Brighte bags $100 million to “go deeper” on energytech, but founder Katherine McConnell is keeping a startup mindset

Brighte founder Katherine McConnell

Brighte founder Katherine McConnell. Source: supplied.

Fintech and energy startup Brighte has rounded out the year with a massive $100 million raise, as it introduces a new business model, positioning itself as an energy retailer.

Headed up by founder and chief Katherine McConnell, Brighte offers credit services allowing households to install energy products such as solar panels and batteries, as well as helping fund home improvements.

The round was led by Grok Ventures, the investment fund of Mike and Annie Cannon-Brookes, which invested some $78 million into the round.

Existing backers AirTree Ventures, Singapore VC Qualgro and Kim Jackson and Scott Farquhar’s Skip Capital also contributed.

Founded in 2015 and launched a year later, Brighte has approved more than $600 million in finance for about 75,000 Aussie households.

Over the past three years, the business has seen a massive 912% revenue growth. That makes it the sixth-fastest growing technology company in Australia, according to Deloitte Tech’s Fast 50 Australia report.

But, there’s an addressable market here of about $45 billion per year, and McConnell is only just getting started.

Brighte has submitted a retail energy licence application, and is gearing up to shift to a so-called ‘gentailing’ model, whereby the business is both the generator and retailer of energy.

Customers will own the energy assets, and will pay Brighte back over time as the energy retailer.

The idea is to offer a seamless platform from which customers can control all their energy management needs.

Currently, Brighte customers pay Brighte back for their solar panels, and use solar energy for about 50% of their energy. For the other 50%, they’re paying someone else entirely.

The new platform will “solve customer problems and try to reduce friction”, McConnell explains, providing a single interface for everything.

“It’s a natural way for us to go deeper,” she says.

BNPL and beyond

This funding comes at the end of a wild year that has seen the Australian buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) space gather momentum, and therefore, attract a great deal of attention.

Brighte was one of the businesses scrutinised in ASIC’s report into the Australian BNPL sector.

While the startup essentially provides a big-ticket BNPL service, McConnell doesn’t necessarily consider Brighte to be a player in this sector. Or, rather, she says BNPL is just a part of what the business does.

It’s a digital credit marketplace and it’s a marketplace, she says.

“I wouldn’t define ourselves as being a BNPL business — BNPL is one of the credit products that we have,” she explains.

It’s also the dominant source of revenue, she says, accounting for about 80%.

BNPL is part of the Brighte customer experience, she adds. After the sale, customers have a direct relationship with Brighte, not with the vendor or a third-party.

They can then use the marketplace to find other potential purchases.

But, while the likes of Afterpay and Zip have wildly successful IPOs under their belt, that’s not on the cards for McConnell just yet.

The business has access to plenty of private capital — all of this latest funding came from existing investors, who continue to offer strong support, she says.

It doesn’t need capital from the public markets, she says. And McConnell doesn’t think it would necessarily be good for the business either.

“Staying private allows me to take bigger risks and grow faster,” she says.

It’s about keeping a startup mindset for as long as possible, she adds. Remaining just a little way under the radar and not having to make public disclosure affords Brighte “the ability to move fast and be nimble”.


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5 months ago

Can someone explain to me how brighte can make money with 0% interest? Those $1,5 a week also don’t cut it so how does it work? Do they sell my data or do vendors pay something?