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Sydney startup Fluent Commerce secures $33 million as US capital heads Down Under

Stephanie Palmer-Derrien /

Fluent Commerce

Fluent Commerce chief Graham Jackson. Source: Supplied.

Retail startup Fluent Commerce has secured a whopping $33 million in Series B funding, led by US growth equity firm Arrowroot Capital.

Founded in Sydney in 2015, Fluent provides cloud-based order management software for the retail industry.

Speaking to StartupSmart, chief executive Graham Jackson explains this tech concept isn’t necessarily a new one. But instead, until recently, it hasn’t been cloud-based and so has only been available to “the top end of town”.

Fluent was designed to offer retailers that have both an online and store presence to provide things like click-and-collect or delivery services “in a profitable way”, he adds.

The startup’s client base includes retail giants such as Woolworths, Target and JD Sports.

And, while Jackson doesn’t reveal any exact figures, he says the startup has seen “strong triple-digit growth” year-on-year for the past four years.

Over the past 18 months, the startup has also expanded internationally, and now has clients in 11 markets, including North America, Mexico, Dubai and the UK.

It also has about 95 employees, and while the majority are based in its Sydney HQ, Fluent is opening a new office in New York and has boots on the ground in Paris and London too.

Appetite for order management

The Series B funding is pegged for investment into sales, marketing and product development, but will also be used to fuel continued and targeted global expansion, Jackson says.

Fluent will be launching in new markets, he explains, while also extending its reach in the markets it’s already in.

“We’ve proven the market appetite for our solution in particular — for Fluent, rather than just for cloud order management,” he explains.

The startup is at a point in terms of its product, revenue and user base that it’s ready to expand further, and the success it has seen so far has made it attractive to international investors.

“It’s important that, as a growing software company, you don’t try and go everywhere all at once, and spread yourself too thin,” Jackson says.

“But, you do need to prove there is more than one place in the world where you can sell your software successfully.”

While Australia is a good testing ground for new technology products, it’s not enough to pique the interest of overseas investors, he adds.

“It’s important, if you’re going to attract international investment, that you’ve proven a market for your product on the international scene.”

US funds Down Under

When it comes to securing later-stage, larger funding rounds, Jackson notes it can be tricky to find that kind of cash in Australia.

“It is there, but it’s quite difficult,” he says.

For this very reason, Aussie software companies tend to be well run and efficient with their funds, he adds.

“And that makes them attractive to overseas investors — particularly US investors.”

According to Jackson, there is an ongoing trend of more US capital being deployed outside of Silicon Valley, and outside of the US.

“We’re seeing a little more US capital become available to Australian companies.”

There are more and more Aussie startups securing big money from US investors, Jackson adds.

“There are plenty who have trodden that path and managed to get Series B and C rounds invested, particularly through US VC companies, and who are doing very well.

“I think that path is trailblazed now.”

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Stephanie Palmer-Derrien

Stephanie Palmer-Derrien is the editor at StartupSmart. You can contact her at [email protected].