Company schedule platform Empiraa has shunned venture capital for the second time to raise $518,000 at a valuation of $7.5 million.
The Melbourne startup was founded in 2021 and raised $637,000 in December of that year, after an initial pre-seed round of $110,000.
Founder Ash Brown said the company was “on a half-time pivot due to changing market conditions” and was taking a more cautious approach to raising capital after receiving low valuations from VC firms, seeking high net worth angel investors who could support the company and better understood its purpose.
“This seed round was significantly more difficult than our previous round, the fact that the market has shifted so much made it difficult to agree on terms with VCs. So we shifted our focus to people who understood the problem and wanted to invest in the solution,” he said.
Brown was a senior manager in three companies and experienced failed execution of business plans, he came up with the idea Empiraa so teams had an effective platform to manage strategy. It enables the user to identify key business pillars and create actionable objectives for the teams involved, alongside trackable, live metrics.
He plans to use the new capital to expand in the U.S. market, opening an office in Denver, Colorado next week, after gaining early traction with one of the nation’s largest transportation companies.
“The growth we’ve seen in our signups, usage rates, and overall adoption, especially over the past 3 months, has been super encouraging,” said Brown.
“Our mission and passion is to help startups and small businesses be more efficient, plan better, execute those plans and feel better about doing business.
One of the startup’s local fans is fintech unicorn Airwallex. Partnership manager of the company Justin Huang said he would been looking for a tool like Empiraa for ten years.
“I’m so happy that someone has finally created a tool that makes it easy for SMBs to set business goals and, most importantly, achieve them,” he said.
“Since we jumped on Empiraa, we have felt the productivity and motivation of the team. I highly recommend Empiraa and I am excited about the roadmap they have planned.”
Brown calls his brainchild “an outcome-oriented strategy management system designed to provide leadership with what they need when they need it.”
He recently released an API integration feature to make it easier to connect a tech stack to Empiraa, automating data for real-time business tracking.
With 98% of Australia’s 2.4 million businesses in the small or medium space, Brown sees great potential for his platform.
“We believe we can help SMEs worldwide create, align and execute their business plans. Empiraa caters to that market, with no long, intimidating terms, he said.
But after finding his investment that really believes in taking the company to the next stage, Ash Brown has some advice for other founders when it comes to dealing with VCs.The startup industry is under more pressure than ever to turn investment into profit and founders are forced to accept more deals that don’t benefit them in the long run.
“There is a growing frustration among founders that I deal with that the VC industry in Australia can be ultra-conservative but then backflip and follow a trend or a particular investor that is not in line with that ethos,” argues Brown .
“There are some great companies and startups that might not fit a particular model or spreadsheet, so it’s not looked at by certain VCs.”
He believes this view is becoming more prevalent, but “many shy away from the truth” for fear of the power VCs have over future investments.