Australian tech founders, investors reveal secrets to startup success


Australian tech entrepreneurs have a distinct advantage over their American counterparts and, with some simple steps, can access more funding, it can be revealed.

Two ex-pats, who left high-powered Silicon Valley tech jobs at Microsoft and Google to help female founders break into the US market have revealed the risk-averse Aussie approach is a huge asset when lobbying for a slice of the international capital funding pie. Marisa Warren and Kate Vale’s California based venture capital firm, Aliavia Ventures has invested in about seven companies, half of which are from Australia — and not out of loyalty.

Ms Vale said the American hustle can focus on aggressive growth, whereas Australians, with a smaller base, historically have a conservative focus on revenue. And during a recession, fiscal responsibility is key.

“Because there’s a limited supply of capital, founders have had to really focus on building profitable businesses from day one,” Ms Vale said.

“We look for those that are a combination of an Australian and American founder that will have that discipline of building revenue, but also have that risk appetite of expansion that typically comes more naturally to an American because of their market dynamics.”

Australian eLearning start-up How Too is just two years young but already boasts major clients like HubSpot in the US and B-Pay, Bayer, Tennis Australia, Arnott’s, Sydney University, Monash University, and the University of Adelaide, in Australia.

Founder Lisa Vincent, who parlayed her corporate HR career at companies like Telstra and Ernst and Young into a “bootstrapped” start-up just before Covid hit, said the key to success was knowing how to pitch.

Photo of Lisa Vincent. She stands next to a large pot plant wearing a floral blouse and jeans. She is smiling with her arms crossed.

“You have to kiss a lot of frogs … go out and meet a lot of people to get the feedback and find the ones that are aligned with what the mission is and what the vision is,” she said.

Described as “The Canva of eLearning”, the How Too platform allows companies to easily create interactive video learning courses through design templates and themes.

Its lead investor is the ASX-listed MA Financial Group (MAF).

Ms Vincent’s insights on turning an idea into a company, and taking it global, come as News Corp identifies Australia’s 50 most promising new start-ups launched since 2019 that are still engaging in investment rounds.

Included in that list is New South Wales company Aerologix at number 41, Queensland’s WTHL at 40, and Victoria’s Bare in the 26th spot.

Aerologix, the self described “Uber for drones”, was founded by former Qantas pilot Tom Caska and tech consultant Rakesh Routhy with a $5.7 million investment.

WLTH, a so-called “non-bank”, was founded by Brisbane brothers Brodie and Drew Haupt with an $18 million investment to offer low interest loans under the promise of 50 sqm of beach cleaned with every new loan issued.

Bare, created to disrupt funerals, has secured $15m funding to offer low-cost cremation services.


The HowToo company launched with a large presale to a customer, which allowed them to get the product off the ground without needing an initial investor.

Ms Vincent then applied for, and won, the Australian Government’s Accelerating Commercialisation Grant, as part of its AusIndustry Entrepreneurs’ Programme to deliver grants to female founders.

With a grant, a product, and a client, it was time to seek outside investment and, for the first time, learn how to pitch.

“That can be devastating,” Ms Vincent said.

To build a network from the ground up, she based herself at the Sydney Start-up Hub, where she went to as many free events and education sessions as the pandemic allowed.

“Someone introduces you to someone else, then someone else, they talk to people they know, you meet more people,” Ms Vincent said.

Eventually, she was introduced to Ms Warren, founder of Elevacao, a global preaccelerator for women tech founders. Through that accelerator, she met multiple potential investors and began to pitch. Again and again. None were successful.

Then Ms Vincent’s former adviser from the Accelerating Commercialisation Grant, who had left the program, introduced her to the ASX-listed MA Financial Group (MAF). They became the lead investor.

The MA Financial group made an introduction to another investor, Jelix Ventures, which made another introduction to another investor. Eventually they received funding and networking support from grants and investors to the tune of $2.5 million.

“It balloons from there,” Ms Vincent said. “Being introduced gets you so much further, I believe. Getting introduced to those investors is huge.”

When it came to expanding into the US, she worked her network again. Ms Warren, the founder of Elevacao, is also the co-founder of California based venture capital firm, Aliavia Ventures.