Antler Australia

Antler Investor Memo Series: Deputy Network is the digital wallet brand loyalty programs need

- February 29, 2024 4 MIN READ
Christ Elias
Deputy Network cofounder Chris Elias

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: Deputy Network

Founded: June 2023 

Stage of business: Seed 

Founders: Chris Elias (CEO) and Adrian Chan (CTO) 

Investors: Antler 

Currently raising: Yes 

The business 

Customer engagement and loyalty are integral to the long-term success of companies of every size.

It also provides great data on consumer needs. For startups, a strong loyalty strategy increases the lifetime value of each customer and increases the amount and rate at which they spend, providing founders with foreseeable financial runways.

In the 2023 Australian Consumer Pulse report by McKinsey, 60% of consumers surveyed said a loyalty program positively influenced their spending habits.  This led to more frequent shopping, favouring the brand over competitors, higher referral rates, and an openness to paying extra for loyalty points or higher loyalty status. 

However, current engagement strategies have a variety of problems. From creating poor customer service experiences – which results in Australian businesses losing more than an estimated $100 billion annually and high bounce rates to not capturing crucial customer data, it all adds up.

Removing this friction is the key to successful customer engagement programs. 

Deputy Network is a customer-owned digital wallet that merchants and brands can use to engage directly with customers through such programs by integrating it with their existing payment infrastructure. This means that brands can send customers benefits and discounts directly to the digital wallet to be redeemed automatically at check-out. 

Founded by Chris Elias (CEO) and Adrian Chan (CTO), the startup’s competitive advantage lies in its use of blockchain technology which has enabled more efficient, automated processes and has allowed them to improve the accessibility of loyalty programs for both the brands and the customers. 

“Allowing customers to engage with the brands they love in a more personalised and streamlined way than ever before is very exciting, and we believe this will power the next generation of B2C payments,” says Chris. 

Antler Investment Thesis 

Antler has recently backed Deputy Network, with partners believing that the model and the founders can solve the dual issue of brand engagement and loyalty with minimal friction. 

“What sets Deputy Netowk apart is its strategic use of blockchain technology,” says James McClure, partner at Antler in Australia.

“This approach not only simplifies but also automates and gamifies customer engagement and loyalty programs. The wallet is designed for ease of use and creation, making it an ideal fit for brand engagement but also as a white-label solution for banks, fintechs, and other financial institutions. 

“Technology such as this has the power to enhance and streamline notoriously complex customer-brand relationships. This aligns well with Antler’s focus on backing startups that showcase a blend of innovative technology and market potential. Deputy Network is paving the way for a new way of brand-customer interaction that can redefine the industry standards.” 

Traction/milestones to date 

Since launching its MVP in April of last year, Deputy Network has shown exceptional organic growth. The platform has accrued over 10,000 users and is growing 12% week-on-week. This uptick in customer activity has created 20,000 transactions, increasing by 18% weekly. 

Deputy Network has also begun working with four global retail merchants and intends to announce some principal partnerships with large fintechs and banks within the next three months. With global expansion already underway, the loyalty platform has achieved success in Australia, US, and Europe, and plans to lengthen that reach throughout the year. 

Deputy Network is now achieving significant growth organically, with minimal to no cost associated with acquiring their current users. “We are focused on supercharging growth in 2024,” says Chris.

“By partnering with more retail merchants and airlines as well as distributing our product as a white-label solution to fintechs and banks, we hope to become the industry standard for blockchain-powered digital wallets.”

Latest funding

Pre-Seed from Antler 

Use of funds 

Focused on being a product-led business building best-in-class technology, Deputy Network has used Antler’s initial funding to expand their team, making engineering and product hires. The early-stage VC has also helped connect them with key stakeholders and professionals outside of just being an investment partner. 

Deputy Network is also currently raising a Seed round to broaden its product offerings, capitalise on existing opportunities with large merchants and fintechs, and enhance its business development team. 

The founders say

“Antler has connected us to amazing potential customers and advisors. In particular, Anthony Drury, the former Zip Co. executive, has been an amazing addition to our advisory board, and was introduced to us through Antler’s network,” says Chris. 

“The Antler portfolio team has also been very supportive. They understand the rollercoaster that the founders go through in the early stages and do all they can to help. Having a great investment partner like Antler feels like you have a team of people supporting you. 

“We’re on a mission to be the best digital wallet solution that unlocks the most value for customers and merchants. This will ultimately allow us to become the preferred payment method for merchants and customers.” 

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, Deputy Network is one of its most recent portfolio companies. 

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