Behind The Raise with Porter

Gary Piazzon founded Porter after becoming frustrated finding a suitable hotel. He shares some of his key learnings from fundraising and his biggest mistake in this edition of #BehindTheRaise.

Tell us about Porter and how you came up with the idea

It was a nightmare, timely and stressful booking experience that led me to the idea of Porter; I visited one of the large online travel agents, entered my search criteria and was hit with a pretty intimidating 2,000+ results.

I wrongly assumed the hotels near the top of the list would be a great match for me. They were nowhere near where I wanted to stay and only appeared higher up as they were clearly paying a higher rate of commission.

That got me thinking, why see the results you’re not interested in?

Porter is designed to make booking a hotel simple and fun by learning about the elements that matter to users so it can assess the thousands of potential property options to help recommend the right places to stay.

In a nutshell, Porter simplifies hotel booking, by only recommending your best matches. 

Why did you decide to raise investment?

Raising investment was pretty much a necessity to really get things off the ground.

As we’re building a very technical platform leveraging various levels of machine learning and artificial intelligence, we needed to ensure we could attract the right talent, as well as pay the bills for hosting etc. so raising investment was really important from that perspective.

Beyond the technical aspects, it’s also been crucial in helping us raise some initial awareness of the site, and further we purposely targeted ‘smart money’ and ended up with a collection of very experienced, knowledgeable investors, all of whom have contributed advice, support and knowledge to the business. 

What is your top tip for anyone raising investment for the first time?

My top tip would be to ensure you have a clear story, and think about the traction you can show to demonstrate interest.

From a story point of view, I think it’s really important that when investors look at your pitch, or speak to you, they come away with a really clear understanding of what you’re trying to do, why you’re doing it, and how you’ll do it better than anyone else.

You should then be able to support this with some sort of traction that demonstrates people being interested. This could be in the form of users signing up to your pre-launch page, user engagement on your MVP, revenue numbers etc. 

What attracted investors to your company?

I’d say there were a few key things:

·        All of our investors resonated with the problem we’re trying to solve. They’d all experienced the frustration and wasted time of endlessly searching for the right place to stay when going on holiday. This immediately put us in a good position when discussing the business.

·        Secondly they recognised that there’s an enormous opportunity to go after, and the market has proven itself capable of supporting numerous large players. Globally, the online travel agent market is worth c£440bn, but in the UK alone, the market is worth around £35bn. That means, even if we were to capture 1% of the market, we’d be achieving £350m of revenue.

·        The final thing that attracted investors to our company was our strong founding team, and the interest we’d demonstrated through our pre-launch page. We built an initial team with experience spanning Development, UX, Product and Marketing and built a pre-launch waitlist of over 3,000 users. The combination of these two points gave our investors the confidence that we were the right team to try and tackle the problem. 

My biggest fundraising mistake was…

Initially failing to adapt pitches and conversations for my audience. I quickly learnt that different types of investors were looking for different information from our discussions, with a big difference between angels who were much more interested in the vision and team, versus VCs who were much more focused on the quantitative side of things. 

Why did you choose to use Angel Investment Network?

I was actually recommended to AIN from a fellow founder who has previously raised a number of rounds through the platform.

AIN was a no-brainer thanks to its ability to connect us with such a large number of investors. Not only did using AIN help us successfully close our pre-seed round, but it also helped us meet some really interesting industry experts.  

What is the main focus for Porter for the year ahead?

We’ve actually recently started raising our next round of funding to allow us to accelerate product development, grow our team and reach more people.

This is a really exciting time for Porter. As travel restrictions start to ease, we’re already starting to see an uplift in people wanting to travel. Our focus now is ensuring we’re best placed to help as many users as possible discover and book their best matched trips. 

Keen to hear more?

If you would like to see what other companies are up to on Angel Investment Network, or are interested in raising funding yourself, you can find your local network here.

#StartUpBuzz


Each month our team selects some of the companies raising on Angel Investment Network that really stand out, as part of our #StartUpBuzz feature.

This month’s picks includes: Smart Container Co – real time tracking for beer kegs, Bx Technologies, a platform facilitating carbon offsetting by connecting corporates with farms, and ARQ, an investment platform for personalised wealth management using AI.

Smart Container Co

Enabling Transparency and a net-zero draught beer supply chain.

Smart Container Co turns traditional kegs into ‘smart’ containers, so that breweries, distributors and pubs can monitor the state of the beer inside, by combining a small waterproof IOT device connected to each keg (a KEGTRACKER), with their BEVEREDGE software.

