Melbourne Cup: The overseas raiders hoping to storm the start-up business field

Veteran racehorse trainer Bart Cummings accused the Victoria Racing Club of “pandering to the internationals” for tomorrow’s Melbourne Cup, but what of the overseas start-ups jostling for position with budding Australian business thoroughbreds?


Cummings, who has earned the nickname the “Cups King”, is one of Australia’s most successful racehorse trainers. He has won the Melbourne Cup a record 12 times.


Last week, Cummings said the Victoria Racing Club has to provide more opportunities for local contenders to qualify for the Melbourne Cup.


“It is much easier for the foreigners to qualify. They can win a $5000 Listed race overseas and that’s enough for them to get into the Melbourne Cup,” Cummings told News Limited.


“It is becoming very one-sided and it is obvious they are pandering to the internationals. If they keep going like this, we will have to ‘spot the Aussie’ in the cup.”


As the Melbourne Cup becomes increasingly international, so too does the Australian start-up scene.


Here are five foreign runners and riders looking to make their mark locally. We assess their chances of riding off with the honours:


1. Runner: Spotify


Riders: Daniel Ek, Martin Lorentzon, Kate Vale


Melbourne Cup equivalent: Red Cadeaux (bookmaker odds: $10)


Following months of speculation about when the Swedish start-up would officially make its way Down Under, Spotify burst from the stables in Australia in May.


Since its initial launch in 2008, Spotify has become one of the largest music services in the world, with more than 10 million active users and more than three million paying subscribers.


In November last year, Spotify appointed former Google executive Kate Vale as its first Australian employee. She now has people across sales, label relations, marketing, PR, etc.


While Vale has remained tight-lipped on Spotify’s Australian user numbers, the company has forged partnerships with Triple J, which saw the launch of the Triple J app.


In May, Vale told StartupSmart while Spotify is aimed at “anyone and everyone”, one of its key target markets is the three million Australians who illegally download music every year.


“That will be our biggest challenge – getting people to understand how to consume music and move away from traditional ways of doing it,” she said.


2. Runner: Airbnb


Riders: Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia, Ashton Kutcher, Donald Stalter


Melbourne Cup equivalent: Maluckyday (bookmaker odds: $14)


Just last week, US-based home rental service Airbnb saddled up and opened an office in Sydney, highlighting the huge potential of the Australian market in the process.


Founded four years ago by Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia, Airbnb is an online community marketplace for people to list and book unique accommodation options.


The service, which is active in more than 26,000 cities and almost 200 countries, has attracted huge amounts of funding from high-profile investors including US actor Ashton Kutcher.


In June last year, Airbnb hired tech entrepreneur Matthew Ho as its first Australia-based employee, although Ho no longer works for the company.


Instead, the Australian Airbnb office will be headed by technology investor Donald Stalter. A local Airbnb team is expected to be assembled soon.


Australians have booked more than one million nights of travel on Airbnb, according to a spokesperson, so the market is ripe with opportunity.


3. Runner: Uber


Riders: Garrett Camp, Travis Kalanick, David Rohrsheim


Melbourne Cup equivalent: Mourayan (bookmaker’s odds: $26)


US-based car service Uber is doing more than munch on sugar cubes and bags of oats to beef itself up.


Last month, it flagged its intention to hire Australian employees to launch the business locally after announcing plans to head to Sydney.


Uber, founded by Garrett Camp and Travis Kalanick, is an on-demand car service whereby private drivers pick up users based on iPhone, SMS and web-based requests.


“I know there are a few folks here who would be excited to work for one of the hottest start-ups in Silicon Valley right now,” Rohrsheim wrote on Silicon Beach Australia.


“Employees here in Sydney will have the experience of launching a new business in a new region while earning a salary and equity options.”


Uber has teamed up with Sydney band Art vs. Science as it seeks to promote itself to Australian consumers.


4. Runner:


Riders: Nick Robertson, Quentin Griffiths


Melbourne Cup equivalent: Americain (bookmaker odds: $6.50)


In August last year, this British online fashion retailer announced its plan to launch a dedicated Australian website.


Launched in 2000 by Nick Robertson and Quentin Griffiths, Asos has more than 350 buyers, boasting more than 50,000 product lines.


As of September 30, 2011, Asos had 6.3 million registered users and 3.7 million active customers from 160 countries.


The success of Asos extends beyond the checkout to an online community. The company’s Facebook page has almost one million followers, who never need to leave the social network in order to shop.


The company, which is well known for its free delivery and return policy, also produces a seasonal magazine, delivered to its 450,000 top shoppers. We predict fine things for this international stayer.


5. Runner: Rdio


Riders: Janus Friis, Drew Larner


Melbourne Cup equivalent: Kelinni (bookmaker odds: $26)


In January this year, Skype co-founder Janus Friis celebrated the Australian launch of his music streaming service Rdio, which is a mix between a music site and a social media site.


“It is the only music service available in Australia that is accessible via every major platform,” the company said in a statement.


“Rdio is working with every major music company (EMI Music, Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group) as well as key local independent labels and distributors to ensure Australians have the largest available library of music possible.”


According to Rdio chief executive Drew Larner, Australia has a “unique, thriving music culture”, boasting a wealth of artists across all genres. We think there’s a decent outside chance that Australian users will be singing themselves horse – sorry, hoarse – along to Rdio’s content.


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
SmartCompany Plus

Sign in

To connect a sign in method the email must match the one on your SmartCompany Plus account.
Or use your email
Forgot your password?

Want some assistance?

Contact us on: or call the hotline: +61 (03) 8623 9900.