Ignition Lane’s Weekly Wrap: Airwallex’s culture concerns, CSIRO’s $100m plan, crypto trolls

- May 17, 2021 6 MIN READ
Medipass exits into Tyro. Image: supplied

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. 

Local news: Sales, Sagas and Shipping

Tyro is acquiring Medipass in a deal worth $22.5m – 60% cash and 40% equity. Medipass will merge with Tyro’s health practice to create Australia’s leading healthcare payments platform. Medipass was founded in 2016 and enables healthcare providers to quickly get paid from a range of insurers and Medicare. Tyro’s health business provides terminal claiming for Private Health Insurance and Medicare as well as payment services.

No more roarsome choc. Hey Tiger is closing down after struggling to turn a profit. Great chocolate. Très expensive. Hey Tiger set out to change the broken cocoa industry. Farmers are paid below the poverty line and use high levels of child labour. Sadly, founder Cyan Ta’eed (also the cofounder of Envato) and team concluded Hey Tiger wasn’t a sustainable business:

Like any start up though, we’ve had to ask ourselves difficult questions. Do our products resonate with customers? Can we grow? Can we generate profits? Can we scale sustainably? As I’ve advised many other entrepreneurs over the years, sometimes even with the best vision, incredible people, and a lot of hard work, the answer to some or all of these questions isn’t what you want it to be…
As the scale of our chocolate production grew, so did the tensions between the very things that made Hey Tiger special and its ongoing viability.

Since Hey Tiger is no longer, here’s a list of other ethical chocolate brands to choose from.

Airwallex culture fail. Message screenshots have surfaced detailing how bad the culture is at payments unicorn Airwallex. The compliance and legal teams registered an employee net promoter score (eNPS) of between -12 and -15 in a survey taken at the end of 2020. The highest possible score is +100, though a great score is above 50. From The Age:

Airwallex has consistently denied any problems with its approach to compliance or culture, pointing to a range of workplace benefits it offers including generous paid parental leave and subsidised yoga.

Culture is not paid leave, ping pong tables and yoga. Perhaps Airwallex leaders should read their own blogpost advising how to create a great culture?

Rain Wedding GIF - Rain Wedding Morisette GIFs

Post innovation. Ebay and Sendle have a brand new offering that enables senders to post from home or work without printing a postage label. The sender receives a seven-character code to write on their parcel, along with the buyer’s name and address. Convenient. Plus, fewer stickies are better for the environment. Ebay and Sendle have been partners since 2017.

Post politics. Speaking of post, former Australia Post boss Christine Holgate has taken on the role as CEO of Global Express, which was part of Toll Holdings but is in the process of being sold to a PE firm. This will be a tough gig – Toll has a bad reputation when its comes to company culture, it is still recovering from crippling security breaches last year, and it is a highly competitive industry. If there’s anyone with the knowledge and personal drive to turn the ship around, its Holgate.

CSIRO will invest $100m over four years in emerging technologies, with a significant focus on digital transformation in the healthcare sector. The money will go towards five science and technology growth areas: biomedical manufacturing, digital manufacturing, digital healthcare, artificial intelligence and emerging technologies including quantum computing.

Startmate Open House is starting next week:


Money money money mooooney. Mooooney.

ASX things

Carsales is raising AU$600m to acquire a 49.0% interest in Trader Interactive for approximately US$624 million (A$800 million). Trader Interactive is a leading platform of branded marketplaces in the US. It provides digital marketing solutions and services across commercial truck, recreational vehicle, powersports, and equipment industries.

Israeli tech comes to the ASX. Gefen Technologies lodged a prospectus to raise $25m and list on the ASX at a valuation of around $128m. The Israeli company has already raised $6.5m in two pre-IPO rounds. Founded in 2014, Gefen is a SaaS platform that helps financial service and real estate companies to digitise their agent networks. Meanwhile, New York City is now home to 21 Israel-founded tech unicorns.

Audeara is listing on the ASX on Monday. It will raise $7 million in its IPO, valuing the company at $21 million. Founded by a team of doctors, audiologists and engineers, Audeara headphones measure hearing to tailor the sound for users with hearing loss. Audiologists are their main distribution channel. Tough market.

Hiremii listed on the ASX on Tuesday. Its share price tanked more than 25% on the opening day of trade.

Make It Rain Reaction GIF

Cap raising things

Athena Home Loans raised $90m led by Square Peg. Athena is showing the banks what a great home loan customer experience looks like: no fees, no “loyalty tax” (rate matches are automatically applied to old and new customers), and no incentives to continually extend a 30 year loan (AcceleRATES enables borrowers to drop their own rate as they pay down their home loans). It doubled its home loan book in 2020.

Comestri raised $15m from ASX-listed Moelis. Comestri is an all in one ecommerce platform to manage marketplaces and channels, product information and an order management system. The funding will also fuel further expansion locally, and into the UK, Europe, the US and Asia.

Console Group raised $7.5mBrisbane-based Console has been offering accounting software to property managers for 29 years. Its newer cloud product Console Cloud provides automated management of funds, trust accounting and other aspects of property management.

