Pickstar scores $5 million to go global with talent booking tech

Pickstar

Pickstar co-founders James Begley and Matthew Pavlich. Source: Supplied.

Aussie startup and SmartCompany Smart50 winner Pickstar has secured $5 million in funding, as it ramps up to become a global leader in talent booking for events — with its ex-AFL player co-founders attracting funding from a team of sporting heroes.

Founded in 2016 by Fremantle legend Matthew Pavlich and self-described “washed-up hack footballer” James Begley, Pickstar started life as a talent booking platform for sports stars.

The startup has since expanded to connect brands, event organisers and individuals with a range of influencers and personalities, from footy greats to chefs to social media stars.

In SmartCompany’s Smart50 awards last year, Pickstar was reporting revenues of $2.6 million for the 2020-21 financial year, marking 161% growth over three years.

Named the 20th fastest-growing company in the awards, Pickstar also took home the SmartCompany Plus Innovator Award.

For this financial year, co-founder James Begley tells SmartCompany he expects revenues to be “about 350% of what we were last year”.

This growth has come off the back of partnerships with major sporting organisations including the NFL and Cricket Australia, as well as several English Premier League clubs.

Pickstar has also launched its VLAST Software-as-a-Service platform, which helps centralise and automate the logistics with deploying talent into talent activations.

That product is seeing particular demand from the US and UK markets, Begley explains.

The global team has also increased from about 15 people last year to 45, he adds. While revenues are growing, so are expenses.

“We’re moving into that classic scale-up mode,” he says.

“It’s been a really good time for us to seek capital both from a valuation perspective and also from an operating expenditure perspective.”

Taking Pickstar to the next level

Investors in the round include for Australia cricketer and commentator Adam Gilchrist and Sports Right Tech founder and former Formula One exec Judith Griggs.

Former Afterpay chair Mike Jeffries also contributed, as well as a swathe of other high-profile business people, RADVentures, and members of the Southern Angels investor group.

Getting high-profile sporting personalities on board, in particular, is a boon for the business, Begley explains. These are people who truly understand the issues Pickstar is setting out to address.

“It brings credibility and it brings knowledge and understanding of what we’re trying to achieve,” he says.

The funding will allow the founders to take the startup to the next level in Australia, while also boosting its presence in the UK and the US.

Pickstar’s marketplace product has performed above expectations in the UK, Begley says.

“The Holy Grail for us is to do the same in the US.”

Ultimately, Begley’s vision is for Pickstar to be the go-to technology for matching the best talent with the best-suited events, on a global scale.

There is an enormous global ecosystem around talent activation, he explains. Pickstar is designed to bring efficiencies to that ecosystem.

If you think of small business accounting, for example, you think of Xero, the founder says.

“We want to be known as the most powerful technology when it comes to organising and booking talent activations.”

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