The 2015 Australian Early-Stage Startup Index

The Australian early-stage startup scene is thriving in 2015. The Melbourne Accelerator Program is churning out startups, small teams of experienced founders are starting to see scale with their projects, huge funds are ramping up, and we’re starting to see the type of grand ideas and startups that you’ll find in San Francisco. Here are the top five early stage startups that have found their fit and are poised to enter high growth in 2016.

  1. YourGrocer
    YourGrocer delivers food to your home. Veggies, meat, falafels, it’s all there. It’s a supermarket at your front door. Think about how convenient it would be to have an entire supermarket right at your front door. Once the cost of logistics and delivery go to zero, delivery times are always available and go to one hour, and the ease of selection and online/mobile product browsing becomes as quick and casual as looking and grabbing things from a shelf (say, swiping on your phone), it will seem pretty silly to go to the supermarket, and Coles and Woolies will turn to panic/acquire/build mode. If you haven’t seen YourGrocer’s vans delivering groceries daily around Melbourne already, you will soon.
  2. Swift
    Starting out as a beer delivery company, then switching to a general purpose delivery platform providing drivers, then switching to providing delivery tracking technology to companies that deliver with their own driver fleet, Swift is playing out a familiar pattern: Using new technology to make existing everyday humdrum activities that little bit better, and more fun for consumers, and at the same time, saving companies money from customer support time. So now that you can track exactly where your Domino’s pizza is on its way to you, isn’t your evening that much less stressful? There are few companies that deliver that wouldn’t have happier customers from allowing their customers to know exactly where their package is in those few kilometers to their home. At thirty cents a delivery, that’s a compelling offer, if the company can make a justification for it to their bottom line.
  3. Kepler Analytics
    Full disclosure: I work at Kepler. That being said, we’re onto something. We give retailers analytics for their physical stores so they can make decisions on data, just like online retailers do. By placing sensors in stores, we count how many people are in each area every hour. By connecting this with store sales data per section, we give retailers exact browse — >buy conversion rates for every department in stores across the country, by the hour, day, week, and month — to store managers and head office. The problems of understaffing, overstaffing, underperforming areas, and good indicators like well performing areas are identified, and A/B experiments and multi store comparisons reveal what’s working in one place, so it can be made to work in those same sections in other locations. We now have our sensors in two of the biggest of names in Australian retail, in many medium-sized retailers across Australia, and have counted millions of unique shoppers in our system. Given how much ecommerce stores have improved from identifying trends and analysing aggregated browsing and sales data, and yet how much commerce is still done offline, Kepler is set to be on track to be a key part of retailers’ KPIs and ultimately, decisions to improve the bottom line. And hopefully, also help make sure that there are enough employees in a store to help you out the next time you walk in.
  4. Car Next Door
    Starting in Sydney and now in Sydney and Melbourne, Car Next Door just makes sense: You borrow people’s cars in your neighbourhood, and the payment goes to the car owner. You don’t even need to meet the car owner. So as a car owner, you get the chance to get paid doing nothing. That sounds even easier than being an Uber driver. Fewer hours: 0. Fewer customer interactions: 0. Get paid $120 for the weekend for doing nothing. The guys at Car Next Door use some nifty tricks to make the whole thing work: a keycode-based car key lock box that you put on the window of your car, so anybody can offer any car, any time, without being there, or even being aware that the car is being borrowed. I don’t own a car myself (owning a car seems like a hassle), so I use Car Next Door a few times a month. Like Bill Burr’s brother says, you don’t want to be the guy who owns it, you want to be the guy who has the friend who owns it; let him deal with the fees, parking, rego, repairs, etc. you can just use it, enjoy it, and when done, keep it clean, drop it off, walk away, and you’re done.
  5. Carhood
    Carhood was started by a couple of true car geeks who saw that Melbourne and Sydney Airports were making millions of dollars each day from parking, got outraged, and did something about it. Carhood gives you free parking at airports, and the ability to make money by renting out your car to others while you’re away. Much like Car Next Door, but for the time you know you won’t be needing your car: when you’re interstate. Again, it just makes sense. Starting in Melbourne and now in airports across Australia, they’re ramping up for another capital raise and expansion.

Honourable mentions

If they weren’t already so large in employee count and well established in customer base, these startups would make the list too. They’re great, they’re just not early stage anymore.

Appster does app development and startup consulting. They are beginning to be a key player in the Melbourne startup scene with their talks and events, along with Startup Grind, YBF, and Inspire9.

Vinomofo makes it easy for new wine drinkers to get into the world of wine. They’re a Melbourne startup with their own phoenix story, and now Justin is putting in a helping hand into the inevitable land grab that is the meal delivery space in Australia as well.

Canva made something pretty cool: A drag and drop easy-to-use design and graphics editor on the web, with handy pre made graphic elements. I just wish they’d keep iterating on it to improve the core product each month (better template elements diversity, font picking, image selection — make it so easy for a non-designer to get it done.) And then layer a pay-per-hour service into it to have good designers help you out while you watch.

Need some digital assets? You can buy them from one of Envato’s many marketplaces. Photos, audio, web themes, videos, 3d models — if it’s digital, you can buy them there. There’s only going to be more need for digital assets in the future.

I spoke with the founders of Bluedot, and this is one of the few startups in Melbourne that felt straight out of Silicon Valley. Building technology that opens up new things that apps can do, using geofencing, without destroying the user’s battery. Classic build a useful technology play.

Hate support email? Getting too much of it? Influx loves support email. They’re still pretty early stage, and I haven’t heard much from them this year, but I am starting to see their new customer acquisition ads running this month. So either they’re onto something and starting to scale — or still testing the waters of CCA vs LTV and revenue vs cost.

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