Informed Funding, in partnership with Workspace, are inviting you to “Managing the Crowd” on June 9 from 10.30am to 12pm at Kennington Park. You'll get the chance to learn about the real pros and cons of financing your business through crowdfunding - from people who've actually been there.
The session will be chaired by Rod Brown, CEO of the disruptive proptech home improvement brand Opun: one of the first businesses to launch a lift round on SyndicateRoom's platform in 2015 and were featured in City AM:
In 2015, Opun quickly raised its bridge round funding target of £750,000 from an angel syndicate of industry heavyweights, including investment veteran Will Chawner. Opun’s Lift Round through SyndicateRoom raised this number to £983,000. These funds enabled Opun to service its rapidly growing customer demand and to prepare for a successful £3.4m Series A raise in February 2016 with Aviva Venture Capital.
Rod Brown is a former officer in the Royal Navy who has worked in multi-channel customer services, retail services and he was, until 2012, the Services Director for Tesco. In between working for larger companies, he has been an associate consultant for McKinsey & Co. and for boutique consulting firms specialising in System Dynamics and strategy simulations ('A bit like Age of Empires but for business!' as he puts it).
He has been managing director of consumer technology companies The PC Guys and Tesco Tech Support and is now CEO of Opun, a Proptech home improvement business that completed its Series A in February 2016.
He lives in London and Norfolk with his wife, Dr Bettina von Stamm, the organisational innovation specialist, and their two teenage children.
Give us a potted history of your business
Opun was founded 2013 but only started raising funds in 2014. We're based in Shoreditch. The initial team was put in place August 2014 when we moved to the City. The Minimum Viable Product (MVP) was constructed in winter 2014/15; the beta was launched March 2015 and we started trading June 2015. So we’ve just completed our first year of operations.
Can you give us a summary of your funding history?
We raised seed funds from angels found on LinkedIn; we had an interim raise from existing investors following up and some new investors, with lift round top-up from the SyndicateRoom. Our Series A was completed with Aviva Venture Capital in February 2016.
What kind of funding are you looking for now?
Series B institutional funding. Lots of it.
What advice would you give to those looking to crowdfund - a piece of advice they haven't heard before!
Use a nominee service to avoid the administration. Don’t issue the same class of share/rights to micro-investors that are offered to your larger investors.
As you're selling a service rather than a product - did that affect how you went about raising money? And through crowdfunding specifically?
This really wasn’t a consideration for us. I’m not sure the distinction between product and service is particularly meaningful. If the plan and the team look good, you’ll raise the money.
Whatever the administrative pain, we love our smaller shareholders.
Maybe the crowd can get behind a product more enthusiastically than they can a service concept, but SyndicateRoom and many other businesses don’t seem to have been held up just because they don’t sell anything tangible.
How have you managed the administration that goes with the crowdfunding process?
Painfully. It’s much neater since revising our IA in the last round. Whatever the administrative pain, we love our smaller shareholders, who have become Opun brand advocates, which is fabulous.
Has funding been your biggest business challenge or has it been something else?
Funding is always a challenge and it’s fully absorbing for leaders of early stage and rapid growth businesses but there are plenty of other challenges of equal magnitude in between rounds! Businesses are systems and the principal challenge moves around the parts of the system over time.
Join the discussion around business and funding with Rod Brown and other experts. To find out more about the Informed Funding event on 9th June at Kennington Park and to reserve a place, click here.