Business planning platform Empiraa has eschewed venture capital for a second time to raise $518,000 on a $7.5 million valuation.
The Melbourne startup was founded in 2021, and went on to raise $637,000 in December that year, after an initial $110,000 pre-seed round.
Founder Ash Brown said business had “a half-time pivot due to changing market conditions” and took a more cautious approach to capital raising after receiving low valuations from VC firms, seeking out high net worth angel investors who better understood the business and its goal.
“This seed round was significantly harder than our previous round, the fact the market has shifted so much made it difficult to agree on terms with VCs. So we shifted our focus on people that got the problem and wanted to invest in the solution,” he said.
Brown was a senior manager in three businesses and experiencing failed business plan executions, he came up with the idea for Empiraa so teams had an effective platform to manage strategy. It allows user to set key business pillars and create actionable objectives for the teams need involved, alongside trackable, live metrics.
He plans to use the fresh capital to expand in the US market, with an office opening in Denver, Colorado, next week, after they gained early traction with one of the country’s largest transport companies.
“The growth we have seen in our sign-ups, usage rates and overall adoption, especially over the last 3 months has been super encouraging,” Brown said.
“Our mission and passion is to help startups and small businesses be more efficient, plan better, action those plans and feel better about business.”
Among the startup’s local fans is fintech unicorn Airwallex. The company’s partnerships manager Justin Huang said he’d been searching for a tool like Empiraa for a decade.
“I am so glad that someone has finally made a tool that makes it easy for SMEs to set company goals and, most importantly, achieve them,” he said.
“Since jumping on Empiraa, we have felt the productivity and motivation of the team accelerate. I highly recommend Empiraa, and I am excited for the roadmap they have planned.”
Brown calls his brainchild “a results-driven strategy management system designed to provide leadership with what they what they need when they need it.”
He’s recently released an API integration function, to make it easier to connect a tech stack with Empiraa, automating data for real-time business tracking.
With 98% of Australia’s 2.4 million businesses in the small or medium-sized space, Brown sees great potential for his platform.
“We believe we can help SMEs globally create, align and execute their business plans. Empiraa caters for that market, with no big long intimidating terms, he said.
But having found his investment true believers to take the company to the next stage Ash Brown has some words of advice for other founders when it comes to dealing with VCs, saying the startup sector is under more pressure than ever to turn investment into profit and founders are being pushed to accept more deals that won’t benefit them in the long run.
“There is a growing frustration amongst founders that I connect with that the VC industry in Australia can be ultra-conservative, but then do a backflip and follow a trend or a certain investor that doesn’t align with that ethos,” Brown argues.
“There are some great businesses and startups out there that may not fit a certain model or spreadsheet, so it doesn’t get a look in from certain VCs.”
He believes that view is increasingly common, but “many shy away from the truth” for fear of the power VCs hold over future investments.
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