How we raised our first $10 million: An open letter to our first believers

Upon reaching $10 million AUD in commitments, we have called a first close on AfterWork Fund III - our first professional. venture capital fund. Read about how we did it.

They say you never forget your first believers.

Today, upon reaching $10 million AUD in commitments, we have called a first close on AfterWork Fund III - our first ‘professional’ venture capital fund. Our first close comes precisely 155 days after March 15th - the day we said ‘Hello World!’

Members of the core AfterWork team (L to R: Bella, Adrian, Jessy)

In March, we embarked on an audacious mission: to raise a $30 million fund to invest in the next generation of startups, right at the very beginning of their journeys. As fresh-faced fund managers, we knew fundraising would be a challenge, and were prepared to grind it out for a long time. We can only attribute the fact the first $10 million has come together in as quickly as 150 days to the support we’ve had from you - our community of first believers.

You rolled up your sleeves and made our slog your own. Not only did you pitch in your hard-earned salaries to collectively anchor our fundraise, you reached deep into your networks, called in personal favours, and penned soaring introductions to put us in front of the operators, high net worths, and family offices we needed to convince to believe, and invest, in us. You’ve also welcomed each new AfterWorker with exuberance, and together we have laid the foundations for a vibrant spiritual home for Australia and New Zealand’s most unironically enthusiastic startup devotees.

You have been the wind beneath our wings, and there’s so much you’ve all done behind the scenes, without our knowledge. Here are just a few notable stories and anecdotes that move us and make us smile:

  • Abhi talked about AfterWork at home so much that both his Dad and his Dad’s walking buddy heard about it, and decided to invest.
  • Similarly, Alice is investing alongside her Mum, Helen. Alice had done such a comprehensive job explaining the investment opportunity, that Helen’s only outstanding question for us was, “Why is there a picture of a banana taped to a wall in your pitch deck?”
  • Norman’s emails introducing us to other operators always give us warm fuzzies. He’s very generous in his characterisation of us as a put-together, considered group of people. He kindly neglects to mention that he’s seen us on several occasions squatting on the pavement outside Canva’s office, taking Zoom calls while munching on a banh mi.
  • GG and Anna introduced us to not one, but four, Bain partners - who’ve all ended up investing. When these Bain partners inevitably asked highly technical Bain-partneresque questions, they helped to field them like a virtuoso.
  • Tim Brewer, when invited to speak on a panel about his experience building Functionly (one of our portfolio companies), went off-script and used his precious time in the sun to spruik AfterWork as investors.
  • Hayley and Lucien had dinner with an investor who wanted to understand AfterWork’s community-powered advantage from the perspective of a community member. They did such a thorough job of fielding questions, that when this investor arrived at a final dinner with the AfterWork team, he said, “I have no questions left”.
  • Respected industry titans Mark Finn, Gabe Warren, Tim Gerrard, and Surya Raviganesh staked their professional reputations on AfterWork, opening door after door to rooms full of institutional investors and corporate heavyweights, and pitching AfterWork alongside us with zeal and conviction.
  • Everyone knows that merch is the ultimate hype machine! When AfterWork’s merch arrived in the middle of Sydney’s lockdown, Casey and Jethro selflessly volunteered to act as distribution nodes, helping to deliver merch to customers and investors in a cost-effective and COVID-safe manner.

This $10 million first close is not, in any respects, an end. It is not even the end of the beginning. It is the beginning of the beginning: we have $20 million more to raise; and the humbling task of deploying this capital to supercharge the next generation of iconic Aussie and Kiwi startups.

Today’s milestone is not the celebration of an achievement, but a chance to recognise those who’ve helped us get to the starting line, and who stand here alongside us. Thank you for believing in us, even as our belief in ourselves sometimes wavered. Your belief is what has allowed us to turn what started after work into our life’s work.

Your faith in us means more than you know.

With our sincere gratitude,

Dave, Adrian, Alex, Jessy, Bella, Mike, and Adam

We’re so fortunate to know this motley crew of ambitious, insatiably curious, and astoundingly generous people, who’ve all put skin in the game of our success. If you are a startup / tech enthusiast with significant operational experience and a desire to invest in the next generation of startups via an AfterWork fund, we would love to hear from you.

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