Today the winners of the 2021 Australian Angel Awards were announced, recognising those active in the Angel investment community. The Angel awards are organised by Techboard, Australia’s best source of startup and tech company data.
This is the fourth time that Techboard has run the Awards in order to recognise and celebrate those active in the Angel investment community and the importance of Angel investment to the growth of the Australian startup and tech ecosystem and its broader impact on the Australian economy and community.
Susan Oliver was awarded Angel of the Year, in recognition of her contribution to Angel investment and overall positive impact on the Angel community.
“There is so much that needs to be rethought and reinvented – there is much scope for the creators and technologists and they need the support of funders and mentors and none are more important than the first risk takers – the angels. Often angels are also mentors, facilitators of introductions and advisors.
I am proud to be an angel. I am also proud to have enabled and supported Scale Investors to bring specific funding and support to women led start-ups - at the time we at Scale pioneered a gender lens be brought to angel funding in 2013 only about 2% of early stage funding flowed to women - and to bring women investors into an ecosystem where they also are still dramatically under represented.
Oliver retired in June as Chair of Scale Investors, which she co-founded in 2013, to take on her new role as chair of the Alice Anderson sidecar fund for the Victorian Government supporting women entrepreneurs in Victoria.
“The start-up ecosystem is on a roll. In the past 10 years it has built exponentially. It is exciting, it is great to see the flow of creative solutions to important problems, it is no longer only the domain of universities and research groups – it can be your neighbour or your student. As an angel it is a great place to learn what innovation is, where technology is heading and play a role in building Australia’s innovation ecosystem. It requires patience but the additional bonus is a good return on investments.” added Oliver.
Australian Angel Awards founder Rafael Kimberley-Bowen highlighted this was the first female winner of the category in four years:
“Susan Oliver is a pillar of the Victorian and indeed Australian Angel community, and has been instrumental in facilitating Angel investment and education, as well as much needed support for women entrepreneurs.
“We often lament the discouragingly low rates of female involvement in venture capital and Angel investment. But in a further acknowledgement of the increasingly key role played by females in the community, half the nominations received for this year’s Angel of the Year award were for female investors.”
Leading Angel group Brisbane Angels took out the award for Best Angel Exit of the Year, with a 23x return on its investment in fraud prevention platform Arkose Labs. The group made a series of investments in the company (previously known as SwipeAds), starting in 2014, and has exited only part of its investment over two separate rounds in FY2021, meaning it still holds a substantial stake in the business and more upside to come.
In an impressive coup for the state, the other three awards categories also went to Queensland-based finalists.
Individual investor and Brisbane Angels member Richard Moore won Most Active Angel Investor. Moore, who made 14 investments over the year, predominantly in Brisbane and Sydney based startups, shared his approach to investing:
“I think of Angel investing as a positive-sum probability game. 90% of the time, I will lose money or break even, but 10% of the time, I will make 10x, 100x or even 1000x! So to play the game, I need to place lots of bets. The real challenge is to find the investments.
“In the last few years, the Australian startup ecosystem has matured significantly, so it is now much easier to access a lot of high quality curated deal flow via Angel groups (like Brisbane Angels) and early-stage syndicates. I hope I have a 100x somewhere in my portfolio!”
Coincidentally, Moore was an early investor in Arkose Labs and a lead for Brisbane Angels’ investment, and this year’s exit provided some of the firepower for his impressive tally of investments over the year.
“Deals like Arkose don’t come along every day,” Moore said.
“We recognised the opportunity from the moment the deal was presented. A gap existed in the market and Arkose team truly stacked-up in terms of both drive and capability. It proved to be an outstanding winner.”
Brisbane Angels again won the Most Active Angel Group award, with 32 qualifying investments (down from last year’s tally of 37) into 34 companies recorded over the 12 months.
Chairman John Mactaggart said the win was testament to the active involvement of the group’s 85 Angel investor members.
“We might not be the largest Angel group in Australia, but our membership punches above its weight and is very active in the angel investing space,” Mactaggart said. “In that regard 20/21 saw us get involved in more deals than ever”.
According to Mactaggart, 14 of the group’s members participated in the Arkose deal, and further exits are imminent for other group investments.
“We’ve hit what we think is a bit of a purple patch,” Mactaggart said. “The quality of the deal flow is outstanding, and the time is right for many of the companies we invested in several years ago to exit.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly given the broader economic climate, total funds deployed by Australian Angel groups was down in 2021, returning to 2019 levels at circa $9 million. All Angel groups saw a drop in total amount invested, except for Scale Investors showing a minor increase.
Rockhampton Angel Network completed the Queensland quadfecta, winning won the Most Active Regional Group award with three qualifying investments over the year.
Australian Angel Awards founder and Techboard co-founder Rafael Kimberley-Bowen highlighted the encouraging strength of the field of nominations this year:
“This is now the fourth year we’ve held the awards, and it’s great to see the increasing level of interest in them. It’s always a challenge to attract the nominations from Angel investors, who often prefer to shun the spotlight. But with fantastic support from a collaborative community of Angel groups around the country, we’ve managed to draw out another awesome shortlist of nominations.
“Again this year we’ve seen representation from each of the major Angel groups on our judging committee, and received award nominations from almost all states, including from investors outside of the Angel group ecosystem. This is a signal that the awards program is maturing, but also that the somewhat fragmented community is coming together to collaborate and acknowledge one another.”
The judging panel was led by Jordan Green, and included representatives from the eight main Angel investor groups in Australia.
Read the full write up of last year's awards: