AirTree: 2017 Year in Review

What a year it’s been for all of us in #startupaus! Innovation and technology are on the national agenda in a way they never have been before, our smartest university graduates are starting companies in volume and, with $1.3bn of local venture funding raised in 2017 (and much more piling in from overseas), there really has never been a better time to be an Australian entrepreneur.

At AirTree we couldn’t be more excited to be supporting world class Aussie and Kiwi founders and are delighted to say that 2017 has been our biggest year yet! A huge welcome to our 2017 cohort of incredible teams to the AirTree family!

Backing world class founders

We invested $67m in 2017! Does that sound like a lot? To put it in perspective, it is 10X more than the $6-7m we were investing 10 years ago and a healthy signal on the maturation of the ecosystem and the quality of the founding teams we are fortunate to meet.

What got us excited in 2017?

While ultimately all our investments are about the teams, it is fascinating to reflect on themes that got us excited throughout the year.

We are looking to back category defining businesses. SaaS and marketplace models made up the majority of our investments, and we found ourselves drawn to teams working on vertical applications of machine learning in big industries like mining and agriculture and to teams generating deep insight from data. We were also excited by teams with unique insights into fintech, property and the future of work.

Supporting our portfolio

In 2017 we invested $32m into our existing portfolio companies, which is consistent with our goal of supporting our companies through their entire journey.

We are delighted that 85% the companies we invested in more than 12 months ago have already raised new funding rounds from credible investors.

We also launched AirTree Talent , a recruitment service headed by Sara Ramirez Morales to help our founders build effective teams. Our founders loved this. Sara leads our efforts to help our companies build great teams and has already worked with 20 of our portfolio companies so far. Go Sara!

A world class venture team that just happens to be based in Sydney

The best founding teams choose the best partners, wherever they’re based.

Accordingly, in 2017 we continued to build out our team with global experience.

In addition to Sara Ramirez Morales we also welcomed James Cameron from Accel and Adam Cook from Blippar to the investing team. Both bring a mix of investing and operational experience that is helpful to our companies.

Anil Sabharwal joined us as a Venture Partner. Anil runs Google Photos, one of Google’s most successful products. Anil is relocating to Australia to build out an engineering team and will be available to help our founders and product/eng leads think about product, team culture and AI.

Varya Foreman also joined the team to support day to day operations and Helen Norton returned from mat leave to head up our finance and compliance. Helen brings a ton of experience working with global funds like Accel so we are in safe hands.

Community

Innovation is the key to Australia maintaining its position in the world as a prosperous and fair country. This is bigger than all of us individually.

We passionately believe in supporting our thriving tech ecosystem and building a bigger pie for all. In 2017 we tried to contribute to our community via a variety of transparency, advocacy, content and meet-ups.

For example:

  • We tried to increase transparency by releasing an open sourced list of over 300 funding options for founders. Founders should choose investors on merit, not because they don’t know anyone else!
  • In an effort to standardise terms across the industry, and make fundraising quicker and more simple for founders, we published our seed stage term sheet.
  • We invited the community to our open events with key speakers and topics including Anil, Richard Socher, developer community and blockchain.
  • We worked with government as part of the Innovation and Science Australia Board to advocate for the tech ecosystem.

2018

We have huge plans for 2018 and can’t wait to meet the next generation of world class Australian and Kiwi founders and see how we can help.