Blazing trails and dreaming big: StartupSmart’s 12 startups to watch in 2020

What a year 2019 has been. In 12 months we’ve seen a boom in medtech, construction tech, food innovation and, as ever, fintech, all amid an age of unprecedented activism, confusing legislation and political upheaval.
We’ve seen the emergence of tech you never knew you needed, and innovations that seem so obvious now it’s hard to believe they haven’t existed forever. At the heart of it have been Aussie entrepreneurs, putting their hearts and souls into making it all happen.
These rising stars are taking global markets by storm, tapping into emerging trends, and making a real difference to Aussie communities. And we’re so excited to see what they’ll get up to next.
Is there anyone you expect to nail it next year? Who should we be keeping an eye on? Let us know.
Neighbourlytics co-founders of Jessica Christiansen-Franks and Lucinda Hartley secured a $1.25 million cash injection in July this year, setting them up to meet a spike in demand.
The social analytics platform measures quality of life and wellbeing in neighbourhoods, based on their digital footprint, and uses the data to inform city-makers, developers and governments, which can then plan and build accordingly.
In its first full year of trading, Neighbourlytics saw annualised revenue of $500,000, and that’s likely to increase.
“We think it’s a really fantastic product, but what surprised us was the attitude of what is a pretty risk-averse customer base,” Hartley told StartupSmart.
“The growth has really far exceeded anything that we expected at this point in time.”
Also, these co-founders boast one of the most badass images of startupland, and that gets them brownie points in our book.
Global markets have been going wild for meat-free meat and alternatives to animal proteins this year. But there was one stand-out Aussie contender in v2food. The startup sizzled onto the scene with backing from Hungry Jack’s head honcho Jack Cowin in early October, and secured a massive $35 million in Series A funding less than two months later.
At the time of the raise, founder and chief Nick Hazell told StartupSmart the business is already surpassing its “extraordinarily ambitious” plans, and is gearing up to take the business into the Asia Pacific region within the next 12 months.
“This is not a local Australian story,” he said.
“This is about preparing ourselves to be a global player in an industry that’s predicted to be really, really huge.”
Founded through the inaugural Antler Australia startup generator program, Caia is developing a product to make women’s healthcare more accessible — both in terms of understanding and in the actual access to specialists.
The startup is still in early stages — the public beta is live with 10 specialist practitioners. But co-founder and chief Cortina McCurry has a vision of a global solution to provide every woman with a united care team of practitioners, who she can call on remotely, from anywhere.
The team is also working on partnerships with enterprises and workplaces.
“This isn’t just another wellness program,” McCurry told StartupSmart.
“When you actually invest in employees and give them the services they need at different life stages, you’re going to see an impact on productivity.”
Having secured $1 million in grant funding from Google last year, not-for-profit startup Humanitix has spent 2019 ramping up operations and recording growth in the order of 400% to 500%.
Directing 100% of profits from booking fees to a range of charitable education platforms, Humanitix has become the ticketing platform of choice for the likes of Fishburners, Spark festival and SingularityU in Australia.
And, in October, Humanitix partnered with social media Goliath Facebook.
Speaking to StartupSmart, Humanitix co-founder Adam McCurdie called the partnership a “phenomenal” win, which will make it easier for more organisers to promote their events as soon as ticket sales are live.
“It’s that crossover that really made a lot of sense,” he said.
Falling squarely into the category of startups-solving-problems-you-never-knew-existed is Qualie, a market research startup that has been growing steadily under the radar since 2016.
But, even without any marketing spend, the startup has racked up an impressive client list including Google, Citi, Energy Australia and King Software — the developer behind Candy Crush.
With $1 million in funding secured in August, and partly pegged for spreading the word about Qualie’s work, we’re excited to see what co-founder Ainslie Williams will do next year. Already, just last week, she announced the startup has officially expanded into the UK.
“We haven’t actually had the ability to do much else but build software and service clients,” Williams told StartupSmart in August.
“With a small team, there are only so many plates you can have spinning in the air at once.”
She’s a Crowd
She’s a Crowd may not have exactly been flying under the radar thus far, but we reckon this social data platform and its founder Zoe Condliffe are about to really hit their stride.
Having launched through BlueChilli’s SheStarts accelerator in 2018, She’s a Crowd allows victims and survivors of sexual harassment and assault to share their stories, and add to a statistical data map to help combat crime targeting women.
