Making money, making history: The biggest capital raises of 2019

Top startups

Kate Keenan (second from left) and the Judo Bank leadership team. Source: supplied.

Australian startups have broken raise records yet again this year, with 2019 seeing five funding rounds exceed $100 million — and this trend of increasing deal size shows no signs of slowing down.

The 12 largest raises of the past 12 months all comfortably exceeded the $30 million mark. What’s more, the 20 biggest rounds were all above $20 million.

The biggest raise of 2019 more than tripled the biggest raise of 2018. And if that wasn’t mammoth enough, the top half of this year’s list completely blew the biggest raises of 2017 list out of the water.

So, without further ado, here are the biggest raises of 2019.

1. Judo Bank: $400 million

Launched in 2018, neobank Judo made Aussie history in July by closing the biggest funding round ever.

New investors such as Bain Capital Credit and Tekhau Capital came on board for the raise, joining Judo’s existing investors Abu Dhabi Capital Group and OPTrust.

Despite being less than two years old, this is Judo Bank’s second year topping this list, having raised $140 million in 2018. This year, it can also add knocking out the former record — Campaign Monitor’s $266 million raise in 2014 — to its bragging rights.

2. Airwallex: $141 million

It’s been a big year for the team at Airwallex, with a $141 million Series C funding round in March making it Australia’s third-ever unicorn.

The round was led by US venture capital firm DST Global, adding the global payments startup to a cohort featuring the likes of Facebook, Airbnb and Spotify.

Despite the huge raise and the coveted title it brought, co-founder and chief Jack Zhang says the team is keeping themselves grounded in classic Aussie style.

“It’s just a status that people recognise in the industry,” Zhang said at the time.

biggest raise

Airwallex co-founders Xijing Dai, Jack Zhang, Lucy Liu and Max Li. Source: supplied.

3. Canva: $125 million

Canva became a unicorn last year, and it has no plans to ditch the status. Closing two huge raises this year, it is now valued at a massive $4.7 billion.

The graphic design startup’s biggest raise came in October, when it bagged $125 million to tackle what co-founder Melanie Perkins described as “death by PowerPoint”.

It was led by Aussie VC fund Blackbird Venture Capital and global investors such as Sequoia China, General Catalyst and Bessemer Venture Partners.

Hold that thought.*

biggest raise

Canva co-founder Melanie Perkins.

4. Culture Amp: $120 million

Another Aussie startup nudging its foot across the unicorn line is Culture Amp, raising $120 million in September to push its value to $1.04 billion.

“Technically the definition of a unicorn is $US1 billion,” founder Didier Elzinga told StartupSmart, suggesting that Culture Amp is perhaps “a larrikin unicorn”.

The Melbourne HR startup hooked the wallets of their own customers Sequoia Capital, who led a pack of repeat investors that included Atlassian co-founders Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar.

Culture Amp

Culture Amp co-founder and chief executive Didier Elzinga.

5. Canva (again): $101 million

*Canva must be doing something right, because it closed two nine-figure raises this year.

The first round in May was the smaller of the two, if you can believe it, raking in $101 million.

Two new investors, General Catalyst and Bond, led the charge. In fact, this raise made Canva the first-ever investment for Bond.

6. Athena: $70 million

Just nine months after launching, alternative lending fintech Athena Home Loans locked down $70 million in Series C funding.

Its backers included the likes of Square Peg, AirTree, Hostplus, AustralianSuper, Salesforce Ventures and NAB Ventures, making this raise yet another record-breaker as the biggest Aussie round led by local investors.

biggest raise

Athena Home Loans co-founders Nathan Walsh and Michael Starkey. Source: supplied.

7. Secure Code Warrior: $69.2 million

Just last week, Sydney coding startup Secure Code Warrior closed a $69.2 million Series B round led by Goldman Sachs.

Returning investors included AirTree Ventures and Paladin Capital Group.

A big jump from its $4.93 million raise last year, this round is the largest US investment of its kind in an Aussie cyber-security startup ever.

biggest raise

Pieter Danhieux, co-founder and chief of Secure Code Warrior. Source: supplied.

8. Compass Education: $60 million

It may have launched eight years ago, but co-founders John de la Motte and Lucas Filer kept their edtech startup under the radar, entirely bootstrapping growth and operations.

Completely flipping the script in November, the pair secured a massive $60 million from private equity firm Advent Partners.

biggest raise

Compass Education founders John de la Motte and Lucas Filer. Source: supplied.

9. A Cloud Guru: $47 million

It’s going to be a great Christmas in the Kroonenburg household this year. Brothers and co-founders Sam and Ryan Kroonenburg secured $46.8 million for their enterprise training startup in April, thanks to the growing demand for cloud-based computing.

The round was led by US growth equity firm Summit Partners, which joined AirTree Ventures and Elephant.

biggest raise

A Cloud Guru co-founders Sam and Ryan Kroonenburg. Source: Supplied.

10. Baraja: $45 million

Developing lasers that allow autonomous vehicles to ‘see’, Sydney startup Baraja is the epitome of future thinking.

And despite raising $45 million in January from a majority of foreign investors, the homegrown startup insists its future remains Down Under.

biggest raise

Co-founders Cibby Pulikkaseril and Federico Collarte (front centre) and the Baraja team. Source: supplied.

11. Skedulo: $39 million

Another startup making it big overseas, but careful to maintain its Aussie roots, is Brisbane management platform Skedulo.

Making a splash in Silicon Valley, it attracted funding from Microsoft’s venture fund M12, which led the $39.1 million raise.

The investment marks Skedulo as one of only two Aussie startups that has managed to successfully snag M12’s attention — the other being Go1.

biggest raise

Skedulo co-founder and chief executive Matt Fairhurst. Source: supplied.

12. v2food: $35 million

Aussie meat alternative startup v2food bagged $35 million in Series A funding in late-November.

Capitalising on a successful October launch of its meat-free ‘Rebel Whopper’ burger in Hungry Jack’s stores, v2food’s funding round was led by Main Sequence Ventures, the Fairfax family’s investment fund Marinya Captial, and Sequoia Capital China.

biggest raise

Nick Hazell, founder and chief of v2food (centre) with Jack Cowin and Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews. Source: supplied.

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