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Serial venture capitalists Daniel Petre and Craig Blair announce $60 million fund for tech businesses

7:38AM | Tuesday, 29 July

Former tech executives Daniel Petre and Craig Blair are planning to use the $60 million they’ve raised for their AirTree Ventures Fund to support the growth of 15 local technology startups.   While it was revealed Petre, a former Microsoft executive, and Blair, formerly of Expedia, were seeking to raise $50 million from private investors earlier this year, the duo said today they decided to extend the fund to $60 million and closed the fundraising early after attracting “significant interest from investors”.   “We were surprised at how quickly it happened and how quickly we met the target,” Blair told SmartCompany. “I think it is a function of investors realising that technological disruption is not going away any time soon, we’re just starting, and that venture capital is not broken.”   Blair says AirTree will invest between $2 million and $5 million in up to 15 technology businesses over the next three to four years.   He says the businesses chosen by AirTree will likely have already received some seed funding, and AirTree will provide their first professional round of funding.   “We’re looking for businesses that, broadly speaking, are using the internet to disrupt the digital market,” says Blair, who says the retail, media, finance and online marketplace sectors will be among the area AirTree looks closely at.   “We are quite agnostic there and we’re not necessarily looking for the next big global players to come out of Australia,” he says.   Blair says AirTree is looking for companies which have already gotten some “traction” and which understand their KPIs and the direction they are heading in.   “With the explosion of incubators and accelerators around the country, they are spawning dozens and dozens of companies, and not all of them will make it,” says Blair. “But the ones that do emerge who have their product and team right, we want to be the guys to help them.”   AirTree does not have a strict timeline for when its first investment will be made, with Blair saying “it’s more important to make the right decision rather than a fast decision”.   This is not the first time Petre and Blair have partnered to invest in new businesses, having previously run the Netus investment fund along with eBay Australia managing director Alison Deans, which invested in nine companies over six years.   AirTree is the third investment fund for Petre, who established and later sold Ecorp, which invested in eBay Australia and ninemsn.   “The Australian startup space is expanding significantly with a wide variety of accelerators and incubators helping bring more companies on stream than ever in the past,” said Blair in a statement.   “AirTree will complement this effort by being able to commit growth capital to the best of this new class of ventures. Great startups, once they have worked out what their product or service offering is, need the capital to fuel growth but they also need investors who can bring proven experience in helping to build successful companies. We feel this combination of funding and expertise is something that AirTree can provide.”   But while smaller startups will likely welcome the presence of the AirTree fund, the announcement of the fund did not impress some members of the startup community earlier this year.   “This isn’t a breakthrough,” Nitro co-founder and chief executive Sam Chandler told Private Media in March. “We still need more later-stage funding from funds in the $200 million plus range who can invest more like up to $20 million over the lifetime of the investment.”   This article first appeared on SmartCompany.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn

