11. Angus Goldman (28) and Alex Harper (28)
To say it’s been a tumultuous year for the founders of Brisbane-based cryptocurrency exchange Swyftx would be an understatement.
Alex Harper and Angus Goldman likely entered 2022 with plenty of pep in their stride, buoyant on the popularity of crypto-assets like Bitcoin and Ethereum, as well as the emergence of the non-fungible token market that gave the broader sector a bit of a pump.
This momentum continued during the first half of the calendar year, near the end of which the co-founders signed a $1.5 billion merger with share trading platform Superhero.
However, that development came undone in the second half. The broader crypto market went into hibernation alongside the traditional share markets globally. At the time it was passed off as ‘bear market’ conditions by investors and platforms alike.
The ripple effect at Swyftx was felt in August when the company announced it was laying off 74 employees - the equivalent of 21 per cent of its workforce. At the time, the founders cited ‘economic uncertainty’ as the reason behind the layoffs.
Four months later and the company announced it had fired a further 90 employees, or 35 per cent of its workforce, in the wake of the FTX collapse (previously the world’s third largest crypto trading exchange run by Sam Bankman-Fried).
The company’s numbers after the latest round of layoffs remain higher than where the company was at in 2021 though, going from 100 staff the year prior to a peak of 350 last year before the two reductions.
The writing was on the wall for the merger, which announced just four days before Christmas that its merger with Superhero had come undone.
Swyftx CEO and co-founder Harper described the demerger outcome was ‘disappointing’.
“It is a disappointing outcome but ultimately, we took this decision in the best interests of both Superhero and Swyftx, as well as their customers,” Harper said at the time.
“The policy environment has changed significantly since we announced the merger and neither party has been able to realise the vision of the merger in any meaningful way. We currently face a scenario where there might be no realised benefits to customers from the merger until 2024 at the earliest.
“Under these circumstances, we felt it best to focus on our core offering. The decision puts Swyftx in a strong position and frees us up to focus on consolidation and growth opportunities in digital assets.”
But don’t count this platform out too soon - with a leaner team the company may be better positioned to grow at its own pace, rather than one set by voracious, volatile markets and bad eggs in the crypto space.
12. William On (37) and Rob Hango-Zada (38)
What began as a venture spurred on by their own “horror stories” as consumers with e-commerce shipping, Rob Hango-Zada and William On have built Australia’s leading multi-carrier shipping solution powering deliveries for thousands of retailers.
“Having spent the last eight years developing Australia’s best connected shipping software, we are committed to powering the industry forward by bringing carriers, retailers and customers together in the leanest way possible to reduce waste and inefficiencies across the supply chain,” Hango-Zada says.
That spirit of bringing different parties together was galvanised in March 2022 through a partnership with Uber, giving merchants that use Shippit’s e-commerce and logistics software access to more than 50,000 delivery partners in Australia working with the US ridesharing giant.
Within a fortnight the company announced the acquisition of last mile tech platform Premonition for an undisclosed sum, bringing into its stable a Software as a Service (SaaS) platform that helps enterprise logistics fleets optimise and operate their transport networks.
Shippit stayed “SaaSy” on the acquisition front with another purchase in October 2022, buying Singaporean logistics software group Luwjistik for $18 million. Founded in 2021, Luwjistik uses a unified application programming interface (API) that allows freight forwarders, couriers and third-party logistics companies to connect with network partners globally.
The bold move built on a presence Shippit had already been developing in Southeast Asia since 2020, although the acquisition prompted a relocation to Singapore for William On.
The fast-growing company had the financial wherewithal to make the purchase partly thanks to a $65 million Series B2 round completed in May, adding to a previous $30 million Series B undertaken in 2020.
13. Kim Teo (35), Adrian Osman (31), Kerry Osborn (35) and Andrei Miulescu (32)
The acquisition of MyGuestlist created a step-change for Mr Yum in 2022, helping the software platform diversify its service offering for the hospitality industry and drive significant growth as it expanded into the US and UK.
“It’s basically taken Mr Yum from a utility-based product for restaurants to become a digital marketing channel product,” says Mr Yum’s co-founder and CEO Kim Teo.
