By Emma Koehn, Dominic Powell and Caleb Triscari
This year’s SmartCompany Smart 30 Under 30 list celebrates young Australian entrepreneurs who are changing the very notion of what it means to build successful businesses in Australia today.
Previously called the Hot 30 Under 30, the annual Smart 30 Under 30 list showcases some of the country’s brightest business operators who have achieved incredible feats in the past 12 months, and who are making serious waves in their respective industries
This year, the list features companies with at least one founder who was 30 years of age or younger on March 10, 2018. The entrepreneurs were selected by the SmartCompany editorial team from an impressive pool of nominations sourced from our wider community.
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New and returning faces make the Smart 30 under 30 list this year, with emerging entrants from the beauty, architecture and dental technology industries. Many are combining their business pursuits with social goals and are choosing to build their communities, as well as their company valuations.
Each member of the 2018 Smart 30 under 30 has demonstrated a keen eye for strategy and a vision for future growth, and we think this is just the beginning of their successful business careers.
Here is SmartCompany’s Smart 30 under 30 for 2018.
1. Alex Tomic and Nik Mirkovic
Age: 24 and 22
Fresh from being listed in the Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia list, Alex Tomic and Nik Mirkovic have continued a long line of wins over the past 12 months, going from strength to strength in terms of revenue growth, and now landing the first spot on SmartCompany’s Smart 30 list.
After launching the business in 2014, the growth for the founders’ startup HiSmile really kicked off in 2017 after celebrity Kylie Jenner promoted its teeth whitening services on social media, the result of over 18 months of hard work and discussion with the Keeping Up with the Kardashians superstar.
Since then, Tomic and Mirkovic have told SmartCompany their business has attracted a customer base of around 1 million and is expected to turn over $100 million by the end of 2018, a significant leap from $20 million at the start of 2017.
Tomic says the team at HiSmile have an “infinite goal” and want to reach $1 billion in sales over the next few years.
“With the push from ten to 20 and now $100 million, you have to push yourself that extra percent, and always ask yourself, ‘are you comfortable with this position? Or do you have a much larger goal?’” he said.
The business has scaled its presence through a strong online marketing strategy, seeking out influencer marketing gaps across various social media platforms with the aim of providing HiSmile the biggest return on its investment.
2. Holly Ransom
Twenty-eight-year-old entrepreneur Holly Ransom has never been one to rest on her laurels, having gone from strength to strength since founding her leadership and consulting business Emergent in 2015.
Ransom has been named by Richard Branson as a star of the future, with the Virgin founder saying in 2017 Ransom had “thoroughly impressed” him and the world was likely to see more of her as time goes on. It was a statement that was right on the money as Ransom was only recently picked to interview ex-US President Barack Obama on his exclusive speaking tour in Australia.
Outside of this, Ransom is also the co-chair of the United Nations Global Coalition of Young Women Entrepreneurs and a director of the Port Adelaide Football Club (she’s a self-described “sports tragic”, according to h
er Twitter bio).
Speaking to StartupSmart last year , Ransom laid out some of her best advice for entrepreneurs, including a belief that founders should truly appreciate the problem they’re trying to solve, and ask themselves three key questions about the problem:
- “Have you tested the size of that problem?”
- “Have you tested the immediacy of that need and the preparedness of the people to pay for that?”
- “How well have you done your research?”
3. Melanie Perkins, Cliff Obrecht, Cam Adams
Age: 30, 32 and 38
The co-founders of Canva are repeat listers on the Smart 30 under 30 but this is hardly surprising.
The graphic design startup recently entered the Australian unicorn hall of fame, closing a $50 million capital raise in January, which helped it reach a company valuation of $1 billion. Co-founder Melanie Perkins told StartupSmart the key to the startup’s success is reflection and commitment to a product.
“As a team, we’re all very focused on delivering value to our users and making their lives easier and better. But each raise is an opportunity to pause and reflect on how far we’ve come,” she said.
From the get-go Perkins said Canva’s internal culture has always been the same, and has been a core attribute behind the startup’s significant growth and scale.
“We had the same culture when we were in my mum’s living room with my first company with no budget at all,” Perkins told StartupSmart in 2016.
“Culture is about how you treat people, which doesn’t cost a thing.”
And it’s also about getting the right people on board. Canva recently shared its unusual hiring process, which involves sending potential employees on a design challenge that reveals their thinking and creative process behind accomplishing a task.
“Often applicants will go really deep on the challenge, they’ll research it, work out a great solution, and give a fantastic presentation that shows their passion. That’s really gotten people over the line before,” co-founder Cam Adams said.
4. Grace Wong, William Wong, David Ballerini
Age: 29, 30 and 35
Since launching in 2014, rewards-based mobile technology platform Liven has raised $11.5 million to grow its offering – and is one of the latest startups to turn to an initial coin offering.
