Culture Amp just officially became the latest Australian tech unicorn – by tapping into the obsession with workplace culture

  • Australian-born HR tech company Culture Amp has raised $120 million in a funding round led by major venture capital player Sequoia’s China division.
  • The raise takes Culture Amp’s valuation to US$700 million (A$1.04 billion) making it a “unicorn” company in Australian dollars.
  • Investor Don Stalter of Silicon Valley-based Global Founders Capital reckons Culture Amp is dominating the global market for ‘people and culture’ tech.

In August, Australian-born HR tech company Culture Amp acted like a true tech unicorn by hosting a huge party/conference called ‘Culture First’ for more than 1,000 adoring fans/customers in San Francisco.

Just a few weeks later, the company has achieved the numbers to back up the festive mood.

Culture Amp, which provides a ‘people and culture’ tech platform for companies to collect and use employee feedback to improve engagement, announced the completion of a US$82 million (AUD$120 million) capital raising campaign on Wednesday, with interest from some of the world’s most serious venture capital players.

A spokesperson for Culture Amp said the raise takes its valuation to US$700 milion (AUD $1.04 billion), meaning the company is now officially a “unicorn” — in Australian dollar terms, at least.

The raise was led by Sequoia Capital China, whose partner Steven Ji said in a statement the company has “carved out a dominant niche” in the workplace technology market.

Fellow investors Don Stalter of Global Founders Capital in the US and Nick Crocker of Australia’s Blackbird Ventures similarly praised the company’s perceived competitive advantages.

“In this day of technological acceleration and employee innovation, Culture Amp is defining a new category that has the trappings of solving for a foundational global need,” Stalter said in the statement.

While Crocker, who also sits on the Culture Amp board and has been an investor since the first major capital raise in 2015, said the newly-minted unicorn is “blossom[ing] into a company that is having a profound impact on the world of work for millions of people”.

It is fitting that Culture Amp attracted global investment in what was its fifth major capital raise — because going (more) global is exactly what it intends to do with the money.

Culture Amp — which already has offices in Melbourne, San Francisco, London and New York — has its eyes on emerging markets in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Latin America.

“This round of funding will help us to continue to deliver on our mission of building a better world of work by getting the Culture Amp platform into the hands of more people, and more leaders, who believe that culture is the biggest lever that you have to be successful,” CEO of Culture Amp Didier Elzinga said.

But though the capital raise — and Culture Amp’s ambitions — are decidedly global, the Victorian Government reckons the development has a local flavour.

“Culture Amp is the second Victorian startup to reach unicorn status this year, with our state now home to eight unicorns – more than any other state in Australia,” Kate Cornick, CEO of the Victorian Government’s startup agency LaunchVic, said in an email to Business Insider Australia.

“Culture Amp’s success is another indicator that startups have an important role to play in Victoria’s future economic mix. Melbourne’s startup ecosystem is growing at 40% per annum.”

While it is all sunshine and rainbows for Culture Amp — and Dan Andrews’ government looks about ready to throw it a tickitape parade — unicorn status can also be seen as a curse.

The road from becoming a unicorn to what Bloomberg Business has called a ‘decacorn’ — company with a valuation of more than $10 billion — can be frought with danger and requires good leadership and strategy.

Investment journal Barron’s notes that is particularly the case when a large portion of a unicorn’s capital base comes from venture investors.

Some of the world’s big name venture capital players clearly think Elzinga and Culture Amp have what it takes.

So too, we’d wage, do its 1,000-plus loved-up Culture First delegates.