'We really like to aim high and shoot for it': Australian startup raises $111 million
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'We really like to aim high and shoot for it': Australian startup raises $111 million

Workforce management startup Deputy has raised $US81 million ($111 million) in funding in what is the biggest Series B raise in Australian history.

Co-founder and chief executive Ashik Ahmed, 38, told Fairfax Media the raise is a "momentous occasion" for the startup which he started with his then-boss, Steve Shelley, 52, ten years ago.

Deputy's software helps businesses with lots of contractors, casuals or shift workers manage their time, rostering and other critical workplace operations. It also integrates with many point-of-sale, payroll and accounting systems.

Deputy co-founders Ashik Ahmed (left) and Steve Shelley.

Deputy co-founders Ashik Ahmed (left) and Steve Shelley. Credit:Michele Mossop

"Great things happen outside of your comfort zone so we really like to aim high and shoot for it," says Ahmed.

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"Our goal is that everybody in the world can benefit from Deputy and we can get Deputy to benefit from them."

Ahmed says Deputy was "born out of a need" he identified when working for Shelley's former business Aerocare and having to manage tasks like sick leave and salaries.

"These were the problems we were solving back then, it was by pen and paper in Excel but scaling that in a business was really hard," he says.

"We solved those problems ourselves using technology and we realised that every other business, it doesn't matter what sector they are in, they all have the same funding."

Ahmed says that's how the pair came up with the name Deputy.

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"We saw ourself as second in charge to the business owner".

Ahmed says he and Shelley boot-strapped the business, saying "back then one month's revenue funded the next month's growth", and signed up customers "large and small" from Gelato Messina to Qantas and McDonalds.

"We realised the product has such global opportunity, we got our first international customer because a backpacker in Sydney used Deputy and when they got to their home country they signed up to an account," says Ahmed.

To fund Deputy's global expansion Ahmed and Shelley raised $US25 million in 2017 from US-based venture capital firm OpenView and built to 90,000 customers.

Ahmed says this next raise is "really about taking it to the next level".

Deputy’s Series B funding round was led by US-based venture capital firm IVP known for its investment in Netflix, Uber and Slack which Ahmed says are all startups which "have really transformed the way we use technology today".

Alongside IVP, the funding round also attracted investment from OpenView and Australian venture capital firms Square Peg Capital and EVP.

The deal brings Deputy’s total funding to date to more than $144 million.

Ahmed says most of the funding will be directed to expanding Deputy's product and engineering team based in Sydney with plans to hire 30 more employees to add to Deputy's staff of 200.

He says there are no plans for Deputy to move to the United States.

"Software is about passion and ownership and you can do that anywhere in the world today, you don't have to be based in the Valley to make a difference in the world," he says.

"Being an Australian company has some benefits, Australia has some of the most complex labour laws in the world being able to solve that in Australia you can then walk into the United States and United Kingdom."

Eric Liaw, partner at IVP, will join Deputy’s board as part of the terms of the deal and says Deputy is part of the transformation of the future of work.

"IVP has a long history backing some of the most forward-thinking technology companies, many of which are solving some of the world's biggest problems, and Deputy certainly fits within that that criteria," he says.

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Cara is the small business editor for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald based in Melbourne

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