2023 Australia's Top 100 Young Entrepreneurs 21-30

2023 Australia's Top 100 Young Entrepreneurs 21-30

21. James Gilmour (38)

Gilmour Space Technologies

Gold Coast

Australia’s very own rocket man James Gilmour has earned his place among the stars alongside brother Adam as co-founder of Gilmour Space Technologies, one of the nation’s largest space industry technology partners.

Gilmour Space is devoted solely to the manufacturing of rockets and satellites that deliver payloads into Earth’s low orbit.

Since its foundation in 2016, Gilmour Space has grown from an infant company with a staff of less than ten to a powerhouse of more than 160 employees including some of the country’s most innovative mechanical, aerospace, software, and propulsion engineers.

The Eris orbital launch vehicle, 25 metres in height and two metres in diameter, is the company’s flagship rocket design which supports up to 215kg in payload mass and is slated for its first commercial launch in early 2023 from the Bowen Orbital Spaceport in the heart of coastal Queensland.

The Gilmour Space team has achieved several interstellar milestones in the past financial year within the industry that is forecast to be worth a trillion dollars by 2030.

In September 2021, the company became head of the Australian Space Manufacturing Network, a consortium of companies that is executing a $150 million bid to establish three new sites for testing and development, manufacturing, and commercial launch respectively.

Before the beginning of FY21, Gilmour Space closed a $61 million Series C funding round taking its total investments to $88 million.

Following its debut launch, the company has announced plans for a second rideshare mission entitled Caravan-1 that will deliver multiple payloads including cubesats, microsats and other small spacecraft.

Gilmour Space estimates securing as many as 16 commercial launches in support of both defence and commercial endeavours between now and 2024.

“There’s literally thousands of small satellites that need to be launched between 2022 to 2031, and there is just not enough supply,” says Gilmour.

Gilmour Space started its own satellite manufacturing and development business in December of 2021 to help meet the demand.

VALD founders

22. Laurie Malone (37) and Sam James (36) 

VALD

Brisbane

From the NBA and the prestigious Mayo Clinic in the US to Europe’s leading musculoskeletal facility in Switzerland, Brisbane-based VALD has taken human movement technology developed at QUT to the world.

Whether it’s for sports teams, health professionals, the military or other sectors, the technology has been highly in demand with a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model in tow, capturing quantifiable objective data to help decision makers.

“We like to say that after helping teams win sporting championships, we’re now helping grandmothers successfully recover from hip surgery so they can pick up their grandkids again,” says Laurie Malone, who co-founded the business with Sam James in 2015.

Australia only accounts for around 10 per cent of the group’s revenue, but it is here that allied health has become the dominant source of sales. James expects that trend will be replicated globally, including in the US where to date progress may not have appeared as pronounced due to the sheer scale of the performance offering across the massive college, high school and professional sports markets.

In April last year, VALD had already pre-sold hundreds of its DynaMo devices prior to launch – an entry-level handheld device that performs more than 300 strength and range-of-motion tests.

“Although hardware obviously plays a key role in VALD systems, we're also improving our software by rolling new features into our centralised data and administration platform, VALD Hub,” Malone explains.

“These include features such as MSK Education and Patient Reported Outcome Measures (PROMs), which allow both clinicians and clients to send and receive educational content and patient-reported questionnaires that help monitor and assess ongoing rehabilitation progress.”

By November, the traction was such that VALD secured a US$25 million ($37.5 million) capital injection from Canadian investment firm Vistara Growth and existing investor Queensland Investment Corporation (QIC) to secure new acquisitions and bolster growth in North America, where the company currently earns around half its revenue.

Alexander Jannink

23. Alexander Jannink (38)

Acusensus

Melbourne

After setting out a decade ago to look at ways of making our roads safer, former engineer Alexander Jannink delved into the merits of using artificial intelligence specifically to tackle the rising problem of driver distraction from mobile phones.

