Real estate startup Athena raises $15 million thanks to “wickedly talented” team and thriving startup ecosystem


Athena founders Nathan Walsh (left) and Michael Starkey (right) secured $70 million in Series C funding this year. Source: supplied

Cloud-based digital home-loan platform Athena has raised $15 million in Series A funding ahead of its launch next month, and co-founder Nathan Walsh says the startup couldn’t have got to this point without its “wickedly talented” team.

With a goal of disrupting Australia’s lucrative home loan market, Athena wants to “bypass the banks” and offer would-be home owners with loans that are backed by super funds and which carry lower interest rates.

In June, Athena closed $3 million in its seed funding round. This time around, Walsh says, the team received strong backing from their existing investors, including Macquarie Bank, Apex Capital, Rice Warner and Square Peg Capital. Paul Bassat, co-founder and partner at Square Peg Capital, will also be joining the Athena board. 

“I think that’s an important sign,” Walsh says of the ongoing support.

“We were also pleasantly surprised in terms of the broader reaction. We had some great conversations with potential investors along the way, and we ended up with a fairly substantial over-subscription.”

In fact, Athena is already looking ahead to its next round of fundraising, which Walsh says is likely to happen within the first half of next year.

“Clearly, home loans is an enormous market in Australia, but it’s dominated by the big banks and legacy players, and constrained by old technology and paper-based processes,” he says. 

“What we’re hearing loud and clear is customers saying they want to see this done in a better way. New boundaries are possible through using new technology.

“That message also comes out of the funding round. We’re seeing investors with real credibility and gravitas reaching that conclusion too.”

Walsh says it’s exciting to see such a vibrant fintech ecosystem in Australia, praising the “talented founders and teams” and stressing the value of collaboration through initiatives like Fintech Australia.

But, he says, the most important key to Athena’s success so far is in the strength of the team. You can have a compelling idea and unique insight, “but ultimately it comes down to execution”, he says. 

“We have a cohesive, wickedly talented group of people that have proven ability to get things done and to think in an entrepreneurial way,” says Walsh. 

Walsh also urges other startup founders to remain open-minded and willing to learn along the way.

“We came into this with a bunch of hypotheses, but the boundaries of what is possible today are so much bigger than what we first thought,” he says.

“We’ve discovered the implications — not just for infrastructure — of changing how you think about design, development and how you run technology in the new world. If you’re open to test, learn, optimise and talk to customers, you create a better product.”

NOW READ: Adelaide-founded property startup HappyCo raises $14 million in Series A to bring R&D division back home after years abroad


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