AirMail — March 2021 Edition

Mar 25 · 7 min read
AirTree’s monthly update on the Aussie and Kiwi tech startup scene. Subscribe here 💕

A Message From Mel 👋

Physical gatherings are back! 🥳 How we’ve missed seeing all of your beautiful faces IRL! The highlight of March was the events we hosted at our Surry Hills office: a women founder & funder networking party with AWS and the F factor for International Women’s Day and an AI panel with Innovation Bay. We’d love to be a catalyst for deeper in-person connections within the startup community, so if you’re looking for a free venue for your next event in Sydney, hit us up! 🤗

This month we also welcomed Andrew Yeo as the newest investor in our team. Andrew returned to Australia after a couple of years in SF and he’s particularly keen to support emerging tech in the enterprise SaaS, EdTech, e-commerce, and FinTech space. Say hi to Andrew. 👋

And, speaking of new additions, we are looking for more superstars to join the AirTree team. We have a full time Communications Manager role and a part time Investment Internship opportunity up for grabs. If that’s you, apply apply! If it’s someone you know, help us spread the word!

Finally, for startups looking to formally bring on advisors but are not sure how to deal with the legal side of things, we’ve released the ‘Startup Advisor Agreement’ template as a part of our Open Source VC resources.

The Big News 🗞

🤩 With over 12 million users globally across multiple social platforms, Linktree has ‘grown out of [a link-in-bio] solution into this space where people actually represent themselves. It’s an identity layer.’ Alex, Anthony, Nick and the team at Linktree announced their US$45m (AU$59m) Series B to fuel their mission of powering the future of social commerce. We’re so proud to continue backing the team, alongside a growing family of supporters including Index Ventures, Coatue, Insight Partners, LinkedIn Executive Chairman Jeff Weiner, former Slack Chief Product Officer April Underwood, former Bumble exec Michelle Kennedy and Afterpay cofounder and US CEO Nick Molnar. 🚀

🌎 “COVID-19 accelerated the adoption of employment management software by roughly five years.” We’re so proud of the way Ben & the team at Employment Hero helped businesses move online during COVID. We can’t wait to continue cheering them on as they tackle global expansion with their latest funding round of AU$45M.

📈 Huge congratulations to Tim & the Airtasker (ASX:ART) team on their successful IPO! Tim has been a long-time contributor to the Aussie startup community so it’s particularly heartwarming to see his team achieve this well-deserved milestone.

🍾 A proud moment for the Kiwi tech startup ecosystem: Vend sells to listed retail commerce platform Lightspeed for US$350M.

💰We were thrilled last year when our friends Leigh Jasper, Ian Beatty, Andrew Sypkes and David Tarascio launched SecondQuarter Ventures, Australia’s first secondary venture fund that’ll give founders and their teams more liquidity options along their startup journey. Well, congrats are in order again as they announce adding a further $21m to their first fund for a total of $51m under management.

👏 Kudos to our friends at Leapfrog for securing US$500m funding from Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund Temasek, the largest ever commitment to an impact investor worldwide.

Topics That Caught Our Eye 👀

🦠 Yuval Harari takes a brilliant look at how the world fared in the year of COVID (a year of scientific breakthroughs and political failures as he says) and sets out what we can learn for the future: ‘Arguments about what happened in 2020 will reverberate for many years. But people of all political camps should agree on at least three main lessons: 1. We need to safeguard our digital infrastructure, 2. Each country should invest more in its public health system and 3. We should establish a powerful global system to monitor and prevent pandemics.

🤖 Developments in AI will bring about an unstoppable technological revolution and cause deep socioeconomic shifts. ‘Unless public policy adapts accordingly, most people will end up worse off than they are today’. Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI and former President of Y-Combinator, succinctly outlines what’s coming and a plan for how to navigate this new landscape.

💸 ‘In the last 30+ years, the FAMGA tech giants — Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and Apple — have collectively made over 800 acquisitions.’ This infographic by CB Insights highlights the acquisitions above $1B, with Microsoft being the most active acquirer.

🦟 One silver lining of COVID: the RNA technology behind COVID vaccines have been used to develop the first vaccine to fully immunise against malaria. A team from the Yale School of Medicine patented the novel vaccine which is yet to be tested on humans, but the breakthrough could save hundreds of thousands of lives.

🍪 Google is dropping third party cookies from its ads model, as a response to widespread privacy concerns. Instead, they will use their first party browser data to create a ‘privacy sandbox’ that groups online users into ‘cohorts’. How does this work and what does it actually mean for privacy and for competition? Ben Thompson gives an astute analysis: Everyone that doesn’t have a browser or an operating system is in much worse shape, particularly Facebook. Google can own over half of the digital advertising market, cut its direct rival off at the knees, and receive widespread praise for having done so, even as users give out less personally identifiable information in exchange for being more easily profiled. Yay?