His company Acusensus (ASX: ACE) is now a global leader in the field with a first-to-market technology currently being used by the NSW, Queensland and ACT authorities to detect the illegal use of mobile phones while driving, as well as catching out drivers and passengers not wearing seatbelts.

Jannink’s entrepreneurial journey began as a personal mission following the death of a friend in 2013 by a distracted driver who was said to have been using a mobile phone at the time.

This year, that journey culminated in a $100 million ASX listing of Acusensus following an IPO launched in December that raised $20 million to expand into new markets and new products.

Jannink co-founded the company in 2018 after teaming up with Ravin Mirchandani, the CEO of Ador Powertron. Mirchandani, who initially came on board as seed investor, is now chairman of Acusensus.

NSW was the first jurisdiction to adopt the Acusensus mobile-phone detection technology and it also uses the company’s point-to-point speed detection system to gauge the average speed of motorists. These are among a suite of products either developed or being investigated by Acusensus to monitor poor driver behaviour.

The tech company has a service-based model that involves the supply, deployment and management of the cameras on behalf of road and traffic authorities.

“We certify the cameras, maintain them, and ensure the chain of custody, so whatever we record can be prosecuted in a court of law,” Jannink tells Business News Australia.

“We also provide the first level of human review of the data and then send it to our clients as confirmed evidence of drivers who aren’t obeying the road rules.”

Revenue has risen sharply over the past two years following a number of contract wins. The prospectus reveals revenue of $28.7 million in FY22, up from $2.3 million just two years earlier.

Acusensus is forecasting revenue of $36.9 million in FY23 with plans to expand its reach into other Australian states, as well as its key global markets of the US and Europe. The company has established subsidiaries in the US and UK where it has provided trials of its technology.

Jannink says there is no equivalent technology available in the market today, making Acusensus a market leader in the field.

“We’re trying to solve a global problem and we’ve demonstrated our technology in five continents in pilot programs,” he says.

“Our focus is on the fatal five of road behaviours – seat belts, speed, fatigue, distraction, and alcohol and drugs. In the US, 94 per cent of road fatalities involve the fatal five.”

New product development includes using AI to monitor driver fatigue and impairment from drugs and alcohol consumption. Jannink says this is presenting the biggest challenge for the company’s research and development team at the moment.

“We are looking for signs of driver attentiveness and at a snapshot we are trying to measure how impaired a driver may be from drugs, alcohol or fatigue to assist police operations.”

Acusensus shares have edged lower since listing on 12 January, with the market currently valuing the company at under $80 million.

Wayne Baskin and John Winters (Provided)

24. Beau Bertoli (39) and Greg Moshal (40)

Prospa

Sydney

Online lender Prospa Group (ASX: PGL), founded by Greg Moshal and Beau Bertoli, clocked up 10 years in business in 2022 with a milestone $3 billion in cumulative loan originations since inception.

More than $450 million of those loan originations took place in the December 2022 half year, representing a 35.1 per cent rise in a period when revenue surged by 72.4 per cent year-on-year to $135 million.

The specialist lender to small businesses saw loan volumes top pre-COVID levels last financial year with Moshal, the CEO, confident that Prospa was finding a lucrative niche in the market despite challenging conditions for businesses.

Moshal sees the small business sector as underserviced by lenders at a time when cash flow funding has become critical.

Prospa’s market strength lies in the non-bank lender’s ‘purpose-built credit decision engine’ which can quickly assess small business credit applications while managing its own corporate risk.

Moshal noted in the FY23 first-quarter update that Prospa had capitalised on sustained demand across Australia and New Zealand in a traditionally slow period for business finance.

Challenges are never far from the horizon for the finance sector, but Prospa last year managed to ease funding cost pressures by completing its first public asset-backed securitisation totalling $200 million.

The company aims to build customer loyalty through innovations specifically designed to help small businesses. This year it launched a new-look All-In-One Business Account, the first of its kind for a non-bank lender, in a move that is a direct challenge to the major banks.

