Peter Thiel makes first Aussie start-up investment

PayPal co-founder and Facebook backer Peter Thiel has made his first investment in an Australian company, leading a $1.2 million round for a stake in Sydney tech start-up ScriptRock.

Thiel is the most prominent in a clutch of Australian and US investors who have taken a slice of ScriptRock, including 500 Startups founder Dave McClure, Seek co-founder Paul Bassat and former Yahoo! executive Alan Jones.

Australian venture capital firm Starfish Ventures is also part of the consortium, along with incubator Startmate, which picked ScriptRock as one of its class of 2012 earlier this year and has now pitched in further cash.

Founded by Alan Sharp-Paul, Michael Baukes and Leo Venegas, ScriptRock provides software that automatically tests how IT systems are configured.

Shortly after being chosen to be part of Startmate’s accelerator program, ScriptRock was one of the first four start-ups to take up residence in the NSW Government-backed Startup House in San Francisco.

The investment in the business by Thiel is a landmark moment for Australia’s tech start-up sector and follows rumours that heavy-hitting Silicon Valley investors such as Thiel and Napster founder Sean Parker were scouting Australia for companies to back.

Thiel, who has made the ScriptRock investment via Valar Ventures, was an early backer of Facebook. He led PayPal until its $1.5 billion sale to eBay in 2002.

ScriptRock will use the investment funds to recruit staff in Australia and establish itself further in the US.

“A local presence is very important for us, both to support our existing customers and, secondly, to ensure ongoing access to the amazing, and relatively untapped, engineering talent that is coming out of Australia. This model makes sense and reflects our global intentions,” says co-CEO Baukes.

James Fitzgerald, partner at Valar Ventures, adds: “We see an increasing number of great technology companies being started outside of the United States, as the development of the web erodes traditional barriers to customer acquisition.”

“ScriptRock has an excellent founding team who are addressing a global problem, and we look forward to seeing them continue to develop their vision in the years ahead.”

Niki Scevak, founder of Startmate, adds: “Mike, Alan and Leo are creating something special with ScriptRock and the high quality roster of investors now joining us on this journey is testament to that.”

This article first appeared at StartupSmart.

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