Melbourne-based retail tech startup Brauz has recently secured an additional $1 million in seed funding from unnamed investors, bringing its total seed funding to $2.25 million since the startup was founded in 2015.
Brauz is an online marketplace that uses predictive algorithms to help products find shoppers, rather than the other way around. Launched in April this year, the Brauz app consolidates products, brands and offers from numerous retailers into one location, then alerts shoppers about where to find them. Virtual reality technology is also employed to allow shoppers to realistically browse stores and view products from their own living rooms.
“We see the future of shopping as being truly personalised and customer centric,” says founder and chief executive Lee Hardham, who wants the marketplace to eventually “compete against the likes of Amazon, eBay, and other shopping sites”.
“We’ve created an ecosystem to truly solve the problem that physical retail stores are facing,” he says.
The startup reportedly turned down two previous investment offers totalling $9 million, according to Business Insider, and Hardham told StartupSmart he was focused on securing strategic partnerships with the right investors.
“What was important for me was really finding the right investors that shared our values and could see our vision,” he says.
“I haven’t raised in conventional methods that you’d traditionally see; I jumped into the startup world and started to find my own way.”
This seed funding will be allocated to building Brauz’s technology through research and development and focusing on building its in-house development team, which already has seven staff.
Brauz has its sights set on global expansion and intends to visit the US in September to secure Series A funding and capitalise on the large retail market.
“What we’ve built is a platform that’s been designed for rapid global growth,” Hardham says, emphasising the shifting retail landscape means the sector is ripe for disruption.
“Time is everything — with Amazon coming in to the [Australian] market right now the tides of retail are changing, and we want to make sure we’re capitalising on that as soon as possible.”
Hardham says higher levels of capital are raised by startups in the US in comparison to Australia and US investors are showing “massive interest” in the retail sector.
“It just makes sense to take it into a bigger market where we can potentially find the right investor that can mentor us through the process of taking our tech to a global stage,” he says.
Brauz is aiming to partner with 2000 stores by the end of the 2018 financial year, and 20,000 by 2020, and is “on track to hitting those numbers”, according to Hardham. The Brauz app is currently available from the App Store in beta mode.
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Tips for securing seed funding
“When you go early stage it can be really hard — what you’re selling is your vision,” says Hardham, who says the seed funding stage is the “most challenging part for any budding entrepreneur”.
“Work hard through development to present your vision well and show not just the planning, but also the commercial outcomes you can bring in,” he advises.
Hardham says 99% of startups constantly have to “grind hard to find the right partner” and that “breaking down barriers to constantly get through to people” can take an emotional toll on early-stage founders.
“The first battle they have to win is the battle in their own mind,” he says.
Hardham advises founders to remain focused during this challenging stage, making sure to not lose sight of their core values.
“Stay true to your vision … think clearly through the [seed funding] process about who you want to bring on as a partner,” he says.