SA Internet startup raises $3 million

By Lana Guineay

Technology moves fast, and so does Uniti Wireless.

“We’ve had exceptional growth,” says co-CEO and founder Sasha Baranikov. The Adelaide-based start-up has had a huge six months, securing a multimillion-dollar investment last August, which helped them double subscribers and achieve an 80% increase in revenue.

“We hit early benchmarks only two months in, and we thought, let’s keep fuelling this fire.  We want to continue that fast-pace trajectory to allow us go national,” Sasha says.

On the back of the boom, Sasha and co-founder and co-CEO Che Metcalfe have just raised $3 million in their capital raising round. The investment is paving the way towards a public offering, which they hope to initiate early in 2018.

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They say they’re filling a “massive need” as an alternative to the often slow speeds of ADSL; and NBN, which won’t be available in some suburbs until 2020 or later. Sasha said that Australians can access super fast Internet right now, and don’t need to wait for the NBN to reach their area. “There are alternatives!” she says.

“Everyone should have access to high speed Internet, no matter what their location or income.”

The cash injection will be used to grow their current Adelaide team of 40 and their network in South Australia, as well as expand into Victoria. “It is important we retain a local workforce, both from a customer experience and quality perspective,” says Che. “The aim is 150 local jobs and millions injected into the state economy over the next few years.”

Uniti started with a question around five years ago, when Che and Sasha were walking in the Adelaide suburbs, and frustrated by the lack of Internet connectivity. “We thought, ‘wouldn’t it be great to have free internet everywhere?’” says Sasha.

“We saw a window where there was a need. We looked at US models, and saw that in Australia it just wasn’t performing. Neither of us was from the tel-co industry, but we were opportunity driven, and we soon found people who shared our belief and believed in us.”

“There’s a digital divide,” says Sasha. “If you don’t have the Internet – it’s social as well as about business – it has a huge effect. We have people coming to us and saying ‘you have changed my life!’”

Uniti have established “Communiti” – a free outdoor network created with each install, part of their vision to build Australia’s largest free public WiFi network, accessible to everyone, wherever they live.

Their vision is to service 100,000 Australians by 2021 and Sasha says that development is all about happy customers. “Growth is really driven by word of mouth, that’s how you go from start up to corporation. We’re really focusing on the social experience.”

The goal might be Australia-wide, but Sasha emphasises the advantages of being based in Adelaide. “South Australia is a great environment to grow, it’s central, it’s affordable, and we have support from loyal local customers.”

This month’s Inside Industries stories made possible by sponsor Bendigo Bank

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