The importance of early impact investors – A case study
16 August 2021 at 4:44 pm
Hireup has secured backing from SEEK Investments, proving the power of profit-for-purpose business and impacting investing, writes Jordan O’Reilly, Hireup co-founder and CEO.
Today I’m thrilled to share the exciting news that Hireup has secured $40 million of funding in a round led by SEEK Investments, together with participation of existing shareholders. The investment will supercharge Hireup’s already significant impact in the disability sector.
Hireup is Australia’s leading online platform for people with disability to find, hire and manage their own support workers. Since launching in 2015, we’ve grown to provide trusted support to over 10,000 people across Australia. The company formally employs a similar number of support workers, a rarity in a sector increasingly engaging workers as independent contractors.
Most important for us, we’re having a profound impact. Eighty six per cent of clients (people with disability) say our support is improving their lives. Hireup’s rates are significantly below the NDIS price guide too, saving clients more than $70 million since 2015 – the equivalent of 1.3 million extra hours of support.
None of this – not our impact, our progress to date, nor this latest financial endorsement – was inevitable. Without the support of Australia’s impact investing and philanthropic community back in 2015, we would not be here today.
For me, Hireup’s story began back in late 2014, as I sat on a flight to Melbourne to attend an interview for the Myer Innovation Fellowship (now the Kenneth Myer Innovation Fellowship). The fellowship is an extraordinary program run by The Myer Foundation, offering aspiring social entrepreneurs $130,000 to leave their jobs for a year to pursue their world-changing idea. That plane ride, and where it led, took Hireup from a humble idea to the first flickers of an operating business.
With The Myer Foundation’s support, a first version of an online platform and a few clients to its name, Hireup was up and running. But it was clear that significant investment would be needed to fan those early flames. At that point, and with a grant of $70,000 from the NAB Impact Investment Readiness Fund to access professional and corporate advisory services (now the Impact Investment Ready Growth Grant run by Impact Investing Australia), we began working with Quentin and Amanda Miller of Impact Generation Partners. The tide really began to turn.
ImpactGen saw the potential of Hireup immediately as a true impact business delivering both social and financial benefits. Hireup harnessed technology to empower people with disability to take charge of their own supports. But as a registered NDIS provider which managed the financial and administrative parts of the employment transaction, Hireup also had the potential to grow significantly as a business. They also saw that, as a digital-first model which needed to invest heavily in technology, Hireup’s potential would be sharply limited without funding.
And so we set out in pursuit of our first impact investment of $2.5 million that Hireup would need to scale. We got it – led by a cornerstone investment by The Myer Foundation and backed by some of Australia’s best known foundations and family offices including the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation, the William Buckland Foundation, and the CAGES Foundation. The business could forge ahead.
Scaling a technology business is hard (especially if, like ours, it’s led by someone with a social change background, rather than a technology one!). One of the key parts of the journey is recognising the different support you need at different times. At the beginning, Hireup needed something simple but fundamental: belief. Our early impact investors had that. They saw the vision we did: a better system of support for people with disability. Now that vision is a reality, we’re focused on building a technology and service model that can scale. For that, we need the support and partnership of people who’ve been there before.
The team at SEEK Investments are those people. They bring experience in both scaling a platform business and building a values-led investment portfolio across a host of other technology companies in the employment and education sectors.
According to Andrew Bassat, SEEK co-founder, “Hireup is a company that originated from true lived experience and passion for the Australian disability sector. Our investment will enable it to reach more people, refine its technology and extend its services to people who need it most. Hireup’s future is bright. I am delighted we will be a part of it.”
SEEK Investments join us as a minority shareholder, alongside our existing, long-term and wonderfully-supportive shareholders. From humble beginnings in the impact investment community to now winning the backing of one of Australia’s leading and most respected technology investors, this proves what is possible for purpose-driven organisations. What’s more, this sort of significant institutional investment into the Australian disability sector is new and it’s exciting.
It also makes me proud.
SEEK Investments’ support means some of the foundations and trusts that invested in Hireup back in 2015 will have the opportunity to reinvest financial returns into the disability or other social sectors. Through venture philanthropy or more impact investing, I certainly hope they will be seeking out the next generation of young entrepreneurs with ideas to advance these sectors. It’s wonderful knowing that Hireup has been able not only to benefit from, but also give back to the impacting investing and philanthropic community. It’s proof of just how powerful and game changing impact investing can be.
From here, in partnership with SEEK Investments, we’ll invest in Hireup’s technology, people and services to be able to support more people with disability across Australia. But if we are able to achieve the most audacious of our goals, it will always be because of the early support and nurturing of the impact investing community. For that I am eternally grateful.