Zero Co, Ofload and Mad Paws: The startup winners of the 2022 Smart50 awards – SmartCompany


Smart50 startup winners

Luggage startup July has taken the top spot in SmartCompany’s 2022 Smart50 list , but its just one of several startups to be recognised in the honours this year.

July makes an incredible comeback after COVID-19 plummet

Luggage disruptor July has showed incredible resilience after its revenue tanked by 90% across 2019 and 2020. Now the luxe luggage brand has become a modern icon for jetsetting Aussies and is projected to have a $40 million valuation by the end of the year.

Its sleek design and lifetime warranty have been paired with a custom wheel design, which the company spent half of it initial capital on. July had identified luggage wheels as a particular pain point for customers and looked to solve it. Its premier product, the Carry-On, has now multiplied into 25 different bags and accessories with 168 variants across the range.

Ofloading Australia’s freight problems

Following closely behind in the number two spot on this year’s Smar50 list is freight logistics new venture Ofload . It’s only been in business since 2019 but it has made a mark by tackling issues that plague Australia’s freight system by increasing overall visibility and removing inefficiencies with its centralised supply chain ecosystem

This is great timing considering it just announced a casual $60 million raise .

Rising stars and innovators


No Co body care range. Source: supplied

Sydney-based pet start-up Crazy Paws also saw a drop in revenue during COVID-19 but fought through it and found opportunity in the 25% increase in dog and cat ownership during the pandemic.

These efforts have landed the startup in fourth position on the 2022 Smart50 list, having grown by 251% in the past financial year, and earned it the 2022 Smart50 Innovator Award.

The platform was launched in 2014 and connects pet parents with local, trustworthy sitters for when they’re away. Users can customise their search to find the right person for the fur baby and are guaranteed love and attention without the worry of cages or kennels.

Since launching, Mad Paws has expanded its services to include dog grooming and training.   The company is working towards 20% year-on-year growth over the next four years.

Sticking with New South Wales, Byron Bay based startup Zero Co also took out this year’s Smar50 Rising Star Honor, following in the footsteps of last year’s winner, Mr Yum. Founder Mike Smith launched the eco-friendly cleaning plus body care range right after finding plastic waste all over the world — even in some of the most remote areas.

After being knocked back repeatedly by potential investors, Zero Co turned to Kickstarter back in 2019. It became the particular platform’s most successful campaign that year, with 7, 000 household orders. Right now it has 14 products within the range and can be found in over 70, 000 Australian households. It also became Australia’s fasted and largest crowd-sourced campaign of all time by raising $5 million in under seven hours.

And just recently the brand received international attention for raising more than $260, 000 with regard to global cleanup efforts after building a pyramid of rubbish in Egypt .

According to Zero Co, it is the only company of its type in the world that has built a closed-loop solution to combat global waste. Now it’s aiming to scale into every Australian household and business and go global.

Community heroes

When it comes to community heroes, it’s no surprise that Code Like a Girl was our winner this year.

Code Like A Girl which furthermore placed 29th on this year’s Smart50 list thanks to income growth of 46% final financial year —  is a social enterprise that provides tools and support for girls and women entering the world of coding. The aim is to provide courses and upskill opportunities so they can enter sustainable IT jobs.

As a technology a journalist, I can attest to just how difficult it still is for women to break into, and be accepted by, the tech sector. It’s even harder if this is a mid-career pivot, particularly when government support regarding these kinds of ventures has been pulled .

What Code Just like a Girl is doing is imperative to the local tech scene, especially as the tech skills job crisis continues.

Retail and marketing startup champions

Hero Packaging founders

Hero Packaging co-founders Vikram Davé plus Anaita Sarkar. Source: supplied.

Skincare startup Botanicals by Luxe has won the 2022 Smart50 Marketing award, thanks to the growth of its personal and sustainable approach to skincare.

The Geelong-based business was started in 2018 by Bec Connolly, who brought 17 years of skin therapist experience to the products. Still, in the initial stages of the startup company Connolly found it difficult to land a manufacturer as they didn’t take her seriously.

The brand name combines cosmetic science with sustainable and natural ingredients to provide “a strategy for every skin”. It is also 100% vegan and cruelty-free. The brand will be next pushing into the sunscreen space after working on this for over 18 months.

And our retail champion award has gone to the eco-friendly Hero Packaging . The fast-growing startup, which nabbed the 13th spot on this year’s Smart50 list, offers home-compostable, zero-waste packaging in order to businesses and individuals.

The inspiration for the company came from a previous business that used a high volume of plastic to ship orders. So the co-founders began researching alternatives and decided on certified compostable packaging. A simple $10 a day Google ad offering free samples resulted in 1000 sign ups within a week.

Today, Hero Packaging is partnered with over 40, 000 businesses globally and has extended into more products, including a water-soluble garment bag.

You want more startups? We have more online companies

There are plenty a lot more startups to be found on the 2022 Smart50 list, which you can conveniently view here .

But as a little teaser, you’ll find  last year’s winner , health technology startup InstantScripts , at number seven. And if you hadn’t had enough puppy content, premium pet food company Scratch is number 18 on the list.

Sydney’s co-working space Tank Stream Labs and express delivery disruptor Zoom2u also make an appearance in the top 30.

And for the software fans, digital intranet and workplace company LiveTiles is also on the list.

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