Early-stage startup backer Happenco secures $12m to fund founders

Early-stage startup backer Happenco secures $12m to fund founders

Happenco co-founders (L-R) Ben Cheyne, Gideon Gut-Silverman and Omar Varts.

Australian venture investment and advisory firm Happenco has announced the close of its first $12 million fund aimed at empowering the earliest-stage startups to build bold companies, although more than half the capital is already baked in to its portfolio that has been growing since 2021.

Its founders Ben Cheyne, Gideon Gut-Silverman and Omar Varts have brought a breadth of knowledge across startup creation, venture, retail, equity and more, with experience between them at the likes of Deloitte Ventures, McKinsey, Google and Deus Ex Machina.

Happenco investors include former McKinsey & Co Australia and New Zealand managing partner Michael Rennie and Helix Collective founding partner Jeeva Suresh, as well as the O'Reilly, To and David family offices. 

The firm reports 60 per cent of the $12 million has been deployed across 16 companies including electric utility software company Neara, online ad spec management hub The Spec Sheet, and EdTripper, a platform for schools to uncover their next excursion. 

Working closely with industry leaders and shapers, Happenco comes on board in various capacities to help businesses succeed, whether that's taking an active position in the business or providing strategic counsel and direction through the company’s advisory arm.

Since its inception, the firm has also worked with 11 startups in an advisory capacity spanning healthtech, retail, AI, and fintech. 

One of the most recent examples is sustainable luxury fashion and lifestyle brand Nagnata, which also secured funding from the firm, bringing Happenco’s total portfolio to 27 companies. 

Happenco's executive director and co-founder Gideon Gut-Silverman says Australia’s startup landscape is shifting, spurring a bigger chasm between ideation and funding for early-stage startups. 

"At Happenco, we’re firm believers that ambitious founders warrant support regardless of how tough the market is. Our latest fund helps us to achieve that," he says.

"Success to us is creating the opportunity for ideas to become bold companies. It's about backing the next generation of Australian startups, bringing them on the journey from an initial spark to a homegrown success story."

Managing director and co-founder Ben Cheyne says there are so many brilliant subject matter experts in Australia, and many have "the desire and conviction inside to innovate and build something great".

"Navigating how to get it off the ground can be the hurdle that keeps some of our best ideas locked in a box. We see a gap in our market here in Australia at the earliest stages – we want creators to play their strengths and provide technology build, operational and financial capability where needed," he says.

"We are so lucky to work with so many people we admire for their creativity, resilience and conviction and we want to do more of it. 

"In this crazy world we would like to contribute to the growth of Australia’s sovereign capability and capacity to innovate, we believe it is in our nation's DNA to have a crack and we are here to support that."

Investor Michael Rennie, who is also managing director at Sterling Black, says the Happenco team is disciplined, performs deep diligence, and their first fund already has some excellent investments.

"The partners roll up their sleeves during good and tough times to support expert founders to build great companies," he says.

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