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Advice

Ignition Lane’s Weekly Wrap: What the Block? Gongs season, angel investing hampered, vale Jake Millar

- December 6, 2021 7 MIN READ
Cheryl Mack, argues the pathway to angel investing is being hampered by current laws

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. Here’s their review of the week. 

Tis the season for talent wars and awards

All the awards.

  • Mr Yum, Ovira and Heaps Normal were named as big winners in the Pause Awards 2021. Instead of physical trophies, winners received their very own, unique image of a ‘collectable mini-sculpture’ as an NFT. So 2021.
  • The inaugural InnovationAus Awards 2021 saw Baraja, Haventec, DroneShield, eleXsys Energy, Sea Forest Limited, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, Gilmour Space Technologies and Nuheara win top spots. Sea Forest and Q-CTRL were named as co-winners for the Australian Hero award.
  • The AFR released its 2021 AFR Fast Lists. Top 5 Fast Starters List: Get Fish, InstantScripts, Birkill Developments, Fresh Equities and Muvul. Fast 100: Grow Finance, Tesserent, Tangerine Telecom, Top Shelf International and Deliciou.
  • Tech23 announced its 23 game-changing deeptech companies for 2021:

Talent wars. To keep on growing, startups need talent. However the Tech Council of Australia says the talent shortage is the “single biggest challenge” facing tech. NZ techland would surely agree. With the aim of solving that shortage, the Council partnered with the federally funded Digital Skills Organisation (DSO).

The partnership between the Tech Council and the DSO will focus on four pillars: data-driven research to identify skills gaps and the needs of employers; a digital workforce strategy connecting training providers, government and industry; creating standards for education and skills training; and connecting educators with employers to create pathways to work.

Can’t wait to see what’s in store.

4 My People GIF by Missy Elliott
The Tech Council’s vision come to life: people rushing to tech

Name your price. The 2021/2022 Australian Startup Salary Guide is out. The guide produced by recruitment firm Think & Grow and KPMG collates data from over 140 companies, and provides market insights from leaders at Brighte, Linktree, Blackbird, Hireup and more.

Think outside the city. Salary isn’t everything. Atlassian’s Scott Farquhar says the software giant has had considerable success securing top talent in rural and regional areas. About 30% of the software company’s new hires since the pandemic began have been based more than two hours from a city centre.

Proof we’ve got global talent. Global promotions out of Partners for Growth’s (PFG) Sydney office, which is a testament to the Aussie-based team’s success. PFG is one of the OGs of venture debt in Australia, with close ties to Silicon Valley Bank. Jason Georgatos, has been promoted to President and will lead PFG’s investment business globally. Karthi Sepulohniam will lead PFG’s business across ANZ and Asia Pacific.

And proof women in VC aren’t mystical beasts. Blackbird Ventures continues to ramp up its team, hiring five new associates – four of which are *gasp* women.


3…2…1… lift off (launch news)

A bank finally gets the startup memo. BNZ created a new revenue based financing offering for SaaS with ARR of “$0.500m or more” (because phrasing $$ in mere hundreds of thousands is too pleb for banks). Don’t know what revenue based financing is? Lucky for you Tractor Ventures’ Warwick Donaldson wrote a handy guide to alt finance.

New Artesian fund. Artesian opened an Auckland office and launched a new $100m Female Leaders Fund that will only back startups run by women targeting female customers. The fund has secured its first $45m from a Scale Investors partnership and two cornerstone investors – Hostplus and Legal Super. Alexandra Clunies-Ross, portfolio manager of the fund explains the rationale:

“We often speak with female founders whose interaction with male-led VC firms ends up with a ‘Well, I wouldn’t use that product,’… And sure, obviously they wouldn’t, but that inability to see the future value of female medical devices [or] fintech products designed for women is a huge opportunity for us to find risk-adjusted returns.”