Deborah Sharkey quits eBay Australia – Five ways she helped eBay sellers

3:04AM | Friday, 22 March

Self-described shopping evangelist Deborah Sharkey has resigned from her post as eBay Australia’s current leader and vice president, after more than four years in which she introduced several measures aimed at boosting start-ups' trading via the auction website.   Sharkey, who is moving to the company’s global headquarters in San Jose, California, joined eBay’s Sydney team in October 2003 and has led eBay Australia and New Zealand since late 2008.   “I’ve enjoyed four great years at the helm,” Sharkey said in a statement.   “[However,] having worked almost my entire professional life in Australia and Japan, I am particularly excited about returning to the US to continue to work for eBay.”   She will be replaced by Jooman Park, who currently heads up eBay’s Korea businesses.   Jay Lee, senior vice president and general manager of eBay Asia, praised Sharkey for her “agility, results-focus and inexhaustible energy”.   “Deborah’s leadership has enhanced eBay’s reputation as a great partner for businesses of all sizes and a favourite shopping destination for millions of Australians,” Lee said in a statement.   Here’s a few of the things Sharkey achieved during her time at eBay Australia:   Growing eBay’s awareness on Google   In December 2010, Google revealed the top Australian searches for the year – known as the Google Zeitgeist – with “eBay” coming in as the fourth most popular search term.   eBay was also the most searched for shopping brand in 2011 and again in 2012, suggesting its awareness on Google will only continue to grow.   Greater choice from eBay’s global marketplace   In May 2011, a number of categories on eBay.com.au were opened to a greater proportion of relevant listings from eBay.com (the United States) and eBay.co.uk (the United Kingdom).   “We believe that making it easier for consumers to access eBay’s global product selection will improve their shopping experience,” Sharkey said at the time.   “[This will] ultimately benefit local businesses selling on eBay.com.au by retaining Australian customers who might otherwise look elsewhere.”   Championing Australian online retailers   In June 2011, Sharkey provided some comments in conjunction with eBay’s submission to the Productivity Commission regarding the review of the Australian retail industry.   “Online retail offers consumers low prices, wider selection and greater convenience. Australians can purchase goods at any time of the day, anywhere,” Sharkey said.   “Additionally, online retail offers Australian businesses and entrepreneurs an efficient avenue for sales, with online retail allowing for productivity improvements and cost reductions.   “The internet’s 24-hour operation allows businesses to operate free from the constraints of shopping centre or store trading hours, increasing consumer convenience and access to the widest variety of products available.   “These contributions would be significantly eroded if the GST low value import threshold is reduced, hurting numerous stakeholders from businesses to importers.   “We believe it is important to work with the government to ensure further infrastructure investment is made, enabling eCommerce to continue its growth in Australia.”   The eBay Shipping Report   In March 2012, eBay, Australia Post and PayPal launched the eBay Shipping Report, a review of global best practice and how Australian domestic shipping services measure up on a global scale.   The report, which surveyed 1,015 eBay sellers, highlighted the need for further investment in domestic shipping infrastructure.   “Many sellers… acknowledged that choosing a shipping provider was more than just about price – it was also about choice,” Sharkey said.   “Accuracy and availability of tracking, bulky item shipping, more delivery time choices and flexibility of pick-up service were all key improvements that sellers would like to see.”   Mobile madness   In September last year, eBay celebrated its 100 millionth app download across its range of apps, with Australia identified as one of the fastest-growing regions for mobile sales.   It was revealed on an average day on eBay Mobile Australia, a vehicle is sold every nine minutes, a ladies handbag every four minutes and a pair of ladies shoes every two minutes.   After releasing these findings, eBay Australia was quick to point to the results of its Online Business Index from March, which suggests eBay’s huge investment in mobile commerce is resonating with sellers.   “In this year’s OBI, 72% of the top 3,000 Australian eBay sellers said mobile commerce would play an important role in their business strategy this year,” Sharkey said.

Fairfax flags digital acquisition strategy after sell-down of Trade Me

3:25AM | Monday, 11 March

Fairfax Media has flagged its intention to make digital acquisitions as part of a wider strategy to transform the business from print to digital, despite offloading its 51% stake in Trade Me.

eBay follows Etsy’s lead with new Melbourne base

6:34AM | Wednesday, 6 June

eBay Australia has followed in the footsteps of online retailer Etsy, establishing a physical presence in Melbourne, in a bid to further build its seller base.

eBay warns consumers may be hit with extra charges if GST-free import threshold lowered

9:29AM | Tuesday, 6 September

Online auction and retail giant eBay has delivered a response to the Productivity Commission's draft report into the retail industry, saying it supports the commission's approach so far but warns lowering the GST-free import threshold could mean higher costs for consumers.

The Video Network

8:42AM | Wednesday, 24 August

Ex-Microsoft employees Peter Ostick and Josh Iselin teamed up last year to launch The Video Network, an internet TV sales platform.

eBay Australia seeks ACCC talks over unco-operative suppliers

6:14AM | Wednesday, 29 June

eBay Australia is to approach the government and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission over suppliers’ reluctance to have their products sold online, the company’s CEO has revealed.

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