How Dr Catriona Wallace turned software startup Flamingo into a $24 million fintech firm about to hit the ASX
Friday, October 21, 2016/
After raising $3 million in a round led by Otsana Capital, Dr Catriona Wallace sits in wait as her fintech startup approaches its next frontier: the Australian Securities Exchange.
Flamingo will list in a merger with existing ASX-company Cre8Tek and trade under the ticker CR8, making it one of the first fintech startups led, founded and chaired by women to list on the ASX.
“It’s really exciting on the one hand, and really disturbing on the other,” Wallace tells StartupSmart.
In just two years, Wallace has turned her tiny startup into a fintech firm with a market capitalisation of $24 million and major clients in the US and Australia, including NAB and Nationwide Insurance.
In this time, Flamingo has grown into a highly sophisticated product for banks and financial services providers that plays into conversational commerce and chat bots.
“We’ve been able to fuse web chat intelligence, guided work flow and machine learning to develop an artificial intelligence-based platform that an enterprise uses to help guide customers through their decision making and purchasing,” she says.
The rigorous process of listing under new ASX requirements
After an intense six-month process, Wallace hopes that listing on the ASX will now free up some of her time so she can divert it back to her core business.
“One of the challenges of being a startup founder is you spend 50% of your time capital raising rather than running your business,” she says.
“With this particular model, the markets help us take care of the capital raise.
“For me, it’s a better investment strategy than a traditional VC path.”
Being one of the first companies to go through the ASX’s new listing requirements, Wallace says the process was an intense period of heavy lifting.
“It was exceptionally rigorous, beyond what I could’ve imagined possible,” she says.
“We worked with lawyers, accountants, auditors, industry experts and corporate advisors to be able to fully meet the requirements of the ASX – there’s not a stone left unturned.”
Why Flamingo left home but has had a change of heart
After founding Flamingo in Australia, Wallace went to the US to realise her global ambitions for the venture.
“Two years ago, we went to the US because we didn’t think Australia’s market could engage with startups effectively,” she says.
But with the burgeoning growth of Australia’s startup sector backed by groups like Stone&Chalk, Wallace decided to come back.
“Australia is now ready and a very good market to launch fintech into,” she says.
With Flamingo’s next chapter aimed at Asia, Wallace and her team are focusing all efforts on launching an Asia-Pacific effort this November.
“Part of our reason for choosing the Australian investment strategy is so we could enter the Asian market,” she says.
She notes this will also open up the opportunity for the greater public to invest in a high-growth tech company, an asset class traditionally reserved for a specialised few.
“In the tech startup world, there’s not been a long history of Australian mums and dads or retail investors being able to invest in high tech stock,” she says.
“Flamingo will be an Australian story around making that opportunity available.”
On this journey, Wallace says Flamingo’s chairperson Cathie Ried has played an instrumental role in keeping her focused and headed in the right direction.
“Cathie has been a huge motivator and supporter for me,” she says.
“There is a lot evidence that when women are backed by women investors, there’s a very high likelihood of success.”