Female Founder Feature: Catriona Wallace

MEET DR CATRIONA WALLACE

At One Roof we absolutely love Dr Catriona Wallace. As well as being a successful business woman and a true leader in every sense of the word, she is also a high profile philanthropist, human rights activist and mother of five (nothing too busy!). In fact, we love her so much we have named one of our meeting rooms after her. The Catriona Wallace meeting room is dedicated to this legendary woman and hosts many other game changers on a daily basis. 

Dr Catriona Wallace is the Founder and CEO of Flamingo AI, a high-profile artificial intelligence fintech and ASX Listed company. Catriona is a pioneer paving a path as a successful woman in entrepreneurship, fintech, artificial intelligence and running a publicly listed company. It was in 2016 that Catriona rang the bell at the ASX to mark the second ever female CEO/female Chair combo hitting the boards. 

Based in NYC and Sydney, Dr Catriona Wallace is one of the world’s most cited experts on the future of customer experience, artificial intelligence and bot strategy. 

Catriona has won many awards including the 2017 Advance Australia's Technology & Innovation Award and has been inducted into the Australian Business Woman’s Hall of Fame. 

Here we talk to Catriona about investment, capital raising and top tips for female founders embarking on this journey.

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How much have you raised? 

$25.5m to date, and that’s in the last 3 years!

How long did you bootstrap before you raised?

$200k of my own money to start it up then 12 months later raised $1.5m. Then took another couple of hunjy out of the mortgage to keep my children fed.

Describe capital raising in one sentence

Like being in a bear pit. Just kidding. It’s like a sport, you need to get fit and used to rejection and be highly resilient. Then amazing when it comes through.

What are your best and worst moments of capital raising? 

Best was raising $5m in 12 minutes. Worst was expecting $2m raise that failed in the last minute. Super stressful and had to go and fire some staff as a result. Hideous.

Tell us about your experience and the challenges as a woman going through a capital raise? 

I needed to establish mastery and credibility within the first 3 minutes of any meeting. One time an investor group thought I was there to get them coffee until they realised I was the CEO and Founder. This made me even stronger in my pitch. Use all the bad experiences to make yourself better.

What are your thoughts on being CEO of the second ASX listed company in history to be led by a female CEO and chair?

I am very pleased we listed on the ASX. It is however not for the feint hearted but it is an excellent mechanism to raise capital. The pressure of the capital markets to get to revenue is very intense however it provides us with great discipline in the business. Cathie Reid, our Chair, is also incredibly astute in building businesses and has been a great guide to me as I shifted from a wild entrepreneur to a mature listed company CEO.

How do we support more women to successfully raise capital?

Women need better training on the financials of business and how to present confidently. The other super important factor is the quality of the team working with the entrepreneur. Investors ultimately back the team. Women should go and find their most respected, talented friends or acquaintances or people they don’t know and convince them to join their team. Seriously – even random strangers who are super talents – just go get them.

How do we get more women on the other side of the investor table (as investors)?

We need women to be successful in making, raising, spending, generating, investing money first and then move them to the other side of the table. Ultimately it is all about relationships and money. Women are already good at both these things.

What's your relationship with your investors like? Would you call them a mate and go for a drink with them? 

I am very respectful and appreciative of our investors. All 3,500 of them. I have close relationships with the primary investors, both individuals and investment funds. I spend time with them face to face, over the phone, do a monthly webinar, share announcements. It’s all about the relationship, their trust of you with their money and that they always know your progress. And yeah I do occasionally have drinks with investors but it is minimal. I am mainly providing updates on the business.

What is the difference between USA and Australia for raising capital? 

In the US it is easier. There is a culture of innovation and of funding innovation in America. Here not so much, regardless of politician rhetoric we are still laggards in innovation and funding. It will come though.

What are your top tips for female founders considering a capital raise?

Do it. Be bold. Ask for much more than you need. Put your financials up the front. Speak 20% louder than you normally would. Let the investors know you are the best in your field. Know that we eat rejection for breakfast. We love it. Instead of ordering smashed avocado on toast – ask for a huge plate of “Your idea is rubbish, your product won’t work, nobody will invest in you and no doubt you have let all your friends and family down.” Just love these words up until they no longer have any crushing power. Because in every rejection there will be a learning that makes you better. For every 100 rejections, expect one good result. And please know – it is soooo worth the ride.

WANT MORE OF CATRIONA?

Visit FlamingoAI online https://flamingo.ai/ or follow her on twitter: @catrionawallace