Local services marketplace Oneflare has secured an additional $1 million in funding as the service begins preparations for international expansion. It comes after a group of three principal investors, Les Szekely of Equity Venture Partners, Garry Visontay of the Sydney Seed Fund and Dr Jeffrey Tobias of The Strategy Group, invested $500,000 into the online marketplace in May of last year. Founder Marcus Lim told Private Media that since then, Oneflare has seen rapid growth as consumers looking for local services increasingly turn away from traditional print classifieds. “We’ve grown 300% over the past 12 months, as people leave print classifieds behind as they become obsolete. We add a lot of value for customers and unlike print classifieds we provide a clear return on investment for businesses,” Lim says. “We’re a marketplace for local services, such as cleaners, electricians, plumbers, removalists, painters, accountants and gardeners. A consumer visits our site with a job that needs to be done, and then we package that info up and send it to local service providers. “The consumer gets several quotes and chooses the most suitable provider for them. Then when the job’s done, the consumer can provide feedback which we pass on to the service provider. Since launching in 2011, the service has grown to 50,000 businesses registered in over 200 categories with almost 500,000 visitors per month. Seeing the rapid rate of growth, Lim says Oneflare’s three principal investors have poured an additional $1 million into the business, bringing the total amount raised to $1.5 million. “The three main things we’re looking at funding is international expansion, hiring more staff and scaling our sales and marketing team,” he says. In terms of international expansion, Lim expects Oneflare to launch in the UK within the next 12 months. “We’ve identified the UK as the biggest opportunity for us at the moment. It has a market three times the size of Australia’s, and it’s also similar in terms of language and how trades and services are handled,” he says. “For the past three-and-a-half years, we’ve refined our user acquisition offering. Past of what we’re looking at is that we can scale across countries. So we’ve set seven KPIs for our UK expansion, and once we’ve hit those, we’ll look at other overseas markets.” “The US is crowded marketplace and many of our counterparts are secure in their positions. New Zealand is geographically the closest market to Australia, but online, that’s not really a relevant consideration. “The UK has two times the market size of Canada, so the highest yield in terms of reward for effort.” Aside from its international plans, it also wants to grow its share of the local market. “We had a very lean operation and have been ramping up recently. We’ve had five hires in the past month,” he says. “We want to become the most trusted source for high quality local services in Australia.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
StartupSmart’s first ever pitching competition, So You Think You Can Start-up, is on tomorrow night. The 10 finalists are competing for a raft of great prizes, including a year’s office space anywhere in the world with sponsor Servcorp valued at $250,000. The business-to-business start-ups will be pitching in front of a distinguished panel of judges including entrepreneur and founder of Kogan Technologies, Ruslan Kogan, Sydney Seed Fund partner Garry Visontay and start-up expert Dr Jana Matthews. The event will be webcast live from 6.30pm, Thursday, February 6 and can be seen by registering here and the list of finalists can be viewed here. StartupSmart received over 100 entries to the competition from a range of industries including enterprise software, consulting, agriculture and outsourcing. The majority of start-ups were one or two years old, with 40% launching in 2013 and 36% in 2012.
High-profile entrepreneurs and investors Garry Visontay, Benjamin Chong and Ari Klinger have joined forces to launch a new $2 million seed funding venture. The Sydney Seed Fund is looking to invest in 20 tech start-ups companies over the next two to three years. Garry Visontay told StartupSmart the trio had identified a funding gap they believe is holding back the Australian tech start-up sector over a year ago. “We saw this vacuum for a fund working at a very early stage. We thought this would be a great vehicle to provide some financial return but also, importantly, to keep the Australian start-up sector growing,” says Visontay. The fund has already received over 25 applications since launching earlier this week. In return for the funding, the Sydney Seed Fund will receive a minority stake in the companies they invest in. Each investment company will receive $50,000 to $150,000. “It’s not designed to be the only investment, but it’s meant to come in at a critical time,” says Visontay. They’re looking for globally scalable businesses that are young (18 months or younger preferred) but ready for investment. “We’re not investing in someone’s idea. We’re looking to invest in them getting to the point where they have the ability to begin earning dollars with their team. They will need to have got their team in place and have their technology prototype completed, or very near to completion,” says Visontay. “Critically, show us how you’re going to make money. A lot of business ideas get off the ground and their founders have lots of enthusiasm, but they haven’t worked out how their model will actually make money.” Visontay says the fund is interested in investing in companies with a founding team of two or three, rather than a single person company. “Getting a tech start-up off the ground is really hard, and a team with two to three gives you greater depth and capacity to grow,” says Visontay. “The skill set is important. In that founding team we’re looking for entrepreneurial skills and business acumen. We’re looking for technical and development skills, and that’s usually the two person combination. The third person is usually domain expertise.” The investment is designed to help businesses work out how to scale their business. Visontay says the Sydney Seed Fund anticipates the funds will be used for experimenting, sales and marketing, adding some resources and developing their scaling model. Visontay urges start-ups not to apply until they’re ready. “Don’t come to us too early. Come to us with your team and your technology ready,” he says. “It’s very exciting to be exposed to so many new business ideas and the whole start up scene in Australia is just gathering more and more momentum. It’s rewarding to be able to provide some funding and assistance to these businesses to get them off the ground.” He says the fund expects to announce its first investments within a few months.
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