Katherine McConnell admits it may have been a “moment of madness” that led her to resign from her secure, well-paid and enjoyable job with Macquarie Bank back in 2015.
But now with Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes involved in her startup, and having just closed $4 million in Series A funding, she’s confident she’s building a business that can transform the way Australian home-owners access clean energy technology.
“I think that’s the only crazy thing I’ve done in my life really,” Katherine says on leaving Macquarie, where she’d spent the previous 12 years. “Everything has been methodical and thought out. There has to be some madness going to a fantastic stable employer and saying, ‘I’m resigning’.”
The 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.
In just ten months of lending, Brighte’s already secured more than 1000 customers with an average loan of $10,000 each.
The idea for the business came from Katherine’s experience in asset finance at Macquarie — where she developed a product offering solar finance — as well as her own personal interest in clean energy innovations.
“We were early adopters,” she says regarding the solar panels and batteries she has installed in her family home. “I remember realising in 2015 that the world was going to change. I saw there would be these new ways of generating energy, and of storing energy. It became clear to me what the future would look like and I wanted my family to be a part of that.
“The kids are now loving the fact we are creating our own energy.”
After leaving her corporate role, Katherine started from scratch on the startup: renting shared desk space where she wrote her business plan, putting the financial model together, opening a Xero account, and then hiring her first person. In September 2016, she closed her first seed round of funding, before Mike Cannon-Brookes’ Grok Ventures started taking an interest in the business.
Now with 34 employees, the business is preparing to hire more staff and move into a larger Sydney CBD office.
Part of Brighte’s success is that it doesn’t sell directly to consumers, instead working with businesses selling clean energy products to help remove the barriers to purchase for their customers.
“These are expensive items, solar and batteries can cost around $14,000,” says Katherine. “They are technologies that will save families money, but while families might want to access them they can’t always afford to pay for them immediately.”
In a statement announcing the latest funding, Cannon-Brookes said Brighte is a way for Australians to get the renewable energy innovations they think may only be available in the future. “Australia is one of the sunniest countries on the planet – it’s a no-brainer that we can lead the charge globally on clean, affordable energy and Brighte is a great way to help make that happen,” he said.