterly decline according to CBInsights.

Trending: $100m rounds. In the last week or so:

  • 1Password: $2b valuation from Accel, Skip Capital, Mike Cannon-Brookes, Scott Farquhar, Stewart Butterfield, and others for its password management services. 1Password was bootstrapped until 2019, when it raised $200m from Accel. It recently crossed $120m in annual recurring revenue.
  • ActiveFence: led by CRV and Highland Europe. The Israeli company’s technology detects and protects against disinformation, child abuse, hate speech, terror, and other malicious content and activities online.
  • Bubble: from Insight Partners and others for its no code platform.
  • Bota Bio: from Sequoia Capital China and others to advance sustainable biomanufacturing.
  • Dixa: from General Atlantic and others for its customer service platform. Dixa acquired Melbourne-based Elevio in Jan.
  • Fabric: $850m valuation. Fabric helps retailers sell their products online. Revenue has grown more than 800% YoY.
  • La Haus: equity & debt from Acrew Capital, Renegade Partners, Jeff Bezos and others for its Colombia-based online real estate marketplace.
  • OpenSea: $1.5b valuation from A16z for its NFT marketplace.
  • Path Robotics: led by Tiger Global for its robotic welding firm.

Two Swedes in a pod. Sweedish BNPL Klarna acquired Swedish startup APPRL, which connects content creators to advertisers.

Speaking of influencers… has LinkedInfluencing goes too far?

Thoughts?


That’s a wrap! We hope you enjoyed it.

Bex, Gavin and the team at Ignition Lane