20 startups rising to the top from the land down under
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Photo Credit: Leelakajonkij / Shutterstock

Geektime presents its list of the top 20 startups from Australia that we think you should know about.

Australia, the land down under, may be far away for most people, but its emerging presence on the global startup scene is causing people to start to take note. In Startup Genome‘s industry standard assessment of startup ecosystems around the world, cosmopolitan cities Sydney and Melbourne made the top 20, despite the fact that Australia is a country with only 23 million people.

To compile this difficult list, we interviewed startup and venture capital experts from Australia and did our own independent research. Key factors that influenced which startups we chose were funding, number of customers or users, whether they were entering a market that had potential for growth, level of innovation, and leadership.

The startups here range from small operations with just $100,000 in funding to companies with over $100 million in turnover. Many of the most successful Australian startups are fashion and design oriented, and car apps, restaurant and shopping apps, and cloud collaboration software are beaming spaces within their national scene. The last section of this list, dedicated to the tiny but mighty early stage startups, have a wonderful range of DIY, 3D printing, and smart energy devices to get early adopters excited.

Let’s go ride a kangaroo…or the next best thing, look at some cool Australian startups!

Fashion and Design

1) Shoes of Prey

Shoes of Prey

Left: Michael Fox – Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer; Top right: Jodie Fox – Co-founder and Chief Creative Officer; Bottom right: Mike Knapp – Co-founder and Chief Technical Officer

Founded  2009
Funding – $8.05 million, Series A
Founders – Jodie Fox, Michael Fox, Mike Knapp
Location Sydney
Overview Shoes of Prey is an online platform where shoppers can design their own shoes, and then get them made and mailed to them.
Why we chose them – This is one of those ideas that makes so much e-commerce sense that you get surprised someone didn’t come up with this earlier. Co-founder Jodie Fox had the initial “a-ha” moment, and then got Michael Fox and Mike Knapp, both from Google, jazzed to join her. They have won various awards, including Most Innovative Online Retailer in 2013, and are now partnering with large brands such as Nordstrom.

2) The Iconic

Photo Credit: PR screenshot

Photo Credit: PR screenshot

Founded  2011
Funding – $72 million, Late stage
Founders – Finn Haensel, Adam Jacobs, Andreas Otto, Cameron Votan
Location Surry Hills
Overview The Iconic is one of the major fashion online marketplaces in Australia, serving both Australia and New Zealand.
Why we chose them – In 2013, it raised $26 million in funding, making it one of the largest investments in e-commerce in Australia that has ever occurred. A lot of what makes The Iconic thrive is its ability to deliver quickly in a country mired by distance and large swathes of undeveloped land. The Iconic promises to deliver products within three hours in Sydney and free overnight delivery throughout all of Australia, and offers free 100-day returns. Excellent logistics is becoming increasingly important for product-heavy e-commerce stores as more people order goods online.

3) Canva

Founders 4

Left: Cameron Adams; Center: Cliff Obrecht; Right: Melanie Perkins

Founded  2012
Funding – $6.955 million, Series A
Founders – Cameron Adams, Cliff Obrecht, Melanie Perkins
Location Surry Hills
Overview Canva is an easy to use graphic design platform that is popular among freelancers, small business owners, and increasingly, e-commerce businesses.  They offer a third-party plugin that websites can install and tablet apps.
Why we chose them – Their rate of growth has been impressive and steep so far. Since launching in 2012, they raised $3 million in 2013 and another $3.6 million this year. Their user base has also skyrocketed, from 330,000 registered users in April to 600,000 by July.

4) 99designs

Patrick Llewellyn, President and CEO

Patrick Llewellyn, President and CEO

Founded  2008
Funding – $35 million, Series A
Founders – Patrick Llewellyn, Mark Harbottle, Matt Mickiewicz
Location Melbourne, San Francisco
Overview Billed as the largest graphic design marketplace, 99designs helps businesses contract high quality, affordable designers. They also pioneered design contests.
Why we chose them – You may start noticing that design is a theme among Australian startups: Indeed, many of the strongest startups, including 99designs, are creatively focused. 99designs in large part pioneered this sector in Australia, and has since mostly relocated to San Francisco. Now with offices in Melbourne, San Francisco, Paris, and Berlin, and a network of more than 900,000 designers, 99designs is one of the largest players in SaaS design field.

Cars and taxis

5) Car Next Door

Front: Will ; Back: Dave

Back: Dave Trumbull; Front: Will Davies

Founded  2012
Funding – $900,000, Early stage
Founders – Will Davies and Dave Trumbull
Location Sydney, Melbourne
Overview Car Next Door brings the sharing economy to a whole new level: On its online platform, users can rent their car out by the hour or day when they’re not using it.
Why we chose them – It makes sense that car sharing platforms where people have to pay would eventually get disrupted. Now the test will be whether they can get the users necessary to make such a C2C platform take off. We’re all for it, particularly since it helps the environment.