After listing in June 2019 following a $109.6 million IPO that valued the company at more than $609 million, Prospa is now valued around $85 million.

The company embarked on a buyback of 10 per cent of its issued capital in the second half of FY22 to take advantage of the depressed share price.

Moshal remains one of the biggest shareholders of the company with an interest of more than a 15 per cent. Bertoli, the chief revenue officer, has a 5.7 per cent stake, giving the founders a combined $20 million equity position in Prospa.

The Sydney-based company employs more than 290 staff across its operations in Australia and New Zealand.

Daniel Wessels

25. Daniel Wessels (34)

Jacaranda Finance

Brisbane

Underpinned by cutting-edge technology such as machine learning and AI, digital lender Jacaranda Finance has helped countless underserved Australians access funds and improve their credit ratings.

Now as the business matures it is building on that legacy to become a mainstream lender with larger loans available.

This has meant cutting out credit contract products for small amounts in the sub-prime space, and as the cycle shifts over time the make-up of its loan book will change.

“Our new purpose revolves around giving creditworthy borrowers who are cash-rich but have thin or limited credit history access to personalised, affordable credit that allows them to establish a stronger credit history so they can achieve their goals and unlock their potential,” says Daniel Wessels, who founded the business a decade ago.

"Our mentality has shifted from being ‘pro financial inclusion’ to being ‘pro financial choice’.”

Wessels highlights broader macroeconomic reasons for the pivot, as well as the challenges of raising capital in the short-term lending sector where you have “a lot of regulatory pressure and heat”.

“For us it’s about de-risking the business,” Wessels explains.

“What happens when there’s such economic instability is all the top tier lenders start tightening up their affordability measures, compliance standards and the way they underwrite loans,” he says.

“As they tighten up, a big chunk of borrowers that used to get money from mainstream lenders like banks can’t go to banks anymore, so they go to that near-prime space to borrow money.”

Founders of Untitled Group.

26. Michael Christidis (29), Nicholas Greco (33), Christian Serrao (30) and Filippo Palermo (29)

Untitled Group

Melbourne

Though its name might imply anonymity, Untitled Group is anything but and is truly in the business of standing out.

Founded by four music-loving friends Nicholas, Michael, Christian and Filippo, Untitled is the fast-growing company behind some of Australia’s largest and most beloved music festivals.

To name a few, Untitled puts on a dance music festival in the Grampians called Pitch, the long-running New Years’ festival Beyond the Valley, and Australia’s first fully accessible event of its kind Ability Fest - organised in partnership with the 2022 Australian of the Year Dylan Alcott.

But the parties don’t end when the festival stages are packed down; Untitled also runs popular Melbourne venue Xe54 and has operated more than 100 events in the last six months including the Australian tours for international acts like rapper Shygirl, producer Honey Dijon, and London-based disc jockey DJ Boring. According to Pollstar, Untitled is the 46th largest promoter globally, and the second largest in Australia.

Still in the realm of music, Untitled - via its talent agency Proxy - manages the bookings for close to 100 emerging and established Australian artists including producers Basenji and Cosmo’s Midnight, rock royalty Daniel Johns, and DJs Nina Las Vegas, jamesjamesjames and X Club.

With such a strong grasp on the current movers and shakers in the Australian music scene, Untitled has deftly capitalised on its ability to target the youth market by diversifying its business even further.

This has been done through its ventures arm, which recently secured a stake in youth news platform The Daily Aus, building on previous investments in the likes of Bae Juice - a Korean pear juice sold as a hangover remedy.

These investments all make sense when considering the market the company operates in - events. Untitled now has a place to promote them, and a drink to soothe the headaches of their attendees.

In the same vein, Untitled - via its creative, marketing and ventures arm Underscore - recently launched a new vodka brand in partnership with Melbourne brewer 80Proof called Ugly which is made from apples that supermarkets would reject and otherwise be sent to landfill.

