Brighte founder and chief executive Katherine McConnell has just closed a $18.5 million Series B funding round, and says the energy financing startup’s string of successes have come from a lot of networking, a little patience and the resilience that comes from hundreds of meetings.
McConnell, as ex-Macquarie manager, launched Brighte in 2015, offering small loans to homeowners looking to make clean energy home improvements, covering everything from solar panels to household batteries, automation and hot water systems.
This latest funding round comes just weeks after the startup secured a $20 million funding facility from National Australia Bank, and it follows $4 million in Series A funding, raised in September 2017.
The Series B round is led by AirTree Ventures, with AirTree co-founder and partner Craig Blair set to join Brighte’s board, and also includes Grok Ventures — the investment fund of Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes, who led Brighte’s Series A round.
Skip Capital, the private investment fund owned by banker Kim Jackson and her husband, Atlassian co-founder Scott Farquhar, has also contributed to the round, as has prominent retail entrepreneur Naomi Milgrom.
McConnell told our friends at StartupSmart that the funding is pegged for product development, with a focus on artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Brighte provides a digital payment platform for installation of products like solar panels and insulation, connecting vendors with homeowners, and providing zero-interest loans.
It’s a credit business, McConnell says, and already 85% of its credit assessment decisions are made in under nine seconds. With AI and machine learning, however, the platform will be trialling “instant decisioning” in a bid to get this to more than 90%.
“We’ve achieved a lot but we’ve got so much more in front of us,” she says.
McConnell’s investments have come from big players in the VC space. For others looking to get in from of them, she says networking is key.
McConnell started her journey at fintech hub Stone & Chalk, where she got involved in the startup community and got to know major corporate partners to “really understand who was who”.
It was here that she first got to know the investors at AirTree Ventures.
“These things take time,” she says.
“You can’t go in with a killer pitch and expect that within a month you’re going to have money in the bank.”
If you spend time with investors and position yourself well, McConnell advises, even if funding doesn’t come in the first round or the second, those investors may well be interested later.
“You have to be so resilient in this game,” she warns, adding that, in her first raise she had 33 investors, “but I must have done hundreds of meetings”.
And that resilience comes from the network, she says.
“It’s great to have the support of the community to share the highs and the lows.”