Vinomofo Palooza. Vinomofo is getting into events after acquiring Melbourne-based events company Revel, who runs events including Pinot Palooza and the Mould Cheese festival.

Quantum hub. Sydney’s Tech Central Quantum Terminal welcomed its first tenants – Q-Ctrl, Sydney Quantum Academy and Quantum Brilliance. The hub will be managed by Stone & Chalk and will offer affordable accommodation for scaleups with rebates of up to $600k/year available.

Watch out Wall St. Algorithmic trading app Unhedged launched to retail customers. Have a play using pretend money in Unhedged’s demo-mode.

Blys expanded its wellbeing marketplace beyond massage to include hair and makeup.

Space: “The Now Frontier”. A new report was released containing 38 recommendations on how the Australian government and industry can drive growth in Australia’s space sector.

In addition to improving our lives, this transformation will present real opportunities for Australia to be part of a growing and lucrative global space industry.

The federal government announced $41m worth of grants for space technology initiatives under the Moon to Mars initiative.

Failure to launch (yet). Afterpay’s acquisition by Block (fka Square) has been temporarily blocked by Spanish regulators until mid-January. The company has delayed its shareholder approval meeting until next year as a result, but it doesn’t think there is a risk to the transaction completing.


Local raise round up

Trend of the week: record rounds. Harrison.ai – record Series B. Mr Yum – record Series A and the largest Series A for an Australian female-led startup. Relevance AI – earliest investment by Insight Partners. Not surprisingly, all led by international mega VCs.

Harrison.ai raised $129m led by Horizon Ventures. Harrison.ai has formed a JV with Sonic Healthcare, one of the world’s largest medical diagnostics providers, to develop and commercialise new clinical AI solutions in pathology. The JV will start with the diagnosis of tissue diseases. This follows another JV with I-MED Radiology to create an AI tool that detects clinical findings on chest X-rays.

Mr Yum raised US$65m (A$89m) led by Tiger Global. The mobile ordering and payments platform was founded in 2018 and now has offices in Australia, the US and the UK, with over 1,500 venues using the app. The startup wants “to build ‘the Shopify for restaurants.’”

Q-CTRL raised US$25m (A$35m) led by Airbus Ventures, including participation from local investors Main Sequence Ventures and Square Peg. Q-CTRL provides infrastructure software that improves quantum computing performance by addressing the most pressing challenge in the field – hardware error and instability. The company is targeting the space, defense and commercial sectors, and recently demo’d its core Q-CTRL tech that improves the performance of quantum algorithms executed on real quantum computers by 2,680%.

Foundry Lab raised US$8m (A$11m) led by Blackbird alongside GD1, Icehouse, K1W1, Founders Fund, Promus and WNT Ventures. The NZ company emerged from stealth on Monday and says it is using “literally a microwave, but on steroids” to cast metal parts much quicker than metal 3D printing. The first target use case is to help car manufacturing R&D teams develop production-identical, functional metal parts before moving to full scale production. “It even dings when it’s done.”

Particular Audience raised $10m for its product that lets online ecommerce like The Good Guys target customers with ‘upselling’ options at their checkouts. The round was led by Equity Venture Partners and existing investors Carthona Capital.

Elenium Automation raised $10m for its biometric venue access solutions.

Raiz raised $10m from Seven West Media. Well, kinda – $2m in cash and $8m worth of advertising on Seven’s media platforms. Raiz enables users to automatically invest the virtual ‘spare change’ from their daily purchases into diversified portfolios.

Amaka raised $5m to help accountants, bookkeepers and business owners automate data entry.

Relevance AI raised US$3m (A$4m) led by Insight Partners. This is the NY-based firm’s earliest investment on record in the region. Relevance AI is creating a developer-centric vector platform that enables companies to develop AI models to extract insights from unstructured data quickly, with almost no labelling or algorithm training required. That’s pretty amazing.

Veyor raised $4m for its tool that helps the construction industry manage and plan worksite logistics.

