Bundaberg-born fintech founder is leading the latest Aussie unicorn, but says he’s still a “farmer at heart”
Tuesday, July 24, 2018/
Supply chain financing startup Greensill has landed the title of Australia’s latest unicorn, having completed a $US250 million ($338.86 million) capital raise that values the Australian-founded fintech at $US1.64 billion ($2.22 billion).
The investment comes from US growth equity firm General Atlantic, which has taken a minority stake in the business.
Founded in 2011 by Lex Greensill, a Queensland native who grew up on his family’s Bundaberg sugar cane and sweet potato farm, Greensill has been bootstrapped until now, only taking capital from family and friends, according to a Fairfax report.
“The business is extraordinarily capital efficient and we’ve invested fully ourselves in growing the business because we wanted to maintain control,” Greensill said.
“The firm is still substantially owned by myself and the staff and I’m very proud of that … Dozens and dozens of our employees have become millionaires on the back of this,” he added.
The startup joins Canva and Atlassian in the hall of fame of Australian-founded unicorns, and also follows a $675 million Series-B raise from Aussie-founded Zoox, which values the self-driving car startup at $4.3 billion.
UK-based Greensill provides working capital to companies, providing an alternative source of funding and allowing them to pay suppliers more quickly, without compromising their own capital position. In the first six months of 2018, the company supplied $US3 billion million in working capital to businesses in Australia, up from $US800 million throughout the whole of 2017.
According to the ABC, the company was born out of Greensill’s own experience of seeing his parents struggle with long payment terms while operating their farming business. His passion for helping businesses like the one run by his family even landed him the honour of being made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) last year for his services to the UK economy.
“Probably the single biggest impact on my professional life was the determination that I was going to do what I could to change the way that small companies, like my parents’ farming business, were treated by big companies,” he said last year.
Greensill’s brother Peter Greensill also sits on the board of the fintech but continues to run the day-to-day operations of the Bundaberg farming business, which is a separate entity.
Greensill is still registered in Bundaberg, and Lex Greensill says he is still a “farmer at heart”.
“Bundaberg is my home. It’s where I came from and I visited there about eight times last year with my wife,” he told Fairfax
“We have never considered the thought of changing our roots,” he said.
“Whenever I’m home I jump on a tractor and have a play. I don’t think of myself as a corporate titan.”
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