The 2019 StartupWA Ecosystem Report noted substantial growth in the WA start-up scene over recent years, increasing from only a handful of start-ups a decade ago, to more than 130 today. Not unlike other parts of Australia and the world, entrepreneurs are becoming a much stronger force in WA business.
In September 2018 RAC launched BetterLabs Ventures, a $3 million seed fund which aimed to support WA founders to overcome the challenges of building and operating high growth businesses.
Part of a wider RAC innovation program, BetterLabs was also an opportunity for RAC to improve our resilience to disruption so we can continue to provide relevant services and products to our members.
Through BetterLabs, RAC seeks to invest in innovative new start-ups and support existing businesses to take their operations to the next level.
Ultimately, we are investing in products and services that have a significant local impact in WA, with investments focused around six Emerging Innovation Domains that align with RAC’s values:
• Clean Tech: Technology that enables sustainable living and commuting specifically around energy, waste and water
• Member Community: Innovation that generates deeper connections, fosters collaboration and builds meaningful community
• Third Age: Opportunities that support the transition of the aging population into their next stage of life
• Life, Work & Money: Technology that supports the new ways we will design life and structure our work and money
• Mobility of the Future: Innovation that supports the new ways we will get around
We saw an overwhelmingly positive response to the initial fund, with over 150 applications received in the 12 months since BetterLabs launched. In that time, we’ve been fortunate to be able to fund, support and partner with some of WA’s most innovative start-ups, including Power Ledger, Complete Home Filtration, SpacetoCo and PlusEight.
Following this great early success, RAC announced last month an expansion of the BetterLabs fund by $20 million. This has made BetterLabs Ventures the largest capital venture fund in Western Australia and has evolved its focus to now also include Series A and Series B investments in businesses which are ready to scale up their operations.
We see this as an important step in nurturing a healthy entrepreneurial spirt across the State, while enabling continued growth in a start-up sector which will help diversify the WA economy into the future.