Australian Angel Awards 2022 – Winners Announced

Techboard is pleased to announce the winners of the 2022 Australian Angel Awards recognising those active in the Angel investment community.

Professor Tim Hirst was awarded Angel of the Year, in recognition of his contribution to Angel investment and overall positive impact on the Angel community.

Hirst is a 20-year veteran of Angel investing and unsung hero of Australian biotech and medtech founders. He has actively led rounds including Clarity Pharmaceuticals, CIMTECH, Gamma Vaccines, GPN Vaccines, Immunomic Therapeutics, Brain Changer and Emudent Technologies. Hirst commented:

"What I love about Angel investing is finding an entrepreneur that has a truly brilliant idea that could change the world. As someone with a passion for the wonders of medical science, it's awe-inspiring to think you might back a company that could change the lives, or save the lives, of millions of people worldwide.” 

“As an Angel investor, I'm comfortable being the first investor in a company, but I'm acutely aware that this comes with huge risks. It's therefore important for Angel investors to build a broad portfolio of investments, some of which may deliver out-sized returns, while others might fail. For me, FY2022 was a vintage year!”

Indeed, Clarity Pharmaceuticals (ASX:CU6) listed last year at a valuation of $358 million, generating significant returns for the Angel investors like Hirst who backed the startup a decade ago. Another company, Instaclustr, that Hirst backed in 2014, was acquired in May this year by NASDAQ-listed NetApp. Both investments were runners up in this year’s Exit of the Year category.

Hirst is also Chairman and CEO of an Adelaide-based biotech company, GPN Vaccines, developing an innovative vaccine against bacterial pneumonia. Hirst is bullish on the company’s prospects - asked whether GPN Vaccines might also achieve an out-sized return for investors, he said:

"I have no doubt GPN Vaccines has the potential to be the largest biotech exit in history of medical innovation in Australia." 

Angel Awards in the pPress

Hirst is a founding member of Southern Angels in Adelaide and has actively supported the team since the group's inception in 2018. He is also involved in Capital Angels in Canberra, MedPro in New York and BioPacific Investors in Palo Alto. Southern Angels CEO Josh Garratt said,

"Tim's counsel on how to create a vibrant and active Angel investment group in Australia has been invaluable. He has provided guidance and mentorship to several new members in relation to assessing deals and due diligence. We feel very fortunate to have an experienced Angel investor in our ranks who is willing to educate and support the activities of other members".

Leading Angel group Brisbane Angels took out the award for Best Angel Exit of the Year, with overall a 25x return on its investment in video editing app Clipchamp. The group’s members made a series of four investments totalling $444,000 in the company starting in 2016, and exited with over $11m in cash in August 2021 following the startup’s acquisition by Microsoft. Taken in isolation, the group’s very first investment made back in 2016 returned 42x. Overall the total investment delivered an internal rate of return of 105%.

In what’s been a remarkably strong year for Angel exits in Australia, the category was hotly contested. NSW investor group Sydney Angels fielded three nominations in the category, including an investment in Clarity Pharmaceuticals – which returned 49x to members following the biotech’s $92m IPO in 2021, and another in Instaclustr, with a 31x return following its acquisition in May by NASDAQ-listed NetApp.

In another strong year for Queensland, two other awards categories also went to Queensland-based finalists. Brisbane Angels member Richard Moore won Most Active Angel Investor for the second year running. Moore, who made 19 investments over the year, shared:

“I am again honoured to be recognised as Australia’s most active Angel investor. Angel investing offers the potential for superior returns in all market conditions, and I have continued to invest as the macro environment has deteriorated over the last year. I remind myself that Angel investing is 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! To play the game properly, I need to place lots of bets. Thankfully, the maturing Australian startup ecosystem continues to produce a steady stream of high-quality curated deal flow via Angel groups (like Brisbane Angels), early-stage syndicates and accelerators.”

Brisbane Angels again won the Most Active Angel Group award, making it four years in a row with 37 qualifying investments (up from last year’s tally of 32) into over 30 companies recorded over the 12 months – more than any other Angel group in Australia.

Chairman John Mactaggart said FY22 was a strong one for the group:

“We continued to see outstanding deal flow and excellent returns for our members during the year. A total of $12.2m was returned to members from 3 exits during the year and $4.6m in new investments made. At this stage the outlook for 2022/23 is no different.”

When asked about the secret of Brisbane Angels’ ongoing success Mactaggart said

“You can see from our numbers that we are a very active Angel investing group. Our members thrive on investing smaller amounts in a large number of companies and that’s really our point of difference from other groups. Our members’ skill sets are as diverse as the companies we invest in, and we bring their expertise to the table in making and managing our investments. As you can see it’s a formula that’s paying off.”

Byron Bay Angels won the Most Active Regional Group award with seven qualifying investments over the year.

The Angel awards are organised by Techboard, Australia’s main source of startup and tech company data.

Australian Angel Awards founder and Techboard co-founder Rafael Kimberley-Bowen highlighted the continued strength of the field of nominations:

“This is now the fifth year we’ve held the awards, and it’s great to see the increasing level of engagement from investors. 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. Of course, Queensland continues to outperform!"

“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 seven main Angel investor groups in Australia.