New start-up Zero Co has broken an Australian record for the largest crowdfund in Australian history after raising $5m in just 6 hours and 27 minutes to drive expansion plans.

The private offering opened at 11am AEDT on Tuesday to 6.5k pre-registrants through the Birchal platform, which crashed after more than 2.5k registrants waited to get onto the site.

Based in Byron Bay, the single-use plastic free personal care and home cleaning brand then broke another record, being the fastest to raise $1 million in under 5 minutes.


Breaks internet… proceeds to break number of records

Co-founder Mike Smith said the customer service team worked in overdrive to get the site back up and running.

“We basically broke the internet because the Birchal platform couldn’t deal with the traffic load,” he said.

“We were getting lots of emails and messages from customers asking what was going on; literally thousands of messages.

“My mind was a mix of crazy excitement about the fact that we just crashed the server because of so much demand, super excitement about what that would mean in terms of being able to raise all this money that we needed pretty quickly, and frustration that we couldn’t actually go and do it.”

In the first hour and a half following the site crash, Smith said Zero Co raised a whopping $4.7 million and made Australian history on several fronts:

  • The fastest raise in Australia to $1 million through crowd source funding (under 5 minutes);
  • The fastest raise in Australia to $3 million through crowd source funding (47 minutes); and
  • Highest number of investors totalling 3,082 on the Birchal platform for a single campaign.

Zero Co will open to the public today from 10am AEDT.

New shareholders will join the company’s list of current investors including Koala founders Dany Milham and Mitch Taylor, former St George Bank CEO, Rob Chapman and Atlassian co-founders Kim Jackson & Scott Farquhar’s venture capital firm, Skip Capital.


Plans to launch into Europe and North America

With no immediate plans to list on the ASX, Smith said funds from the raising will be spent towards expanding Zero Co’s product range and launching the brand into Europe and North America over the next 12 months.

“We have 14 products in our range right now, but we want to have 30 in the market in the next 12 months, meaning every personal care and home cleaning product that you use in your kitchen, laundry and bathroom.”

The idea to start Zero Co sprouted after Smith sold his wine business in 2017 to go travelling overseas with wife.

“We trekked along the border of Afghanistan and Tajikistan for a month, we went to North Korea, we stayed in Kurdish villages on the Iran/Iraq border – we got proper deep in wilderness, and I was blown away by the amount of plastic waste that I saw in these super remote parts of the world.

“It massively affected me so when I came back to Australia in 2019 I decided I wanted to try and solve the problem.”

Since launching around 11 months ago off the back of running one of Australia’s most funded Kickstarter projects, he said the business now has more than 43,000 customers in Australia and hopes to get that number up to 100,000 households “pretty quickly”.

And while many companies have delivered on the idea of using pouches for cleaning and home products, Smith said Zero Co is the only business “that has worked out how to clean, sanitise and re-use” them.

“Other companies are trying to convince people that they are doing the same thing as us by replacing a bottle with a pouch but the pouch is not reusable, it’s just more single-use plastic,” he said.