PayOK raised $3m. PayOK uses open banking data to prevent payment redirection scams.

Floatspace raised an undisclosed amount at a $12m val for its boat rental marketplace.

Jupiter Ionics raised $2.5m. The startup spun out of Monash University’s Technology Precinct has found a way to produce ‘green’ ammonia, which is the world’s most important fertiliser.

Cogniss raised $1.1m via a crowdfunding campaign for its no-code app builder lets you build native mobile apps and web apps that help users apply knowledge, master new skills, and adopt positive behaviours.

Semi-related observation: We often see the same old angel investors in these smaller rounds. For instance, this week Adir Shiffman was involved in Floatspace, and Leigh Jasper in Veyor. In order for the pool of angel investors to grow, we need more workable angel investing rules. This week Cheryl Mack wrote a great piece explaining why the ‘20/12 rule’ is stifling angel investment and any chance of younger, more diversified people backing startups (other than through crowdfunding).


People in big tech

Jack Dorsey. A big week for Jack Dorsey, who announced he would be stepping down from the Twitter CEO role and that Square is changing its name to Block. The move should help to differentiate the Square app (for business), from the rest of the company, which includes consumer-focused Cash App, music-streaming service Tidal and bitcoin project Spiral (fka Square Crypto).

Parag Agrawal, who joined Twitter as an engineer in 2011 and has served as CTO since 2017, will take over as Twitter’s CEO.

Patrick Collison. Stripe CEO Patrick Collison proved his smarts again, pointing out that Google, Microsoft, Adobe, IBM, Palo Alto Networks, and now Twitter run by (male) CEOs who grew up in India. Collison’s company also won a mega deal with TikTok – Stripe’s infrastructure will power TikTok’s new ‘tip a creator’ feature. Cha-ching.

Elon Musk. Trolling the internet yet again, Elon Musk prompted people to “blow the whistle on Tesla” with a Cybertruck-inspired whistle. The whistle sold out within minutes, despite being poor taste—Tesla is facing several lawsuits brought about by whistleblowers, who have made accusations of sexual harassment and racist abuse—and despite being priced at US$50. Tesla’s Cybertruck was unveiled two years ago, but production is yet to begin. Musk blames supply chain problems. Oh, the company is also now selling a US$1,900 electric Cyberquad ATV for kids.

What’s in a name? Salesforce COO Bret Taylor has been appointed as Salesforce co-CEO alongside Marc Benioff. However, Taylor will continue reporting to Benioff:

So instead of the term meaning two leaders on equal terms, it now just means two people who work with each other in a boss-subordinate relationship. At this rate, Salesforce could give the co-CEO label to its entire executive team—if not to all 57,000 employees.


A reminder to be kind

Tributes to Jake Millar flowed in this week after news of his suicide circulated NZ and its tech community.

He was brilliant, charming, persuasive, curious, on occasion annoying and naive and some of you will agree a total rascal too.

He inspired a generation to thinker bigger than they ever had before, and what’s more he made age just a number, rather than something to be looked down on.

Many are angry at the NZ media for circulating baseless, accusatory rumours and for mounting undue stress on the 26 year old after his media startup Unfiltered was sold off in a fire sale in February. For an example of what unethical pressure from a journalist can look like, read this.

Crappy journalism aside, being a founder and a business leader can be extremely rewarding, but it’s also relentlessly hard. It’s a wild ride. With the highs come lows, setbacks, and, so often, failure. We need to treat failure as a normal part of startup life – something that can teach us so much more than our success. It shouldn’t be something we shame or be intensely forced to fear.

RIP Jake.

“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.”
– Robert F. Kennedy

If you’re struggling, please remember there are loads of great resources and people available to listen and help, including Lifeline (in Aus: 13 11 14 or 0800 543 354 in Aotearoa).


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

Bex, Gavin and the team at Ignition Lane