Australian tech news round-up (December 2013)

6 top startup news stories in Australia (March)

Matthew Ho is a co-founder of Nativetongue, a language learning game company. You can find him on Twitter as @inspiredworlds.

I can’t believe the year is coming to a close already! The year has been an exciting one for Australian tech startups and this will be my final update for 2013. Let’s dive in:

1. lists on Australian Stock Exchange

Australian outsourcing marketplace Freelancer (FLN.AX) listed on the Australian Stock Exchange on November 15. Freelancer is a global crowdsourcing site where businesses can hire freelancers to do tasks. It is similar to Odesk and Elance.

Shares were initially offered at AU$0.50, and opened for trading at AU$2.50 and settled by the end of the first day at AU$1.60. Today, it’s down to AU$1.28 per share, so that it has a market cap of AU$558 million ($499.5 million). Freelancer reportedly rejected a $400 million acquisition offer from Recruit, a Japanese recruitment company earlier this year.

2. Airtasker raises $2 million funding for local task marketplace

Airtasker, a marketplace that allows consumers and businesses to outsource tasks locally, has raised AU$2 million in funding. This latest round of funding is from Exto Partners, BridgeLane Capital and private angel investors to support its plans in driving Australia’s task economy. This brings the total investment raised to date to AU$3.5 million. Mitchell Harper, CEO of BigCommerce, has recently been appointed as an adviser. Since its inception in March 2012, Airtasker has created 20,000 temp jobs in office admin, promotional staffing, and field research.

3. Bitcoin trading platform expanding, gaining user confidence

I recently saw a pitch by Joe Lee, CEO of at an event and interviewed him following the pitch. BTC.SX is a Sydney-based bitcoin derivative trading platform. It enables users to profit from rising or falling bitcoin prices as users can hedge their bitcoin positions.

It’s gaining a lot of traction since its launch in May this year. I interviewed Joe at the start of November and they had brokered AU$6.5 million in trades at that time. A few weeks later, on November 21, Joe informed me that it had seen AU$13.5 million in trading volume due to the increasing volatility in bitcoins and the announcement from the US government that bitcoins held long-term promise as a form of currency. At the start of December, they had brokered AU$20 million worth of trades.

Joe Lee was previously a developer and business analyst at Barclays and Macquarie Bank. BTC has brought on board George Samman, a senior portfolio manager and a seasoned trader as the COO. They are a formidable team with significant experience in banking and finance. The company is currently raising AU$500,000 in funding.

4. Beacon Maker wins Sydney Opera House hackathon

Last month I mentioned that the the Sydney Opera House was holding Hack The House, a hackathon competition. The aim was to produce a mobile app that will help promote The Opera House and drive onsite engagement.

The winner was built by Beacon Maker, a startup run by John Kueh and Peter Chen. The winning app offers Opera House visitors a self-guided tour as they walk around the Opera House by interacting with Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) sensors. The BLE beacons are placed near point of interests. Kueh wrote about how to win hackathons following the competition.

But the hackathon was mired in controversy last month when outrage flared over the Opera House wanting to retain the IP of the winning app. It later backtracked. Plus there was some upset over the opera company effectively asking developers to make its app for free.

5. Australian founder blogs to read

I’d like to end this roundup with some Australian startup blogs for you to read over the holidays. These are Australian founders and entrepreneurs’ blogs that I like to read and recommend. They are insightful, inspiring, and well written. The blogs document the struggles, adventures of growing a startup, and the valuable lessons they have learnt along the way. Here is my list:

(Editing by Steven Millward)

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