Funding

Melbourne startup secures $15 million as it continues plans for global domination

Denham Sadler /

Unlockd

Unlockd co-founder and former chief executive Matt Berriman. Source: Supplied.

Australian telecommunications startup Unlockd has closed a $15 million Series A round as it looks to aggressively expand into the UK and Asia.

The Melbourne-founded tech company, which offers a platform to mobile service providers where users can gain discounts by viewing ads after unlocking their smartphone, has now raised more than $20 million on total.

The startup boasts high-profile investors including Lachlan Murdoch, Seek’s Matt Rockman and the founders of Catch of the day.

The Series A round comes from these existing investors as well as newcomers including carsales.com.au founder Greg Roebuck and Radek Sali, the CEO of Swisse Wellness.

Unlockd co-founder and CEO Matt Berriman says the cash injection will be used to fuel international expansion plans.

“We have over a dozen live conversations with telcos across every market,” Berriman tells StartupSmart.

“The appetite is there and that’s a big reason for taking the funding – to capture that opportunity.”

Plans for global domination

First on the cards is the UK, with Unlockd already having signed a deal with an undisclosed telco that’ll see its product on offer to more than 20 million consumers worldwide.

Berriman says this deal is exclusively with the one provider and will be officially announced in the next two months.

He says the startup has also signed three term sheets with telcos around the world, including with some of Asia’s “most significant phone carriers”.

Founded in 2014, Unlockd first launched in Australia through a deal with Labara Mobile in October last year, and announced a big expansion into the US at the start of this year. After signing with Sprint Telecom, the Aussie startup’s technology is now on offer to more than nine million US customers.

Berriman says the US launch has been “really strong” and has served to validate the startup’s offering.

“We’ve already got hundreds of thousands of users in the US in ten weeks and that definitely shows that users want it,” he says.

“The other confidence we get is in the interest from telcos – they know the customers better than anyone.”

“The interest from consumers has been across the board and it’s been quite generally accepted.”

While interest from telcos around the world has been strong, he says that Australian providers are yet to properly get on board with the concept.

“Hopefully sometime soon we’ll get back to Australia and convince some local telcos to get on board,” Berriman says.

The right amount of capital

According to the founder, Unlockd could’ve easily raised more funding, but chose to secure just enough to get it to its next growth stage.

“It was about what we can efficiently use in the business to get to the next critical junction before we look to take more funding,” Berriman says.

“It was a number we all worked on with the board and key investors. We planned out where we would spend the money, the outcomes we’d achieve out of it and that drove the number more than the number driving the strategy.”

He says it’s important for founders to consider how much capital they actually need rather than saying yes to all interested parties.

“It’s flattering as a founder if people want to invest in your company,” Berriman says.

“But you have responsibility to shareholders and the business to be sustainable. This was about how we can execute on what we need to achieve then working out what funding we needed.”

“Now it’s about putting our heads down. We’re in the fortunate position of being able to focus on the business and not running around looking for funding.”

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Denham Sadler

Denham Sadler is a former editor of StartupSmart. He was previously a journalist at the publication and has worked as a freelancer for the Guardian, the Saturday Paper and the ABC. In his spare time he likes puns and jaffles.

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