Aussie startup Look Who’s Charging has been acquired by the Australia and New Zealand arm of global credit reporting business Experian, following a “gangbusters” few years of growth.
Founded by serial entrepreneur Stuart Grover, his wife Nicole Grover and their mate David Washbrook, Look Who’s Charging is designed to demystify transactions as they appear on your bank statement.
Originally, Stuart Grover set out to solve a problem he was having within his 3D printing business.
He was looking at transactions on a bank statement “and just scratching my head”, he tells StartupSmart.
A lot of the time, what appears on the statement has hardly anything to do with the actual vendor or product purchased.
“I can’t be the only one that’s facing this problem,” he says.
What started out as a spreadsheet became a solution turning obscure letters and numbers on a transaction ID into full details of the merchant — where its located, what they sell, and how to contact them.
In late-2016, Grover was introduced to NAB, which was looking for a solution like this to offer to its own clients.
“It really rollerballed from there,” he says.
“To have our first client being one of the big four banks was unbelievable.”
NAB went live with the solution in July 2017. By the following April, the founders were in talks with ANZ and CommBank. Now, it has long-term contracts with all of the big four.
“It’s gone absolutely gangbusters,” Grover adds.
“I don’t think any fintech in Australia has got that kind of traction.”
Because Look Who’s Charging has only a small amount of customers, Grover declines to share any revenue growth figures, but he does admit “it’s not insubstantial”.
The startup also has 10 staff members in Australia, and 20 overseas.
“All those guys will be part of the Experian team,” he says.
A tipping point
So far, Look Who’s Charging has been completely bootstrapped.
“If you’re selling low-cost software you generally have to bring in a lot of money,” Grover explains.
“But, when you have a relatively small number of companies that are high value, you have the opportunity to grow from there.”
Equally, Grover himself comes from a tech background, and was able to build the software from scratch himself.
Often, people have great ideas, but may not have the capability to act on them.
“So, they end up spending a couple of million dollars just hiring techs to build something,” he says.
“I can bootstrap the business to production.”
However, after four years, the startup reached “a tipping point”.
Last year, the team attended the Money20/20 conference in the US, where Grover says they were expecting to find other businesses doing similar things in their own markets.
As it turns out, “no-one is doing this”, Grover says.
The startup was fielding a lot of interest from international banks, and was facing a fork in the road.
“Do we raise a lot of money and try and take on the world? Or do we look to a company that has already got the traction overseas?”
“It just made sense”
When Experian expressed an interest in Look Who’s Charging, it turned out to be the perfect fit, Grover says.
They’re already international, he notes, and have IP, knowledge and a team of people in various different markets.
“It made sense to go down that route, rather than trying to build all that stuff ourselves.”
The team did consider VC and equity funding as an option. However, Grover has experience with international expansion, having launched his 3D printing business into Singapore.
“It’s a lottery,” he says.
“Given Experian already has the presence … it just made sense to go down that route.”
The acquisition also gives the startup the best chance of success, and it’s satisfying to the three founders to see it growing up and going global.
“For all three of us, it’s been a lot of hard work,” Grover says.
“But, it’s exciting … It’s Australian technology. It was built here, and we’ve got this amazing opportunity to take it to the world.”
Keep it simple
For other founders hoping to replicate Look Who’s Charging’s growth trajectory, Grover stresses the importance of getting the timing right.
“Timing is really, really key. And it’s hard to know when the time is right,” he says.
This advice comes from personal experience. Grover founded a business in 2003, based on what he maintains was a good idea.
“But it was 10 years early.”
Since then, there have been other businesses doing the same thing and seeing great success.
“It’s almost like getting a lottery ticket and then losing it,” he says.
The other thing to focus on is keeping the business idea as simple as possible.
Look Who’s Charging “is so simple anybody can understand it”, Grover says.
“It’s a problem everybody faces.
“Keep the message really, really simple, keep the concept really, really simple,” he advises.
For Experian, the startup was a “natural suiter”, but it was still important to make that clear to the key decision-makers.
“The message is easy for them to explain internally,” Grover says.
“I think that goes a long way.”