In June this year, Condliffe teamed up with Tess Guthrie, founder of data analytics and consulting business WhyHive, to apply the platform to Melbourne’s cycle lanes. That initiative saw the pair win an opportunity to take that tech overseas to Bandung, Indonesia.
Condliffe has been focused on validating the startup’s value proposition, she told StartupSmart at the time. But, ultimately, the vision is global.
“I have already got global ambassadors putting their hands up to champion She’s a Crowd in their own countries,” she said.
Mr Yum
Sometimes, as a journalist, you come across an early stage startup and suddenly it seems you’re seeing their name everywhere you go.
That’s exactly what happened with Mr Yum, which is now offering digital menus at more than 200 cafes, restaurants and bars in its hometown of Melbourne, and across New Zealand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.
Headed up by serial entrepreneur Kim Teo and co-founders Kerry Osborn and Adrian Osman, My Yum allows diners to scan a QR code to see a visual menu of dishes and place their order from their phone.
It’s a simple idea, but “the market was so ready”, Teo told StartupSmart.
In May, just six months after Mr Yum was founded, it raised $1.5 million in seed funding. Since then, inbound applications from venues have been steadily increasing.
Construction tech is another Aussie trend that’s showing no signs of slowing, and Melbourne Internet-of-Things startup Ynomia is well and truly riding that wave.
Having raised $150,000 in government grant funding in 2018, this year co-founders Adam Jago, Matthew Lickwar and Matthew Barbuto nabbed a further $3.6 million, including from Aconex co-founder Rob Phillpot and prominent US specialist Brick & Mortar Ventures.
At the time of the raise, Ynomia was about to begin its first project in the UK and the co-founders were setting their sights Stateside.
“The appetite for this kind of technology in the US market is really significant,” Barbuto said at the time.
Cynch Security
At the end of 2018, Cynch Security co-founder Susie Jones took the leap, quitting her corporate role at Australia Post to turn her side hustle into a full time job.
In 2019, Cynch graduated the Cyrise cybersecurity startup accelerator program, and since then, Jones has been popping up everywhere. She’s speaking at conferences and events, participating in pitch competitions, and spreading the word on good SME cybersecurity practices.
Speaking to StartupSmart in October, Jones urged other women considering a move into startup life to give it a go, saying they can be prone to give themselves less credit than they’re due.
“Just try it. And, worst-case scenario, you just go get another job,” she said.
“Women generally are far more extraordinary than they realise they are.”
Although it was first founded back in 2013, it was only relatively recently that video editing startup Clipchamp found its niche — and consequently a 6.5 million-strong user base.
And in May this year, the startup also attracted $1 million in funding from entrepreneur and Shark Tank investor Steve Baxter.
The technology has really found its footing in the education sector. Here, part of the attraction is that its compatible with Chromebooks, co-founder Alex Dreiling told StartupSmart at the time of the investment.
“The whole education sector … has been shifting towards Chromebooks,” he said.
Now, after impressive organic growth, the team is doubling down on its marketing and go-to-market investment. Watch this space.
Back in May this year, legaltech startup Josef bagged $1 million in seed funding after what co-founder Sam Flynn called “a pretty stellar first year”.
While the startup was already seeing some cushy traction and 20% to 25% month-on-month revenue growth, the funding was pegged for expanding the team and delivering some more sophisticated features. It has also allowed Josef to focus on increasing its international footprint.
Next year, we expect to see Josef making good on its global vision.
As co-founder Tom Dreyfus explained, that means seeing the tech “sitting in the browser of every lawyer everywhere, giving them the tools that they need to build bots to enhance the way they work”.
All the neobanks (again)
We know 2019 was supposed to be the year of the neobank, and in many ways it was.
But, while all the major players have their full authorised deposit-taking institution (ADI) licences in the bag, we’re still waiting for many services to roll out in full. Volt — the first to secure its licence in January last year — is still yet to release anything at all.
Next year, we expect to see more neobanking services coming out of beta mode, more people outside of the fintech bubble sitting up and taking notice, and more — many more — stories coming out of the Aussie challenger banks.
This year was one of emergence. Next year will be one of development, refinement and going mainstream.
As Xinja founder Eric Wilson told StartupSmart back in June: “I’m not sure if 2019 is going to be the year of the neobank, but it’s certainly going to be the end of the beginning.”

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