Adelaide telecom startup Uniti Wireless raises $3 million to “fill the gaps” and take the fight to the NBN

Australian telecommunications startup Uniti Wireless has raised $3 million in an oversubscribed pre-IPO funding round, which the founders say will help it fill in the “massive gaps” in suburbs not served by the National Broadband Network (NBN).

Sasha Baranikov and Che Metcalfe, co-founders and co-chief executives of Adelaide-based Uniti Wireless secured a multimillion-dollar investment last August, which they say helped them to double the startup’s subscriber numbers and increase revenue by 80% in the space of six months.

Uniti Wireless provides fixed wireless broadband solutions and pins itself as an ADSL replacement and NBN alternative. The business has received funding in the past, but the founders say this round was the easiest by far.

“We had a seed funding round and a Series A sort of investment, but they were only $50,000-$100,000 investments, plus they were really hard,” Metcalfe told StartupSmart.

“The funding back in August gave us credibility and people sat up and took notice, so it was much easier to convince investors this time around.”

Uniti’s investment in August was lead by Vocus Communications founder James Spenceley and Amcom founder Tony Grist. Investors in the latest round include others with backgrounds at Vocus, alongside CVC Capital and Viburnum Funds.

“It closed a lot quicker than we expected,” says Baranikov.

The company has nearly 40 staff operating out of its Adelaide headquarters, and is growing its team in Melbourne, where it hopes to expand its business further.

“We’ve been spreading the word about what we’re doing, and people in Melbourne seemed to really need our services,” Baranikov says.

“A lot of suburbs in the area are still stuck back on ASDL at 2MBps, and a lot of people aren’t slated to get the NBN until 2020 if they’re lucky,” Metcalfe says.

“There’s still a massive need to fill the gaps.”

Investment paves the way to IPO

The latest investment is paving the way towards an initial public offering for Uniti, which the founders hope to initiate towards the end of the year, though they acknowledge their timeframe might be “a stretch”.

“It’s more likely to be February or March 2018,” Metcalfe says.

“We’re in the process of doing all the things you do in the lead up to an IPO — revisiting our accounts, talking to investment banks. We’ve got some really experienced people around us.

“We’ve been warned we’ll probably go through a few pair of shoes before the process is over.”

Moving forward after clearing its IPO hurdle, UNITI hopes to eventually expand into more states across the nation, with a goal of serving 100,000 Australians by 2021.

“We want to get to as many Australians as soon as possible. There’s a lot of other wireless ISPs [internet service providers] popping up, it’s the start of something pretty big in Australia,” Metcalfe says.

“A lot of areas feel like they’re forgotten when it comes to the NBN.

“It’s great to be disrupting a space where everyone’s assumed the big players control it and it’s game over. Now it’s all about educating the public there’s another way forward.”

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5 years ago

Wonder what the sector could have done with the $80 billion we are gifting nbn.

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