Australian venture investment and advisory firm Happenco has on Thursday announced the close of its first fund, raising $12m to empower earliest-stage startups to build bold companies.

The fund is led by Ben Cheyne, (ex. Deloitte Ventures), Gideon Gut-Silverman (ex. McKinsey, Google), and Omar Varts (ex. Deus Ex Machina), who bring a breadth of knowledge across startup creation, venture, retail, equity and more, Happenco said in a statement.

According to the statement, they are supported by some of Australia’s family offices and professional investors, including Michael Rennie (ex. McKinsey & Co), Jeeva Suresh (Helix Collective) and the O’Rielly, To and David family offices.

Launched in 2021, Happenco was built to empower accomplished leaders and innovative thinkers with the capital and direction to craft new ventures.

Targeting the earliest-stage Australian startups, the new fund is the evolution of this mission, cementing Happenco’s unique approach to investing — combining an advisory firm with the investment of a venture capital fund.

To date, 60 percent of the $12 million fund has been deployed across 16 companies including Neara, an electric utility software company, The Spec Sheet, an online hub for managing ad specs, and EdTripper, a platform for schools to uncover their next excursion.

Working closely with industry leaders and shapers, Happenco comes on board in various capacities to help businesses succeed — whether that’s taking an active position in the business or providing strategic counsel and direction through the company’s advisory arm.

Since its inception, the firm has also worked with 11 startups in an advisory capacity spanning healthtech, retail, artificial intelligence (AI), and fintech.

One of the most recent examples is sustainable luxury fashion and lifestyle brand Nagnata, which also secured funding from the firm, bringing Happenco’s total portfolio to 27 companies.

“There are so many brilliant subject matter experts in Australia, many with the desire and conviction inside to innovate and build something great,” said Ben Cheyne, Managing Director at Happenco.

According to him, navigating how to get it off the ground can be the hurdle that keeps some of our best ideas locked in a box.

He sees a gap in the market here in Australia at the earliest stages, and the fund wants creators to play their strengths and provide technology build, operational and financial capability where needed.

“We are so lucky to work with so many people we admire for their creativity, resilience and conviction and we want to do more of it,

“In this crazy world we would like to contribute to the growth of Australia’s sovereign capability and capacity to innovate, we believe it is in our nation’s DNA to have a crack and we are here to support that,” he added.

Meanwhile, Happenco Executive Director Gideon Gut-Silverman said that Australia’s startup landscape is shifting, spurring a bigger chasm between ideation and funding for early-stage startups.

“At Happenco, we’re firm believers that ambitious founders warrant support regardless of how tough the market is. Our latest fund helps us to achieve that,

“Success to us is creating the opportunity for ideas to become bold companies. It’s about backing the next generation of Australian startups, bringing them on the journey from an initial spark to a homegrown success story,” he added.

Sterling Black Managing Director Michael Rennie said that the Happenco team is disciplined, performs deep diligence, and their first fund already has some excellent investments.

“The partners roll up their sleeves during good and tough times to support expert founders to build great companies,” he added.

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