Mr Yum is a platform for restaurants that offers QR codes for mobile menus, ordering and payments. The MyGuestlist acquisition brought on board the company’s customer relationship management (CRM) platform Sprout, which is used by brands such as Nando’s, Shake Shack and Accor Hotels across Australia, the UK and the US.
“The statistics show that 70 per cent of people who visit a restaurant once never come back again and it usually takes four visits for customers to become regulars,” Teo tells Business News Australia.
That’s one of the features that now differentiates Mr Yum from its competitors with a CRM that can help hospitality venues encourage repeat visits.
“When we started Mr Yum, we could only influence the spend once the customer arrives by upselling or the convenience of not having to physically go to the bar. Now we are really attractive to businesses by offering a full-circle product which has made a big difference this year.”
Mr Yum, which was co-founded by Teo, Adrian Osman, Kerry Osborn and Andrei Miulescu, recorded 135 per cent year-on-year revenue growth in calendar 2022, and surprisingly the more mature Australian market contributed as much to that growth as the company’s offshore push.
Growth in the US has been progressing well for Mr Yum, but Teo concedes there are challenges. Among them is the low rate of technology adoption, such as QR codes, by US consumers compared to those in Australia.
“It’s just not mainstream there,” says Teo. “The reason is the service style is very different because of the tipping model.”
The solution was to choose the right markets, leading Mr Yum to launch in Austin, Texas, where large outdoor venues are common and align with the digital service model. The company’s US operations are now headquartered in Austin.
“We tried to launch in Los Angeles, but we found this to be an upmarket, high-service environment. It’s all about status and celebrity in LA. People want to be seen in the right places and they want to be served, and that is such a different perspective to the casual young culture in Austin.”
Teo says the US market is so big that ‘even a small slice of it is still meaningful’, which is leading the company to take a targeted approach to growth there.
A high-profile round of retrenchments in early 2022 that saw Mr Yum shed close to 20 per cent of its workforce was a learning experience for the Mr Yum founders. Teo says letting go of staff was difficult, but necessary, and the business is better for it now.
“We got caught up in headcount and not efficiencies,” she says. “Our people have since found the structure post-redundancies easier to work in and way more effective. They have also become happier in their roles. That’s taught me that there is so much more resilience in the team than we expected.”
14. Dr Anuj Gupta (39) and Mannu Kala (38)
K&G Group (formerly known as Covax Australia)
2022 was the year that Covax Australia - now called K&G Group - and its founders Dr Anuj Gupta and Mannu Kala finally received recognition for the tireless work they did during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Responsible initially for operating respiratory clinics in Queensland right as the virus hit Australian shores, the founders of K&G Group took unpredictable developments and variants in their stride, and began organising drive-thru testing facilities and even the logistics behind the vaccine roll-out.
Key to this was the pair’s ability to get boots on the ground where they were most required - something that’s core to K&G Group’s ambitious growth plans for 2023.
Alongside a rebrand, K&G is embarking on its own technological journey by developing a recruitment program in-house, setting up offices in Delhi and Melbourne to support the business’ growth, and teaming up with fellow Young Entrepreneur Peter Dodeja on a joint venture to solve security services staffing problems.
Ultimately, the pair hope to get approximately 51,000 people into roles over the next 10 years, mostly in the understaffed aged care, healthcare and hospitality industries. At the time of writing, K&G Group has about 1,000 staff actively working in these sectors, and a further 8,000 on the books.
While shortfalls in staffing are not a new problem in Australia, Dr Gupta says it was one that had been exacerbated by the pandemic which led to a decline in immigration and movement of skilled labour into Australia - issues K&G Group hopes to address with the Education arm.
“This shortfall has become more acute, and it’s become more of an immediate overarching problem,” he says.
“Our division of K&G Education is essentially going to try and ameliorate that by assisting both public and private organisations.”
15. Christian Pacheco (38)
Virtual IT Group, Pia
As an acquisitive and cash flow-strong managed service provider (MSP) in its own right, Christian Pacheco’s Virtual IT Group (VITG) has never exactly needed a side hustle, but an attempt to solve an internal challenge has led to a burgeoning global spin-off.
Faced with time-consuming and mundane tasks that are common for most MSPs and in-house IT teams – such as user creation, password or virtual private network (VPN) resets, domain name system (DNS) flushing, and active administration changes – Pacheco believed there had to be a better way.
