Brighte founder Katherine McConnell is on a mission to bring energy-saving solutions to more homes in Australia, and the “holy grail” of a $20 million funding facility from big four bank NAB is just the beginning.
Brighte is a digital payment platform, connecting homeowners with home-improvement vendors and offering zero-interest payment plans for installation of things like solar panels, batteries and insulation.
In September, the energy financing startup raised $4 million in its Series A funding round, led by Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes. Since then, McConnell tells StartupSmart, Brighte has grown in terms of features, product capabilities, and feet on the ground — expanding its team from around 16 people to 45.
Brighte has now seen well over 5000 applications — McConnell says this is now nearing 6000 — and has approved over $45 million in loans.
Achieving those numbers has been a “huge effort”, says McConnell, especially for a company that’s not yet two-and-a-half years old. It’s come from a focus on delivering a better service to both vendors and customers, “reducing friction at the point of sale”.
But, McConnell says, the debt funding facility from NAB is the “holy grail”.
Before founding the startup, McConnell developed and distributed lending products at Macquarie Bank, another organisation with significant resources.
“When you have your own company, you don’t have access to those funds,” she says.
Yet, she still needed to set up funding capability and “that has huge complexities”. Partnering with a large organisation for a funding facility was therefore always part of the plan.
“From day one, I knew we had to access a funding facility with someone that could grow with us over time, and that would help us get to that profitability point,” McConnell says.
She adds that this particular type of business is complex, and warns founders should focus on their existing area of expertise.
“In this type of business, you need to have more than a good idea,” she says.
“You need real depth of experience.”
Behind the Brighte app, there is a credit scorecard, and the business has to access credit responsibility and make sure it can collect re-payments from users. It also manage relationships with both users and vendors, and then there is the regulatory environment to consider.
“It’s a very complicated business – at every level there’s complexity,” says McConnell.
This may well be just the beginning of Brighte’s relationship with NAB, McConnell says, with more funding potentially becoming available in the future. But, for now, the startup is going to continue doing what it has been doing, “just faster”.
McConnell says she plans to continue growing relationships with vendors, giving more Australians access to affordable finance.
And at a time when environmental issues are high in the public consciousness, if families can save money while doing their bit for the environment, that’s a win-win.
Through being able to afford to access equipment, “they’re able to have a lower utility bill”, while at the same time, “they feel better about what they’ve done”, says McConnell.
“The demand is there,” she says.
“For the families, you can’t get better than that — helping yourself and helping something a bit bigger than yourself.”