Our 2021 Year in Review
To our founders, LPs, community & friends,
Congratulations–we made it! We thought 2020 would be a hard act to follow, but 2021 will go down in history as another record-breaking year for the Aussie and Kiwi startup sector.
With so much momentum propelling the startup ecosystem forward, we’re taking a moment to look back at the year that was as we gear up for a big 2022.
Without further ado, we’ll let the data and the milestones do the talking.
The ambitious and unrelenting — our founders
It’s been our privilege (and a lot of fun!) to welcome 23 new startups and 48 new founders to the AirTree fam this year.
Covering a whole range of sectors from data encryption to Web3 and consumer goods, the common thread amongst them all is their ambition and unrelenting pursuit of their vision.
When you combine the power of our portfolio of 75+ companies now, you get a real sense of the momentum and impact they’re contributing to our region’s startup ecosystem:
- ~$8 billion combined annualised revenue of portfolio companies
- $2.8 billion total funds raised by portfolio companies
It was so great to see our founders and their teams recognised for their amazing work through a bunch of different accolades, including:
- Melanie Perkins (Canva), Simon Griffiths (Who Gives a Crap) and Bridget Loudon (Expert360) were recognised as entrepreneurs set to forge the future of Australian business in the AFR.
- Anastasia Volkolva (Regrow), Melanie Perkins +Cliff Obrecht (Canva), Alex and Anthony Zaccaria + Nick Humphreys (Linktree), Natalie Nguyen + Sam Zheng + Kent Tian (Hyper Anna), Ben Thompson + Dave Tong (Employment Hero), Andrew Barnes + Chris Eigeland + Chris Hood + Vu Tran (Go1), Ben Tze + Jeremy Cox + Duncan Anderson (Edrolo), Pieter Danhieux + Matias Madou + Fatemah Beydoun (Secure Code Warrior), Katherine McConnell (Brighte), Michael Starkey + Nathan Walsh (Athena Home Loans), Charlie Gearside + Benny Kleist + Alexey Mitko + Tim Doyle + Nicole Liu (Eucalyptus), Dr Aidan O’Mahony + Dr Cameron Ferris + Dr Julio Ribeiro (Inventia), Audrey Khaing-Jones (GlamCorner), Mina Nada + Michael Johnson (Zoomo) and Dr Luke Campbell (Nura) were all featured in The Australian’s Top 100 Innovators List.
- Employment Hero, Mr Yum, Eucalyptus, Linktree, Brighte and Grow all made LinkedIn’s Top Startups of 2021 list.
- Open and Archistar made the top 20 of the 2021 AFR Fast 100.
- Go1, Linktree, Normal and Nura were celebrated in Interbrand’s Breakthrough Brands AU+NZ 2021.
- Athena Home Loans was crowned the AFR BOSS’ most innovative company of 2021.
It’s not goodbye, it’s see you later to A Cloud Guru, HyperAnna, Elevio and Notiv as they enter the next stage of their journeys. We learnt a tonne from working with them, and we know they’re keen to give back to the local startup community and support the next generation of founders.
Right by your side, right from the start
We invested $250m into 37 startups in 2021 — up from $87m into 26 startups in 2020.
Even 7 months into 2021, we couldn’t have anticipated how big this year would be. As our Partner John said, “We have increased the number of first cheques and the size of follow-on cheques.”
We say it’s never too early to talk to us, and many founders took us up on that offer: 70% of our new investments were made at the pre-seed and seed stage.
Where world-class teams and talent come together
People are the heart, soul and energy of a startup. The right people contribute their talent and enthusiasm, keep engagement high and spur growth. When a startup gets it right, it’s magical to see a team humming.
This year has been a challenging environment to hire in. Border conditions, remote work, cash constraints and a rethink of what work means to individuals saw The Great Resignation result in a full-blown War on Talent.
Our Head of Talent, Andrew, was kept busy helping our portfolio make some of their key hires. 70% of the roles were for leadership positions, primarily in product, engineering, customer success and operations.
