Sydney Angels investors plough $600,000 into two start-ups

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Sydney Angels has facilitated an investment of $600,000 in two tech start-ups, Tapit Media and Bubble Gum Interactive, the first outlay via the group since $10 million was raised for its Sidecar fund earlier this year.

 

Bubble Gum Interactive, a developer of online children’s games, received $200,000 from the Sidecar fund, the first start-up to be backed by the co-funding initiative, which semi-automatically backs ventures that have been singled out by Sydney Angels members.

 

Separately, mobile technology platform Tapit Media received $400,000 for 20% of the business via the Sydney Angels network, which matches up member investors with promising early-stage businesses.

 

Bubble Gum Interactive, which launched late last year, has now received more than $1 million in funding from a variety of sources, including grants of $90,000 and $155,000 from Screen Australia and the NSW Digital Initiative, respectively.

 

The money will be used to develop its child-focused virtual online game, Little Space Heroes. The game, aimed at five to 12-year-olds, is set to go into beta mode in the next two weeks before being offered to users for a $7-a-month subscription fee.

 

Bubble Gum Interactive was founded by a five-strong team, including two former Disney employees – Phil Mason and Paul Gray.

Gray, the fledgling business’ marketing director, says that the venture has lofty ambitions within the online gaming sector.

 

“Our game has the latest technology and is a step up from what else is being offered in the marketplace,” he tells StartupSmart. “We’ve done a focus group with 250 kids and parents and refined it.”

 

“We didn’t want to pitch the idea until we had a working prototype to show, as well as a strong strategy, value proposition and demonstrated market potential.”

 

“We initially pitched to Sydney Angels and it was a disaster. The video didn’t work and we didn’t get through to the next round. But of the angels (Jeremy Collis) called us afterwards and asked to see the idea again. The conversations flowed from there and, although it was a hard slog, we got the funding.”

 

“We aren’t particularly Australian-focused. There’s a market size of 180 million kids in the world, with 60 to 70 million of them English speaking. We want to be number one in the market by 2013, which is aiming very high, but we think it’s achievable.”

 

Tapit delivers the Near Field Communications system, which allows mobile phone users to tap their handset against activated billboards and posters around the streets or in shops in order to receive content such as URLs, coupons or videos.

 

The start-up already has a preferred supplier deal with outdoor advertising giant JCDecaux, with the aim of enabling 530,000 sites across Australia by 2013.

 

Currently, only Nokia, Samsung and BlackBerry phone are enabled with the NFC technology, although it’s thought that the iPhone 5 will include the system due to the popularity of it in the US, where it has been used for mobile “tap and go” payment such as Google Wallet.

 

“We are very confident that we will get the 530,000 sites as we have first mover advantage and for the handset companies, it’s a no brainer,” says David Cunningham, director of the five-strong Tapit team. “We expect a $2.4 million revenue in the first 18 months. We have a great first mover advantage, but we also have to educate the market and put in the infrastructure, which costs money.”

 

Andrew Stead, co-founder of Sydney Angels, says that the network will provide the Sidecar fund with deal flow for around 30 ventures before its funds are exhausted.

 

“Bubblegum has a very strong management team, while Tapit is in a very promising emerging space,” he says. “We see a lot of great stuff, the challenge for start-ups is to get market validation.”

 

“You might pull in money because you’ve got a great background, or because of great IP, but if the market says it likes it, it makes it much easier for investors.”

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