It means that relevant parties can track the location, volume, temperature and motion for the liquid inside, reducing the risk of wasted stock, helping obtain more accurate shipping information, and gaining granular information about which product is being consumed where and when.

– UK patent pending 
– Chairman with 30 years experience including SAB Miller
– Piloting technology with Brewdog.

Sam Louis, Head of Consultancy, Angel Investment Network shared why he is most impressed by Smart Container Co:

“We’ve known the Smart Container team for a while now and have been incredibly impressed with their progress. What we like is that they have a product that integrates smoothly into an exceptionally large existing market, giving significant opportunity for fast scale.

Since we first spoke with them, they’ve built strong relationships with some of the largest brewers and keg owners in the world, all of which have approached them cold. The timing is also very good – the pandemic has meant pubs and bars have become increasingly open to technology, something that was previously a hurdle, and many breweries have seen strong profits from retail sales.

All in all, it sets the company in a very strong position going forward and we’re excited to see where they go next”.

Find about more about Smart Container Co here.

Bx Technologies  

Helping farms prove carbon emissions and offsetting – connecting farm to corporates.

Farmers are incentivised to maximise crop yields, but are rarely accountable for their carbon footprint. However, there is enormous interest in carbon offsetting from corporates to help them meet their ESG goals. 

Bx Technologies is the first two sided marketplace that connects corporations with farms and agriculture, reversing climate change through carbon offsetting and economic service investment. 

Bx Technologies use a farm management SAAS system with a trading platform powered by blockchain to create a carbon credit investing platform, allowing farmers to see both their carbon position and the profitability of their orchard. At the same time, Bx offers Ecosystem Service Investments for corporates, securing a long term supply of carbon offset tokens. 

– 1st SAAS client signed – paying $200k per year. 
– Expected to hit profitability by March ‘22
– Pipeline of over 12k hectares established 

In terms of what excites him about Bx, Sam Louis explains:

“We were drawn to Bx Technologies for a number of reasons, the first of which was the boldness of their mission – remove 500m tons of carbon from the atmosphere per year. They’re operating in an exceptionally important and exciting vertical, with the opportunity to make an incredible impact on the planet as well creating massive growth potential.

They’ve tied these lofty aims to a strong underlying business model, with profitability within sight, and they aren’t expecting any altruism to make their business work. They’ve aligned the incentives of all their stakeholders, making it genuinely robust model. All in all, it’s the type of business we love – exciting, impactful and pragmatic.”

Find out more about  BxTechnologies here

ARQ 

A wealth management app using AI personalised insights and comparisons. 

 ARQ is an investment platform that creates a personalised wealth management experience using AI and deep science. 

The intelligent tools rank your investments performance using huge quantities of data and gives insights that can be used to improve your portfolio. ARQ are making tools that are only available to the super rich to more mainstream investors. 

– A team with over 100+ years experience in financial services 

– ARQ are offering white label services for wealth managers 

– In house tech team behind leading fintech apps.

Xavier Ballester, Director of Angel Investment Network’s Brokerage Division shares why he is particularly impressed with ARQ.

“What I love about Arq is that I have this very issue: an Excel sheet with my various investments that doesn’t really give much insight after I have made my initial decision to invest. The beauty of this platform is that I can see my net worth and how my money is working for me and I imagine it will be a huge hit with financial advisors too.” 

Find out more about ARQ here.

Keen to discover other startups?

If you would like to see what other companies are up to on Angel Investment Network you can find them through your local network here.

Behind the Raise with eleXsys Energy

Richard Romanowski is co-founder and Executive Director of eleXsys Energy. eleXsys has developed a unique, international award-winning, enabling technology that will drive the transition of global energy grids to a clean energy future.

Tell us about eleXsys and how you came up with the idea?
My co-founder, Dr. Bevan Holcombe, was a senior engineer at an Australian distribution utility with 30 years’ experience and was working on how to decarbonise the local suburban grid.  I was a cleantech angel investor, looking for fabulous ideas.

The biggest issue to local decarbonisation is that the grid was designed as a one way grid. Bevan was trying to find a way to solve this problem, that is, the very limited grid hosting capacity of renewables due to the one-way grid design. He could not find a solution anywhere so in 2012 we decided to team up and started a company now called eleXsys Energy to solve this problem.

eleXsys in simple terms turns the one-way grid into a two-way grid in a cost effective manner enabling a huge increase in local renewables that the grid can host or accommodate in each suburb.

When we started eleXsys, Bevan and I had a vision that discovering a way to turn the one way grid into a two-way grid would be our contribution to saving the Great Barrier Reef by speeding up global distribution grid decarbonisation.

