HIVERY, mx51, Refundid, and more: Local startups raise over $100 million in recent weeks despite market fearmongering

Startup

Source: Storipress / Supplied

It was always going to be a challenge for Australia’s startup scene to build on the record funding levels achieved through early 2022, given the turning economic tides of inflation, interest rate hikes, and uncertainty over the next phase of pandemic life.

But even as investors walk back the ‘growth at all costs’ approach seen through 2020 and 2021, Australian startups are still garnering major investments designed to launch them onto the world stage.

In the past four weeks, local players have revealed at least $113 million in capital raising activity, to say nothing of the exploits of the equity crowdfunding sector.

Here are some of the companies which have defied the harshest doom and gloom predictions in July so far.

mx51

Announced July 19

$32.5 million, Series B

Led by an “undisclosed global fintech investor”, alongside Mastercard, Acorn Capital, Commencer Capital, Rampersand and Artesian

mx51 provides white-label “payments-as-a-service” capabilities to banks, building on their existing technology, while also offering online and in-person payment solutions for merchants. The company says its platform can help legacy institutions keep up-to-date with the rapidly changing payments infrastructure.

The funding round, which comes 14 months after its $25 million Series A raise, will assist mx51 tackle the global market.

mx51 CEO and co-founder Victor Zheng says the latest raise came in spite of global macro headwinds.

“This is because our primary customers, banks and acquirers, are well positioned to deepen collaboration and co-invest with fintechs to deliver modern payment experiences to their merchants.”

Refundid

Announced July 18

$12 million, seed

Led by Salesforce Ventures

Refundid operates almost like a mirror image of buy now, pay later systems. Instead of facilitating customer purchases, it works in the refunds space, instantly forwarding customers the money for refunded goods before they are returned. The merchant only pays Refundid if and when the refunded goods arrive, putting the risk on Refundid. For the pleasure, Refundid charges merchants a fee.

Refundid bills itself as a customer retention tool in the increasingly competitive e-commerce space. According to Brad Karney, CEO and co-founder, “what Refundid has done is turn that potential loss of customer into one that has a much greater long-term value”. Users include Australian retail heavyweights including Adore Beauty, Culture Kings, and Princess Polly.

Storipress

Announced July 18

$500,000, pre-seed

Investors include Startmate, Boson Ventures, and Tim Duggan, co-founder of Junkee Media

Options are limited for digital media publications which have outgrown blog life, but don’t have the time or funding to build their own content management system or heavily modify a WordPress or Wix platform. Australian startup Storipress hopes to provide an no-coding alternative for growing newsrooms. The company’s vision intrigued a list of investors including Tim Duggan, co-founder of Australian digital media player Junkee Media. Storipress now has $500,000 in seed funding to build out its product suite and attract further clients.

“Thanks to the steps taken by our predecessors, we can now build platforms designed for the publisher, not the coder,” said Alex Pan, CEO and co-founder.

HIVERY

Announced July 15

$43.2 million (US$30 million), Series A

Led by Tiger Global

HIVERY provides AI and machine learning solutions for the retail sector, mapping out the most efficient and profitable ways to organise shelf and vending machine space. The company emerged from CSIRO’s Data61 — the national science body’s AI-focused arm — in 2015, and has since developed a presence in Japan, North America and Europe.

July’s investment round will help HIVERY continue its global growth strategy.

“Our investors all share our vision to bring AI-driven assortment and optimisation solutions to the global retail industry,” said Jason Hosking, CEO and co-founder.

InternMatch

Announced July 11

$10 million, Series A

Led by Henslow

If you’re reading this, there’s a decent chance you’ve taken advantage of the ongoing labour shortage to secure a new position — or you’re a business leader or startup founder struggling to find the right talent yourself.

InternMatch is an Australian startup aiming to address those labour shortfalls.

The platform pairs students and other trainees with businesses seeking intern roles, in the hopes of patching over talent gaps in enterprises and facilitating on-the-job training and connections for young professionals.

Said CEO Gerard Holland: “Many individuals do not have the connections, support or resources to land themselves in these skilled professional roles, and so require a foot in the door that will allow them to use their knowledge and obtain ‘real world’ experience.”

A $10 million Series A round, led by Henslow, will assist the company grow into Canada, the US, and the UK.

upcover

Announced July 5

$4.7 million, seed

Led by Antler and BetterLabs

Insurance-tech startup upcover believes insuring a small business shouldn’t be difficult. Its platform provides insurance to small businesses and contractors, covering allied health professionals, fitness coaches, tradespeople, and more. The point of difference: upcover says its platform can deliver a quote in just moments.

“The insurance industry has long been plagued by convoluted questionnaires, overcomplicated terms, and lengthy quote timeframes and upcover is changing all of this,” said co-founder and CEO Skye Theodorou.

In addition, upcover wants to help small businesses become conduits for insurance sales, too. The platform “enables any online business or brand to become a distributor of insurance products and monetise their existing membership and customer base”, upcover said in a statement.

The company has now completed a $4.7 million seed round, led by Antler and BetterLabs, designed to boost its product development and customer acquisition efforts.

Pearler

Announced July 1

$7.8 million, seed

Led by Portage Ventures, with participation from Archangel Ventures and Ten13

The pandemic saw a boom in retail investment, with everyday Australians seeking opportunities to expand their wealth in a tumultuous economic environment. Pearler, an Australian investing app, caught a somewhat different wave — instead of prioritising single-stock trading, it focused on ETFs, offering a slow-and-steady alternative for new traders.

“We are not interested in enabling investing as a series of transactions,” Nick Nicolaides, co-founder and CEO, said after the raise. “Rather, our process is about helping people set goals and achieve them over the long term in a simple and efficient way.”

Promotional materials claim Pearler is “even a little boring” compared to other fast-trading startups. However, not much is boring about a $7.8 million seed funding round. The company says it hopes to develop in-app tools allowing users to discuss money issues with financial advisors, expand into New Zealand, and, in echoes of bank schemes in days gone by, offer an investing app for children.

Loopit

Announced June 27

$3.6 million, seed

Led by Tidal Ventures, with participation from Upswell Ventures and Luxem

Recent headlines about BMW charging a recurring fee for heated steering wheel usage underline a broader point about the car industry: many industry players believe the future of driving is less about ownership, and more about subscription.

Loopit is one firm tapping into the burgeoning consumer market for car subscriptions (even if it has no direct ties to the BMW steering wheel issue). Loopit’s software underpins car subscription services which cover things like registration, insurance, and maintenance, a combination of features the company claims are appealing to younger generation of drivers. Think a car lease, but all-encompassing.

The $3.6 million seed round is intended to help Loopit grow into the European market, arguably the spiritual home of the heated steering wheel.

“With our leading, award-winning software solution, Loopit is in an ideal position to lead the growth of the subscription sector,” Michael Higgins, co-founder and managing director said.

“Our technology has already proven a success, and we’re excited to bring this innovative solution to the rest of the world. Our experience of operating in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, combined with fresh funding, will help us accelerate our growth across current markets and beyond.”

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