Travis and Book an Artist among country's top 100 innovators

This article was originally published in
The Australian
August 20, 2021
David Swan
Written by Investment Manager Tom Smalley on behalf of the Skalata team.
The Australian
David Swan

Australian innovation is at an inflection point. The next generation of founders and companies are coming through, and they're bringing our economy - and Australia's future - along with them.

Here are 100 of Australia's top innovators compiled by The Australian alongside a world-class panel of experts.

Gaurav Kawar – Book an Artist

Dubbed the “Airbnb of artists”, Aussie startup Book an Artist was born from founder and CEO Gaurav Kawar’s love of street art and the question of how to connect graffiti artists (and mural and portrait artists and illustrators) to those who want to hire them. In the vein of many art startups, Book an Artist seeks to bypass the often onerous and heavily commission-based traditional art market and let artists negotiate the terms themselves.

With former clients including WeWork and Netflix, it recently raised $400,000 in seed funding (led by early stage investment firm Skalata Ventures, and including the US VC Hustle fund) – a success after the tumultuous year that plunged Melbourne into a months-long lockdown and forced Kawar to pivot into marketing in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth. And while Book an Artist is still a platform for artists, its expansion into the construction industry and even wallpaper design has broadened its appeal and growth potential, enabling it to make $1m in commissions and expand into the UK.

Nicole Tj and Thomas Lo – Travis

Nicole Tj and Thomas Lo co-founded Travis, a Melbourne-based startup that helps users build online mood boards for their next trip. Tj says she came up with the idea after one trip in particular, in which she had dozens of Google tabs open, along with Instagram screenshots and pinned maps, trying to plan a fiveweek US trip with spreadsheets. She says planning a holiday should be fun, stress-free and social.

“Our goal is to make it easy for travellers to go from discovering inspiration, to research and planning, booking and sharing – in one place.”

“We started testing out different apps and tools in the market, and learning about how other millennial travellers like us planned their trips. It was crazy that we were seeing so many people face the same frustrations across the entire travel experience and resorting to fragmented workarounds because there was just nothing out there that brought it together in a simple way.”

Both Tj and her co-founder Lo quit their jobs in consulting and architecture in 2020 to focus full-time on Travis, which aims to capitalise on pent-up demand for travel over the coming years.