🧪A breakthrough that opens a can of ethical worms: scientists have used human stem cells to mimic the earliest stage yet of embryo growth, growing ‘balls of cells that look like human blastocysts, which form about 4 days after an egg is fertilised by sperm.’ This latest development have the potential to offer us more insight into early human development and help us better understand pregnancy and infertility. But it also sounds to us like we’re one step closer to lab-grown babies 😬

🎤 Secretly eye-rolling at the proliferation of Clubhouse, hoping it’s a fad so you don’t have to keep up with yet another social media platform? You might just get your wish if things play out according to this brutally honest bear case prediction by Shaan Puri. Until then, you can follow us on Clubhouse @airtreevc 😜

Major Funding Rounds 💰

Qbiotics, an Aussie biotech startup, raised $50m
Lexer, a customer data platform, raised $33.5m
Zeller, a fintech startup, raised $25m
Deferit, a fintech startup, raised $15m
Symple, a personal loan startup, raised $15m
Karbon, an accounting software startup, raised $12.9m
OpenMarkets Group, a wholesale trade management platform, raised $10m
Tradify, a job management software, raised $10m
ShoreTrade, a digital seafood marketplace, raised $8m
VendorPanel, a marketplace and procurement platform, raised $4.5m
LAB Group, a regulation tech company, raised $4m
Thrive, a SME financial admin startup, raised $3m
The Nile Group, an online retailer, raised $2.5m
Smrtr, a data analytics startups, raised $2.5m
Mastt, a construction tech startup, raised $2.2m
Litt, a social media startup, raised $1.5m
Vampr, a music network startup, raised 1m
CarClarity, a car financing marketplace raised $1m
Sonnant, a spoken word discovery AI company, raised $750,000
Hudled, a software management startup, raised $640,00

Did we miss your raise? Want your yet-to-be-announced raise featured in next month’s newsletter? Let us know:

Love for the AirTree Fam 💕

📷 Anil Sabharwal, VP at Google and advisor to the AirTree fam, shares stories from his incredible career on Innovation Bay’s OTPBD podcast: ‘Of the 9 Google products that have reached over 1 billion users, Anil is in charge of 2 of them, Photos and Chrome. While he initially saw Google as a temporary pit stop on his entrepreneurial journey, Anil found that his attempts to get fired actually led to a series of promotions that led him to become one of the most senior and successful product leaders in Australia and the world.’

💬 Our Partner John joins Alicia Garden of Goanna Ag and Cara Waters from The Age & SMH to analyse the news from the last fortnight that matter for Aussie & Kiwi startups: new funds in Aus, lack of funding for women-led startups, Roblox IPO, Vend acquisition, CBA’s BNPL offering, Stripe’s valuation and NFT’s.

💡Brighte CMO & CRO Malini Sietaram shares insights from her career and tips for creating a culture of growth, diversity and empowerment on the ‘Lean Mean Marketing Teams’ podcast.

🎓 Go1 published a manifesto on ‘How Technology Has Changed The Way We Learn’, a must-read for Learning & Development leaders.

Community Bulletin 📌

👏 Props to the 9 phenomenal women founders recognised in SmartCompany’s list of ‘businesses dedicated to supporting women during COVID-19, and beyond’: Sarah Liu (The Dream Collective), Perina Drummond (Jira Models), Christina Hobbs (Verve Super), Bronwyn Bate (Mettle Gifts), Cortina McCurry (Caia), Ally Watson (Code Like A Girl), Jane Marx (The Beautiful Bunch), Winitha Bonney (Amina of Zaria) and Georgina McEncroe (Shebah).

💰Woohoo! The Victorian government has unveiled the $10m Alice Anderson fund for women-led startups, we’re thrilled to see more funding available for women founders!

🚀 Be sure to check out Antler Australia launching in Melbourne as well as the application they’ve now opened for their 5th cohort!

⭐️ Catalysr is helping migrants and refugees build businesses through their flagship 12-week pre-accelerator program, apply here.

👩‍💻Tech Ready Women academy is looking to help 100 budding women entrepreneurs launch a business through an 8-week ‘idea to MVP’ program, apply here.

Jobs Jobs Jobs! 🇦🇺🇳🇿

💬 Joyous, an employee feedback platform, is looking for an Enterprise Account Executive.

🎧 Nura, a smart headphone company, is looking for an Engineer.

💊 An exciting new pharmacy delivery platform is looking for a Head of Marketing. Please email for more info.

🌲 And we’re looking for 2 superstars to join AirTree: a full-time Communications Manager and a part-time Investment Intern

Is your startup hiring? Add your jobs here.

What We’ve Been Reading & Listening to 👀 👂

📖 Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words — David Whyte

‘Honesty is reached through the doorway of grief and loss. Where we cannot go in our mind, our memory or our body is where we cannot be straight with another, with the world, or with ourselves.’ In Consolations, David Whyte explores the meaning and context of everyday words like friendship, honesty, regret, and ambition. Through reinterpreting and reframing these words, he shows us how we can find solace and live more positively.

🧐Final Thoughts on Free Will — Making Sense Podcast by Sam Harris

There’s no such thing as ‘free will’ according to Sam Harris. He unpacks this provocative and instinctively uncomfortable thought in his latest podcast episode.

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