Melbourne software startup Roller coasting to global growth with $7 million Series B raise

Roller founders Luke and Mark Finn. Source: Supplied.

Roller founders Luke and Mark Finn. Source: Supplied.

Melbourne-based startup Roller has raised $7 million in Series B funding, in a bid to take its cloud-based customer-focused management system global.

Founded in 2011 by brothers Mark and Luke Finn, Roller started life as a consumer platform, driving deals to hospitality experiences.

However, Mark Finn tells StartupSmart it quickly emerged that there was “a real gap in the market” for an all-in-one management system for leisure and entertainment venues such as theme parks, event venues and even trampoline parks.

Roller is designed to capture all the spend going through a venue, Finn says, providing a 360-degree view of the customer experience, from booking online to when they arrive to re-engaging with them later. It also integrates apps to provide things like gift cards for customers and time-trackers for staff.

Finn says the number of customers currently using the platform is “in the hundreds”, and reveals that the startup’s revenue has been at least doubling year-on-year for the past four or five years, with some years increasing “some years significantly more”.

With a 50-strong team, including 10 in its London office and eight in LA, Roller supports venues in 15 countries, and has its software translated into 12 languages.

“It’s really scaled up quite significantly in the last couple of years in particular,” Finn says.

No spending spree

The $7 million Series B is pegged to expand Roller’s presence overseas, with a continued focus on the US and Europe, as the “market size in both is enormous”.

While operations in the US are a little less advanced than in Europe at the moment, Roller has some large clients at the early stages of rolling out the platform, Finn says.

“We’ve successfully proven that we can enter those markets and sell in those markets,” he adds.

“It made sense to do a round of this size now, to bolster our presence in these key regional hubs.”

The round will also fund growth in the engineering team, and more product innovation and development. Roller has an “extensive road map” and is on the cusp of “doing some interesting things”, Finn says, although he’s tight-lipped on the details.

The startup will also invest “a little bit on marketing,” Finn says. So far, it has spent nothing on marketing, and in a team of 50 people, only four are in sales.

There’s “a lot of inbound demand”, Finn says.

“We still do direct targeted reach outs, but there’s a lot of network effects happening in terms of people finding out about us  seeing us within the industry. That’s something we’re pretty focused on,” he adds.

“Good products sell themselves.”

Despite this cash injection, the founders are “not going to go on a spending spree”, Finn says, but will focus on capital efficiency and a “trajectory towards being a strong, standalone global business”.

“[We’re] very focused on profitable and sustainable longer-term growth,” he adds.

High-profile investors

For these founders, the raise wasn’t all about the money, in fact, “financially, we didn’t really need to raise the round, the fundamentals are very strong”, Finn says.

Instead, it was about bringing experienced investors and business people on board.

The round was led by US capital growth firm Acadian Software, with co-founder Jon Karlen  who recently sold pharmacy startup PillPack to Amazon in a $US1 billion ($1.36 billion) deal  joining Roller’s board.

Tony Harrington, former partner and chief executive of PwC and former MinterEllison chief, has also invested in this round, along with other Australian private investors, who have not been named.

They join former investors including Telstra chair John Mullen, former Tourism Australia boss Andrew McEvoy, and Tyro chief Robbie Cooke, as well as Fairfax Media, which Finn says is also a Roller client.

Having such experienced investors on board is “very valuable”, Finn says.

“Everyone brings something different to the table … all of them are wise heads that we can lean on from time to time.”

Now Roller has moved past the product-market fit stage and is starting to grow on a global scale, “there are a lot of lessons we can learn from the investors”, Finn adds.

Resilience and realism

For other startups thinking of going global, Finn advises “resilience, while also being realistic”.

Startups are going to face knock-backs, but rather than “resilience for resilience’s sake”, startup founders should try to “trust [themselves] while also being realistic”, Finn says.

“You’re the closest in the world to what you’re doing, as long as you’re sense-checking that with rational data points and getting validation, it really doesn’t matter … people looking at it for an hour or a day are never going to get it in the same way.”

Different challenges will crop up at different stages on the startup journey, Finn says. Early on, getting your first sale is a major achievement. Later, you might focus on financial targets, and processes and documentation become key.

“That’s important when you go from 10 people to 50,” Finn says.

In fact, his main piece of advice relates to getting the right people on board early.

“Above all, building the right team and culture is the strongest weapon that you can create,” he says.

“We feel we’ve got the best quality team in the world to solve the problem we’re solving,” he adds.

“Put aside funding and traction … That’s the biggest competitive advantage to win in the market.”

NOW READ: “People are greater than perks”: Why founders need to make sure their culture evolves as their startup does

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