Australia is a funny place. Historian Geoffrey Blainey once said: “Every city in Europe is closer to continental Asia than are Melbourne, Sydney and Perth.” But, despite Australia’s great distance from its nearest continental neighbours, we’re far more connected than you might think. Especially when it comes to tech startups and our shared dedication to making them a success.
Here’s our pick of the best tech stories from around the world…
Despite talk of Australia’s retail sector still nursing its post-Christmas hangover, CBA is making an interesting move doubling down on the ‘buy now, pay later’ space and investing another $297 million (AUD) into fintech unicorn, Klarna. Known for its industry-leading digital experiences, CBA says it’s an obsession it shares with the Swedish company, which is Europe’s most valuable privately-held fintech. Klarna adds around six million customers a year and has 3,000 employees spanning 17 countries. How its progression in the Aussie market will impact the likes of our homegrown Zip and AfterPay will be something to watch.
It’s only mid-February, but the global startup scene has seen some exciting fundraising already. One that gets notable mention is China’s Hesai Technology raising $135 million (USD) in a recent Series C round. This Shanghai-based startup, which has now raised an impressive $231 million (USD) since 2013, designs the laser radar that measures distance with light used for autonomous driving. It’s yet another sign that the self-driving car race is on, and the LiDAR technology market is heating up, as this competitor to Sydney’s Baraja secures a significant raise. (And confirms something we already know, lasers are cool.)
Big moves are coming in fintech this year, according to industry experts, with what’s being described as mega rounds on the horizon. Digi banking is moving at a particularly rapid rate and the talk of these challenger banks and their potential impact is moving just as quickly. But, is the buzz around them starting to fade? Are profit margins and valuations really sustainable? And why are some ‘neo-banks’ avoiding traditional VC funding? There’s so much to explore as tech companies go hard after the traditional giants of banking – and, of course, we’re keeping our ears to the ground on our local offerings; Volt Bank, 86400, Xinja and Up.
New to the diversity table is an “Access Scholarship” from New York’s Flatiron School, which says having talent of all types represented in the real world, and empowering them with access to more affordable education, is crucial if our global tech industry is to bridge the gap. Flatiron aims to invest more than $1.5 million (USD) to serve 500 students across its 10 campuses this year. Opening doors for aspiring innovators and fostering diversity in tech isn’t a role that Flatiron takes lightly. Question is, could we be doing more in Australia to deliver on our own diversity responsibilities?
It’s a UK startup supporting the mental health of employees in more than 50 countries. But Unmind has even bigger growth in its sight and has just secured its own support in the shape of a €9.1 million investment. Headquartered in London, Unmind uses science-backed tools and training, while keeping employee data anonymous, to improve workplace mental health at the likes of British Airways and ASOS. Speaking about the need for businesses to do better and invest in mental health tech, co-founder and clinical psychologist, Dr. Nick Taylor says the funding will help meet international demand and take the startup closer to realising its vision of “…a world where mental health is universally understood, nurtured and celebrated”.