The startup, which was founded by Grace Wong, William Wong and David Ballerini, partners with hospitality venues to allow diners to pay through its app and receive loyalty rewards when doing so. To date, it has processed $5 million in bill payments from 180,000 users.
In March, the founders told StartupSmart the company was on a path to become the “holy grail” of cryptocurrency adoption, outlining plans to raise $74 million through its LivenCoin token, which buyers are able to use for meals at participating restaurants on the Liven platform.
Co-founder William Wong said the majority of cryptocurrencies in the world are not ‘relatable’ to the general public, and LivenCoin hopes to change that because its token has a practical application.
“There are 1500 cryptocurrencies out there and hardly any of them have any substance to them. There are some great protocol-backed coins, but apart from those, there’s rarely many that an everyday user can relate to,” Wong said.
The company has also formed partnerships with a number of Australian charities, with users also able to donate their “Liven Cash” to charities of their choice.
Currently in operation in Sydney and Melbourne, Liven has its sights set on the globe’s trillion-dollar hospitality sector and plans to use its ICO to tap into US and UK markets.
Co-founder Grace Wong says the allure of the platform and the coin offering go beyond that of just “crypto nerds”, saying the past few years of successful growth is a great sales pitch in and of itself.
“We don’t need a lot of marketing, as three-and-a-half years of existence as a successful company is a great amount of marketing in itself,” she said when discussing the sale of LivenCoin.
5. Tess Robinson
Company: Smack Bang Designs
Tess Robinson grew up in a creative household, but the standard university pathway didn’t seem to gel with her. After a few failed attempts at higher education, at the age of 22 she went straight into founding not just one business, but multiple ventures.
In 2011, Robinson founded Smack Bang Designs, a creative agency that focuses on quality over quantity. At the same time, she also founded website templates e-commerce platform First Flight Studio and landscaping service Urban Growers, and is creative director of magazine Start-Up Creative.
Oh, and she’s also co-authored a book set to be released later this year.
However, Smack Bang Designs has been Robinson’s true success story; she started the business with next to nothing: an old desk she found on the side of the road and $300.
Today, the business employs 15 people and has over 500 clients worldwide with nearly 2000 different projects. Having accepted no external investment, the business has gone from $300 in 2011 to a turnover of $1.5 million this year.
Smack Bang Designs boasts clients including Elle Macpherson and Palm Beach Collection, with 40% of the company’s clients being international.
In a blog post, Robinson says the key for smaller niche businesses is to never succumb to the pressure of expanding in order to reach a larger market.
“Boutique, tailored approaches to customers have given way to stock-standard, sub-par wannabes because the market is saturated,” Robinson said.
“But consider this: although everything seems expendable these days, people still love brands they can rely upon, that won’t break on them, that will offer excellent customer service, and that improve their experience every time they make contact.”
6. Gen George
Gen George is a regular Smart 30 alumni, having featured on the list in 2016 and 2017. However, each of those times she’s featured it’s been for a different company, having gone from running (and selling) job matching startup OneShift, to building recruitment startup Skilld, and also recently starting up adtech startup tamme.
However, speaking to StartupSmart last year, George says Skilld was “on the backburner” while the multi-time founder worked on tamme and finalised the sale of OneShift, which she called just “one piece of the puzzle”.
George also continues to run events with friend and fellow startup founder Jane Lu through their Like-Minded Bitches Drinking Wine community for female startup founders.
Upon reflecting on her time running OneShift, George said she is appreciative of the things she learnt by “figuring it out as we go”, providing her with experience she was able to apply to her other ventures.
“I was learning every day and the experience with running Oneshift paid off. Skilld had 60,000 users in the first six months of operating, where OneShift had just 10,000,” she told StartupSmart last year.
“We stuffed up a lot, but we also learned a lot.”
Given George’s penchant for starting businesses, the 27-year-old founder could well appear in next year’s Smart 30 list running something else entirely.
7. Zoe Condliffe
Company: She’s a Crowd
Zoe Condliffe’s background in advocacy and community engagement underpinned her passion to launch storytelling platform She’s a Crowd.
Condliffe developed She’s a Crowd as a participant in the SheStarts accelerator, but prior to striking out with her own startup, she worked with child-focused charity Plan International. It was there she developed Free to Be for the charity, a mapping tool that allows women to digitally map locations where they have been sexually harassed in cities.
In 2017 Condliffe was the recipient of the Young Social Pioneers – Cities and Placemaking Stream award, giving her $10,000 to develop Free to Be. At the time, she said would be using the funds to expand the tool to Sydney and then internationally.
It was her work on Free to Be that inspired Condliffe to start She’s a Crowd, believing there was a “data gap” and corresponding lack of understanding of gender-based violence issues. Leaving her job in March this year, she began to pour her time into She’s a Crowd.
