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Airtree Press Part 2: Unwavering Momentum
Industry trends & analysis
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The growth in users, revenue and impact that comes with disrupting incumbents and revolutionising the status quo.
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Industry trends & analysis
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In an environment plagued by ominous headlines and tales of slumps, Aussie and Kiwi founders have embraced unwavering momentum. 

Reflecting on Sam Altman’s wisdom from his Y Combinator days, it’s easy to understand how momentum becomes the lifeblood of a startup. It’s the invisible force that propels everything forward and the energy that defies the pull backward. 

Yet, maintaining momentum is no simple feat. It’s the delicate balance between progress and the illusion of productivity. 

In a world where momentum is the difference between survival and succumbing to unseen forces, startups Down Under haven’t just embraced the concept, they’re showing the world how it’s done. 

Read on for stories from:

  • Regrow
  • Fair Supply
  • Fetch
  • Zepto
  • DesignCrowd
  • Thematic
  • Narrato
  • eesel

Check out Part 1: Exporting Ambition and Part 3: Omnipresent Innovation in the series.

Regrow’s relentless pursuit to reduce emissions through resilience

Dr Anastasia Volkova, Founder and CEO of Regrow

Anastasia Volkova originally dreamt of working in aerospace engineering. It was an aspiration well within her reach after completing her PhD in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Sydney. But everything changed when Dr Volkova learned that the aerospace industry is one of the main pollutants to the environment. What was even more jarring was that agriculture–an industry supposed to sustain and support the environment–was just as harmful to the planet. Her expertise in engineering became the driving force for Regrow and creating solutions to mitigate the detrimental effects of agriculture.

When Regrow first started, there was no science or technology to understand farm management trends, no framework for improving the resilience of farming families and their communities, and no scalable pathway for paying farmers to make better decisions for the planet. Regrow’s tireless effort to change all of this has solidified their position at the forefront of agriculture-based climate action and as a driving force for food system transformation. 

Seven years into the journey, Regrow’s platform and sustainability programs with partners are forecasted to abate over 598,000 metric tonnes CO₂e–equivalent to the carbon sequestered by nearly 10 million trees. Regrow monitors 1.3 billion acres of agricultural land across four continents, representing over 10% of global arable land. 

This year, the company identified a common goal for the agrifood industry: Agriculture Resilience. This shared goal ensures the future food supply while supporting nature-positive outcomes. It’s an audacious goal that has resonated with leaders across the agriculture and climates industries, catalysing new partnerships with industry leaders like Oatly, Agriwebb, Soil Capital and BASF. 

In the last 12 months, the team has grown by 42% to 160 experts in agriculture, technology and climate science and held the first Agriculture Resilience Summit in Chicago, gathering over 100 leaders to foster cross-industry collaboration. 

Regrow’s achievements in 2023 haven’t gone unnoticed. Recognitions such as being named a TIME 100 Most Influential Company, securing a position on Fast Company’s list of the World’s 50 Most Innovative Companies, and featuring on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing private companies underscore Regrow’s impact on promoting and scaling agriculture resilience globally.

As 2023 comes to a close, Dr Volkova sees a lot of new momentum in this space, with many companies heightening their ambitions, re-evaluating strategies, setting refined goals and investing more in regenerative transition and climate-positive agriculture.

“It’s not simple to change a complex, global industry, but the accelerated progress over the last few years has shown that it’s possible if we rally together and align to a set of common goals,” says Dr Volkova. 

Setting their sights on 2030, when many companies and governments have committed to reducing emissions and enhancing sustainability, means continuing to build a system that takes less from the Earth and enhances the ecosystems that provide us with food. But that requires urgent action. 

“We must take risks, not just seeding but scaling the change we need to get to by 2030.”

“We plan to scale our science, technology and platform to make climate-smart agriculture more accessible worldwide. We’ll also scale our partnerships because we cannot reach our goals without collaboration.”

How Fair Supply is making ESG BAU

The Fair Supply team

As 2023 hurtles towards becoming the hottest year on record, the urgency surrounding sustainability conversations is palpable. Progress is reliant upon ESG shifting from a buzzword to being embedded in the DNA of every business—and it’s this vision that Fair Supply has taken substantial strides towards making a reality this year.  

