On 21 June, we’re holding the first in our Readiness Event Series in Sydney, a panel on raising capital and how to prepare for the next funding round. Find out more about the event and how to attend here.
Ahead of our first Readiness Event Series panel, we spoke to one of our panel members, Richard Kimber, on how he raised nearly $9 million for his artificial intelligence company Daisee
You built your first company from scratch in 1998; HSBC InvestDirect, which was later sold to Merrill Lynch. Since then, you’ve amassed a wealth of experience in industry, how has this changed the way you are building Daisee?
Great companies are built on great talent. From my experience at Google, I became a guru of recruitment. One of our first hires at Daisee was an internal recruiter, which helped us quickly build a talented team. Hiring an A grade team is fundamental to a knowledgeable business. We are blending academic and commercial experts – a unique combination. I’ve also come to value the importance of data. Business strategy and important decisions should be informed by data. It’s no good just relying on your gut feel. You need to back up your decisions. As an AI company, we are focused on enhancing our intuition with endless data to increase our innate capability.
You went down a rather unconventional funding route for startups, raising from family offices and boutique funds as opposed to venture capital. What impact has that had on how you deploy the capital in the company?
We are deeply ambitious and focused on growing as fast as possible. It’s clear there is a window of opportunity, and we are grabbing it without hesitation. Our investors aligned with our vision from the start and want to ensure we are successful.
Do you expect other startups will follow in your footsteps and choose alternative funding routes?
In an Australian context – yes. The VC industry here is still very small, so I believe you have to look at all of your options.
What’s the best piece of advice you have for startups looking to raise capital?
Focus on a clear narrative and make it easy for an investor to understand why you are going to win in your space. Back your story up with reasoning and examples of when you have done it before.
How do you ensure you remain ready for the next capital raising?
I remain focused on developing the key things that ensure we have a successful business: strong evidence of product/market fit, a clear product roadmap, as well as our fundamental financial drivers and unit economics, such as increasing annual recurring revenue. We conduct quarterly reviews of how we are doing against each of these areas to ensure we're always on track to meet our internal business goals.
The amount and types of funding for startups in Australia has changed dramatically over the past decade. Do you think the influx of capital is having a major impact on how startups raise capital?
The funding scene in Australia is still evolving. While there is a great deal of capital flowing in, raising B series onwards is still hard. We haven’t seen enough exits to date, which highlights we must still tackle issues around confidence and conviction. I’m optimistic that five more years will show the fruits.
You’ve talked about learning how to use data to inform every decision you make. Do you think that’s a skill many startup founders have?
It’s hard to generalise. Soft data and hard data go hand in hand, and I believe that being close to your customer is still the best intel you can get. Ultimately inference is critical. I think many founders need the skills to be a great sales and marketing person - this is what you do most of the time. Founders don’t have time to over analyse every move, you need intuition and bravery as well. Time is your biggest enemy.
What are the biggest mistakes you see other startups make in raising capital?
I've seen many founders who focus on big valuations too early in their startup; it’s fool’s gold. Some raise too much from family and friends, or create complex capital structures that make it far more difficult to raise more capital down the road. Others taken on 'strategic' investors that can ultimately be a handbrake on the business or use advisers that simply don't know the business.
Do you foresee any challenges in raising capital for Daisee in future? How are you looking to ward off those challenges?
As CEO, it is my responsibility is to source our capital. Mitigating risks associated with that is a key part of my role. I believe in optionality, so I build options for our business every day. The best way to ensure we raise the capital we need is to build an awesome business; this is my primary strategy. If we get this right, we will have more funding than we ever need!
To hear more about Daisee's journey and Richard's experience, register for our growth-ready event on capital raising here.
Richard has more than 25 years of global leadership experience spanning chief executive and board roles across financial services, marketing, social media, and capital markets. Having held execute roles at Google, ANZ, HSBC as well as Australian successes like Friendster and OFX Group, Richard has built and scaled startups as well as growing global strategies. Richard founded Daisee in 2017 with an outlook to build Artificial Intelligence solutions that bridge the gap between technical AI and commercial applications, especially in the field of vision and voice. For what is effectively his second startup from scratch, Richard chose a less conventional funding path, raising $9 million in capital from private investors like Thorney Investments and Alium Capital, instead of the traditional venture capital firms many startups firms use.