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Sunday, October 15, 2023

Xero founder Rod Drury and Atlanta Daniel unveil new deep tech VC fund Radar Ventures

“The thesis has been really organic. The fund is not trying to lose money, it’s not philanthropy, and it’s not necessarily an impact fund, but companies we invest in are trying to affect problems that are way up the chain in a moonshot kind of way,” Ms Daniel told The Australian Financial Review.

“I have a long-term impact mindset with this.”

One of the fund’s biggest areas of interest is cancer tech, motivated by Ms Daniel’s own experience fighting cancer. It is also actively looking for investments in mRNA and other fields within biotech.

Xero founder Rod Drury left the CEO role in 2018 and has stayed under the radar since then. 

“I’ve always been really tapped into deep tech. It’s been driven by seeing first hand that everything is finite,” Ms Daniel said.

“[In cancer tech] I’m still doing a lot of discovery. We’ve invested in a device that would have saved me time – a tool that surgeons can use in operations to ensure they remove the entire breast tumour in one operation – I wouldn’t have needed to have a second operation.

“But I’d also like to find ways to go further up the chain … the things we’re treating people with are still so damaging … and I’d like to enable more innovations to get to market.”

Since resigning from the CEO role at Xero in 2018, Mr Drury has kept a relatively low profile.

He emerged back on the technology scene in August last year, when he invested in his first software business since leaving Xero, backing customer communication technology company Atomic.io. ↗

Ms Daniel meanwhile is well-known in local VC circles, having previously co-founded Signal Ventures ↗, and also working for a short time at Blue Sky Venture Capital ↗.

Mr Drury remains on the Xero board, but has sold down shares over the years. In 2021, his family trust Rodanna Ventures Trust sold a $300 million parcel of shares, while in 2020 he sold a $198 million block. ↗

“After years of working hard I have resources to help the next cohort of entrepreneurs changing the world. Through Radar, we can support them in a long-term and meaningful way,” he said.

“Atlanta is a long term macro thinker. Many times we’ve seen her predictions play out. Radar’s portfolio is filled with ‘moonshots’ because we view these domains as problems that will inevitably need to be solved one way or another.

“It’s cliché to say cancer has changed her worldview, but I think it has for both of us. Finding purpose and meaning through big life changes is something most people can relate to.”

For now, the investors have no intention of bringing on external capital, enjoying the flexibility that being the only investors in the fund gives them. They have written a range of cheque sizes, but generally going forward Ms Daniel intends to invest earlier and make more initial investments that are under $1 million.

As well as Australia and New Zealand, Radar has invested in start-ups in Europe and Asia.

“For us [in 2023], not a whole lot is going to change, but I’ll ramp up how many investments we do because I have systems in place now,” Ms Daniel said.

“We’re very long-term. Every company we’re in, we’ll continue to invest in and hold them as long as we can. ”

James Mackreides
James Mackreides
'Mac' is a short tempered former helicopter pilot , now a writer based in Sofia, Bulgaria. Loves dogs, the outdoors and staying far away from the ocean.

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