She’s A Crowd is a storytelling platform for women that then translates those stories into data that means influencers, decision-makers and designers can better understand and interpret stories about gender-based violence.
“I had a personal experience of gender-based violence and I realised that there are people that don’t have the support networks I had,” Condliffe told the Herald Sun earlier this year.
“I’m passionate about women being able to tell their story and this is a way to get those stories out there.”
8. Blake Garrett
Company: School Bytes
Founded in 2015 at the age of 17, Blake Garrett’s school administration software startup School Bytes was developed after the founder overheard members of his school’s office staff complaining about the clunky current system they were using.
He told StartupSmart in 2015 he made a note of each of the employee’s complaints, and used those gripes to form the development of School Bytes. The software provides New South Wales schools with a fully customisable cloud-based solution for managing things such as students, fees, sports, and voting.
Today, over 180 NSW government schools use Garrett’s startup, and the founder employs six staff. Garrett says only 15 schools were using the system this time last year, so the growth for the startup has so far been enormous.
Currently 20, Garrett is the youngest entrepreneur on this year’s Smart 30 list. He told StartupSmart in 2015 he was thinking about deferring his university degree to focus on School Bytes, but with a fix-it attitude, it might not be long before Garrett launches another startup.
“I sit there some nights looking at the computer, thinking, ‘how I can make things better?’” he said at the time.
“Technology is always changing, so it’s really exciting.”
9. Bridie Ritchie, Lachie Ritchie, Kate Fitzgerald
Company: Sprout Ventures
Age: 29, 31 and 31
As a place management company, Sprout Ventures has a keen focus on building up engaged communities within new and existing property developments. Sprout distributes grants and creates concept designs for businesses keen to tap into a sustained community. The business was listed as a B Corporation in 2015, meaning it uses its business to tackle social and environmental issues.
Co-founders Bridie Ritchie and her brother Lachie have a history in entrepreneurship and business management. Sprout’s third co-founder Kate Fitzgerald is a qualified architect who has founded architecture firm Whispering Smith.
The team have worked on multiple projects through Sprout, including two ‘Sprout Hubs’ in Western Australia and Victoria. Sprout hubs are purpose-built community spaces intended to be a place of relaxation and local economic activity. As Bridie told Anthill, Sprout fixes the flaws that have arisen from improper community planning in the suburbs.
“I think the way we have been building our outer suburbs is wrong and devoid of shared spaces that help communities connect and prosper,” she said.
“Sprout mixes an online platform and physical space to bring a real sense of community back to our outer ‘burbs.”
Prior to Sprout, the brother-sister team founded Dismantle, a businesses that supports young people in “managing their life in a self-directed way”, as well as bike servicing business BikeDr.
10. Sam Crowther
A year out of high-school, Kasada founder Sam Crowther was already working as a security consultant for Macquarie Group. And if you think that’s impressive, just a short while after he left the role to start cyber security startup Kasada, which just recently completed a $2.5 million capital raise from some of the country’s top venture capital funds.
Kasada provides businesses of all sizes with a software service to protect their webpages and online services from automated bot attacks, such as brute force data-scraping or click fraud.
Crowther has been building his own software since year nine in high school, and says he always knew he had wanted to build his own business. Founding Kasada was a chance to properly commercialise something and “give it a shot”, he says.
However, at the young age of 22, Crowther told StartupSmart his youth has occasionally proved challenging as a startup founder.
“My age definitely presents challenges sometimes, and while it can be both good and bad, I’ve found it to be more the latter. Often I can be a bit written off in meetings, or who we’re talking to will just look and speak at the older person,” he said.
“As much as age shouldn’t determine someone’s success, it can help you out a bit.”
With $2.5 million in his pocket from Westpac’s Reinventure VC fund and David Shein’s Our Innovation Fund, Crowther says he’s now focused on expanding Kasada’s offerings and expanding into the US.
11. Cam Greenwood
Company: Monsta Surf
Cam Greenwood is now seven years into his social entrepreneurship journey, having founded socially-conscious surf brand Monsta Surf at the age of 18.
The aim was to create a popular clothing brand that had international appeal and drew on its customer base to support philanthropic projects through the ‘Monsta Foundation’, which delivers projects including water filtration delivery across a range of countries.
Monsta Surf also connects with its customers on social media by starting conversations about passion, idea generation and purpose in life, including connecting with the brand’s 42,000 Facebook followers.
Having brought the Monsta Surf brand to more than 40 nations, Greenwood has also turned to another business venture in order to give back to the community through storytelling.
His second business, Miraki Collective, is a content business that operates on a social enterprise model, offering to link those with causes with creators who can help tell their stories.