The answer was the development of an AI-powered “digital employee” known as Pia, which stands for Predictive Intelligent Agent and has since launched as a separate company under the VITG umbrella.
“We searched high and low, and we just could not find anything that did the end-to-end functionality that we required, so we started building it,” Pacheco says, noting the beta launch received positive feedback ahead of an official release in August 2022.
At the time of writing, Pia is close to hitting the one million user mark globally within six months of its release as a “hyperautomation company for MSP” that absorbs workload from service desks, delivering "significant operational efficiencies".
Staff numbers continue to grow in the US while a UK office for Pia opened in late 2022 and is gathering speed.
Not only has Pia come racing out of the gate, but its parent company has momentum too as Pacheco reaps the rewards of turning down takeover offers from venture capital and private equity over the last couple of years, instead securing a $60 million loan facility from a big four bank to super charge growth.
With that kind of financial backing, VITG has acquired four more companies in recent months which Pacheco believes will be NPAT-positive within the first year.
16. Geoffroy Henry (32)
Freight logistics startup Ofload last year attracted the financial backing of Singapore’s largest venture capital company, Jungle Ventures, as the company bolstered its capital reserves with a $60 million Series B capital raising.
The investment reflects both the growth prospects of the business and the appetite by major investors for investments that address the challenges of a carbon neutral economy.
Geoffroy Henry founded Ofload in 2019 to deliver efficiencies to the emissions-heavy transport sector by digitising the space and giving customers and carrier partners a platform to increase visibility of their cargo in transit. Ofload is also designed to drive efficiencies in an industry that suffers from poor use of load capacity.
“We are working with hundreds of companies in Australia to optimise loads and make empty space a thing of the past,” says Henry.
“That means more opportunities for carriers, a streamlined process for customers, and improved environmental outcomes across the board.”
Ofload has gained the attention of some of the country’s biggest freight customers in recent months with Noumi, Metcash, Asahi, and Kimberly Clark Australia signing up to the platform.
Growth for the company has been driven by the high-profile challenges facing the logistics industry in recent years, notably a shortage of truck drivers.
Ofload is a digital freight platform that connects shippers and carriers in one centralised supply chain ecosystem. It aims to increase visibility over what’s going where, in a bid to remove inefficiencies in the sector.
The latest funding round comes on the heels of $20 million raised by the company at the end of 2021, which at the time valued the company at $100 million.
Ofload plans to use the fresh capital to fund ‘inorganic growth initiatives’, alluding to possible future acquisitions after bedding down the purchase of Melbourne-based freight operator CIA Logistics in September.
CIA Logistics was the first acquisition by the Sydney-based Ofload, which sought to merge CIA’s Dispatch Management System technology and expertise into its own end-to-end digital road freight solution.
Ofload last year reported 500 per cent year-on-year revenue growth, with the company noting that it has grown its database to manage more than 15,000 trucks Australia-wide.
17. Tim Fung (39)
With the euphoria of a 2021 ASX listing well behind him, Airtasker (ASX: ART) co-founder and CEO Tim Fung has spent the best part of the past year expanding the business globally and scaling up the company’s maturing operations in Australia through acquisitions.
Although the Airtasker share price took a hit in 2022, Fung sees positives ahead for the online marketplace for local services despite a ‘super challenging’ economic environment.
“With inflation driving an increased cost of living, there are more and more people looking for ways to create additional income, with research indicating that over 40 per cent of these workers are looking for ways to simply cover the costs of everyday essentials,” Fung wrote in the company’s annual report.
“We believe that Airtasker is one of the very few platforms that can help people through this challenging period and we are deeply committed to delivering on our mission to do so.”
Fung co-founded Airtasker in 2012 with his friend Jonathan Lui after seeing an opportunity to create a marketplace that allows consumers and businesses to outsource everyday tasks to people looking for the odd job.
The company listed on the ASX in March 2021, giving Fung the capital needed to grow the business internationally with a push into the US and UK.
In FY22, Airtasker grew gross market volume across the business by 23.8 per cent to $189.6 million. Revenue rose 18.4 per cent to $31.5 million.
Gross market volume more than doubled in the UK, while the US saw volumes surge more than four times the previous corresponding period.
