Aussie startup Culture Amp has raised US$100 million ($135.4 million) in Series F funding, giving it a valuation of US$1.5 billion ($2 billion) and making its unofficial unicorn status official once and for all.
The raise was led by TDM Growth Partners and Sequoia Capital China.
It also included new backer Salesforce Ventures and repeat investors including Blackbird, Skip Capital and Grok Ventures, along with Felicis Ventures, Index Ventures, Sapphire Ventures, and Global Founders Capital.
It means Culture Amp’s valuation has doubled since its last raise, when it secured $120 million with a valuation of US$721 million. At the time, that was equivalent to about $1.04 billion.
A unicorn, however, has a valuation of US$1 billion — a milestone the startup hadn’t quite hit.
At the time, co-founder and chief Didier Elzinga said the business was perhaps “a larrikin unicorn”.
And while he was proud of that, he said valuations are not the be-all and end-all of a business.
“The amount of money you’ve raised is not a correlation to how successful you’re going to be,” he told SmartCompany.
“Let’s not celebrate raising money, let’s celebrate what we do with it.”
While COVID-19 led to more needs for Culture Amp’s employee experience platform, the past 18 months or so haven’t been all smooth sailing for the startup.
In May 2020, the startup cut 8% of its workforce — 36 people — as it felt the pinch of the pandemic.
Things have changed a little since then, and it’s now gearing up to hire 300 people in 2021.
It also well and truly has a membership to the Aussie unicorn club. But it’s a club that’s quickly losing its exclusivity, with three new startups (if we are indeed, including Culture Amp) gaining access within the past months alone.
So, along with the newbie, who are the Australian unicorns?
The unicorn club
Aussie design tech darling Canva has an outrageous valuation of $19.5 billion, which it reached after raising $92.5 million in April this year.
That came off the back of a huge year of growth, which saw revenue increase by 130%, year-on-year.
The number of people using the platform every month also doubled in the 12 months leading up to the raise.
The latest raise more than doubled Canva’s valuation. Speaking to SmartCompany at the time, co-founder Cameron Adams said he’s confident that’s a pattern set to continue.
If he’s right, this will be a $40 billion business before long.
The investment was “a validation” of how Canva has performed so far, Adams said.
“It’s also looking forward to how we’re going to grow in the future”.
Melbourne-born fintech Airwallex hit a $US1 billion valuation back in March 2019, becoming the fastest Aussie startup to get there, within just three-and-a-half years.
Today, it’s worth $US2.6 billion ($3.4 billion), and has some 800 employees across 12 global offices.
The co-founding team have also launched their own venture capital fund, and are planning to raise $200 million for investment into other startups connected to the Airwallex ecosystem.
Speaking to SmartCompany when Airwallex hit the magic $1 billion number, co-founder and chief Jack Zhang was nonchalant about the news.
That’s not how the team measures success, he said.
“It’s just a status that people recognise.”
Queensland startup SafetyCulture boasts a valuation of $2.2 billion, after banking $99 million in funding in May.
While part of the cash was pegged for product development, partnerships and brand-building, it also created a second opportunity for employees to access some of their equity in the business.
Of a $60 million raise closed in April 2020, half was directed back to employees, some of who were able to access “life changing” sums, SafetyCulture founder and chief told SmartCompany.
Anear’s dentist was an early investor, pouring $10,000 into the fledgling business. Now, that investment is worth “tens of millions”, he said.
“To see his equity and faith he put in us being rewarded is a fantastic thing.”
In May last year, Aussie neobank Judo raised $230 million, becoming another certified fintech unicorn.
Having started life as an SME lender, Judo secured its full banking licence in 2019 and now offers a swathe of banking services tailored to SMEs.
This particular raise came during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, which co-founder and chief David Hornery said was changing the ways business owners think about their banking — in particular, their relationships with their banks.
“At the centre of Judo’s proposition is going back to relationship banking for small business, as it used to be done,” he told SmartCompany at the time.
“That relationship proposition really comes to the fore at times like this.”
Edtech Go1 gained unicorn status earlier this month, after closing a huge $272 million Series D raise.
The round was co-led by Aussie VC AirTree Ventures, Salesforce Ventures and global giant SoftBank, which invested through its SoftBank Vision Fund 2.
Speaking to SmartCompany at the time, co-founder and chief Andrew Barnes said he always knew Go1 could be a large business.
Becoming a ‘unicorn’ was never really a priority, he said. But now he’s here, it’s both “scary and exciting”.
“It’s great for the local Australian and Queensland ecosystem, to demonstrate that we can create great success stories that grow to be global players,” he said.
In the same week as Go1’s announcement, the Australian Financial Review’s Street Talk reported that marketing tech startup Rokt had also offloaded a small parcel of shares in a sale that pushed its valuation over the US$1 billion line.
Headed up by former Jetstar boss Bruce Buchanan, the startup is already backed by Paul Bassat’s Square Peg and TDM Growth Partners.
It is also reportedly gearing up for another pre-IPO raise.
When is a unicorn not a unicorn?
There are also a couple of peculiar cases in the Aussie scene, that are perhaps unicorns but perhaps not, depending on how you look at it.
Another ‘larrikin’ unicorn, hotel booking software startup SiteMinder raised about $100 million back in January 2020, giving it a valuation of $1.1 million in Australian dollars.
That’s about US$750 million, meaning it hasn’t quite made it into the global unicorn club — yet.
And finally, it is often speculated that digital marketplace startup Envato is valued at $1 billion or more.
However, it’s been bootstrapped since launch in 2006, and while its profitable and generating millions in revenue, no one really knows what its worth.
Speaking to SmartCompany back in 2019, co-founder Cyan Ta’eed said the leadership team has genuinely never looked into it, because there has been no need to.
“If we were about to do something which would require that, then absolutely we would do it, but we don’t have any plans in that area,” she said.