The Pitch 2015’s champion, Resolver, have gone from strength-to-strength, recently securing a Series A investment round of £2.8m.
Resolver is a free online tool that helps consumers raise and resolve issues with companies and brands. The investment was needed, says founder James Walker, because of Resolver’s strong growth.
Currently, Resolver.co.uk boasts 556,000 registered users and raises an average of 1,500 new cases on any given day. It is growing at a rate of more than 10% month-on-month and receives more than 600,000 visits each month.
“We were making money, but we weren’t making enough to cover the bills. So I had the choice: I could buckle down and, in the nicest sense of the word, run a lifestyle business, or build a global business,” Walker explains to BusinessZone. “The opportunity we have, there’s nothing like Resolver. So when you’re looking at it, do you just want to deliver a small service to your current market or do you want to carry out growing?”
Firmly decided to seek investment, something he hadn’t done before, Walker had to learn as he went along. “These things always take a lot longer than you think,” says Walker, reflecting on his first raise. “The people that we raised from, we’d been talking to, probably, for 12-15 months. When we first walked into their offices, we hadn’t gone to raise money. It was for them to get to know us.”
The length of time, Walker explains, is down to the intricacies and paperwork once you get to the cusp of raising. “You go through a stage one assessment, then you have to present to an investment board, and then getting sign off from the board. It’s a long time.”
Walker learned that a uniform pitch won’t do. “It’s slightly schizophrenic,” he says. “You’re trying to please many masters. What will float the boat of one investor, the other investor doesn’t seem to care about so much.”
Resolver’s offering is diverse and their ambition is to grow into different areas, too. Walker focused on what each different investor’s main focus was. “Ask yourself: what are their core criteria? Do that before you open your mouth, so that what you’re about to say aligns with their expectations.”
The substantial raise has now bought the rapidly expanding company a runway of 18-24 months. “That depends on whether I buy that island in the Caribbean or not,” says Walker, allowing himself a brief daydream. “If that doesn’t happen, our runway objective is 18-24 months. The goals are doubling the size of our team, focusing on growth, driving business services, and building out the infrastructure of the website.”
Walker has moved quickly to seize upon Resolver’s momentum. There are already discussions around licensing in South Africa and Central Europe, and he has just returned from the US to scout how they can begin building Resolver in America.
“My logic is that Resolver is needed. It isn’t a cottage business, it’s a global business. The task now falls on us to make it into one.” Walker has already begun to position Resolver for a Series B raise when their runway finishes.
“We’ll go through the same process. We’re setting up the meetings now, so we can conclude the funding in 24 months time,” says Walker. “But to get it to happen, you shouldn’t be rocking up and saying ‘oh, I need investment’. We’ve already started the processes now for what we’re going do with the next round.”
Neither should a startup lapse into a self-congratulatory repose once they’ve gone through a successful funding round. “I’ve learned very quickly that the hard work doesn’t stop with the money, it starts with the money.
“The accountability starts with the money. The more serious the investor, the greater the accountability.” These relationships with investors are fragile and, Walker explains, were secured through connections and recommendations. The pressure isn’t just monetary but there’s also the social cost of failure, too.
“I didn’t have a Scooby-Doo of a clue when I started,” Walker reflects. “The first step is having the courage of your convictions. There will ten to twenty setbacks for every step forward. Don’t expect the first door to open and for someone to say ‘yes, we need that’.
“Everything will take two to three times longer than you think, and cost two to three times as much. You need to be focused on the end goal and dealing with the knockbacks. It’s a degree of self-belief that’s hard to attain and maintain. Don’t take no as no; take it as no that will take time to become a yes.”