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Sydney startup Deputy nails first attempt at fundraising with $33 million from Boston venture capital firm

Dinushi Dias /

After embarking on major expansion plans into Asia, a Sydney startup has secured $US25 million ($33 million) in Series A funding to escalate its growth across the United States, United Kingdom and Philippines.

Steve Shelley and Ashik Ahmed founded Deputy in 2008 and have been working to make it a leading software solution for businesses to manage teams and schedule employees.

“I basically [self-funded] the business for the past eight years,” Shelley tells StartupSmart.

With an annual turnover north of $10 million and serving more than 28,000 clients, ranging from small businesses to major corporations like Qantas and NASA, Shelley says Deputy’s expansion goals have now outgrown the ability to keep bootstrapping it.

Read more: Sydney startup Deputy announces big expansion into Asia as its quest for world domination continues

“I decided that for us to allow the business to grow and meet the global demands, [we] really needed to invest a lot more into our marketing, sales and talent,” Shelley says.

Over the past 18 months, he says the Deputy team was presented with various investment opportunities but Boston-based venture capital firm OpenView came out in front.

To gain funding from a venture capitalist firm that sees “6000 different companies a year”, predominantly from Silicon Valley, has been quite an experience for Ahmed and Shelley.

“This is the first time we’ve had to do it,” Ahmed tells StartupSmart.

“Validation is very important [and] it comes from believing in yourself and what your product can do, and having customer examples [to demonstrate] what a difference it has made.”

Biggest lesson learned in this Series A round

“There are two kind of VCs out there—one that backs you because of traction and one that backs you because you’re going to reinvent the future,” says Ahmed.

Deputy’s advantage, he believes, is that it does both by serving a growing number of clients and embedding new technologies like “deep learning” and “big data” to improve upcoming products.

“These are all buzzwords,” says Ahmed, but he adds that they play a big role in Deputy’s ongoing roadmap.

“We’re already reinventing the future for many of our customers, but I don’t think we’re done.”

And what was the toughest question asked by an investor in the process?

“Whether I will become the CEO of the company, which I am now,” says Ahmed.

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Dinushi Dias

Dinushi Dias is a freelance journalist and a former StartupSmart reporter and multimedia content producer. She is the co-founder of Melbourne-based production house Dinushi & Power.