6 Australian Startups That Have Had Global Success

The startup scene in Australia is ever growing and continues to serve as a major contributor to the country’s economy. Startups have become the trendy and cool alternative in the business world. However, putting the t-shirts and ping pong tables aside, these companies mean serious business. The Australian startup community has seen a number of its members graduate to unicorn status, achieving a valuation of $1 billion or more. Below we explore the extraordinary rise of 6 companies who have achieved unicorn status (or are well on their way). Further, these are all companies who have come from humble beginnings in Australia.


Founded in 2012, Canva is one of the great Australian startup success stories. Latest reports indicate the company now sits on a staggering valuation of $3.6 million AUD, after receiving a new round of investment earlier this year. Available in nearly 200 countries, Canva are a leading force across the globe, providing an accessible online platform for graphic design and publishing. Co-founder, Melanie Perkins, flies the Aussie flag as one of the youngest and most successful CEOs worldwide at 31 years of age. 

Despite a battle to acquire investment early on, Canva boasts a raft of sizeable investors. This includes co-founder of Google Maps, Lars Rasmussen. Canva now employs over 600 people and is aiming to become a trillion dollar company in the future. A key insight into Canva’s success can be drawn from their number ranking in the 2018 best places to work study.


Another Aussie startup that has emerged into a household name is Afterpay. Established in 2014, co-founders and neighbours Nick Molnar and Anthony Eisen took an existing concept and tailored it to appeal to the millennial market. Their stroke of genius has seen the company explode in 5 years with a valuation well into the billions. 

The model is based on offering customers the ability to pay for goods later via 4 interest free payments. A bit over 15% of the company’s revenue comes from the late fees charged when customers fail to meet these repayments. As a result, Afterpay actually makes a lot of its money from the merchant fees attached to using its service. The service is available with over 900 retailers, and has currently been expanded into the US. They are also publicly listed on the ASX, having sold 15% worth of equity back in 2016. 


Putting the Australian startup scene on the map, Atlassian has grown so big it has made two young Aussies billionaires. At 39 years old, Scott Farquhar and Mike Cannon-Brookes creation has cemented them on Australia’s rich list. The pair are the quintessential image of startups in Australia. Their project management software, built with the customer in mind from day one, has emerged to become a universal necessity across businesses all over the world. As pioneers for the Australian tech industry, Atlassian employ over 3000 people. They aim to inspire young Australians contemplating entering the startup space. Founded in 2002, the company is now worth over $50 billion in value and seeks to encourage the Australian government to invest and promote to ensure the industry continues to flourish.


A company that doesn’t often get included in the Australian startup success picture is Zoox. The self-driving car business was cofounded by Australian Tim Kentley-Klay in 2012. Some reports suggest Zoox have actually been operating as a unicorn company from as early as 2016. However the company never issued an official confirmation. Despite operating as a manufacturer without major fanfare, Zoox received huge funding in mid 2018 which would result in a valuation of over $4 billion. Notably, Atlassian co founder Mike Cannon-Brookes was heavily involved in the funding round and now features on the company’s board. Zoox are gearing up for a major promotional launch of their cars in the next year. They will likely gain a lot more exposure given the backing they now possess.


Airwallex are a new amongst the Australian unicorn club, having hit their $1billion valuation in March this year. The startup offering real time payments is the creation of university students Jack Zhang and Max Li, who ran a cafe in Melbourne together. Their financial pain of making payments overseas for supplies sparked the idea for Airwallex. The company gives their customers the ability to access international bank accounts and send money to over 130 countries. Founded in 2015, the company employs over 250 worldwide and has intentions to increase their staff in Melbourne.

Zip Co

Similar to Afterpay, Zip Co capitalised on the appetite for pay later services in Australia. However, having actually formed before it’s rival in 2013, the company differs itself. Zip Co incorporates a number of other product offerings that offer loans on larger scale purchases. Having achieved a long term goal of a $300 million valuation into December of 2018, co founder Larry Diamond and his team oversaw a huge period of growth in the 5 months following.

In May 2019, Zip Co became Australia’s newest unicorn company, increasing its value over three times the December amount to $1 billion. Diamond and fellow co founder Peter Gray set out from the beginning with the goal of disrupting the credit card industry. Six years later they now lead an industry of their own. Into the future, the company seeks to link up with several of the big banks, especially with regards to their terminals. In addition t. partnering with more major retailers. 


It’s fair to say that Australia’s startup industry is flourishing beyond belief. The companies above serve as inspiration that turning an idea into a functioning business isn’t an impossible feat. The startup scene in Australia today creates an environment where success is more achievable than ever before. Despite their outstanding growth, the founders of these companies would have experienced a lot of pain in their early stages. Taking the leap into business can be a difficult process, full of uncertainty. If you’re at this stage, the advice of a business lawyer may be of use to help with your concerns.

Don’t know where to start? Contact us on 1800 529 728 to learn more about customising legal documents and obtaining a fixed-fee quote from Australia’s largest lawyer marketplace.

You may also like
Recent Articles

Get the latest news

By clicking on 'Sign up to our newsletter' you are agreeing to the Lawpath Terms & Conditions


Register for our free live webinar today!

Price of Justice: Paying the Right Price for Legal Expertise

12:00pm AEDT
Tuesday 30th April 2024

By clicking on 'Register for webinar' you are agreeing to the Lawpath Terms & Conditions

You may also like

Thank you!

Your registration is confirmed. Keep an eye on your inbox for an email with details on how to watch the webinar.