"80Proof saw Untitled as the perfect partner not only due to the volume of vodka our 400,000-plus patrons drink throughout the year across our events, but the unique connection to youth culture Untitled holds through these sought after festivals and events,” Christidis says.

"Together we think we make the perfect partnership to set up Ugly to succeed.”

Nexba

27. Troy Douglas (33) and Drew Bilbe (36) 

Nexba

Sydney

Having mastered the sugar-free drinks space, Nexba co-founders Troy Douglas and Drew Bilbe tapped their supportive customer-base late last year in order to fund their new direction: baked goods.

Since 2010, the brothers-in-law have been perfecting their take on sugar-free fizzy drinks - expanding their range monumentally as well as their reach which now extends into the UK and Europe.

The pioneers raised around $4 million in preference notes through an equity crowdfunding round on Venture Crowd last November, which smashed the minimum target by almost eightfold.

This contributes partly to an approximately $3 million Series B - a follow up to its $6 million Series A - and will fund an expansion into baked goods.

Called Goodsweet Group, the subsidiary is a vehicle for the company’s patented natural sweetener blend called 'Goodsweet', which will soon hit the market. Douglas and Bilbe hope their unique IP will underpin new products beyond just drinks.

The evolution and eventual launch of Goodsweet has been a 12 year journey according to Douglas, who says the new brand’s launch is part of the co-founders’ mission to rid the world of sugars and artificial sweeteners.

“We’ve mastered this patent and blend of ingredients that replicates the taste of sugar,” Douglas says.

“Heading into the baking space makes a lot of sense, but also even just simply having Goodsweet as a table sweetener.

“We want to scale impact by making more products and brands like Nexba powered by Goodsweet sweetener. That’s the next big focus for us. We’ve spent 12 years building Nexba as a proof point for Goodsweet, and we’ve learnt a lot as founders, so we want to build that platform even further.

"Goodness Group Global is underpinned by Goodsweet, our ‘intel-chip’ and our commitment to consumers is to constantly improve Goodsweet. We’ll be at the forefront of Food & Beverage innovation, delivering better for you products and brands on scale.”

Anna Podolsky

28. Anna Podolsky (31)

Lyka Pet Food

Sydney

What started as a passionate project from Anna Podolsky’s home kitchen to save the deteriorating health of her dog Lyka has become one of Australia’s most disruptive pet food companies, serving more than 10 million nutritious meals to date.

Co-founded by vet Dr Matthew Muir and Podolsky, Lyka Pet Food’s recipes contain a hand-selected mix of all-natural whole food ingredients, personalised via an algorithm that takes into account a dog's age, breed, weight, activity level and sensitivities.

The service has proven to be a hit for pet parents around the nation, with Lyka securing $30 million in funding through a Series B round led by Israeli entrepreneur Itai Tsiddon four months ago.

On top of the capital injection, Lyka acquired Sydney rival Happy Tales and Melbourne-based competitor The Wholesome Dog last year.

“Our customer growth has been remarkably consistent and that is testament to the impact we are having on lives of dogs all over Australia,” Podolsky says.

“Preparing, tailoring and serving fresh meals to our customer base doesn’t come without its challenges, but we have no doubt it’s better for our pets.

“Every day we get to come to work and hear customer stories of profound health transformations that serve as an enduring motivation source.”

Lyka Pet Foods has also rolled out its first-to-market range of wholefood supplements - called Pupper Supps - which offers dog owners a range of health treats that can be used to improve their pet’s skin, joints, digestion, teeth and temperament.

The company’s future plans include building a facility to significantly ramp up capacity and operational efficiency, as well as continued investment into R&D and Lyka’s digital platform services.

“With an unclouded vision for the future, solid momentum and a wonderful team behind us, the future really is bright,” Podolsky says.

“Not just for Lyka or the category, but most importantly for the lives of our pets as a whole.”