To get a sense of the magnitude of Fair Supply’s impact, you only need to glance at the figures—a whopping $2.4 trillion in assessed supply chain spend and investments. Zooming in, the benefit to customers is tangible, with one customer in the fashion industry reporting that Fair Supply’s automated assessment tool has decreased the time required to identify potential risks in their supplier base by 90%, freeing up valuable resources for more strategic tasks. 

Yet, it’s not just about the numbers; it’s about recognition. Fair Supply has etched its name among the sustainability vanguards, earning accolades such as the Sustainability Platform Pioneer at the AFR Sustainability Leaders 2023, APAC Insider’s Leading Provider of ESG Data, and Rising Star - Best ESG Data Provider at the Regulation Asia Awards 2023. 

There are two clear engines fuelling Fair Supply’s rise: regulatory tailwinds and a transformative product evolution. 

In the labyrinth of ESG considerations, regulatory changes often act as a guiding light. The Modern Slavery Act 2018 (Cth) thrust the reporting of modern slavery risks from a discretionary endeavour to a mandatory obligation. 

“In the same way that work health and safety (WHS) is normative for businesses, we see a similar shift occurring with sustainability reporting across the world,” says Kim Randle, Co-founder and CEO. 

In this nascent and rapidly evolving space, subject matter expertise is critical. It’s also a differentiator for Fair Supply, with the company’s proprietary tech built by sustainability experts for sustainability professionals, making it the trusted compass for businesses embarking on their ESG journey.  

2023 marked a significant chapter in Fair Supply’s product evolution. The company hired its first Head of Product and launched Fair Supply_Live. Behind the scenes, this saw a shift to product-led growth and reorienting the UX/UI and value props to focus on the customer experience vs their technical data chops alone. The result? A product that keeps them in step with the ever-moving marker of product-market fit. 

As Fair Supply sets its sights on 2024, the focus sharpens on product development, expanding into New Zealand, and riding the tailwinds of mandatory Scope 3 emissions reporting in Asia. They also inch closer towards a future where ESG isn’t a checkbox but a way of doing business.

“We see a world where Fair Supply is part of the standard startup tech stack – you get Slack, Notion, the Google Suite and Fair Supply,” says Kim.

Fetch’s new breed of pet insurance gets tails wagging

Fetch's founders: Foo Xin, Phil Wilson-Brown and George Lewis

They sleep in our beds. Some of them have their own Instagram account. Others have a gourmet diet that mirrors our own. We’re talking about our furbabies. Despite calling them part of our family, 40% of dogs and 30% of cats are overweight, 40% suffer anxiety and 45% of vet treatment decisions are impacted by the owner’s ability to pay. 

Unfortunately, most Aussie pets still don’t have insurance. It puts a huge strain on pet parents and the vets caring for our pets. 

It’s a problem the team at Fetch is solving for a new generation of pet owners who expect pet health and insurance to be holistic, preventative and fair. By flipping the insurance journey on its head, Fetch is winning the allegiance of pet parents.

At the core of Fetch’s mission is a challenge to the status quo. 

“The insurance industry has been historically slow to embrace change–legacy technology has been a drag, but so too has a mindset of “You can’t do that”. When you test the rationale, it’s often because that’s just how it’s always been done. Our mindset is “Why not?” says Phil Wilson-Brown, Co-founder and CEO.

Fetch has assembled a cross-section of vets, insurance and tech experts drawing from their collective experience to find innovative solutions to bridge these gaps. With a strong emphasis on a transparent and growth-oriented culture, the company already distinguishes itself in an industry where innovation has often been elusive.

It’s not only the product that needs to change but also the experience for pet owners. Fetch users can skip the typical long wait periods with the click of an app. There’s less confusion about what’s covered and what’s not; customers don’t need to pay out of pocket and hope to claim it back later. It’s a fresh approach that’s seeing new pet parents get insurance for the first time and others switch from their existing providers. 

The vision for Fetch extends beyond insurance to a pet's overall wellbeing.

“We’re focusing on the biggest issue first: Pet owners not being able to afford to pay for a treatment when the worst happens. We’ll then look to support pet parents in keeping their pets healthy with prevention support, advice, insights and rewards.”

Fetch’s 2023 journey is remarkable in more ways than one. They secured their underwriting binder, completed the build of their core platform, raised a $3m seed round, made their first hire outside of the founding team, launched the business in September and already have great traction with customers. 

