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Chasing start-up value through venture capital

Holly Morgan | June 9, 2017
With innovation high on the Australian agenda, entrepreneurs are entering a new era in technology.

Team Autopilot
Team Autopilot

As the once-in-a-generation mining boom winds up, and the need to identify new sources of growth increases, the nation is once again chasing innovation.

Billed as the engine room for Australia's future, the country is becoming a breeding ground for talented creators to carve out new market opportunities.

Acknowledging the surge of Australian entrepreneurs and successful start-up businesses in recent years, several venture capital firms have been established.

Because as the industry's entrepreneurs can attest, access to finance is an important framework condition for the creation, survival and growth of innovative new ventures.

In short, fast growing start-ups require investment.

For Australia-born start-up, Autopilot, strategic investment partnering has opened a global gateway to future development.

Co-founded by three Sharkey brothers - Chris, Mike and Peter - in 2012, the multi-channel marketing automation software integrates with the Salesforce platform, alongside Slack, Segment, Twilio and Zapier.

Five years since starting out, the business has raised over $22 million from two separate rounds of capital raising, working closely with investment partners such as Australian native, Blackbird Ventures and the strategic division of Salesforce in Salesforce Ventures.

"We have a huge market opportunity but the technology needed to address the problem required a huge amount of upfront investment," Autopilot co-founder and CEO Mike Sharkey explained.

"That is what led us down the venture capital path, although we self- funded the business for a period as we were formulating how it would all work."

At its heart, Autopilot software bridges the gap between basic email and complex marketing software, specifically targeting the larger enterprise market.

Specifically, the Salesforce independent software vendor (ISV) helps marketers move beyond a standard marketing email, instead enabling the design of multi-channel customer platforms capable of addressing customers in highly personalised ways.

Created due to a gap in both the local and global market, according to Sharkey, 61 per cent of marketers in the US - and a similar amount in Australia - still use "batch and blast" email marketing that is neither personal nor contextual.

"In the past, very few companies could even dream of using marketing automation because the barrier to entry was too steep - the price too high and the technology too complex," he said.

"Autopilot is making it possible for businesses of any size to create personalised customer experiences at scale, and at an affordable entry point."

Mike Sharkey - CEO and Co-Founder, Autopilot
Mike Sharkey, CEO and Co-Founder of Autopilot

In addition to basic marketing automation functions such as distributing email campaigns, Sharkey classifies Autopilot's unique touch as a touch capable of triggering hand-written thank you cards when a customer accepts a deal, or follow ups with those who failed to open an email the first time.


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