Australian fintech startup Finch has completed a “Silicon Valley-sized” $2.25 million seed funding round to further rollout their millennial-oriented financial management app which launched just three months ago.
The Finch team is headed up by founding duo Toby Gardner and Shahirah Gardner — who banded together to develop Finch after studying at the University of Berkeley, California. However, instead of staying near Silicon Valley to launch their business, they picked Australia as a launch market.
After winning best product demo at renowned US fintech accelerator Envestnet/Yodlee, the company has been hounded by investors, leading to the seed round being oversubscribed and completed in just six weeks.
“It’s been a rollercoaster since launch, but we moved quickly to capital raising after considering the timing of the market. We were very fortunate to close the round in the time we did,” Shahirah Gardner told StartupSmart.
The two are tight-lipped on the investors behind the seed round, with Toby Gardner saying the company had engaged a “select handful of strategic investors”. The company is planning a $10-15 million Series A round next year, which they say will involve both local investors and Silicon Valley venture capitalists.
“We really wanted to be thoughtful and deliberate with what investors we engaged with for our seed round, whilst also recognising for Australian fintech to be competitive globally, you have to look to raise Silicon Valley-sized seed rounds,” he says.
With Finch being the founders’ first foray into the world of startups, raising their seed round was an alien experience — but one they had prepared for extensively. The two presented investors with a clear vision and metrics, says Toby Gardner, which they believed were highly valued by those they spoke to.
“We consider ourselves a professional startup and because of that we recognise what investors are looking for and the risks involved. We were very conscious of making sure we chose the right investment money,” he says.
“We’re very happy to see the Australian investment community providing the capital we needed.”
That capital will be funnelled largely into marketing for the company’s app, says Shahirah Gardner, noting the company has seen great traction already without any paid marketing. Additionally, the company is hoping to hire and expand out its team in Melbourne.
Australian fintech “can compete with any in the world”
Finch’s significant seed round and planned Series A is a litmus test for future investment and interest into Australian fintechs, claims Toby Gardner, who says it’s proof that Australian fintech “can compete with any in the world”.
“Money in Australia can rival that of Silicon Valley,” he says.
But it has to come from both sides of the table. Gardner says he’s seen local startups with big ideas struggle to articulate them well, which has led to a lack of investment, but at the same time, he thinks more subject matter experts need to ingrain themselves in the investment community.
This coupling, and an associated increase in experience, will see Australian fintech startups noticed on the global stage, he says.
The investment opens up a number of new lines for Finch, with the founders saying an implementation of blockchain in order to securely share customer data is an area they’ll be “looking to understand the value of” in the near future. Outside of this, the next hurdle is transitioning financial capital into human capital.
“We need to identify the right talent — we’re looking for people who aren’t just excellent in their day-to-day work, but in all aspects. Those are the people we want to build our culture around,” they say.
When raising seed rounds, Toby and Shahirah Gardner say a good bit of homework is required with a clearly outlined “path to success”, along with a dollop of confidence.
“You have to be very confident — confidence and clarity of vision are absolutely key,” Toby Gardner says.
“And remember raising capital can be a full-time job so prepare for that — though that usually means just fewer hours of sleep.”
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