Continuing their upward trajectory into 2024, Fetch’s roadmap includes expanding coverage to include cats, introducing preventative and rewards plans and integrating with vet practice management systems. Driven by enthusiastic smarts, uncomplicated empathy and inclusive irreverence, Fetch is poised to lead the way in transforming the pet insurance landscape, fuelled by a genuine passion for the wellbeing of our beloved pets.

“Having a pet is fun, chaotic and often ridiculous–we celebrate that. But it’s emotional too, especially when they’re sick. We’re pet owners ourselves, we understand that. We want to help pet parents have healthier, happier pets and equally be there for them when times aren’t so good.”

Zepto’s first-to-market strategies are reshaping the fintech landscape

The Zepto team at The Finnies

In 2022, the amount of cash in Australia declined for the first time since dollars and cents were introduced in 1966. While cash has long been the king and queen of payments, the tides are turning. The new fintech era promises digital payments will be as simple and fast as cash, and leading the charge is Zepto. 

“Zepto is built for real-time. There’s no legacy tech or thinking. Just modern, enterprise-grade payment infrastructure designed for the real-time economy,” says Chris Jewell, CEO.

As Australia’s first non-authorised deposit-taking institution (ADI) approved to connect directly to the New Payments Platform (NPP) as a ‘Connected Institution,’ Zepto has positioned itself as a trusted infrastructure player and a pioneering force in modernising payment experiences. 

Zepto’s positive growth story is backed up by the numbers. Doubling revenue year-on-year in FY23, the first quarter of FY24 marked the company’s strongest quarterly revenue result on record. The company’s transaction volume witnessed a remarkable 275% compound annual growth rate over the last three years, processing over 80 million transactions annually, representing over $50 billion in value. This year, two strategic partnerships have supported Zepto in shaping an entirely new fintech ecosystem.

Zepto’s first-to-market advantage with instant super payments holds immense potential. In response to the Australian Government’s announcement that employers must pay their employees’ super at the same time as their salary and wages from 1 July 2026, Zepto’s collaboration with digital delivery firm OZEDI brings significant advantages. This solution accelerates cash flow, enhances back-office efficiency, and ensures data security advantages through the digital transformation of legacy processes. 

Woolworths Group’s Wpay selected Zepto to power its PayTo solution via the NPP, offering Australian consumers an instant pay-by-bank-account solution at checkout. PayTo heralds the modern way for businesses to collect payments from their customers’ bank accounts, eradicating the delays associated with traditional processing times and business day limitations.

“It settles payments in real-time, all the time–like an always-on, instant direct debit. It’s literally 24-7-365,” says Chris. 

Being at the vanguard of the most significant shift in Australia’s payments landscape in three decades has seen Zepto evolve from a traditional fintech into a new breed of financial technology infrastructure, or “Finfra”. This portmanteau of Financial Infrastructure encapsulates Zepto’s commitment to fintech agility, accessibility and support underpinned by enterprise-grade infrastructure delivering extensibility, security and stability. 

With payment regulation in Australia undergoing a once-in-a-generation reform, Zepto has actively engaged with policymakers, advocating for competition, innovation and consumer protection, consistent with Zepto’s mission to create a better way to pay.  

Peering into 2024, the focus for Zepto remains on expanding its direct connectivity for PayTo to attract more enterprise customers and drive consumer adoption. The expectation is this will lead to further industry-first use cases and propel Zepto into new international jurisdictions, including the USA.

How BrandCrowd unlocked 100% YoY growth for DesignCrowd

Alec Lynch, Founder and CEO of DesignCrowd

In 2007, DesignCrowd.com, the global online marketplace for graphic design, was launched by Alec Lynch from his family home in Sydney with a laptop and 3 credit cards.

16 years on, DesignCrowd hasn’t lost steam. 

“2023 is the best year we’ve ever had, but the business has changed a lot,” says Alec Lynch, Founder and CEO.

The key growth driver has been a new product offering, BrandCrowd.com, a design platform for entrepreneurs and small businesses with a SaaS business model. Expanding the offering and changing focus from marketplace to SaaS has paid off, with BrandCrowd almost 5 times the size of DesignCrowd and continuing to grow fast. 