Airtasker says the business has benefitted from nationwide labour shortages and that its domestic and international growth demonstrates the resilience of the company’s marketplace business model.
In Australia, Airtasker bought Australia's third-largest local services platform, Oneflare, for $9.8 million in 2022 which was partially funded by a $6.25 million capital raise.
Fung describes the company’s Australian operations as being in the ‘scaling stage’, with the Oneflare acquisition adding 540,000 new active customers and 14,500 verified businesses to its platform.
Oneflare was founded on similar ideals to Airtasker by Tommy Lim, Marcus Lim and Adam Dong, who are three former university classmates of Fung. The deal was struck at a significant discount to a valuation of almost $50 million when Domain Holdings (ASX: DHG) took a major stake in Oneflare six years ago.
Since launching in 2012, Airtasker has enabled more than $2 billion in working opportunities and served more than 1.3 million unique paying customers across the world.
18. John Fargher (38)
John Fargher was among a group of fifth-generation farmers who established AgriWebb, a company that is helping to lift accountability in the agricultural sector by providing the farming community with the data to make accurate decisions.
The regenerative agriculture and livestock management solution was developed by Fargher in collaboration with co-founders Justin Webb and Kevin Baum after they recognised the lack of data records for projections in their own family operations.
AgriWebb offers the rural industry a platform that does away with the traditional record-keeping methods of pocket notebooks and excel spreadsheets to meet the shifting needs of consumers and supply chains globally.
“The agricultural industry needed to digitise, and digitise fast,” says Fargher, the chief revenue officer of AgriWebb who co-founded the venture with Justin Webb and Kevin Baum.
The platform has become a leading global livestock business management solution that offers precise data analysis, insights and projection capabilities. Its digital solutions empower farmers to transform on-farm data into ‘powerful business insights that unlock a more profitable, efficient, and sustainable future’.
AgriWebb estimates that about 20 per cent of Australian farmers currently use its platform in some capacity across their operations, while farmers in the US across 28 of the 50 states have embraced the solution’s digital capabilities.
The company has funded its growth through a total of $60 million in capital raisings since it was founded in 2014. AgriWebb currently has the backing of Canadian telco TELUS, the Duke of Westminster's AgTech investment fund and agtech venture capital firms Germin8 Ventures and iSelect Fund.
Fargher’s early career took him to London after he studied law at the University of Adelaide and in the US. In London, he worked as an in-house legal counsel for Curry’s Plc, an omnichannel retailer of technology products and services. He took that job after running a £40 million ($71 million) project for Cadbury during the 2012 Olympics.
But as a fifth-generation sheep and cattle farmer who grew up on 400,000 acres in South Australia, Fargher always had a love for agriculture alongside his penchant for entrepreneurship.
That was evident when he was introduced to Webb and Baum by a mutual contact and, after a couple of Skype calls, a leap of faith saw him quit his job in London and move back to Australia where he helped establish AgriWebb in the family garage, where all inspiring startup stories begin.
From helping define the product, to finding AgriWebb’s first customers, to scaling the marketing and sales teams, Fargher had his hand in all aspects of the company's growth during its formative years. These days, he is in charge of overseeing new customer segments, new strategies and opening new territories.
Among the highlights of 2022 for AgriWebb was a $40 million Series B funding extension round, achieved despite a difficult capital raising environment. The raise was supported by two multimillion-dollar grants focused on validating sustainability in US beef production in line with AgriWebb’s rapid US expansion.
The company says this year’s focus will be to solidify itself as the key data provider for the livestock industry while working towards meeting the industry’s net zero sustainability goals.
19. Eric Peck (33)
Drone logistics network operator Swoop Aero last year rejected a US$75 million ($108 million) takeover offer from an unnamed US group after co-founder and CEO Eric Peck, along with the company’s key investor Main Sequence Ventures, sized up the company’s growth prospects.
The CSIRO-backed Main Sequence subsequently led a $16.2 million venture capital raise in June to help Swoop Aero expand its local manufacturing capabilities while scaling its networks in Africa, Southeast Asia, Oceania and Europe.
Founded in 2017 by CEO Eric Peck and CTO Joshua Tepper, Swoop Aero is approved to fly in 14 countries with its drone delivery service assisting partners in government, agriculture, mining, healthcare, forestry and wildlife.