12. Jessica Wilson
Jessica Wilson has previously told SmartCompany her biggest assets in building fashion app Stashd has been “tenacity and not being afraid to aim high or go against the grain”.
Wilson launched Stashd in 2014 at the age of 21, and has since growth the fashion-swiping app significantly to a six-figure strong user base, thanks in part to a focus on Chinese markets.
Stashd has firmly positioned itself as one of the best ways for Western brands to connect with Chinese millennials, and Wilson took out third place in Chinese Shark Tank-style program The Next Unicorn in 2016, leading to attention in the region and backing from retail giant Tencent.
China isn’t the startup’s only focus though, with Stashd operating across 136 countries. However, Wilson told InnovationAus last year she was considering winding down the western side to the application to focus entirely on China; she already travels from Sydney to Shanghai at least once a month.
Success hasn’t come without its challenges though. As Wilson told StartupSmart in 2016, it wasn’t easy fighting against the “boys club” of the tech startup scene.
“It was very black and white when it came to people’s interactions with me at networking events and I would be the only woman or one of three maximum at events,” Wilson tells StartupSmart.
“People would either see the value and the vision or they wouldn’t. I definitely got mistaken for an intern as opposed to the CEO in the early days but this only made me more driven.”
13. Troy Douglas and Drew Bilbe
Ages: 28 and 31
Having been on the Smart 30 for three years in a row, founders of sugar-free soft drinks business Nexba have achieved a quadrella with this year’s inclusion at number 13. It comes at a time when the duo are continuing to notch up an long list of distributors for their soft drink offerings, including Aldi and Domino’s.
Troy Douglas and Drew Bilbe launched Nexba in 2010, hoping to capitalise on the fact that traditional fizzy drinks were in the bad books of many consumers. Nexba beverages have no sugar and no artificial sweeteners, and the pair are focused on becoming a global brand in the “sugar free” space.
In the years since, the business has looked to find as many willing partners as possible to sell their sugar free range. In 2017, the company secured Woolworths as a distributor, meaning both of the big two supermarkets were on board with the brand. Nexba told Fairfax the move would lead to a tripling in sales and put the company on track for $10 million in turnover.
Reflecting on their partnership with Domino’s last year, the founders said startups wanting to work with big name companies had to be ready to meet higher expectations than they may otherwise be used to.
“You’ve really got to have a foundation, you want to be sure when you go into this meeting that you have done similar things before,” Bilbe said.
Despite saying last year their focus was on domestic expansion, the company’s Instagram account last month revealed the team was also thinking globally, with Douglas headed to London “ to tackle diabetes and obesity head on by making @Nexba available beyond Australia”.
#Repost from one of our Aussie Boys and co-founder @mrtroydouglas who has just landed in London! ••• Just touched down in chilly London and couldn’t be more proud of @drewbilbe and our team at @nexba. It’s been 7 epic years and we are more energised than ever as we prepare to deliver our #naturallysugarfree goodness to the world. Plenty of obstacles ahead undoubtedly, but life is best lived when challenged and let’s be honest great change shouldn’t feel comfy. Time to tackle diabetes and obesity head on by making @Nexba available beyond Australia. Looking forward to a couple of weeks in London, meeting incredible people and retailers on the way. Thanks everyone – Let’s do this:). Xx
14. Monica Wulff and Murray Hurps
Company: Startup Muster
Ages: 30 and 33
Monica Wulff’s aim is to increase both understanding and awareness of issues in the Australian startup community, and together with Murray Hurps, she has developed a way to crunch the numbers.
Startup Muster is the nation’s largest survey of startup founders and has asked more than 300,000 questions of those in the startup community since its launch in 2014.
In 2017, Startup Muster’s annual survey compiled the thoughts of 2,214 respondents in the startup sector, including 1,184 company founders. The survey gave a positive outlook on startups in Australia, and reflected a growing number of women establishing startups.
The 2017 survey also sought to connect those in the startup community together by asking founders and startup supporters about their top priorities and challenges with an aim of bringing them together.
“We’ve been asked for something like this for years, and it will be nice to provide more value back to everyone who generously provides their time in the survey,” Wulf told StartupSmart at the time.
Startup Muster says its research has been used by government, private industries, foreign interests and the media in order to better understand the startup ecosystem.
In a time when changes to working and entrepreneurial visas are being carried out by the Australian government, consultation with the startup community may shine a light on what policy is in the best interests for the sector.
Wulff has previously taken Startup Muster on the road, travelling across Australia to compile information about the needs and priorities of company founders to contextualise the challenges they face every day.
“No startup is an island,” she previously told StartupSmart.
15. Katherine Maree Pace and Aimee Atkins
Ages: 30 and N/A
Elanation is continuing to harness the enthusiasm for fitness and wearable tech in the children’s market, expanding the distribution of their smartwatches and fitness trackers.
