After quietly investing millions into budding startups such as QR code ordering system Mr Yum and alcohol-free brewer Heaps Normal, a new investment syndicate backed by several high-profile serial entrepreneurs has announced plans to invest $10 million by the end of 2022.
UNIFIED Music founder Jaddan Comerford teamed up with Linktree co-founders Alex and Anthony Zaccaria last year alongside others to set up Side Stage Ventures, an investment community that in a short space of time has also taken a stake in event technology startup Delegate Connect, bricks-and-mortar store enhancer Qsic, alternative investment platform Alts, and "honest ticket marketplace" Tixel.
Other Side Stage co-founders include Tractor Ventures CEO Matt Allen, Ben Grabiner who co-founded Platoon before it was acquired by Apple, Nine Buildings COO Kieran Rivett and What the Health? founder Emily Casey.
"We believe that creativity is just as important as technology in creating a brighter future. The founders with the greatest ideas are those who blend the two to solve challenges," Comerford explains.
"We started Side Stage Ventures to invest in these types of creatives; the creatives who have an idea or a company built on imagination and technology."
The syndicate states it was "sparked by a passion to support the under-recognised but impactful founders redefining our culture". While a report from New York-based CB Insights found global venture funding hit a record high of US$621 billion ($823 billion) last year, Side Stage Ventures notes the ecosystem is still in its infancy.
With additional capital and support, Side Stage Ventures plans to help more ideas founded in creativity and technology be discovered and nurtured to "propel culture and our future forward".
"Side Stage Ventures is founded by founders for founders," says Anthony Zaccaria of Linktree fame.
"We are all running our own companies right now and understand the highs and lows of growing and scaling global, multi-million dollar companies. This gives us a unique ability to support founders.
"Our background in the creative arts means we are used to putting talent in the spotlight and we do the same for our founders. Our founders lead but we are here, ready to share advice or make a connection to go beyond a single cheque, and help build great companies."
The group - joined by a "curated community" of investors including a host of top musicians, entertainers, entrepreneurs and investors - also has a partnership with investment platform TEN13 to run deals, manage compliance, and onboard investors, as well as provide support for back-end operations.
Co-founded by Steve Baxter and Stew Glynn, Brisbane-based TEN13 has invested in several companies backed by Side Stage, as well as edtech unicorn Go1, video editing platform Clipchamp, fitness technology group Vitruvian, university card payments outfit QPay, flood prediction software Floodmapp, aperitivo Sofi Spritz and Linktree itself.
TEN13's investments go beyond Australian shores as well, with its portfolio including Chipper Cash, an African cross-border payments company that achieved a US$2 billion ($2.65 billion) valuation in late 2021.
Founders of Side Stage-supported Mr Yum and Heaps Normal speak glowingly of the syndicate's contribution to their success.
"Side Stage have been great partners for us at Mr Yum, bringing a wealth of experience and contacts in entertainment, technology and arts. They backed us early and have continued to invest and support our company," Mr Yum co-founders Kim Teo and Adrian Osman wrote in a joint statement.
"Since starting Mr Yum, we've intentionally sought out not only the best VCs to invest in us, but also individuals who bring a different perspective. In Side Stage, founders can access a broad range of expertise and connections via their syndicate, with the ease of all their investors being combined into one cap table position."
Heaps Normal co-founder Andy Miller says he doesn't like to play favourites, but the Side Stage crew have "consistently been among the MVPs on our cap table".
"Side Stage's financial investment in Heaps Normal was just the beginning of the immense value they continue to add to our business," Miller says.
"Jaddan and Matt balance generous support with thoughtful inquiry that challenges us to be better founders. They have become both valued mentors and our great friends."
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