Swoop Aero has been providing transport and delivery of medical materials in Malawi and the Democratic Republic of Congo for the last three years.
The company has facilitated more than 23,000 operational flights with the number of items delivered by its drones topping 1.4 million since inception.
The success in Africa led USAID to award $1.5 million to Swoop Aero to help the company expand its Malawi network nationally. This is in addition to a $10 million investment by Levitate Capital through the company’s $16 million Series B early last year.
Swoop Aero launched its first ship-to-shore operations in Singapore in 2022, taking off from the hub in the industrial docking area and flying dynamically to ships within the Port of Singapore to collect COVID tests and critical documentation.
However, Peck sees Swoop Aero’s mission being about more than delivery. He describes the company’s role as ‘establishing a new infrastructure layer for society; an infrastructure layer which leverages the skies for movement of goods and delivery of services in a way that hasn't been possible in the past’.
During 2022, Swoop Aero increased its BVLOS (beyond visual line of sight) approvals to 15 countries.
“This means that our pilots can now remotely operate drones for logistics beyond the physical view of the aircraft,” says Peck.
In 2022, the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) approved the company’s Remote Operations Centre, which will facilitate five aircraft flying by a single operator located at the company’s Port Melbourne campus.
Swoop Aero’s flight control software allows for a single pilot to operate 30 aircraft at once and the company is seeking approval for 30-to-one operations to begin this year.
Among the new local initiatives by Swoop Aero will be in the health sector through a partnership with the federal government’s Emerging Aviation Technology Program. The $1.8 million investment will expand the drone network to 400,000 square kilometres, an area roughly the size of New Zealand, which will double the existing footprint to become the largest health drone logistics network in the world.
Swoop Aero began its first commercial logistics operation Australia, a B2C operation, in Goondiwindi where it delivered pharmaceuticals straight to homes from TerryWhite Chemmart and Symbion Health.
During the year, Swop Aero also completed the design and prototype of its fifth-generation aircraft, the Kite. The company scaled its manufacturing facility in Port Melbourne to build two aircraft per day.
Swoop Aero is planning to raise US$40 million ($58 million) to deploy 10 networks and lease 600 Kites in 2025.
20. Jason Daniel (36)
Jason Daniel stepped into the bricks-and-mortar space in earnest over 2022 after four years of heady growth for his online activewear retail business LSKD.
After the company dipped its toe with a small outlet at its new 5,000sqm Loganholme headquarters in the busy Gold Coast growth corridor early last year, LSKD went all out by October with a major investment in its first retail store at Australia’s largest shopping centre, Chadstone in Melbourne.
Daniel says the success of the head-office retail outlet led to a rethink by the business on ways to ‘get in front of our community more’.
The new 153.8sqm Chadstone store was followed by a retail outlet at Chermside shopping centre in Brisbane’s north, paving the way for a national rollout of six stores across Australia and a push into New Zealand that Daniel says will create a vital omni-channel presence for LSKD.
LSKD also ended 2022 by ramping up its presence in the US, where it expanded its office space to cater for growth in that market. The company now has more than 100 staff globally.
The omni-channel path is an extension of LSKD’s business strategy which is based on the concept of creating a community, leading to a legion of loyal fans for the brand.
The loyalty has been built on direct engagement with the fitness community and professional athletes. The brand’s Brisbane headquarters plays a role in this by consolidating its warehouse facilities alongside a dynamic office space, with a gym, studio, and research and development lab where the fitness community often gets together for workouts and socialising.
The LSKD brand is founded on the principle of creating ‘functional sportswear with a street aesthetic’.
Daniel formally established the business in 2007 as a fledgling startup named LKI (Loose Kid Industries), a wholesale business that operated from his mother’s bedroom. The business has grown rapidly since 2018 when it rebranded to LSKD, a name derived from ‘loose kid’.
The company reported sales of $50 million in FY22, and the latest Black Friday sales period was said to have been its best in 15 years of business.
LSKD recently reported that sales growth for the current year is tracking 55 per cent ahead of the previous year.
“In 2023, we plan to expand our global community and inspire people to chase the vibe,” says Daniels.
“We also plan to open more retail stores for our Australian and New Zealand community and use feedback from our community to make technical innovative products that help them chase the vibe.”
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