A unicorn a year: More than 50 Australian startups founded since 2011 are valued over $100 million

Australian startups

Founders at Blackbird's Sunrise event. Source: Supplied.

In 2012, the information memorandum for Blackbird VC’s first fund included this line:

“We believe that over the next five years a new group of world-class Internet and software companies will be formed in Australia.”

Let me quantify just how accurate that prediction was.

Today, 52 companies founded by Australians since 2011 are worth more than $100 million. Fourteen companies are worth more than $500 million.

Six — Afterpay, Airwallex, Canva, ZipMoney, Zoox and 10X Genomics — are worth more than $1 billion.

Australia is currently producing a unicorn a year.

2011: Canva
2012: 10x Genomics
2013: ZipMoney
2014: Zoox and Afterpay
2015: Airwallex

Looking just at the top 52 companies, they represent a combined enterprise value of more than $30 billion and the creation of 10,000 new jobs.

Fintech is a clear strength of startupland. Well north of $12 billion of enterprise value has been created by Aussie fintechs since 2011. Fintechs make up 29% of the companies on the list.


Atlassian’s founders Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar. Source: Supplied.

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is the other Aussie strength (thanks Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar for paving the way).

The Aussie SaaS startups on this list have created $6.5 billion of enterprise value since 2011. They make up 35% of the companies on the list, and Blackbird is proud to be an investor in six of the top seven.

Aussie direct-to-consumer (D2C) companies have created $3.9 billion of enterprise value since 2011. They make up 23% of the companies on the list.

Just three of the companies on the list are bootstrapped. And all three of these are D2C.

The great Aussie VC firm of the last generation was Accel (it invested in Atlassian, Campaign Monitor, OFX and Big Commerce). Encouragingly, the investor community has responded, and 64% of companies on the list have at least one Aussie VC on the cap table.

Geographically, 75% of the companies are still headquartered in Australia.

The spread:

  • 40% in Sydney;
  • 20% Melbourne;
  • 17% San Francisco; and
  • notably, 10% are Brisbane-based.

Canva’s founders.

Just 15% of the companies have a woman on the founding team.

The average enterprise value of companies without a woman on the founding team (n=44) is $500 million.

The average enterprise value of companies with a woman on the founding team (n=8) is $900 million.

Some quick comments.

  • Private companies are private. It’s a founder’s right to publicly reveal their valuation, not mine. So I can’t and won’t share the list.
  • The window of opportunity for the current crop of Aussie VCs to have made early-stage investments in this generation of Aussie startups starts in about 2011. Blackbird announced its first fund in 2013 ($30 million). I acknowledge this time window is somewhat arbitrary.
  • This is just a list of company valuations. All the meaty stuff — revenue, growth rates and ownership — are not included in the analysis.
Finally, remember that valuations are not the important thing.

The important thing is ambitious, world-class founders solving real problems for customers, and generating real, growing revenues.

The Baraja founders.

Valuations will fluctuate, wonderful businesses will persist.

As I look down the list of companies, I am filled with pride and optimism for the future that Australian founders are building.

We should all be grateful to them.

This is an edited version of a post which first appeared on Nick Crocker’s Medium, and was republished with permission.

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