Side Stage Ventures launches $15m early stage fund for exceptional founders

Side Stage Ventures launches $15m early stage fund for exceptional founders

Side Stage Ventures co-founders and general partners Markus Kahlbetzer (left) and Ben Grabiner (right).

A new fund launched by founder-led Side Stage Ventures will be writing $500,000 cheques to early stage startups across a range of sectors, with the launch of a new $15 million seed fund backed by investors including Go1 co-founder Andrew Barnes, Airtasker (ASX: ART) co-founder Tim Fung and UK-based venture fund LocalGlobe.

The new fund is led by Ben Grabiner, whose UK-based creator platform Platoon helped launched the career of Billie Eilish and has since been acquired by Apple, as well as Markus Kahlbetzer, who founded prop-tech innovator BrickX and investment firm BridgeLane.

BridgeLane was an early supporter of Airtasker and amaysim, and Kahlbetzer was also a founding partner at Tank Stream Ventures which led the seed round of ed-tech unicorn Go1.

The fund is the evolution of Side Stage Ventures’ investment syndicate which launched last year and has invested millions in startups here and abroad, including non-alc brewer Heaps Normal, hospitality mobile ordering and payments group Mr Yum, and end-to-end retail platform EQL.

The syndicate's success and positive reaction from founders and investors sparked the move to launch a fund.  

Side Stage Ventures co-founder and general partner Ben Grabiner says Australia is already proving itself as a hub for some of the best founders in the world, and the team at Side Stage Ventures is excited to continue to support and invest in them and help shape the future.

"We’re a collective of founders building the fund we wish we had when we were starting out," says Grabiner.

"As founders ourselves, we have been through the highs and lows of building companies and we’re super focused on building the best possible offering and community for the founders that we back. 

"The success of the syndicate showed us just how valuable it can be to have founders on the cap table and we know we can help many more entrepreneurs build and scale great ideas with this new fund."


Related stories: Side Stage Ventures courts limelight for under-recognised founders "redefining our culture"


Side Stage Ventures' first fund has already backed three fast-growing startups in health, generative AI and HR, including online pain management platform More Good Days. The latest fund will have a multi-sector focus, ultimately backing the people that are solving the biggest and most ambitious problems. 

"The start-up ecosystem in Australia is ripe with innovation, yet the potential is still ahead of us," says Side Stage Ventures co-founder and general partner Markus Kahlbetzer.

"We’ve seen several category-leading companies being built here, presenting a breeding ground for future founders. 

"We have world-class talent, a burgeoning startup ecosystem, government support and plenty of other competitive advantages in a post-COVID world that can transform Australia into a world-leading innovation hub."

Other venture partners in the Side Stage fund include Linktree co-founders Alex and Anthony Zaccaria, Tractor Ventures co-CEO Matt Allen, and Unified Music founder Jaddan Comerford. What the Health?! founder Emily Casey and investor Harrison Wright are also part of the team.

"Side Stage Ventures is founded by founders for founders. Most of us are still running our own companies right now and so understand what it takes to build and scale global companies," says Zaccaria, another co-founder and general partner of the group.

"This gives us a unique ability to understand and support founders along the journey.  

"That is really what Side Stage Ventures is about — a special community of founders backing other founders with the same passion and enthusiasm and belief that we have in our own companies."

One of the latest investors in the Side Stage syndicate, Go1 co-founder Andrew Barnes, also recently invested in OIF Ventures' latest technology fund.

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