Brisbane-founded startup Skedulo raises $39 million in Silicon Valley, but it hasn’t forgotten its Aussie heritage

Skedulo co-founder and chief executive Matt Fairhurst. Source: Supplied.

Brisbane-founded startup Skedulo has closed its $US28 million ($39.1 million) Series B round, led by Microsoft’s venture fund M12. And while it may have relocated to San Francisco, founder and chief Matt Fairhurst says he’s proud of the company’s Aussie roots, and it is keeping a firm foothold in its homeland.

Fairhurst launched Skedulo in 2014, alongside co-founder James Davies, to help enterprises and organisations manage a moving workforce.

In developed nations, almost 80% of the workforce do not have desk jobs, Fairhurst tells StartupSmart.

For the employers, the logistics of managing people when they’re out and about can pose a real challenge.

“A lot of businesses were using massive spreadsheets, calendars, whiteboards or very antiquated technology that they had built themselves in the back office,” Fairhurst says.

The co-founders had previously worked together on another tech product that Fairhurst admits “wasn’t massively well received”.

However, “what it afforded us was this opportunity to go and talk to hundreds of different companies all through Australia and the US,” he says.

At that time, mobile phones were becoming “ubiquitous forms of productivity”, and companies were starting to realise their employees had a super-computer in their pockets.

By building a product to help enterprises manage their off-site workforce, as well as an app to help workers know where they’re supposed to be at any given time, and to allow them to submit certain paperwork digitally, Skedulo provides a platform that “works well with a lot of industries”, Fairhurst says.

Now, Skedulo is headquartered in San Francisco, but has offices in Brisbane, Sydney, Vietnam, New York and London. It has a staff of 120 people, which is expected to double within the next 12 months.

Last year, the startup saw revenue growth of almost 100%, which Fairhurst is confident it will repeat this year.

Philosophical alignment

This funding round was led by M12, and principal of the Microsoft fund Priya Saiprasad will join the board of directors.

Skedulo is just the second Aussie-founded firm to receive capital from M12, after it led Go1’s $30 million Series B just days ago.

The Series B raise was “fairly competitive”, Fairhurst says, meaning the founders “could pick and choose a little bit”.

However, they saw a “philosophical alignment” with M12, and with Microsoft as an influencer of the fund.

“Microsoft is a productivity company,” Fairhurst explains.

“It takes technology and puts it in the hands of people to give them time back to be more productive,” he says.

“At the end of the day, that’s exactly what Skedulo is as well.”

The round also saw existing investors Costanoa Ventures and Blackbird backing Skedulo for the second and third time, respectively.

“It’s really encouraging to see people who have sat on the board through the ups and downs of building a business are still fundamentally excited by this huge opportunity,” Fairhurst says.

The startup will use the funding to continue growing and to “lean into what is a massive opportunity”, he says.

All founders have to make a decision as to whether they will grow organically, or raise funding to accelerate that growth.

If you choose to take external money, “you’ve got to really be able to justify that it’s because you recognise this fundamentally massive opportunity”, Fairhurst says.

In this case, time is of the essence, he explains.

“If we didn’t do it, someone else was going to do it.”

“Punching above our weight”

In five years, Skedulo has opened five new offices to serve a global client base, while Fairhurst has moved to the new headquarters in San Francisco.

However, the founders always knew the US was going to be the startup’s biggest market.

“We were selling to Americans almost from day one,” Fairhurst says.

“We were punching above our weight very early on.”

In the early days, Fairhurst was the only salesperson at the startup, and living in Brisbane he found himself working through the night, selling to and supporting American clients.

He made the move to the US when “that got to the point of unsustainability”, he says.

Although the Skedulo headquarters are now overseas, its biggest team is still in Brisbane.

“We remain extremely passionate about our Australian heritage as a company, and what it means to be a great company in Brisbane,” Fairhurst says.

For him, investment in Australian technology is “critically important” to the future of the economy, which should be moving from “one focused on pulling a bunch of material out of the ground and buying real estate and banking, to one that focuses on innovation and education, hopefully at its core”, he says.

“Companies like mine have a tremendous responsibility to figure out their part to play in that,” he adds.

“Returning value to Australia as much as we can is exceptionally important.”

Community spirit

Fairhurst advises early-stage startup founders not to be afraid to reach out for advice and support.

“One of the things I didn’t do enough was look to the community of founders who have been there and done it before me,” he says.

Once he did reach out, he was surprised at how warm and open those founders were.

“Sometimes as an early founder you’re a bit scared and worried, and you have a bit of imposter syndrome, wondering if people will take you seriously,” he says.

“I should have asked these questions a long time ago, and I would have been much better off.”

While he accepts that not every piece of advice will be relevant for every founder, even being able to discuss marketing tactics or the practicalities of HR with someone in the same boat can be helpful.

“There are so many things that are really hard about building businesses, but the more help you can get from people who have done it before you and followed a similar trajectory is super important,” Fairhurst says.

And this is especially true of the “wonderful community” of founders and others in the ecosystem in Australia, who continue to champion Skedulo from afar.

“I feel sorry sometimes for founders who don’t have that in their own country, it’s wonderful encouragement and support,” he says.

NOW READ: Aussies in the Valley: Entrepreneur Ned Dwyer on why it’s hard to break into the “closed” Silicon Valley community

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