Qsic raised $4m led by Carthona Capital. Qsic is a commercial music streaming service that optimises sound level and content to directly impact shopper behaviours and experiences. The company already has more than 70 Australian customers including 7-Eleven, McDonald’s, Mecca, and Scanlan Theodore, and reaches over 26 million unique listeners every month.

Other worldly things

SimilarWeb listed on the NYSE at a valuation of US$1.8bn. The Tel Aviv company analyses financial data from billions of interactions across websites and apps and provides insights. The company grew revenue by 32% in 2020 to $93.5m, with a net loss of $22m last year.

Sneaky sneaky. Apple released iOS 14.5 at the end of April. The new iOS requires mobile apps to now ask users for permission to gather tracking data. According to Flurry Analytics, almost everyone (96%) is denying permission. Shock horror! However, the default setting for 1st party tracking (ie Apple) is switched on. Benedict Evans muses:

Now it’s adding its own app install ads to App Store search, and of course has its own team working on ‘ad relevance’ (AKA, well, tracking and targeting). Apple’s PR around ‘privacy’ and ‘tracking’ has been as brilliant as its PR around in-app payment has been terrible. Links: Search ads‘Ad relevance’ jobs

SPACs are back. After days of radio silence thanks to new SEC guidance, SPACs are back on the horizon:

  • Boston-based synthetic biology leader Ginkgo Bioworks’ SPAC has an implied $15 billion – one of the biggest yet. CEO Jason Kelly’s plans to turn the company into the Amazon Web Services (AWS) of synthetic biology.
  • Scooter company Bird is going public with an implied value of around $2.3 billion, which is less than previous valuations. TechCrunch: “Historically — and based on what we’re seeing in this fantastical filing — Bird proved to be a simply awful business. Its results from 2019 and 2020 describe a company with a huge cost structure and unprofitable revenue, per filings”.
scooter GIF

Billionaire crypto trolls

Boring Bitcoin. On Wednesday Elon Musk tweeted that Tesla has “suspended vehicle purchases using bitcoin,” out of concern over “rapidly increasing use of fossil fuels for bitcoin mining”. The price of bitcoin dropped about 5% in the first minutes after the announcement. Interesting move considering:

  1. Tesla only just opened up the ability to pay by Bitcoin in March.
  2. Bloomberg estimates that Tesla made $1bn on its $1.5bn Bitcoin purchase from earlier this year in gains and trading (it has only sold down 10%).
  3. The energy/coal issues related to Bitcoin are not new.
  4. Despite their environmentally-focussed missions, SpaceX and Tesla are no saints. Lithium used in electrics car batteries (including Tesla) “threatens environmental damage on an industrial scale”. The greenhouse gas emissions and environmental cost of continued SpaceX launches are also significant.
  5. SpaceX is reportedly now accepting Dogecoin for satellite launches. Like Bitcoin, Dogecoin runs on proof of work, requiring computational power to be mined. Someone much smarter than us explains: “the fact that Dogecoin has a smaller impact than bitcoin is just because the value is a lot less, but if they were the same size, the impact would be equally bad.”

Is Tesla woo’ing the govt? Coincidentally, it was also announced that Tesla is angling for a piece of the lucrative pie that is the renewable fuel credit program. The program was established in the mid-2000s under the Bush administration to boost the U.S. biofuel industry in order to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil. The Biden administration is expected to review a proposal that electric vehicles be added to the program, given Biden’s zero-emission goals. This would mean a new (significant) source of income for Tesla, essentially subsidising the cost of EVs.

Or is Musk having some profitable lols? Toying with the price of Bitcoin, cuz he can? From Bloomberg’s Matt Levine (in Feb):

A funny thing for Elon Musk to do would be:

1. Tesla Inc. buys some Bitcoin.
2. Tesla announces that Bitcoin is good now and that it bought some.
3. The price of Bitcoin goes up, because institutional adoption of Bitcoin is good for its price, but also because, by the Elon Markets Hypothesis, anything that Musk buys goes up.
4. Tesla sells some Bitcoin, making a profit.
5. Musk tweets that the price of Bitcoin is too high.
6. Bitcoin prices go down due to the Elon Markets Hypothesis.
7. Go to Step 1.

Dogecoin to the moon. Musk also made his hosting debut on “Saturday Night Live” and devoted part of his opening monologue and one sketch to talking up Dogecoin, finally calling it “a hustle”. Dogecoin then tanked 30%.

To The Moon Meme GIF by Shibetoshi Nakamoto

Not to fear, another Musk tweet (a “joke” – now deleted) later in the week saw the price bounce back to pre-SNL levels.

In other Billionaire + crypto news, Zuckerberg named his goats Max & Bitcoin.

Mashable’s take on the names? Facebook is planning to release its own cryptocurrency – Diem (which is revamped Libra). Zucks is known to farm only animals he will kill.

From a Rolling Stone interview with Twitter/Square’s Jack Dorsey:

Poor Bitcoin.

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

Bex, Gavin and the team at Ignition Lane

P.S. We’re taking a break from Clubhouse this Tuesday.