MENTORLOOP RAISES $300,000 IN SEED FUNDING
15 September 2016, Written by James Perkins
MENTORING is acknowledged as a vital part of career development, but even some of the most well-run businesses struggle to do it right.
This was an issue that long-time Melbourne-based friends Heidi Holmes and Lucy Loyd identified, and then targeted with a new cloud-based software offering named Mentorloop.
Having recently raised $300,000 in seed funding, which valued the business at $2 million, the pair's idea to creating a mentoring management system has clearly taken hold.
The capital raising venture was officially launched in January after Holmes and Lloyd embarked on a fact-finding mission the previous year.
Holmes describes the initial stages of the process as daunting.
"As a startup, you are often doing things for the first time and this was the first time I have been involved in a capital raise," says Holmes. "We were navigating unchartered waters."
"We were out there pounding the pavement and we took any opportunity to pitch to angel networking groups, accelerators and venture capitalists."
For many venture capitalists the project was still too young and needed more traction. After several presentations to angel investors and high-net-worth individuals, Holmes and Loyd had a small group of investors interested in their product.
"By the end of last year, it was clear that the private investor route was the best fit," says Holmes.
"We got traction among people that believed in the vision we were presenting and we were subsequently able to pick up breakaway angels to form a private round, with support from our family and friends as well.
"We opened the funding round up in January and closed it in July, given the tax breaks available for investors in early stage start-ups."
Among the investors is the director of StartupAus, Glenn Smith, and a group from the Melbourne Angels.
The idea for Mentorloop grew from conversations between Holmes and Lloyd in 2014.
"My co-founder and I, following our own personal experiences, began to talk about how great it would be to connect to a mentor," says Holmes.
"We did research in the mentoring space and talked to organisations that were running their own programs and identified that they were mostly using spreadsheets and emails to run their mentoring programs, and we thought, 'there has got to be a better way'.
"The idea took shape and we could see a digital application could solve the problem."
Mentorloop is a cloud-based platform that makes the mentoring process easier for the coordinator, the mentor and the mentee.
The participants can live chat, share documents, schedule tasks and set goals, while the coordinator has access to analytics to assess the process.
It is a subscription-based model, where organisations pay a monthly fee based on the number of users.
Clients include Startup Victoria, AusBiotech, the government of Western Australia, Monash University, the Australian Academy of Technological Sceiences and Engineering, and Sydney and Melbourne Water.
"Our platform is about making a more efficient process for the organisation and a more enjoyable experience for the users," says Holmes.
Holmes started her career at KPMG and had a number of people influence her career on an informal basis, but when she left the corporate world to start her own business, Adage, in 2011, she found it difficult to find contemporaries to turn to for advice.
"The startup space didn't exist how it does today, back then it was a lonely place to find myself and I navigated it through my own reading and didn't really find an appropriate person, probably until the end of my journey when I sold the business."
Mentorloop currently has a team of three, and outsources the development of its technology to Commoncode, based in Abbotsford.
Eventually Holmes would like to bring the development in-house, but says Commoncode will remain a partner in the long-term.
"They have been with us since the start. We have worked closely with them and I consider them a development partner, rather than a supplier and they will continue to be a partner going forward."