Archistar founders Dr Ben Coorey and Rob Coorey

29. Dr Ben Coorey (38) and Rob Coorey (40)

Archistar

Sydney

Combining 3D architectural design with artificial intelligence to help property professionals make better decisions, proptech Archistar has stripped back hours of manual processes to make lighter work for the likes of Frasers Property, CBRE, Stockland (ASX: SGP), and many more.

The group’s technology also laid the foundation for lucrative compliance contracts by allowing users to create and assess hundreds of compliant 3D generative designs, exploring features like height restrictions, exposure to sunlight and ventilation.

So in addition to Archistar’s major presence in Australia with developers and real estate companies, in 2022 it was able to sign contracts with the NSW and Victorian governments to deliver instantaneous automated planning compliance advice; a feat that was replicated with the City of Vancouver in Canada.

Last year the company, founded by brothers Dr Ben and Rob Coorey, put the figurative scaffolding in place for projects that would take an Australian success story global.

In mid-year the proptech announced an $11 million funding raise backed by NAB Ventures, Skip Capital, Skyfield, AirTree Ventures and other private investors, taking the total amount raised since inception to $31 million.

This helped facilitate the opening of Archistar’s first US office in Dallas, led by former Nearmap (ASX: NEA) executive Shane Preston who had spearheaded the roll-out of that company's aerial mapping technology company across the Pacific.

The brothers gave their product offering a significant boost around the same time with the acquisition of another Sydney-based company, Snaploader, whose software provides interactive 3D experiences for real estate professionals to simplify property sales and marketing.

"We are raising the bar and creating the experience consumers want. Snaploader is already working with some of the biggest names in the property sector, including Charter Hall, Knight Frank and Colliers International," Dr Ben Coorey said at the time.

“The unique technology allows the visualisation of off-the-plan projects across residential, commercial and industrial buildings to streamline the selling process.”

One of the key advantages of Archistar's software is that it gives architects, planners, developers and agents instant information on the type of residential projects permitted on a site, given local planning and zoning rules. This means that expansion overseas requires developing an understanding of laws in any jurisdiction of operation.

Kjetil Hansen

30. Kjetil Hansen (32)

Deliciou

Melbourne

While Deliciou’s plant-based products are already stocked in Woolworths (ASX: WOW), Kjetil Hansen is keen to grow the company’s wholesale segment abroad after noticing an influx of online orders from European restaurants.

Recently visiting the continent, Hansen has been on the ground talking to local restaurants to gauge the demand for Deliciou’s vegan meat and seasoning products in small to mid-size towns scattered across Europe.

“I'm visiting a lot of potential customers that will be selling our products, especially restaurants that like to turn our plant-based meats into hero items on their menu,” Hansen says.

“From a coastal town in Italy to a medium-sized town in Switzerland - it's all these funny places you never would have thought of going to but that's exactly where they are missing these novel food products that people tend to get very excited about once they are available.”

Hansen rose to prominence six years ago when he appeared on Shark Tank, where he secured a $300,000 investment from Andrew Banks in exchange for a 44 per cent stake in the business.

From there, the company secured a $65 million valuation in a capital raise led by US venture fund Stray Dog, as well as a distribution deal with Whole Foods Market – an organic supermarket chain that has 500 stores across the US.

On top of expanding its wholesale network, Hansen says the company is in the thick of growing its unique product line, which includes vegan bacon seasoning.

“We’ve been working on everything from vegan eggs to 3D meats that you can print in your kitchen to different ready-meal solutions that are free from preservatives,” Hansen says.

He also notes the company is using the power of artificial intelligence to speed up the process of testing new flavour combinations. 

“We're also using artificial intelligence to a greater extent now to help identify which ingredients are better suited together,” Hansen says.

“Instead of having an army of people trying different ingredients together, we can use robots to narrow down the list of candidate ingredients to use - which so far has been able to increase our productivity in the R&D side of the business by over 30 per cent.”


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