6) goCatch

Me (2)

CEO and Co-Founder Ned Moorfield

Founded  2011
Funding – $8 million, Series A
Founders – Ned Moorfield, Andrew Campbell
Location Sydney
Overview goCatch is a smartphone app that helps people book taxi rides directly.
Why we chose them – They announced a $5 million Series A funding round on October 20, and seem to be taking the Australian market by storm. They are likely Australia’s most popular taxi booking application.

B2C restaurant, shopping, and leisure apps

7) Clipp

Greg AFR Photo

Co-Founder Greg Taylor

Founded  2013
Funding – $1.5 million, Series A
Founders – Greg Taylor, Stuart Hunter, Craig Stanford
Location  Sydney, Melbourne
Overview It’s an app where you can pay off your bar tab or restaurant bill instantly, without needing to wait for wait staff or lines.
Why we chose them – Since Australia is switching to a PIN-only country, startups like Clipp have an immense market opportunity. The app, which is free on iOS and Android, can be used on multiple devices, making it easy to split among multiple people on the same bill. Billed as the “Uber for bar tabs,” we are curious to see how Clipp will innovate in this exploding sector.

8) Posse

Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 6.01.59 PM

CEO and Founder Rebekah Campbell

Founded  2008
Funding – $2 million, Pre-Series A
Founders – Rebekah Campbell
Location Surry Hills
Overview Posse helps people search for hidden gems all over the world and discover their favorite places to eat, shop, and be merry.
Why we chose them – Posse just merged with mobile ordering startup Beat the Q to create a new business that would make it easier for users to search for places to frequent and pay for purchases at said stores. This seems like a wise, strategic move for both Posse and Beat the Q. We also appreciate Posse because Campbell is an inspiring female entrepreneur: She is a music promotion afficionado that helped launch Evermore’s career, has been named an APEC Young Woman Innovator of the Year, and is a regular columnist for the New York Times.

Miscellaneous, big names

9) Flippa

Photo Credit: PR screenshot

Photo Credit: PR screenshot

Founded  2009
Funding – Undisclosed, Late stage 
Founders – Matt Mickiewicz, Mark Harbottle
Location – Melbourne
Overview Buyers can “flip” the selling of website, domain, and app names.
Why we chose them – Recent scandals like Ebola.com being sold for $200,000 demonstrate the enormous market out there for buying and selling website names, as gross as that sometimes can be. Still, Flippa is the global leader in buying and selling websites, and it hit $100 million in turnover within its first four years of operation, an impressive feat.

10) Nexvet

Photo Credit: PR screenshot

Photo Credit: PR screenshot

Founded  2010
Funding – $40 million, Series B
Founders – Mark Heffernan
Location – Melbourne
Overview – Nexvet is a biopharma company that converts human drugs into treatments for pets, including dogs and cats.
Why we chose them – Nexvet is in a very exciting place: They raised a Series B funding round of $31.5 million in April and are considering a possible IPO. The funding round’s purpose was to help Nexvet advance its three principal products into clinical trials. If they can save some pets’ lives, the world is a better place for it.

11) Smart Sparrow

Dror 3

CEO and Founder Dror Ben-Naim

Founded  2010
Funding – $12 million, Series B
Founders – Dror Ben-Naim, Zack Belinson, Shaowei Ho
Location – Sydney
Overview – Smart Sparrow is an educational platform where educators can create adaptive, personalized lessons.
Why we chose them – Education is a sector ripe for disruption, particularly since students’ love and use of technology is often outpacing learning institutions’ ability to modify their techniques to the times.

Collaboration-based solutions

12) Maestrano

founders 018b

Left: Stephanie Ibos; Right: Arnaud Lachaume

Founded  2012
Funding – $2.5 million, Series A
Founders – Stephanie Ibos, Arnaud Lachaume
Location – Sydney
Overview – It produces a suite of business management apps with flexible contracts and limited licenses so that companies can consolidate more of their enterprise software and get better pricing terms.
Why we chose them – Its open source and cloud-based applications as well as its customer friendly terms could become a big hit in the ever-growing sector of collaboration software.

13) Liquid State

Liquid State executive team

Liquid State executive team: Cyril Doussin, second to the left; Philip Andrews, right

Founded  2011
Funding – $685,000, Pre Series A
Founders – Philip Andrews, Cyril Doussin
Location – Coorparoo
Overview – A collaboration software solution where company workers can easily share, manage, track, and distribute corporate documents.
Why we chose them – Steve Wozniak, who judged the startup as part of panel of successful entrepreneurs Talent Unleashed, had this to say about the startup, which won Talent Unleashed’s Digital Content Platform Award: “A clean concise story of how entrepreneurship and societal advancement can happen by applying modern technology.” Could an acquisition be in the startup’s near future? One can dream.