We launched our Jobs Board which has become a hive of activity for world-class teams and talent to come together. If joining one of Australia or New Zealand’s best startups is on your 2022 to-do list, check out our Talent Network, where we’ll connect you with some incredible opportunities.
Explorers: the next generation of Angel investors
Our first cohort of Explorers in 2020 was a huge success, so it was a no-brainer to do it all again this year!
Historically, angel investing hasn’t been accessible to 95% of the population. We believe there’s no correlation between an individual’s wealth and ability to write a cheque and how helpful they can be to founders, which is why we want to open up angel investing to more diverse and underrepresented groups of talented people.
Our second cohort is now halfway through the program, and we have a very special community forming. You can meet some of our Explorers here.
Networks, connections and expertise
One of the incredible perks we have as VCs is we get a view of 75+ companies’ best practices across functions. It’s our job to surface these insights and share them across the portfolio through our 9 exec forums: CEO, COO, CTO, CPO, CHRO, CFO, CMO, CRO and CCO.
We held 30 forums this year, covering topics such as how to balance running the business with growing the business, the role of CoS, international expansion and the frameworks of brand building.
Open Source VC
Anyone who has been following us for a while will know that we’re passionate about opening up the black box that is venture capital through our Open Source VC resources.
This year, two of our most popular blogs provided transparency into our decision-making process: What investors look for in early-stage startup investments and What metrics do VCs look at for signs of Product-Market Fit (PMF)?
At our Open Source VC meetups, we had the pleasure of chatting with Sam Kroonenburg from A Cloud Guru about building a global business from Australia. Kim Teo from Mr Yum also shared her insights into how they achieved their explosive international growth.
Shaping Australia’s digital future together
One of the most significant developments for our sector this year is the launch of the Tech Council of Australia (TCA) in August, and we’re a proud foundational member.
The tech sector currently employs over 861,000 people and is the third-largest contributor to the Australian economy behind mining and finance, at $167bn a year. The goal is to increase tech jobs to 1 million by 2025, and tech economic contribution to $250bn by 2030.
TCA has made a big impact in a short amount of time already, with over 100 member organisations joining. The team has been actively working with the government on the policy areas that matter to startup founders and teams, most notably making R&D tax incentives work for software companies and making ESOP tax rules work better for startup teams.
Australian Tech Companies Valued at Over $100m
Our non-exhaustive list of ‘Australian Tech Companies Valued at Over $100m’ published in August this year is a powerful visual representation of how much our community has grown.
We loved the enthusiastic response from the community to the list, and we know it’s only going to continue to grow — fast! You can let us know any new additions to include here, and keep an eye out for the update!
AirTree Team Highlights
We welcomed 10 new faces: Investment Associate Andrew Yeo, Operations Analyst Ryan Stevens, Communications Manager Bree Fedele, Operating Principal David Parfett, Accountant Lucy Plummer, Portfolio Analyst Dan Coughlan, Senior Accountant Katie Seo, Investment Associate Raaj Rayat, Business Operations and Compliance Analyst Victoria Lowe and Investor Relations Manager Matthew Leung.
Our AirTree baby merch got put to great use with the arrivals of Harrison and Cleo. A big congrats to Jess, Jax and their families!
We brought our vision to build a multi-generational, diverse and enduring fund to life: our Cofounder Daniel Petre stepped away from our day-to day-operations to focus on philanthropy and Elicia McDonald and Jackie Vullinghs were promoted to Partner.
It was humbling to see Craig recognised by the AFR as one of Australia’s top five technology leaders in 2021. As Craig said, “Venture is the ultimate team game — this is all about my awesome colleagues and the inspirational founders we have the pleasure to work with.” Go Craig!
Thank you 🙏
A big thank you to everyone for another year to remember. In 2022, we can’t wait to meet more founders and write their first cheques, and continue supporting our portfolio companies to build the iconic technology companies of tomorrow.