Founders Katherine Maree Pace and Aimee Atkins launched the company launched in 2015 off the back of seed funding from 14 Australian investors, including a $110,000 contribution from Sydney Angels, and its ETURBO smartwatch and kids fitness apps are now thriving.
Speaking to SmartCompany last year, co-founder Katherine Maree Pace said the company had built “the highest quality smartwatch for kids globally” – it just had to get retailers on board.
The founders have followed through in that regard, partnering with leisure retailer Rebel Sport to sell the products across 100 stores. The team has also been able to grow as orders have, with four full time staff now on board.
The team has previously said it will take a tilt at the US market. Pace told SmartCompany last year the company will be relying on Atkins’ previous experience with other businesses that cater to children; as the original “Dorothy the Dinosaur”, she has been around kids’ brands for decades
16. Chris King
Australia’s ride-sharing landscape has changed significantly over the past 12 months and the number of people taking up gig economy work is also on the rise.
It’s against this backdrop that Splend founder Chris King has been able to grow his car rental business, allowing him to dig deeper into international expansion plans.
When King was featured on last years Smart 30 list, he had just raised $3 million in capital and inked a deal with Uber.
In January 2018, Splend followed this up with a $7.2 million cash injection from Element Fleet Management, which took a 12.5% stake in the business.
Since launching in 2015, Splend has expanded its rental services and now has fleets ready for drivers to hire across Australia, as well as in London, Mexico City and Toronto. The company aims to have $220 million in vehicles under management by 2020.
As the company expands, however, King is also aware of the environmental impact that a vehicle-focused company can have.
Partnering with climate action organisation Greenfleet, Splend has so far planted 10,500 trees to offset the impact of the vehicle fleet.
“I don’t think as a business today, or as an individual for that matter, you can afford not to be passionate about sustainability,” King told StartupSmart last year.
17. Nicole Buskiewicz and Harry Curotta
Ages: 30 and 30
Nicole Buskiewicz and co-founder Harry Curotta have used observations from life working “in and around politics” to develop an in-demand app.
Advoc8 is a Software-as-a-Service platform for the public policy sector, which aims to remove the “tangle of emails, spreadsheets and passing conversations” that many people who help shape Australia’s laws and society still rely on when in the planning stage.
The platform allows large organisations to keep track of different actions and projects across their teams, as well giving access to a “campaign builder” tool that gives those in the advocacy space the ability to track legislation, current issues and relevant political stakeholders.
The company, which launched in 2016, quickly signed on big name businesses as clients, including multibillion-dollar drinks producer Diageo. Australian lobby firm CapitalHill also quickly came on board.
The business also runs an Australian politics blog, where the team discuss trends in advocacy and policymaking with experts and former public servants.
Buskiewicz was a finalist for 2017’s Telstra Young Businesswoman of the Year awards. At the time, she said the Advoc8 platform “encourages evidence-based public policy development, which is vital to healthy, functioning democracies”.
18. Tanya Dontas and Matt Boyd
Ages: 28 and 30
Within 17 months of operation, volunteering platform startup Vollie has facilitated more than 5000 hours of time devoted to volunteering projects.
In an interview with StartupSmart in 2017, co-founder Tanya Dontas said the millennial generation is an untapped source of volunteering power. The issue is connecting with them in the first place.
“The key problem is – especially for our age group of 25 to 35 – is they just weren’t volunteering,” Dontas told StartupSmart.
“[But] it wasn’t that they didn’t want to.”
After nine months of development, Dontas and co-founder Matt Boyd sent Vollie into the world November 2016. To Dontas’ surprise, millennials took a liking to Vollie and jumped on the platform in search of specialist volunteering projects.
“I thought it would be more challenging to engage volunteers and that really surprised me,” she told StartupSmart.
“We were aware that people were looking for solutions but the response that we’ve had [is] amazing.”
Vollie now lists projects from organisations including Chuffed, Caritas, Plan International and Vision Australia. The platform’s website has recorded a total volunteer value of $276,502, with an average project value of $898.
For startups looking to scale their business, Dontas says the virtue of patience is vital for budding entrepreneurs to learn.
“It’s not all going to happen at once [but] you have to remember that each little thing you do each day is going towards something big,” she told StartupSmart.
19. Sarah Agboola and Dr. Yan Ting Choong
Ages: 24 and 30
For entrepreneurs Sarah Agboola and Yan Ting Choong, their venture was born from concerns about the lack of support available for parents who are juggling kids, work, social life and general life admin.
The issue resonated with both the co-founders. For Agboola, the death of her father meant her mother had to care for three children in addition to work, with limited time to process the grief. For Choong, it was more of a cultural matter. On m-Time’s website, Choong explains that in Chinese culture, new mothers are supported by a confinement nanny for 30 days. However that support vanishes after the month has passed and the mother can be left overwhelmed.