14) RedEye Apps

Top: Wayne Bottom: Randall

Top: Wayne Gerard; Bottom: Randall Makin

Founded  2012
Funding – Seed funding complete and Series A being finalized
Founders – Wayne Gerard, Randall Makin
Location Brisbane
Overview It is a cloud based collaboration and management solution for engineering drawing.
Why we chose them – RedEye’s audience is a bit more niche than the others and for this reason, could have good B2B potential companies in engineering, aerospace, mining, automotive, manufacturing, etc.

The early stage rising stars

15) Podzy

Photo Credit: PR screenshot

Photo Credit: PR screenshot

Founded  2012
Funding – Undisclosed, Early stage
Founders – Rob Linton
Location – Victoria
Overview – Podzy is a cybersecurity startup that helps businesses move their cloud computing to data storage that is on-premises.
Why we chose them – Supposedly, Podzy’s “File Sync and Share” platform is one of the very few that enterprises can host 100% on-premises, or on site, rather than on the cloud or on a server at a remote location. The fact that it participated in Microsoft’s BizSpark accelerator program and won Australia’s national iAward for Best IT Toolset makes us believe Podzy could be a very high return investment for someone willing to take the risk.

16) SwipeAds

Photo Credit: PR screenshot

Photo Credit: PR screenshot

Founded  2013
Funding – Approximately $500,000, Early stage
Founders – Matthew Ford, Kevin Gosschalk
Location Brisbane
Overview Their first product, FunCaptcha, is a fun, higher converting version of the traditional CAPTCHA spambot detector.
Why we chose them – SwipeAds provides a worthy innovation on the tired CAPTCHA bot, which disincentives users with its arcane swishy letters. So far, FunCaptcha boasts a 96% completion rate. We appreciate the simplicity and utility of making the the CAPTCHA process more engaging. And certainly advertisers will appreciate this.

17) Cartesian Co.

Screen Shot 2014-11-19 at 12.01.11 PM

Left: Isabella Stephens; Right: Ariel Briner

Founded  December 2012
Funding – $199,500, Early stage
Founders – Ariel Briner, Isabella Stephens
Location Brisbane
Overview – They make 3D printing circuit boards and electronics easy and accessible to the lay man.
Why we chose them – Their first big consumer product, the Argentum, had a very successful Kickstarter campaign in December 2013, raising $137,356, more than four times their original goal. The test going forward will be to see how many mainstream consumers will buy this, beyond excited early adopters and geeks. Still, we appreciate the DIY approach and its contributions to 3D printing, which will likely explode in the next few years (if it isn’t already).

18) Modbot

Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 2.03.40 PM

Founded  December 2013
Funding – $100,000, In the midst of raising a seed round of $2.6 million
Founders – Adam Ellison, Daniel Pizzata
Location Melbourne
Overview Modbot breaks robots into easy to assemble building blocks, empowering everyday people to make their own robots.
Why we chose them –  DIY startups that make what used to be complex processes simple for everyday users have been immensely popular lately: Wix and others have done this for websites, Thingsee has recently done this for IoT devices, and Modbot is now doing this for robots. And, really, how cool is it to make a robot? Similar to Cartesian Co., the challenge will be to entice customers that are not technology enthusiasts.

19) Wattcost

Photo Credit: YouTube screenshot

Photo Credit: YouTube screenshot

Founded  Very recently, date uncertain
Funding – Undisclosed, Seed stage
Founders – David Soutar, Chris Alfred, Demetrious Harrington
Location Sydney
Overview Wattcost has developed a smart home device that tells your smartphone how you can save more energy and tracks differences in temperature and other conditions throughout your home.
Why we chose them – Wattcost is innovating in the IoT home space, which is exploding. They were also a runner up in the 2013 Sydstart competition, one of the more prestigious early stage startup competitions in Australia.

20) GoFar

Left: Danny

Left: Danny Adams

Founded  January, 2014
Funding – A little under $500,000, Just closing a seed round
Founders – Danny Adams and Ian Davidson
Location Sydney
Overview GoFar has developed a smart car device that tracks your car’s activity and provides recommendations for energy savings.
Why we chose them – Similar to Wattcost, GoFar has created a smart device that helps consumers save costs and energy, this time with cars. They claim that GoFar will save you over $1,000 per year and so far, the device has been saving users 13-22% on fuel and has improved driver safety. Additionally, they won SydStart’s 2014 competition.

Featured Image Credit: Leelakajonkij / Shutterstock

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Laura Rosbrow-Telem

About Laura Rosbrow-Telem


I am a social entrepreneurship enthusiast: This is what happens when a former social worker becomes a tech journalist. I mostly write about startups, technology, peace and justice issues, cultural topics, and personal stuff. Before Geektime, I was an editor at the Jerusalem Post and Mic.

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  • Andrea Martins

    Loved this great summary! Thanks Laura!