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Five Aussie start-ups looking to crack Obama’s America

Thursday, 8 November 2012 | By Oliver Milman

feature-obama-90Regardless of the economic turmoil the US has undergone in the past four years, America remains a prized destination for many Australian entrepreneurs.

 

Not only does the US provide a market about 20 times the size of that of Australia, it is also home to some of the best and brightest business minds. If you’re in the innovation game, it’s likely that you will want to try your hand Stateside.

 

The re-election of Barack Obama as President yesterday is likely to receive a mixed reaction among entrepreneurs both here and in the US.

 

Some business owners have accused Obama of not giving them enough support and taxing them too heavily.

 

Conversely, Obama has supported investment into cutting edge technology, such as biotech and clean energy, and has said he wants to create a cabinet post for business in his new administration.

 

So which Aussie start-ups will be hoping to make their mark in the US during Obama’s second term?

 

Below, we’ve highlighted five of our brightest hopes. Who knows, defeated Republican Mitt Romney, a serial investor worth $250 million, may even take a look at them.

 

As an added bonus for Mitt, these businesses’ jobs are already offshored!

 

 

1. Collusion

 

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Robert Yearsley has got big plans. The Sydney entrepreneur is targeting a $10 million bounty from his foray into the US, along with co-founders Sumeet Patel and Navdeep Saini.

 

Collusion offers a new way of writing, drawing and sharing information on the iPad, via a stylus.

 

The Collusion team is decamping to California in order to secure the treasure trove from US investors, with Yearsley telling us in May that several potential backers have shown an interest.

 

However, he admits that he would be happy to stay in Australia, if the local venture capital community showed enthusiasm towards the ambitious start-up.

 

“It seems that Aussie tech VCs can’t even be bothered to look at what’s going on in their own backyard,” he told us.

 

“I could go round chasing them all and try and get them out of a meeting, but the US investors are just in a different league.”

 

“We would want to stay in Sydney. We’ve enjoyed living and working by the beach and we could base the business anywhere, really. But we’ve been tearing our hair out at the investors here because unless it’s a proven model in the US or UK, they aren’t interested.”

 

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2. Cappture

 

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For Cappture co-founders Mathew Carpenter and Callum Chapman, the problem wasn’t so much a lack of local support, more the fact the big guns decimated their initial team.

 

Cappture was initially a four-man band before two members departed after being approached by the likes of Apple, Google and Facebook.

 

Undaunted, Carpenter and Chapman, both just 20 years old, continued work on the start-up, which provides an app that allows users to take multiple photographs, with each picture accompanied with a caption that will summarise their day.

 

The persistence of these young guns paid off in June when they struck a deal with Mokriya, a Silicon Valley-based firm, to handle the development of the app.

 

“(Mokriya) has an excellent track record working with some hot mobile start-ups including Hipster, which was acquired by AOL, Path, which raised $41.2 million and SimpleGeo, which raised $9.61 million,” Carpenter explained at the time.

 

“Our main goal at this point is to move forward as fast as possible and get Cappture into the App Store and with the team we’ve built, this shouldn’t be a problem. In terms of raising funds, we’re keeping our options open.”

 

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3. Klick Communications

 

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It may not have a trendy one-word name and make funky tech tools, but Klick Communications has big plans for the USA.

 

In May, the PR agency announced that it was expanding from Sydney to Los Angeles, in a bid to tap into the growing market of tech start-ups that need help with their publicity.

 

Founded in 2008, Klick made the StartupSmart Awards top 50 last year, with revenue of $859,000.

 

“We wanted to get a presence in the US and get the business growing out there,” founder Kim McKay told us.

 

“If we could replicate our success, I thought why not in the world’s largest market? We already have three foundation clients in the B2B space.”

 

“There’s a big opportunity in LA around the tech and start-up community. Not many agencies there are honing in on that space, going by our research, so we think we can get runs on the board there.”

 

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4. Pinion

 

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Sydney venture Pinion, founded in early 2010 by Daniel Ringland, Karl Flores and David Banham, has been attracting some notable attention recently.

 

Not only has the business managed to rake in $2 million from a selection of Australian-based investors, it is now on Microsoft’s radar.

 

In August, Pinion was chosen as one of the first companies to take part in the software giant’s US –based Bing Fund, which will provide mentoring and funding to participants for a four to eight month stretch.

 

Pinion helps more than 450 gaming communities generate revenue by placing gamer-targeted interactive advertising on their servers. Advertisers that have signed up so far include Sony, McDonald’s and Adidas.

 

Rahul Sood, who heads up the Bing Fund, is certainly a fan of the Aussie trio, stating: “As an entrepreneur, I was blown away by their passion and persistence. Three times they have almost gone broke, and three times they have come back.”

 

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5. Thereitis.com

 

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While the majority of fast-growth Australian start-ups heading to the US come from either Sydney or Melbourne, there are many promising ventures in other states looking to relocate.

 

One of the most forward-thinking is Adelaide venture Thereitis.com.au, which managed to raise an impressive $2 million from South Australian investors in February, despite not fully rolling out its product.

 

The business’ technology allows online information such as products and prices to be displayed in an interactive 3D ‘cloud’ rather than in the traditional list form.

 

Thereitis’ founder, former Fairfax executive Guy Sewell, is to lead the business from the US following the cash raise.

 

“It’s a huge round of funding for Adelaide and there is no material change in the control of the business,” he told us back in February.

 

“The money covers us operationally for a good couple of years. We’ll have around 10 full-time people in Australia – we have six at the moment – and salespeople in Europe and Asia, depending on whether we go direct or via a distributor.”

 

“At the moment, I’m doing capital raising, PR, marketing and everything else, so we’ll look to get some people to help with some of those aspects.”