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AirTree: 2019 Year in Review

Backing world-class founders — the numbers 🔢

AirTree in Numbers 2019

At AirTree, we have the dream job of serving the best founders and contributing to a startup ecosystem that is incredibly supportive and constantly strengthening. It’s truly a privilege, we pinch ourselves daily — so first a big heartfelt thank you to everyone in the tech startup community for another year of camaraderie and kicking goals. 💕🙌

2019 has blessed AirTree with deeply humbling and meaningful milestones that we are excited to share with everyone.

In total, companies in the AirTree fam raised over $1 billion in equity funding in 2019!!! 🤩🚀❤️

(This figure does not include debt funding, which is also well over the billion dollar mark!)

Of that, we invested just over $71m in 16 companies. These included A Cloud Guru, Athena, Brighte, Canva, :Different, DroneDeploy, Joyous and Secure Code Warrior. This is in line with previous years ($71m in 2018, and $67m in 2017).

Notably, Athena broke the record for the largest raise from domestic Australian investors, and Secure Code Warrior broke the record for the largest Australian cybersecurity startup raise to date.

While funding is only one part of the story, it’s a clear indication that the best Aussie startups are experiencing phenomenal growth and are able to attract massive market and investor interest here and abroad.

We had the opportunity to cheer Greg and Beau on as they rang the ASX bell for Prospa 🔔, and shared in Prakash and the team’s milestone as Paxata was acquired by DataRobot.

One of the most rewarding things for us in 2019 is seeing the companies that we first partnered with in 2014–2015 flourish into global players and leaders in their category. Many have accelerated into new markets, raised fresh capital from global top tier investors (e.g. Canva, Secure Code Warrior and A Cloud Guru) and some have celebrated reaching profitability.

It’s because of our family of world-class founders building these exceptional companies that we were able to successfully close our third fund of $275m. We are humbled by the strong institutional demand and honoured that with this new fund we’ll be able to continue backing game-changing Aussie and Kiwi founders in the years to come.

We head into 2020 with 45 companies in the AirTree family, and with the mid-term goal of investing $1 billion into 100 exceptional companies that are shaping the future.

Supporting our founders & the wider community 💕

People, People, People!

Hiring is the lifeblood of any company, especially in early stage startups. Andrew our Head of People helps AirTree’s portfolio companies find and attract the best talent.

In 2019 Andrew has helped shape the DNA of ⅓ of the companies in our portfolio — 40% of the roles he has helped hire have been senior leadership positions — Andrew’s ‘sweet spot’ as he says.

Functionally these role were split as follows: 40% in engineering, 26% in ops, 17% in product/design, 13% in sales/marketing, and 4% in finance.

1:1 with experts at the top of their game

We always aim to connect our founders with global experts who can help them and their teams up-skill in the most crucial areas like leadership, team & culture building, growth and scaling.

Selected highlights from 2019 include:

Strategic communication workshops and quarterly 1:1 office hours for our startups run by Kate Mason from Hedgehog + Fox. Kate is an AirTree advisor and a global leader in communications and public affairs having led corporate comms for Medium, Khan Academy, Youtube and Google.
A fireside chat featuring Robyn Denholm, Chair of Tesla and arguably Australia’s most prominent global executive.
A workshop on empowering and developing leadership led by John Eales AM, former Australian rugby union player and the most successful captain in the history of Australian rugby.
A Design Thinking workshop by Stanford Design School’s Director of Executive Education Professor Jeremy Utley and Adjunct Professor Perry Klebahn who sold his previous business to Patagonia.

AirTree, the ‘Open Source VC’ 📖

Let’s be honest, being a founder of a startup is really hard and fundraising is a painful process.

We want to make things easier by openly sharing resources, templates, insights and perspectives that will help founders navigate the excruciating (but also exhilarating) journey.

This is our ‘Open Source VC’ initiative and our most popular resource in 2019 was our Guide to the Startup Visa.

An important update on the topic of visas as at November 2019: the ‘High-Skilled Visa’ has been launched to attract skilled migrants at the top future-focused fields to Australia by fast-tracking 5000 visas per year.

Other popular Open Source VC resources you might find useful include:

Advocating for our industry 💪

Our ultimate mission at AirTree (in addition to backing the best founders) is contributing to the creation of a vibrant, world-leading and sustainable tech and innovation industry in Australia and New Zealand. An industry that makes a huge positive impact on the world whilst also ensuring our region’s future economic diversity and prosperity.

To that end, we want to be active advocates for our sector whenever the opportunity arises, whether it’s helping shape government policy (e.g. Daniel joining the NSW R&D Advisory Committee), educating the public on the merits and benefits of tech and innovation (e.g. John’s op-ed on the tech industry narrative and tech valuations), or setting a positive example on important issues like workplace diversity (e.g. the inclusion clause in our term sheet) and action on climate change.

Our industry has come so far and grown so much in the last 5 years, let’s all do our part to keep it great and keep the momentum going!

AirTree team highlights 🙌

This year we’ve bolstered the AirTree team with promotions and new additions that further strengthen our ability to support Aussie and Kiwi founders.

Lucy joined as EA & Office Manager and Mel joined as Head of Community.

Em moved to our investment team, Elicia was promoted to Principal and Jess is now our Investor Relations and Operations Manager.

Aaaand the team that plays together, stays together. AirTree now has a touch rugby team, a netball team, a foodie club and quiz night. (NB: We don’t have any photos of foodie club activities coz we were too busy stuffing our faces. Oops. 🤣)

1: Winners are grinners! AirTree won the plate final in the first corporate touch rugby comp, under the legendary leadership of Captain Em, with help from Brighte, Huddle, Athena, Grok, Startmate, ANZ Ventures and Crestone. Interested in joining us next year? Get in touch! 2: Pub quiz night at Lord Dudleys — we came 2nd! 🤓 3: Celebrating closing our 3rd fund over drinks and an EPIC game of mini golf 4: Travelling back to the 1920’s for Canva’s Season Opener

Looking to 2020 🚀

Heading into 2020, we’re excited to track the maturation of some technologies, and the emergence of others.

  • Enterprise software is maturing from simply shifting on-premise software models to the cloud, to incorporating new methods of helping people do their best work. This is particularly exciting for industries that have not seen the full weight of disruption e.g. design, construction, agriculture, mining.
  • High regulation industries where profit is not the core metric of success have yet to see tech break through in any meaningful way. We hope to meet more founders in digital health and education (targeting demographics from 0–100 years) who are inventively evolving incentives and behaviours to improve the user experience for consumers.
  • Australia has several hotbeds of quantum computing activity that rank on the world stage. While breakthroughs still feel far off, there are encouraging signs that a universal quantum computer might not be too far over the horizon.

Finally, the thing that made us most proud this year (and really every year) is being there for some of our founders who have experienced particularly tough business or personal challenges.

This is the work that really gives us purpose.

In 2020, we hope to continue bringing humanity and a sense of adventure to startups and venture capital.

Wishing you all a happy, safe, relaxing and reflective holiday season and new year break! 🏖🎄🎉

The AirTree Team




A venture capital fund in Aus and NZ. Working for game-changers. First round. Multiple rounds.

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AirTree is a venture capital fund that supports the most ambitious Australian and Kiwi tech founders. First round, multiple rounds.

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