Over the last 9 years eleXsys developed a unique, international award-winning, enabling technology that will drive the transition of global energy grids to a clean energy future.

Why did you decide to raise investment?
The co-founders, Bevan and Richard, are the initial high net worth investors.  We invested over $7.5 M USD of our own money.  Then some friends and close associates also invested almost another $4.0 M USD.  We had developed an MVP (Minimal Viable Product) and a few field demonstrations and planned a slow organic and affordable commercialisation, starting in Australia. Then slowly going global as we knew Australia was a few years ahead of the rest of the world in terms of grid hosting capacity problems due to so much rooftop solar we have Down Under.

Then we won the World Energy Council (WEC) global start up award in 2019. When we won the award, the WEC Secretary General at the time (Christoph Frei), challenged us as follows, he said:

“This technology is game changing; you need to think 100 time bigger” …. that is, we need you to help speed up global decarbonisation and fast!

Since 2019 that is what we set out to do, and in that vein, we needed much more investment to speed up commercialisation and go global faster.

What is your top tip for anyone raising investment for the first time?
It’s never easy, the 1st time or the 10th time. Be prepared to spend a large amount of time raising funds and listen and learn from every pitch. If they say no, ask why. Always be raising and expect to pitch to 50 or more before you hit any jackpot.

What attracted investors to your company?
The IKEA flagship project in Australia which helped investors realise how eleXsys can radically speed up global decarbonisation in the local suburbs.  The IKEA project represents a microgrid at up to 10 times bigger than what current Smart Invert technology and grid constraints would allow.  So up to 10 x greater energy savings for the tenant, up to 10 x more rooftop rent for the landlord, plus up to a 10 x larger $ project for the asset owner (e.g. solar and battery power plant) to earn a secure, uncurtailed ROI over 20 years.

My biggest fundraising mistake was…
Not listening at first to potential investors.

Why did you choose to use Angel Investment Network?
A very supportive, understanding, and innovative group with a focus on ESG (Environmental – Social – Governance) investing. We are now raising our Pre IPO round.

What has the funding enabled?
The main focus was fine tuning our global expansion plans through our planned licensing model. Licensing allows us to scale global quickly as opposed to originating, developing, and building microgrid projects ourselves, which would be a very slow and cumbersome process.

Through licensing our vision is that eleXsys becomes the “Intel Inside” of the global local renewables supply chain.  That is, almost everyone is using eleXsys in their local suburban renewables projects to speed up global decarbonisation.

Did you know that filling every roof with solar could generate > 120% of Australia’s total electrical needs? Same should apply across the global sunbelt ≈ 75% of world’s population.

Cannot be done – local distribution grids will not integrate this much distributed energy due to grid physics limitations (curtailment) due to one-way grid design

Grid curtailment of DER (Distributed Energy Resources) begins to occur when the utility hits ≈ 15% of customers with DER, making projects non bankable .eleXsys cost effectively solves this fundamental problem one-way grid problem.

So far, we have one Master Licensee MOU signed and are negotiating with four more. Plus, established a few Alliance Partners licensees within Australia to be the sales channel and EPC of projects.  Some of the Alliance Partners are global multinational using Australia as a test bed eleXsys licensee, with the intention to then become a global licensee.

Plus the funds are being used to enhance our manducating capability along with recruiting more staff to support the faster growth.

Matching Diverse Talent With Fast Growing Startups

At Angel Investment Network, we strive to partner with pioneering organisations that support startups in ecosystems around the world, Silicon Roundabout have a mission to help get more young people into work at exciting startups, whilst helping unblocking some of the challenges in hiring that startups incur. 

Franceso Perticariari, Managing Partner of Silicon Partner Ventures explains more in the guest blog post below:

At Silicon Roundabout we are working with the UK Government to help youngsters from all backgrounds and who are eager to break into the startup industry to get their feet off the ground and venture into their dream career.

As part of the programme, we help companies by offering a diverse pool of junior staff, aged 16-24, at no cost for 6 months, whilst helping these candidates gain work experience, so they can get their foot in the door in the tech world.

Our mission is to help increase diversity in tech by being the pathway for young people from all walks of life and varying backgrounds to find work with cool tech startups and develop the skills needed to build a career in today’s digital market.

