Startup News & Analysis

Why Kate Kendall is returning to Australia and bringing her freelance startup CloudPeeps with her

Angela Castles /

Kate Kendall

CloudPeeps co-founder Kate Kendall. Source: Supplied.

After finding success in Silicon Valley, prominent Australian entrepreneur Kate Kendall is bringing her freelance talent marketplace CloudPeeps to Australia, having been lured back to her home country by Advance Queensland’s Hot DesQ program.

The $8 million Hot DesQ program was created by the Queensland Government’s Advance Queensland initiative, which offers Australian expat and international founders up to $100,000 to relocate their startups to Queensland for at least six months, with 29 startups invited to participate in the latest round of the program, according to the Queensland Government.

Originally hailing from Melbourne, Kendall launched CloudPeeps, a platform for freelancers and online professionals, in beta mode in 2014 with co-founder Shala Burroughs, after moving to New York in 2011 and founding The Fetch, a popular curated email of digital and creative events.

CloudPeeps launched in Silicon Valley in 2015 and now boasts 20,000 users, according to Kendall, who is also a board member of the Aussie Founders Network, a community of Australian founders, investors and industry advisors based out of Silicon Valley.

The startup employs a team of five and two of those employees, plus Kendall, will relocate to Brisbane for at least six months.

CloudPeeps will be based out of Fishburners coworking space in Brisbane, and the team will be sharing their “experiences, advice and connections with Queensland entrepreneurs” as part of the Hot DesQ program — something Kendall says the team is looking forward to.

Kendall says, at its heart, the program is about “participating in and giving back to the local community”.

“I’m been impressed with the level of camaraderie and friendliness shown by the community already,” Kendall tells StartupSmart.

“I saw a tweet recently saying that while Melbourne and Sydney were fighting amongst themselves to be Australia’s startup capital, Brisbane has quietly emerged as a leader. It’s exciting.”

Kendall is active on social media, currently boasting close to 53,000 Twitter followers, and her Instagram account shows her 5,720 followers the far-flung locations she gets to work from — one of the perks of running a freelance-focused business.

Queensland’s picturesque beaches should offer Kendall plenty of Instagram-worthy moments, and she says the state offers a “unique combination” of being both a global startup hub and having a “world-class lifestyle”, while its proximity to Asian “digital nomad and remote work hubs” makes it a great fit for CloudPeeps’ freelance offerings.

Kendall says she is “excited to launch [CloudPeep’s] operations in Brisbane,” after the Hot DesQ program came “highly recommended” to her from a first-round participant.

Hot DesQ’s program offers founders $100,000 in non-equity based funding, and Kendall says this access to funding offered a strong incentive to participate in the program.

“This [funding] ensures founders won’t dilute their cap [capitalisation] tables or give away a large percentage of their company to participate, which is common practice with accelerator programs — and can sometimes be up to 10%,” Kendall says.

She also says there is a cultural, as well as financial benefit to relocating her startup to smaller hubs such as Brisbane.

“As the cost of living and access to tech talent becomes unsustainable in the San Francisco Bay Area, many startups are looking at new regions to launch and grow their businesses,” Kendall says.

Kendall has been heavily involved in the Silicon Valley startup ecosystem, and says that she’s noticed more and more Australian expats returning home as the ecosystem matures.

“I’ve noticed a pattern that as entrepreneurs mature, they are looking to return to Australia for its high quality of life, healthcare and security,” Kendall says.

“Many of the entrepreneurs that moved to San Francisco around the same time I did, have returned or are looking to return to Australia.”

While Kendall herself will be based in Brisbane for just six months, Kendall says she hopes to establish a “long-term presence in Australia” by basing the core CloudPeeps team here while also operating a sales and marketing office in the US, “similar to what Atlassian, Culture Amp and 99designs did”.

“It’s a family-friendly place to build a company, and the ecosystem, including access to funding, has grown remarkably over the past seven years,” Kendall says.

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Angela Castles

Angela Castles is a Journalist at StartupSmart with a keen interest in the legal issues startups face. In her free time she can be found eating sushi and seeing live music.

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  • bezbox

    The HotDesQ program is probably one of the most dopiest ideas the Queensland Government has had in the startup space. Paying an established startup over $16,000 per month for six months, after which they can just disappear again.
    By her own admission, Kendall is only relocating 2 staff plus herself, and then she is off again after the six months is up. Multiply this approach by 29 and we have several million dollars that could have been put to far better use in the startup space than this!

    • Hey @bezbox:disqus!

      Thanks for the comment. ?

      Here are some of the reasons why I believe the program helps the local ecosystem:
      – All participants must incorporate or have their Australian entity and operations based in Queensland. This means the companies are Queensland companies. The aim is for these companies to then reinvest back into the state by hiring locally… and hopefully setting up shop for the longer-term.
      – The calibre of the talent that the program is attracting is impressive. I was surprised when I heard the names of some of the fellow participants! While the rest of the round two participants haven’t been announced yet, there are founders (ex-YC, exits, well funded, established like you say etc.) that are heading to be based in Queensland. There is lots of competition where to base a startup, especially with the U.S. still leading the way, so the reality is that this program is bringing awareness about Brisbane, and even Australia, to international entrepreneurs who wouldn’t have thought about being based here.
      – Participant get paid through accruing points in a credit system: this means that founders must complete a set number of community activities to be able to invoice each month.
      – Finally, with any funding: remember that there are many hidden operational costs associated with launching in a new region. In some ways – there funding actually goes back to the government through payroll taxes, incomes taxes, etc. I’d estimate around 30-40% of the budget won’t go to direct startup growth, so for me, the program was much more than the grant. I’d love to see Australia become more a world-class startup ecosystem, and collaborate together across different states more.

  • There is nothing particularly innovative in this concept, HR in the cloud is among the oldest online business models-it is largely a question of gaining kudos from being launched in ‘Silicon Valley’ and generating hype. webweb.io is doing a more honest job, sans the slick networking from America