Sydney startup Assignar raises $3 million to fund US expansion

Assignar is on track for a huge year, with the Sydney-based startup securing a $3 million Series A raise to fund an expansion in the US.

The expansion has been in the works since 2016, with the cloud-based construction management startup already setting up an office in Oakland, California.

Assignar is a cloud based SaaS platform built to help construction contractors improve efficiency and safety by providing end-to-end real-time management of a company’s workforce, assets and compliance. 

Australian venture capital firm Our Innovation Fund, headed up by led the raise, after sitting down with co-founders Sean McCreanor and Marko Tomic in a high-level business strategy session. 

We really wanted to make sure we had the right partner -they gave me huge amount of value in that first meeting,” McCreanor says. 

McCreanor knew he had found his next investor after hearing how the fund’s investment had proved to be a “game changer” for other startups, even though he notes that “There’s a little bit of cliche” to founders wanting a “value-add VC”.

Our Innovation Fund is headed up by prominent Australian business figures and investors David Shein and Geoff Levy.

McCreanor’s advice to startups looking to raise is to acquire customers and figure out commercial models before seeking investment.

“We made sure that we acquired customers early on and got revenue early on in the journey – that demonstrated a real need for what we were doing, and that customers were prepared to pay us for the product,” he says.

“We didn’t want to raise capital and then try to figure out the commercial model. We wanted to have it right and ready for when we sought investment.”

Expanding to the US

The capital raising was undertaken to accelerate growth through hiring more engineers and sales and marketing staff, before a planned launch of the product in the US market in early 2018, where the company already has a presence. 

McCreanor emphasises that while there are similarities between the US and Australian markets, founders looking to launch in the US market should not assume their product offerings should be the same.

A lot of people think that putting a product out in the US is as simple as switching S’s to Z’s and changing the date format – it’s not,” he says.

“Make sure you understand the market you’re selling in to…Try to understand the business problem you’re solving for them.”

He also suggests that setting up in big tech hubs like Silicon Valley or Boulder aren’t necessarily worth the competition or expense.

“I wouldn’t be too starry eyed about being set up in one of the big tech hubs: there are a lot of great cities in the US where you can get tech and marketing help,” says McCreanor. 

Assigner hit their goal of raising $1 million in annual recurring revenue within their first year of operation, and have now set their sights on generating $10 million in annual recurring revenue at the three year mark.

Their customer base, which includes companies like UGL, Lendlease, Sydney Trains and Liebher, is spread across Australia with roughly 7,000 subcontractors using the platform every day.

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