Salesforce pumps A$70m into Aus ecosystem, shuns Kiwis

Published on the 08/03/2019 | Written by Heather Wright

Rob Keith Salesforce Ventures Australia

Australian fund misses a trick with parochial play…

Startups in the rapidly expanding Salesforce ISV ecosystem received good news this week, with Salesforce launching a US$50 million (A$70m) VC fund.

The Salesforce Venture’s Trailblazer fund – which is only focused on Australian companies – plans to pump additional funding into startups in the Salesforce ecosystem, particularly those aligned to the company’s focus industries, including financial services, retail and public sector.

“You’ll see us continue to invest in cutting edge technology like AI and IoT. We see innovation happening in voice and messaging, AR, integration and blockchain,” a spokesperson told iStart.

Rob Keith, Salesforce Ventures’ head of Australia (pictured), announced the news to the vendor’s fanbois during the Salesforce world tour in Sydney this week, saying the Australian market is ‘on the verge of breaking out from a startup and venture capital point of view’.

“There is a combination of talent, capital, great research universities and successful exits that create a great network effect. Australia is beginning to capitalise on that,” says Keith, who is relocating from San Francisco to Sydney to oversee the fund.

The Australian fund joins several others that Salesforce Ventures, the corporate investment offshoot of US-based CRM provider Salesforce, operates including the Japan Fund, the Canada fund and an EMEA offering. The company has already invested in a number of Aussie startups, including Arxxus, Autopilot, Bugcrowd, Practifi, Socialsuite and Sqware Peg.

Salesforce says in the last decade it has invested in more than 300 companies across 20 countries and now invests more outside of Silicon Valley than within.

Trailblazer’s launch comes hard on the heels of the launch of another big Australian VC fund – the A$50 million GrainInnovate fund for innovative technology for the grains industry.

“With this new fund, we’re excited to deepen our commitment to Australia. By investing in innovation, we hope to inspire local entrepreneurs to create next-generation technology and thereby continue the evolution of this up-and-coming innovation powerhouse,” Matt Garratt, Salesforce Ventures managing partner, says.

“There is a combination of talent, capital, great research universities and successful exits that create a great network effect. Australia is beginning to capitalise on that.”

Startup Muster’s Annual Report, providing a snapshot of the Australian startup ecosystem, showed nearly half of Australian startups are actively trying to raise funds, and 45 percent identity as delivering software-as-a-service products. If these startups can secure financing and scale, 25 percent of the Australian economy is likely to be directly impacted by software by 2025 – equating to $524 billion of GDP – according to StartupAUS’ Crossroads report.

Simon Birmingham, Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, applauded the launch, saying “Initiatives such as Salesforce Ventures’ new US$50 million Australian Trailblazer Fund provide the valuable support and investment needed for startups to scale, employ Australians, and see their great ideas become great businesses.”

There was no word on whether there would be any similar fund for New Zealand’s Salesforce entrepreneurs in what would be a logical extension to establish a regional footprint for the fund, but the Kiwi startup scene remains vibrant.

Most recently, seven Kiwi startups are getting a hand from Massey University’s ecentre business incubator.

New Zealand startups with technologies including software for managing seasonal workers, apps for employee wellbeing and coaching and solutions for minimising beer wastage and improving safety for lone workers are among winning entry to Massey University’s Sprint Global programme.

The programme, designed for companies with a working prototype and ready to engage the market either in New Zealand or internationally, is funded by Massey University and Callaghan Innovation, with more than 20 entrepreneurs and experts working with the startups.

Jackie Young, ecentre ECO, says dozens of high-quality applications were received, showing how vibrant New Zealand’s startup community is.

“Ultimately, we selected a group of companies that were complementary, with the aim of creating a dynamic peer group,” she says.

Max Thompson, who oversees Callaghan Innovation’s startup programmes, says the new intake includes ‘some fantastic tech-enabled products with global potential’.

“Now the work begins to turn these products into revenue, and there will be lots of iterations. Sprint Global will help them systematically work toward their product-market fit which will be key,” he says.

The startups will also have an option to complete a follow-on eight week programme on global customer acquisition, and an in-market immersion week in Silicon Valley.

Sprint Global’s first intake of startups for 2019 are:

Chippur – app-based employee wellbeing programme (Auckland)

Guardian Angel – health and safety hardware/ software solutions for lone workers (Auckland)

iLose – weight loss app for coaches and clients (Northland)

Investify – investment research tools for retail investors (Auckland)

PICMI – cloud-based software for simplifying the employment process for agricultural seasonal staff (Tasman)

Trickle – beer tracking hardware/ software solution to minimise keg wastage in hospitality (Auckland)

Yonder – SAAS solution to help tourism businesses convert website traffic (Taranaki)

In other news, the Telstra-based muru-D startup accelerator was also taking in new startups this week. Ten startups with technologies covering the future of local workforce optimisation, farm connectivity, prevention of work stress and personal loan financing have joined the SYD6 cohort, with Alan Jones as lead entrepreneur in residence.

Each startup receives $75,000 in seed capital investment and will have access to a network of mentors and industry professionals during the six month programme.

Over the past five years muru-D has worked with more than 140 startups, making it one of the largest startup accelerator portfolios in Australia.

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