Inamo, the Sydney startup known for making waterproof wristbands and sunglasses that double as a contactless bank card, has secured $1.5 million of seed funding led by Club Investible.
Investible’s $1 million contribution is its single largest investment into an Australian-based startup. The other $500,000 was sourced from unnamed private investors.
Inamo founder Peter Colbert, who has started various tech businesses since leaving the world of sports management in 1999, said that Investible brought a lot more than just a truckload of cash.
“You can get dumb money. Through the dot com boom and bust I went through it – and I promised myself I’d never do that again,” he told Business Insider.
“When startups raise money, they can’t just look at the money. They’ve got to look at what [else] the investor is bringing as well… Investible brings IP, support and money – and that’s invaluable as a two-man startup.”
Inamo’s flagship product is the Curl, a waterproof wristband that acts as a contactless device for swiping at credit or debit card terminals. The pre-production trial, which started in April, has exceeded expectations.
“It was supposed to be a very soft pilot – throw out a 100 Curls and get the feedback from early adopters. And already we’re at 350 just by word of mouth.”
Tech giants like Apple and Samsung have smartwatches with payment capabilities and Australian banks like Westpac and Heritage are currently attempting to release their own wearable devices. But Colbert, as an avid surfer, is positioning the Curl as “a lifestyle device” with cultural and sporting endorsements.
Former surf lifesaving ironman Guy Leech has been an ambassador for the brand and Inamo partnered with Visa to get experimental sunglasses into the Laneway music festival in Sydney earlier this year. In March, those glasses even made it to the South by Southwest Festival in the US.
“Do you remember when you were 19? Would you go into a nightclub wearing a Westpac band?” said Colbert.
The capital raise will allow now allow the startup to plan 6 to 12 months ahead – a luxury it could not afford before.
“Now we’re hiring – digital strategist, sales and marketing manager and product marketing manager. And it’s given us the financial impetus to start looking into the United States as well,” Colbert told Business Insider.
Investible investments director Hugh Bickerstaff said that Inamo’s “niche community approach” through Colbert’s connections with the surfing and watersport worlds gave the venture fund an assurance of its scaling and marketing strategy.
“It gave us the confidence that… there is a target client base to take it and spread it,” he said. “It will transfer [well] to the US west coast community, which is similar to our Australian outdoor, watersport lifestyle.”
Currently the Curl can only represent one card at a time, but early next year one-to-many capabilities are expected.
Uses outside finance is also on the horizon. In December, Colbert even hacked his own Curl to swipe onto Sydney’s Opal transport card system. The entrepreneur this week revealed to Business Insider that building swipe access would be trialled next month.
Colbert is already looking to the next round of funding, with a trip booked to the United States next week to meet Silicon Valley investors.
“We’re looking to conduct a series A raise in about September,” he said.
Club Investible, established in 2015, is a VC that’s made of more than 50 members – which are a mix of entrepreneurs, family offices and corporate executives — all chipping in $100,000 each to invest inearly stage startups.