Australia’s startup sector reveals its 2019 highlights

- January 8, 2020 4 MIN READ


As part of Startup Daily’s summer series, we asked a range of people in the startup ecosystem about the year that’s been and what they see for 2020.

One of the questions we asked was for their key highlight in 2019. Here’s what they said.



Giant Leap Fund investment manager Rachel Young. Photo: supplied

Rachel Yang

Investment Manager, Giant Leap Fund

There have been a few things this year that have shown us that impact investment is becoming more mainstream.

For example, when we co-invested in Amber Electric with Square Peg – one of Australia’s biggest funds, they chose to highlight the importance of the company’s mission: To pull Australia towards 100 per cent renewable energy. This crystallised a general trend we’ve been noticing that VCs across Australia have started incorporating impact into their reasoning for an investment.

We’ve also seen an increasing focus on the social responsibility of big tech giants’ given they are custodians of enormous amounts of personal data. Whilst this increased focus is really positive, it will be interesting to see how it plays out in 2020 as policy makers consider how to regulate these tech giants whilst balancing the need to foster innovation.


Dave Stein, Head of Corporate Development, Airwallex

Dave Stein

Head of Corporate Development, Airwallex 

Two things stand out to me. Firstly, 2019 was the year when Australian startups such as Airwallex, Canva and Culture Amp grew tremendously in global stature.

Secondly, Australian consumers and businesses have really started to embrace fintech, in particular with the rapid growth of neobanks. It’s been amazing to watch the evolution of the financial services landscape in 2019 and I can’t wait to see the tech/startup sector develop further next year.


Canva co-founder Cameron Adams

Cameron Adams

Chief Product Officer, Canva

Seeing some successful (and not so successful) local IPOs was great, as it indicates a real maturation of the local tech scene.

There was also an increased focus on social issues for companies in the tech scene: rallying around the September 20 climate strikes, and renewable energy in particular.


Jurie Rossouw, CEO, Driven

Jurie Rossouw

CEO, Driven

I was blown away with the technical advancements and applications of AI in 2019. From a hyper-personalized shopping experience to smart health care, AI will change entire industries over the next few years.

At Driven, we created an AI chatbot scientifically proven to build resilience which is a key preventative factor against mental diseases.


Dipra Ray, managing director & CEO, mPort

Dipra Ray

CEO, mPort

I felt that 2019 was a turning point for the startup sector, particularly in Australia. We saw a maturing of the scene where a number of high profile startups achieved significant success both in terms of commercial traction and also capital raised. 


ACS President Yohan Ramasundara

ACS President Yohan Ramasundara

Yohan Ramasundara 

ACS President

Globally the sector continue to grow. I had few opportunities to connect the Australian sector with other global leaders such as Silicon Valley, London, Beijing, and Boston which was great.

The Australian sector growth, deal flow and investment availability is behind the global leaders due to lower risk appetite, less incentives for investors, etc. Nevertheless it’s a vibrant sector which we need to support in 2020 and beyond.

That Startup Show co-founder Anna Reeves

Anna Reeves

Co-founder, That Startup Show

I think seeing tech leaders like Mike Cannon-Brookes taking action on climate innovation by putting real money behind projects such as the Sun Cable. Investments like this could build industries Australia could take the lead in globally, and that’s really exciting.

Technology alone won’t solve the climate crisis, but inspiring people to think about how we solve the problem can have enormous power. On a global scale, I think it’s been great to see accountability being asked of  “Big Tech”, and people asking the questions about how much influence tech platforms have had in people’s lives, and especially in political systems.

Getting the balance between privacy, data access and the kinds of data being stored, including bio data as humans interface with AI and other platforms will be critical. More than ever we need to be asking what kind of world are we creating, who is creating it and will it create more problems than it solves.

That more people are looking at “tech ethics” and demanding change is significant and necessary.


Giorgio Baracchi, co-founder and CEO, RecycleSmart

Giorgio Baracchi

Co-founder and CEO, RecycleSmart

The WeWork missed IPO. Definitely a great lesson for the startup community about how investors perceived real value.


Rob Weston

General Manager, Worksmith

The success of Birchal, the Australian Equity crowdfunding platform, to support and attract new investors to startups.  Their success opens up so many possibilities for small businesses in Australia going forward.


Sunil Vohra

Co-founder, The Workability Index

Increased collaboration and sharing of ideas at conferences and hubs – allowing for these
gatherings helps ideas grow.


Ian Yip, co-founder and CEO of Avertro

Ian Yip

Co-founder and CEO, Avertro

The amount and size of M&A activity and exits in the cybersecurity industry was staggering in 2019. It validates how important cyber is to the world, and how profitable and impactful it can be for investors to back cybersecurity companies.



Lara Solomon

Founder and CEO, Story Antics

Well, obviously the launch of Antler into Sydney!  Giving more opportunities to tech entrepreneurs.



Cortina McCurry. co-founder and CEO, Caia

Cortina McCurry

Co-founder and CEO, Caia

It’s been exciting to see the number of companies focused on using technology to improve women’s health launching around the world – many founded by women – and getting funded.

There has been almost $1 billion in investment in 2019. Up from a mere $200 million or so, three years ago.




Skye Theodorou, co-founder and CEO of upcover

Skye Theodorou

Co-founder and CEO, upcover

I love that insurtechs globally are carving out a name for themselves with unicorn status – wefox Group’s latest valuation of $1.65 billion takes the cake for me.