As a result m-Time was founded in 2016. The service aims to connect busy parents with m-Time concierges (or Moncierges) that will visit households and perform a variety of domestic tasks including cleaning, laundry, bookkeeping and looking after the kids.
M-Time’s philosophy is built on social scientific research; the business cites a study that found mothers who had time for themselves each week were more likely to have more practical and emotional support.
M-Time is forecasting a monthly recurring revenue of $120,000 by the end of 2018 and was one of 10 startups with high potential selected for the UNSW Founder10x accelerator.
In May 2018, the founders of m-Time will be heading to Silicon Valley to take part in the Google for Entrepreneurs Blackbox Connect program, while Choong, who completed her PhD in neuroscience in 2016, was one of Australia’s representatives at the 2017 G20 Young Entrepreneurs Alliance Summit in Germany.
20. Dylan Alcott and Nick Morris
Company: Get Skilled Access
Ages: 27 and 47
Decorated paralympians Dylan Alcott and Nick Morris founded consultancy Get Skilled Access in 2016 with an aim of making disability “sexy and fun so people understand and want to care about it”, Alcott says.
The business delivers training to workers across all sectors, from healthcare to security, to inform them about accessibility issues that might exist in their organisations.
The aim is to generate positive cultural change and get those in both the government and corporate sectors to think about gaps in their approaches to accessibility and disability inclusion.
Alcott has won Paralympic gold medals in basketball and tennis, as well as five Australian Open wheelchair tennis titles, while Morris has also won a Paralympic gold medal for basketball and has developed access plans for a number of Olympic events.
On the Get Skilled website, the business explains how “paralympians are Australia’s highest profile people facing disability issues and challenges through their disabilities everyday”, which makes them well placed to deliver unique training programs in this space, the company says. Get Skilled Access trainers include fellow paralympic gold medallists Kelly Cartwright and Carole Cooke.
“We’re just trying to improve these organisations to not only help the disabled community get out and spend their money but also get these organisations ready to employ people with disabilities, which is a big passion of mine,” Alcott says.
21. Andrew Clapham and Zakaria Bouguettaya
Age: 29 and 28
Marketplace and fintech startup QPay is part of a growing surge of challenger banks starting to pop up in Australia ahead of the government’s review into open banking, and founders Andrew Clapham and Zakaria Bouguettaya think they’re leading the charge.
“Other challenger banks are still launching their Mastercard or Visa offerings so I think we’ve beat them to the punch,” Clapham told StartupSmart earlier this month.
“Though we can’t call ourselves a bank, we have a vision of being a challenger bank, and the first step towards that is giving highly relevant deals to our students and building on our experience with QPay to get things started.”
The startup recently closed a $570,000 seed funding round from angel investment group Sydney Angels, which marked the second round of angel investment the fintech startup has taken to date.
Collating an array of smaller scale investors to fuel the company’s growth falls in line with QPay’s positioning as a young, scrappy startup taking on the big four banks, something Clapham also believes appeals to the 150,000 uni students who use the platform.
As QPay’s bank-focused services start to roll out, the business is still seeing solid uptake of its original offering of a online student marketplace, which sells tickets and merch for upcoming concerts and events, along with things like textbooks. For other keen founders, Clapham told StartupSmart there’s nothing better than just having a shot.
“Just like having a baby or getting married there’s no good time to start a startup, and doing it is definitely the scariest thing. But ask yourself if you’re going to regret it more if you do it, or if you don’t?” he said earlier this year.
22. Jarrod Milani and Marcus Brown
Company: Forbidden Foods
Age: 29 and 30
When you think of ‘multimillion-dollar business’, the idea of selling various exotic styles of rice might not immediately spring to mind. But for 29-year-old Jarrod Milani and 30-year-old Marcus Brown, the concept seemed like an obvious one.
According to the founding duo, Australia’s rice market is a monopoly and was in dire need of disruption, leading to them launching food company Forbidden Foods in 2012, armed with one product: a 500 gram bag of black rice.
“The rice market was a mature area with a monopoly, and the industry was ripe for innovation. We saw it as an opportunity to come in and shake things up,” Brown told SmartCompany last year.
“It’s tough to break into this sort of market because everywhere already had well-established suppliers. To beat this we found we had to approach customers with the idea that rice was more than just a commodity.”
The business was projected to hit $5 million in revenue for the 2017-18 financial year, and the founders have been busy launching new products, including a range of breakfast-focused offerings such as rice puddings.
Forbidden Foods has also benefited from partnerships with restaurants such as Zambreros, and took a export-first approach when launching the business, which has seen it secure customers from New Zealand, Singapore, and “weirdly” Belfast in Ireland.
