Antler Australia

Antler Investor Memo Series: Huddled is helping lonely students connect and build a community while at university

- May 29, 2024 3 MIN READ
Huddled cofounders Dhruv Verma, Archer Simmonds and Davin Karunanayake

Early stage investment company Antler Australia recently backed a new cohort of startups as part of its ongoing program to build great local tech companies.

Startup Daily is sharing the details of each venture in the “Antler Investor Memos” series, which is designed to give you a quick, sharp understanding of the startups and people involved, with many seeking follow up capital following Antler’s initial pre-seed investment.

Company: Huddled

Founded: October 2023 

Stage of business: Pre-seed

Founders: Dhruv Verma (CEO), Archer Simmonds (COO), and Davin Karunanayake (CTO)

Investors: Antler

Currently raising: Yes

The Business

Heavy workloads, career building, moving home, uncertainty, aloneness, and stress: students often face significant challenges adapting to the complex social and academic tertiary education environment. 1 in 5 Australian and New Zealander university students report feeling stressed daily, according to Youth Insights.

Companionship and community have a strong relationship with this stress, where 74% of students who feel stressed weekly or more also want to feel socially connected. These typical challenges and feelings of isolation and disconnection are only intensified for many international and interstate students who lack community and social connections. 

Huddled tackles these issues head-on by enhancing communication and engagement through a specialised platform integrated directly into university ecosystems. The goal? To facilitate academic collaboration and foster a sense of community among students.

Huddled’s founders, Archer Simmonds (COO), Dhruv Verma (CEO), and Davin Karunanayake (CTO), each experienced these challenges firsthand during their university years. Davin is an international student who found that those travelling overseas or interstate to study like himself were often left behind or excluded from the social aspects of university. Dhruv struggled to engage with coursework and peers because he felt so disconnected from the other students in his class. Archer wanted to easily find like-minded people at university who shared the same passions as he did.  

Recognising the gap in effective communication and community tools that seamlessly integrate into students’ daily lives and academic systems, they designed Huddled to be an intuitive, inclusive platform supporting every student from orientation to graduation. 

Antler investment thesis

“The integration of Huddled with university systems provides an immediate pathway to widespread adoption and creates a foundational tool for enhancing student life,” says James McClure, Partner at Antler Australia. 

“EdTech is a US$123.4B market of which Huddled is aiming to capture US$3.8B as their total addressable market. Universities are an ever-growing market within this space that is ripe for innovation to solve their student engagement and retention challenges. 

“The founders have the ideal Founder DNA for this problem space, and there is a proven need for their platform backed by a strong go-to-market strategy and an enterprise-level integration that makes Huddled defensible.” 


From a 100-person beta trial in 2023, the Huddled platform saw impressive adoption rates, expanding to nearly 1,500 students across two major universities in just one semester. The success of the beta trial has set the stage for further expansion, with plans to onboard approximately 8,000 students at eight universities and registered training organisations (RTOs) throughout the year.

The founders’ crowdsourced approach to engage their user base and gather feedback through surveys, intern programs, focus groups, and direct collaborations with student organisations ensures that the platform continuously evolves in response to student needs and contributes to their consistent user growth.

Huddled is set to expand its reach and revenue in the coming years through university clubs, alumni, and recruitment. Partnerships with major EdTech providers D2L, Instructure, and Moodle have bolstered this expansion. These facilitate the integration of Huddled into existing educational frameworks, removing friction and enhancing its accessibility and effectiveness. 

Latest funding

Pre-Seed from Antler

Use of funds

Huddled has received funding from Antler and Aditya Agarkar, co-founder of Edulastic, a K-12 EdTech now acquired by GoGuardian. Antler’s investment will be used to enhance Huddled’s infrastructure, ensuring robust, secure, and efficient operations as the platform scales. “With the support from Antler, we’re able to accelerate our impact, bringing Huddled to more students and institutions, and fundamentally changing the university experience”, says Archer Simmonds, COO of Huddled. 

The funding will also support the expansion of the team, particularly in engineering and product development, to keep pace with the rapid growth and infrastructure needs of the platform. Investments in marketing will also help establish Huddled as a recognised and trusted brand in the educational sector, facilitating further growth and adoption.

The Founders say

We are pridefully ambitious as a company, we know what we want to achieve and where we need to go,”  says Dhruv Verma, CEO of Huddled. “Our goal as we scale is to support students across the globe throughout every stage and aspect of their academic years and after. We’re dedicated to our startup and our purpose and plan to become a household name among the realm of academia.”

“Antler has been a cornerstone of our development over the last six months, through coaching and workshops that allowed us to build on our skills whilst providing a unique VC perspective on the business. Outside of their pre-seed investment, the Antler perks have largely subsidised our operational expenses giving us a much longer financial runway.”

What’s next?

Antler, a global early-stage VC, is revealing its latest investments in ambitious Australian founders and startups. With over 100 investments in early-stage companies, Huddled is one of its most recent portfolio companies.


  • StartupDaily is the official media partner of Antler in Australia.