The company’s subscription revenues have soared over 100% year-over-year, setting a new standard for the company’s financial success. It's a feat made even more noteworthy by the fact they’ve managed to achieve this while maintaining profitability; the gold standard for startups in 2023.  

The success of BrandCrowd has been driven primarily by a great product but helped by a global boom in the number of new small businesses launching, particularly in the US.  The BrandCrowd platform has experienced an upsurge in demand for logos, business cards, social media designs and websites. The team has also released a tonne of new features in 2023, from a website builder to a TikTok and QR code design tools.     

In a year dominated by conversations around generative AI, DesignCrowd embraced innovation by introducing three new AI products: an AI business name generator, an AI logo generator and an AI background remover. Looking ahead, more AI products are already on the roadmap or in train as the team gears up for some exciting launches in the coming months. 

While Alec remained tight-lipped on the specifics, there’s no signs of DesignCrowd’s momentum slowing in the new year. “We've got big plans for 2024, and I'm confident we're set for another massive year.” 

Thematic’s pioneering AI is reshaping the customer insights landscape 

Dr Alyona Medelyan, Co-founder and CEO of Thematic

The idea for Thematic came to Dr Alyona Medelyan after three companies asked her to solve the same problem: tame their customer feedback data to decipher what drove customer loyalty and their Net Promoter Score. Dr Medelyan, a pioneer in the field of AI with her academic work cited by more than 3,500 researchers worldwide, could see the potential in using AI to comprehend and translate textual data, paving the way for the launch of Thematic. 

Using AI to analyse unstructured feedback data from surveys, reviews, chat logs, support tickets and other customer touchpoints, Thematic’s powerful feedback analytics platform automatically transforms this data to uncover new insights to improve products and experiences.

“Rather than tell the AI what to look for, our AI builds insights from the dataset so users can discover something they don’t already know,” says Dr Medelyan.

Thematic doesn’t just deliver specific insights into customer needs; it shows users what the insights are based on and how the AI categorises the feedback. Thematic’s transparent approach counterbalances the lack of trust in black-box approaches to analysis. It’s a stark contrast to existing options in the market, which are slow to set up and demand substantial technical coding maintenance to run. 

“New issues can arise daily, and if your analysis doesn’t pick up on that, you’re missing opportunities and wasting money. Customers choose Thematic because they want insights they can rely on and a solution that adapts to new feedback automatically.”

While AI has always been core to the Thematic product experience, the team continued to layer innovations into the platform in 2023. The introduction of the Summariser feature stands out, providing users with readable summaries of insights eliminating the need to navigate through countless data points manually. A new beta product, Answers, offers decision-makers a way to ask questions and get answers and evidence on the spot. 

“When leaders don’t trust the analysis, they ignore the customer voice and rely on their own judgement. Our platform helps users save time and earn trust with stakeholders on customer-led insights. With all the data and stories needed to understand an issue, companies use these insights to improve interactions and enhance the customer experience.”

This year, Thematic added Woolworths and Electronic Arts to its already impressive lineup of customers, including Atlassian, LinkedIn and Doordash, contributing to the 50-fold increase in revenue since launch. A recent study by Forrester Consulting found that Thematic provided a 543% ROI to its customers over three years. The stat hits home when you hear customers sharing feedback like, “Now, with the way Thematic delivers the answers, I can take my first proper holiday in years.”

What lies on the horizon for Thematic in 2024? A proactive shift towards democratising insights is in the works. The company aims to free up researchers from ad hoc questions, by empowering people across the business, from customer service managers to product managers  with answers to improve experiences and products. The Answers feature will play a pivotal role, opening up a wealth of insights to those who might not even know the questions to ask, thereby transforming Thematic into a hub for proactive problem-solving. 

Why Narrato is the answer to every marketer and content creators productivity woes

Sophia Solanki, Founder and CEO of Narrato

It’s a scenario many of us are familiar with: Death by 1,000 apps. Marketing and content creation teams are no strangers to this phenomenon. The time it takes to switch tools to do everything from planning, content creation, optimisation, collaboration and publishing eats away at productivity. It’s a problem Sophia Solanki, a serial entrepreneur, knows all too well. It’s also the origin story for Narrato.  