“We went into international markets straight off the bat. I don’t think any business can just sit around and say they’ll get around to it,” Brown said
23. Louise Chen and Lisa Qi
Company: Share With Oscar
Age: 28 and 30
Twenty-eight and 30-year-old founders Louise Chen and Lisa Qi both boast long careers as management consultants with big names such as Deloitte, Macquarie, and Nous.
But the lure of the startup world enticed them to start their business Share With Oscar in early 2016, hoping to provide a community-driven solution to the headache of parking in busy cities.
Share With Oscar’s sharing economy platform allows everyday homeowners to rent out their unused driveway space as parking spaces.
The founders say the idea was sparked after the they struggled to find a parking space a Sydney’s busy Bondi Beach. The startup currently operates only in Sydney.
“At Oscar, our mission is to change the way we share our assets when we don’t use them, to create greener, smarter cities,” Chen and Qi say on their website.
“There is only one parking space for every six drivers in Sydney’s CBD, and in areas like Bondi, finding parking is just about impossible, yet there is so much unused space for the most part of the day. Instead of building more unsightly parking lots, let’s help each other with what we already have.”
The business says it’s growing 30% month-on-month, and the founders are planning to continue expansion around Sydney before heading nationally, they told Dynamic Business. And if you’re confused about the name ‘Share With Oscar’, the duo say it’s all about trust.
“Lisa and I are big advocates of the sharing economy and sharing assets that are under-utilised to create smarter, greener cities, and that’s where the ‘Share’ comes in,” Chen told Dynamic Business.
“We also wanted to imbue the app with a friendly, reliable, trustworthy persona that looks after the community of sharers. We both thought the name ‘Oscar’ fit the bill.”
24. Adam Walsh, Jack Watts and Jack Turner
Age: All 27
AFL footballer Jack Watts and co-founders Adam Walsh and Jack Turner have expanded the offer at their cult-fave boardshorts company Skwosh this year, offering swimwear for women for the first time.
The business now offers men’s, women’s and kids products that ship internationally.
Since Skwosh’s launch in 2015, the trio have connected with customers by building a strong social media presence – the company is hitting around 50,000 followers on both its Facebook and Instagram, while Watts regularly shares updates on the company with his 15,000 Instagram followers.
The founders attribute their success to the fact that they are each responsible for a specific element of the business, and have “combined their very different talents to make the brand work”.
Walsh has a banking background and is the “business brains”, according to the founders, while Jack Turner is the artistic talent and Jack Watts is responsible for marketing and sharing the brand’s message.
Speaking to Broadsheet last year, Watts said the key reason he’s been able to balance co-founding a company with the demands of AFL football is that he genuinely enjoys the process of building a brand.
“There’s so much hard work and setbacks that go into launching a business that you really need to like it,” he said.
25. Olivia White
Company: House of White
Olivia White fell into blogging after seeking out women who experienced similar complications to her with childbirth. From there, the popular motherhood and lifestyle blog House of White was born.
“I was a young mum, I didn’t have any friends with babies,” White told The Gazette.
“I wouldn’t say it was dark days, but a very anxious time for me. It was that whole unknown of motherhood.”
House of White covers parenting, body image, financial management, travel and fashion. As part of her blogging journey, White has conducted interviews with midwives, influencers and celebrities. The blog also hosts a regular podcast, featuring conversations with other bloggers. One recent blog post argues a mum is a mum, no matter how they look.
“We tell women to love their bodies, no matter what their shape or size. But the second a woman posts and image of their post-partum body we label them ‘not a real mum’ because they don’t look how you ‘think’ a mum should look?” she said.
What was once White’s hobby is now a profitable business, reaching thousands of Australians by co-ordinating popular campaigns, including the #MoreThanMyBody body image project, which draws on real women’s experiences to open up an in-depth and honest conversation about the impact of body image on the human experience.
White is also an ambassador for Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia (PANDA), aiming to reduce stigma around postnatal psychosis and promote early identification and treatment.
26. Chloë Constantinides
Company: Kisanni /Dapper Apps
Chloë Constantinides juggles multiple projects as the founder of cruelty-free beauty brand Kisanii and co-founder of Western Australian development agency Dapper Apps, and her entrepreneurial pursuits have landed her a spot in the WA 40under40 in 2018.
Since its establishment, Dapper Apps has produced over 70 apps for public and private bodies and has won more than 20 awards for technical excellence and design. In 2017, Dapper launched a ventures arm and is looking to partner with 25 startups to help them develop an app. Dapper will contribute up to 50% of the development costs and in return will receive a stake in the business, the West Australian reports.
Kisanii has built up a following of 12,000 followers on Instagram and offers environmentally and socially conscious beauty products. In an interview with Women’s Health and Fitness, Constantinides says her creativity is highly dependent on her workplace.
