Expanding network and building on the momentum
The eighth episode of “Fund your way” reviews the story of Ryan Edwards-Pritchard (CEO and Co-Founder of Cape) which recently raised A$33.1m (debt + equity) as a pre-seed round. Cape is building a new finance automation platform, focused on helping Australian & New Zealand businesses cut wasteful spending and the time taken on financial administration tasks. Cape offers free access to expense management tools, cloud accounting integrations and an ability to issue physical & virtual corporate cards.
Cape is the first venture-backed startup that Ryan founded. Before that, he had two significant startup roles over the past 10 years, including most recently as the Managing Director of Europe’s largest digital marketplace for SMB Finance called Funding Options for 4 years. This was an incredible journey where Ryan could actually experience the shift from being at the point “zero” and going to an intermediate yet solid point “one”.
“I joined when we were a handful of people which scaled to 100, from zero marketing leads per month to 10,000, from one country — to three, from zero revenue to $12 million, all within 4 years” recalls Ryan.
Ryan’s time at Funding Options is marked by evolving perspectives he looked at the company through.
“The first two years I was very much working ‘in the business’, with a laser focus on helping us achieve Product Market Fit, by building out our overall Go To Market strategy & overall revenue generation model. The second two years I was working ‘on the business’, launching our platform into international territories, building strategic partnerships with incumbent and challenger banks, securing our Series A fundraise and ensuring we continued to innovate our proposition with the adoption of next-generation technologies such as Open Banking.”
One of the global markets Ryan analyzed as part of Funding Options international expansion was Australia & New Zealand. Whilst assessing the market, it became quickly clear that the big gap and opportunity in the market was in fact to support Australian SMB’s with day-to-day spend management tools.
What’s more, the Australian population’s 58% fintech adoption rate has created a ripe environment for new players to enter the local market. Which explains how the country is ranked fifth globally for the most amount of fintech startups to have been created since 2015.
With that in mind, Ryan left Funding Options just before the pandemic to move to Australia and start working on Cape from Sydney. Being a true outdoors kid, a true fan of marine underwater life, Ryan claims that if he could choose a superhuman ability, it would be the ability to live in the water. Sadly, it is not possible yet even with current technological progress, that is why Ryan lives within 10 steps of the ocean in Manly, Sydney. You can imagine the view from the window.
With the changes to remote and hybrid work triggered by the pandemic, Ryan saw the fast-tracked emergence number of new spend management platforms across North America, such as Ramp and Payhawk in Europe. While the Australian and APAC market was still waiting for somebody to enter this niche.
“To provide some context, for employees to perform their duties in a remote world they had to spend their own personal funds to be able to do their job, then submit reimbursements, and hope that at some point, perhaps a month, maybe 2 down the line, they might get refunded what is essentially a loan that they are providing to the company.”
When Ryan started interviewing finance leaders to understand why this friction point exists between employers and employees, he started to understand that there aren’t layers of control and compliance inside the payment method itself to allow them to easily distribute funds via corporate cards to spenders in a trustful way.
It sounds really simple and intuitive, but most corporate card providers create incentive mechanisms to push you to spend more money than necessary by showering you with earning more points. Sounds familiar? It should, that’s the business model of American Express.
“It was a greenfield opportunity to build such a platform,” says Ryan.
The pandemic fueled the necessity for a new way of financial relationships between companies and employees. Ryan and the team focused on building the financial spending management platform for SMEs with corporate cards as an entry point to access the company’s funds.
The issue Ryan discovered with the likes of Amex is that if they started helping customers spend less money, this would result in them losing money as a business. Well, Cape made this their mission and in turn, Ryan believes this is how they are going to grow.
With Cape, Ryan has been able to start from a fresh sheet of paper, with this vision of providing all permanent and temporary employees with access to company money without jeopardizing the capacity of the business to control the cost. Whilst being able to help finance teams to set up the right processes so that they can reduce the financial administrative burden of reconciliation, controlling payments, bookkeeping, etc.
At times it might feel like there are only two people in the 👯fundraising dance with a founder and a VC. Ryan was quick to make the point that there are a number of other individuals a founder needs to work with throughout the journey including mentors, angel investors, lawyers.
“At that point, we made the right decision to build publicly, not in a stealth mode. It provided us with the best possible feedback,” mentions Ryan.
A key source for investment in Cape’s fundraise was angels that were typically prior successful entrepreneurs, professional investors and accountancy practice partners. This helped build momentum for the round and connect to the next wave of investors.
As Cape gained momentum in the fundraise Ryan pivoted away from Angels to professional investors that had the capacity to write larger cheques and had a clear goal of securing several term sheets at the same time.
Speaking of advice, the first thing Ryan mentioned is that
“If you’re first starting out, be sure to have a solid understanding of how long it's going to take to ship your first product. If you’ve got a product live in market then you should be focused on how long it’s going to take for you to reach a certain number of customers or specific revenue target.
Regardless of either of those situations, having an up-to-date understanding of what your monthly spend and burn rate equates to is critical. From there you can forecast out what your likely run way is. It’s essential to have enough cash in the bank to help you achieve demonstrable milestones.”
A founder, in turn, needs to have realistic expectations of the funds the start-up requires at this stage of development.
“You have to be specific in what you ask and what this funding will help you achieve over a specific timeline, be laser-focused in that,” concludes Ryan.
Fundraising is a full-time job that has to be done by someone in the team, while the rest shall continue “keeping the wheels in motion, otherwise the startup will be in ruins, there will be nothing to fund anymore.”
One thing to pay particularly close attention to is the ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan), as Ryan explains:
“It’s critical to ensure you’ve got a large enough pool available to reward your current team and incoming hires all the way through to your next fundraise.”
Ryan wrapped up with a nice saying:
“People are inherently good and want to help you. It is a long life and a small market. People from the ecosystem that you meet, you never know how they can help you. Some might invest, some might give you advice or connect you to somebody who can do both.”
🗣 It was an especially meaningful interview for me as I returned back to Australia at least for 30 minutes, to the place I love and wish to come back to one day. I am not packing my bags yet, but at least I already know where I will get the corporate cards from.
I wish Ryan and the whole team at Cape the very best in their journey and product development. It is always a tough road with a lot of obstacles, but I hope the bumpiest road was at the beginning and you are about to merge into the highway.