We would all like to see an exciting, diverse tech industry! 🙌

Here are the jobs we currently train for:


– Junior Marketing Executive

– Junior Business Developer

– Office Executive

– Junior Graphic Design and Video Editing

– Junior Programmer

– Junior Bookkeeper

– Junior Project Manager

– Junior Data Analyst

Business qualifying will be able to apply for and hire candidates through our new, easy to use, platform and receive 6 months worth of wages for them! This includes NI & minimum employer contributions.

What happens at the end of the 6 month placement? Businesses have the opportunity (but not the obligation) to offer the junior employee a job at their company.

We already have 300+ employers on board and have successfully delivered the scheme to help 100+ youngsters with little to no experience and from all backgrounds, gender, and beliefs get training and join these employers. In fact, we’ve recently hired four junior members of staff ourselves who went through this very same process and training, which we designed as startup founders ourselves for startup founders. So far everyone is enthusiastic about the results and we really think this can have a profound impact for both companies and people.

Startups can sign up to Silicon Roundabout’s here .

The T&CS:

Companies will need to pay these junior employees through their own payroll. We will then refund them using the Government funding after only 4-6 weeks from each payroll paid. No claiming needed. As long as the candidates are paid via the company’s payroll, We will automatically receive funds from the Government and transfer them over to them.

During the first month of our 6 month programme, candidates will be trained through our top digital bootcamps, which are also funded through the scheme.

#SixtySecond StartUp with Telbee


Nicholas Phair shares why he thinks online voice messaging is the future in this month’s #SixtySecondStartUp.

  1. What does your company do?

Online voice messaging. We help businesses build trust with their audiences using the most powerful tool they have… their voices. Our online voice recorders can be added to websites, workflows, social media and more, and used in online and offline campaigns to hear from customers, followers and fans and engage in two way asynchronous voice conversations. 

  1. Why did you set up this company?

    To go back to basics. Voice has always communicated far more than typed text alone – emotion, emphasis, connection – and we saw an opportunity to bring the same ease and utility of voice messaging found in consumer apps such as WhatsApp and FB Messenger to help businesses better engage with their own customers.
  1. How did you get your first customer? 

By asking them to pay! It seems like an obvious point but it’s a lot harder than you think. Believing in your product means putting a price tag on it, and asking people to pay. Thankfully our first customer, a prominent podcaster in the US, saw the value immediately.

  1. We knew we were onto something when? 

… we received this early testimonial: “I’m just massively impressed with this entire thing. I’m kind of shocked that it doesn’t really exist to this level, and we can see this being extraordinarily helpful for us.” 

Reading these words, after months of hard slogging in product and planning was golden. When our next 10 customers signed up organically and mirrored the above, we knew that if we kept going we’d succeed.

  1. Our business model: 


Freemium self-serve SaaS with consultative sales to the enterprise. In short: people sign up free on www.telbee.io to experience what voice messaging can do for them and their businesses. We limit the amount of voice messages that can be sent and received to 60 minutes per month and the service remains free (forever) until you decide you need more features, or want unlimited messaging minutes. And for larger businesses and enterprises we offer custom white labelled solutions and integrations specific to their needs. 

  1. Our most effective marketing channel has been: 

Hands down it’s been word of mouth – which shouldn’t be a surprise since we’re all about speaking and listening! 

  1. What we look for when recruiting:

We ask why they want to work with us, and listen keenly to the answer. When the whys are strong enough the hows take care of themselves – or so the famous saying goes. We look for people that want to build something truly unique and grow personally and professionally with the business. 

  1. The biggest mistake that I’ve made is:

Putting the cart before the horse, and investing in sales and marketing capabilities before breaching that elusive threshold of comfort in finding product/market fit – and while that threshold keeps shifting, mistakes keep coming, but ultimately they are there to make us grow! 

  1. We think that there’s growth in this sector because:


Our voice is what makes us human – and in recent times the rise of automation, artificial intelligence, and lockdown-inducing pathogens, have highlighted the importance of building and cultivating real human relationships. We’ve seen an explosion in voice applications across the board, from podcasts, to voice assistance to new types of short and long form voice-based social media. Whilst we are still in the exploratory stage of this nascent sector, what is certain is that businesses everywhere are beginning to see the trust-building benefits of asynchronous voice communication for sales, support and retention. This is only the beginning – and there is so much to be excited about. 

  1. We worked with AIN because:

We worked with AIN because they gave us access to investors globally. As a UK company but with a product relevant worldwide, we knew that part of what we wanted from investors was to extend our market reach beyond our existing network. AIN allowed us to speak with investors from the US and Asia as well as the UK.

Keen to hear more?

If you would like to see what other companies are up to on Angel Investment Network, or are interested in raising funding yourself, you can find your local network here.