“There are certain environments where I feel more creative, usually involving playing music that I love, enjoying some sunshine and feeling relaxed. I am probably at my most creative when I am happy — it’s about feeling a sense of freedom.”
Constantinides has provided real estate and property investment advice in the past, speaking to realestate.com.au about how to become a Gen Y property guru. She also teaches high school students how to program and fly drones through drone education provider SheFlies.
Outside of her business ventures, Constantinides is a board director at StartupWA, a non-profit organisation that helps aspiring entrepreneurs achieve their goals in the startup world.
27. Holly Stephens
Holly Stephens, founder of female entrepreneurship network Triangles, saw her new venture rise in popularity as soon as it launched; 100 women signed up to Triangles within four days of its launch in April 2017.
The Triangles network aims to facilitate ideas and discussion between women on entrepreneurship and business management. According to its website, the network now hosts 2000 members in 12 different countries and has run 20 events.
When first starting up Triangles, Stephens told SmartCompany working at Google and Xerox fuelled her desire to build something for herself.
“I thought there must be more women that feel this way that are in a corporate role but don’t know what they really want to do,” she said in 2017.
Stephens believes in devoting 10% of your time to learning and focusing on the small steps that will eventually take you to the finish line.
“Just focus on the end goal … You’ll have really down times when you won’t be able to see how it’s going to come through,” she said.
“[Always] go back to the baby steps.”
28. Katie Prowd and Darryl Woodford
Company: Hypometer Technologies
Ages: 26 and 33
Katie Prowd and Darryl Woodford are carving out a niche within the growing sports analytics sector with Hypometer Technologies.
Originally spun out of Queensland University of Technology, Hypometer Technologies aims to provide accessible sports analytics data to the public. The company builds models for speculative analytics and displays it through user platforms, in a bid to help Australia catch up to the leaders in global sports analytics markets.
For example, one of the company’s products, Fantasy Insider, offers projections and strategy guides to customers to assist them in profiting from fantasy sports. Fantasy Insider currently offers stats on AFL, AFLW, NRL and NBA players.
Prowd has a background in academic research, focusing on communications and digital audiences, while Woodford is a software developer with qualifications in engineering and IT.
Speaking to Anthill, Prowd said she takes pride in her ability to forecast how ideas can come to fruition.
“I have the power of perspective. The second I have a new idea, or someone suggests something new, I’m thinking about how that could work from every different angel and what that will mean for everyone involved,” she said.
“Perspective and being able to put myself in someone else’s shoes is something I’m really proud of.”
29. Peta Shulman
Company: GoodnessMe Box
Peta Shulman’s vision for GoodnessMe Box came after she was bedridden for three months from an autoimmune disease. After seeking help and recovering through alternative medicine, Shulman went into the world of business with the aim of promote clean and healthy eating.
The subscription-based food business found early success, as Shulman put her public relations and marketing skills to work to reach more than $1 million in turnover in its first year of operation.
In 2017, Shulman was a finalist for the Lorna Jane Active Living Awards. Prior to that in 2015, she was a finalist for the Female Entrepreneur Awards.
Since its founding in 2014, GoodnessMe Box has delivered more than 100,000 boxes and the service currently reaches thousands of Australians each month, who receive health practitioner-approved products. Outside of selling products, GoodnessMe Box has just completed its third whole food market which had 1,000 attendees.
The business became so popular within a brief period of time that Shulman found herself managing a growing team and customer base. But despite the challenges, Shulman said she had to “hit the ground running” with her business from day one if GoodnessMe Box was going to stay afloat.
“I learnt to never lose sight of our purpose, putting the needs of our customers and suppliers first, recognising when to engage external advice, understanding my weakness and strengths and growing the team accordingly and consistently speaking and listening to our customers,” she told The Fit Traveller.
30. Tara Baker and Arlia Hassell
Company: Dancing With Her
Age: 29 and 30
Tara Baker and Arlia Hassell founded LGBTQ women’s publication Dancing With Her out of disappointment with the norm in media representation of weddings.
While flipping through magazines as a newly engaged couple, they found the stories to be heteronormative. The founders of Dancing With Her aim to tell stories of women who love women and “[bridge] the gap between wedding vendors and sexuality, body and gender diverse people”.
Since the online journal’s launch in November 2017, Baker has landed herself on the Forbes 30 under 30 Asia list, alongside other leading Australian founders. In an interview with Forbes, Baker said a large plus from her job is being able to educate businesses in the wedding industry on how to be more inclusive.
“There needs to be conversations around inclusivity and diversity and what that looks like in the wedding industry, which is important,” Baker said.
Dancing With Her has published two print volumes to date. The online publication has a reach of 85,000 people a month, according to Forbes, and has a following of more than 23,000 on Instagram.