US unicorn Clique opens Australian office, invests in local start-ups

US tech unicorn Clique is expanding to Australia and has pledged to invest at least $10 million in the region in the next five years.

Clique is one of the world's largest voice application programming interface (API) technology companies and is valued at more than $1 billion. It  will be based in Melbourne's York Butter Factory co-working space and intends to build up its local workforce to at least 50 people in the short term. 

It is planning to open a Sydney office and is also bringing its investment and partnerships arm, Clique Labs, to the country, which will invest in local communications technology start-ups.

Founder and chief executive Andy Powers told The Australian Financial Review the company was aiming to disrupt the "status quo" of Microsoft 365 and Cisco Spark communication tools.

"People are tired of being beholden to Cisco and Microsoft. The largest organisations invest in having both, but can't get them to work together, which we also do," he said.

Mr Powers said the average time it took to get a conference call or group meeting up and running properly is seven minutes, but Clique's average is just 60 seconds.  

The company was founded in 2006 and provides software development kits and APIs for businesses to be able to provide secure and efficient communications by integrating voice, messaging, and other technologies across multiple platforms and end points.

It is Mr Powers' second of three companies, having also started and sold a firm called Reggie Software to Blue Phoenix Software in 2006. He also co-founded "start-up studio" Sabotage Institute.

His family office has also made investments in 250 early-stage businesses.

"I'm very passionate about early-stage tech and the way things get created from ideation to [producing] value," Mr Powers said.

"We're a bootstrapped start-up, but we press into new opportunities and we have an aggressive leadership and innovation style and that's carried us through to being the billion-dollar company we are today. I believe we'll be worth well more than $100 billion as we take over the market."

Clique has 20 million users worldwide and Mr Powers said the company was poised to announce a range of enterprise deals in Australia before the end of the year.

Mr Powers has travelled Down Under five times in the past year in anticipation of the expansion to Australia and he said he was drawn to the market because it had strong banking, insurance and retail sectors, similar to the US, as well as a developing community of app developers and "tech forward thinkers".

Via its Clique Labs division, the company has already backed one Australian company, tagSpace, which is a mixed reality software platform for mobile devices.

In the US it has also invested in ride-sharing giant Uber, secure mobile messaging service ArmorText and group text messaging start-up GroupMe.

The $10 million the company has set aside to invest in the Australian operations will go to building up its presence locally, with the start-up funding to be additional. 

"We're looking for opportunities with start-ups that are in voice, video or messaging, that will drive value above and beyond connecting the call in a timely and efficient manner," Mr Powers said.

"It will be things like transcription artificial intelligence, so the ability to take notes in real time during a call. Our vision is to connect conversations that matter. In banking, voice authentication is also interesting."

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