“In my previous ventures, I saw that content creation for marketing and sales is a complex process, and productivity losses through using multiple apps were a major pain point. I wanted to create a platform to bring together everything, including AI and automation, that marketers and content creators need to create, collaborate and publish content from one workspace,” says Sophia Solanki, Founder and CEO.

The results are nothing short of transformative for Narrato’s users. Some customers have scaled their content production by 6x or more; others have cut down the time spent on publishing by 95%; and in another case, they save almost 200+ resource hours every month. 

As a testament to how well the product is resonating in the market, Narrato’s subscriber base and revenue have surged fourfold. Narrato also won the TiE Silicon Valley Startup of the Year award and picked up G2 Crowd accolades such as the “Easiest To Do Business With”, “High Performer” and “Momentum Leader” badges. 

In a year dominated by conversations around generative AI, Narrato has distinguished itself by layering innovation at every step of the content creation process. Unlike many solutions in the market that address specific problem areas, Narrato has endeavoured to unify various use cases of AI into a user-friendly, all-encompassing workspace. 

The unveiling of AI Content Genie, the blog and social content creator on autopilot, captured the industry’s imagination. The tool, crowned the #1 Product of the Week and #1 Marketing Product of the Month on Product Hunt, solidified the company’s position as a frontrunner in the generative AI content space. 

Narrato’s ambitions for 2024 are expansive as they continue to stay at the forefront of the industry by embedding nascent trends into the product experience. 

“2023 has been the year companies started thinking about AI in content. 2024 will be the year of mass AI adoption across all kinds and formats of content creation,” says Sophia.

With personalised content creation a focal point for many markets, Narrato has already built tools like Custom AI Templates and Custom Brand Voices, enabling customers to tailor their content to their brand and audience. 

At the heart of all of Narrato’s upcoming plans is a relentless empathy for the user. 

“You shouldn’t need to be a master prompt engineer to maximise the use of AI in content creation. We’re making AI more accessible by launching tools, templates and features that allow marketers and creators to do what they do best: be creative and find a friend in AI to supercharge their productivity.”

A pivotal pivot: From eesel.app to eesel.ai

Amogh Sarda, Co-founder of eesel

2023 has been nothing short of transformative for eesel. From the successful spin-off of a new product, eesel.ai, to monetising and acquiring hundreds of paying customers in a matter of months, the company has a series of noteworthy victories. 

The most significant move that defined eesel’s narrative in 2023 was the strategic pivot from eesel.app to eesel.ai. Eesel was born out of the recognition that the modern workplace’s information landscape is a labyrinth, with essential data scattered across various platforms. The eesel.app's simplified search for relevant links was a crowd favourite with 10k+ monthly users and was listed as one of Fast Company's Best New Apps in 2022. But the team harboured grander ambitions. 

The dream was to surface the right links and directly answer questions–a challenge until the advent of large language models (LLMs). The introduction of ChatGPT technology marked a paradigm shift, allowing eesel to fulfil its initial vision. From there, eesel.ai emerged, promising to be “ChatGPT over your company knowledge.”

It’s a solution to a struggle every knowledge worker can relate to–finding vital information amidst the digital noise. 

“The problem we’re tackling isn’t hidden in any way. It takes seconds to Google or ChatGPT something on the internet, yet somehow, finding yesterday’s meeting notes takes longer,” says Amogh Sarda, Co-founder of eesel. 

While others solutions advocate for habit changes or tool standardisation, eesel believes in a different approach. The winning solution, according to eesel, should seamlessly integrate into existing workflows without requiring any alterations in habits. This philosophy sets eesel apart, offering a universal, app-agnostic solution to a ubiquitous problem. 

As eesel.ai integrates effortlessly into diverse workflows, its user base spans a broad spectrum. From startups like Bare Cremation, leveraging eesel.ai to enhance support operations, to enterprises like Drift, using it to swiftly address technical queries, the benefits are diverse and tangible, with eesel.ai serving as an AI teammate. 

Like many early-stage startups, the focus for eesel in the coming year is refining the core value proposition and doubling down on scaling. Building on the initial promising signals of product-market fit, the team is honing in on the perfect intersection of what to sell and who to sell to.

The mission for 2024 is clear: find the sweet spot with customers who passionately embrace the solution and develop scalable, repeatable strategies for reaching them.

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