Emily Heazlewood: Lessons I learned raising capital for my tech startup

Written by Snowball Effect · Published on Tue, 8 December 2020

Blog home

Romer app founder and CEO, Emily Heazlewood admits that her knowledge of capital raising before her successful $250,000 raise was limited. However, fast-forward to today, and Emily now uses her own experience and the lessons she learnt to help other New Zealand businesses to navigate their raise capital journeys in her role as Snowball Effect’s Solutions Manager.

The holiday that sparked the business idea

The idea for Romer first came to Emily in 2017 during a trip to Melbourne. “I was trying to find things to do in Melbourne and realised how valuable it would be to have an app that featured a really good list of top suggestions from people in-the-know.” 

“I was looking to buy a property and had a house deposit ready to go, but couldn’t stop thinking about this idea to create an app,” recalls Emily. “I spent a weekend working on a mock-up of the app - it looked terrible - and so I reached out to a few app developers to see if it would even be viable. I ended up bringing on board Smudge Apps, who are well renowned for the work they do with Vodafone and New Zealand Police.” 

Romer’s launch and expansion

Once Romer was ready to launch, Emily utilised her Christchurch network of contacts and worked with Canterbury University and Vodafone Xone to spread awareness. “We launched in New Zealand in 2017 with about 30,000 users.” 

A launch into Australia soon followed. To help raise brand awareness and showcase the app’s unique offering, Emily travelled to Australia and took part in 100 local experiences. The move attracted the Australian media’s attention, helping to spread greater awareness and increase app downloads. 

Raising capital 

Romer’s successful launch prompted the app’s developer, Smudge to invest $100k into its future growth. “They came on board financially and also with their development time while helping me a lot with Company Governance, which at that time I didn’t know much about,” Emily says. 

To help Romer continue to expand, Emily had to raise $250k in capital. “I was very fortunate to have Ben Kepes on as a Director and investor who also connected me with Hadleigh Ford from SwipedOn, who then invested in Romer.” A few other investors also came on board, helping Emily to reach her capital raise target by the beginning of February 2019. 

Romer’s successful first capital raise result was picked up by the National Business Review and NZ Herald, which led to additional investor interest in the app and future capital raises. 

Next steps for Romer

The COVID-19 lockdown and its knock-on effects on the entertainment, leisure and dining industries have meant that Romer’s next steps have temporarily been placed on hold. Emily is currently focussed on helping other Kiwi businesses to grow through her role at Snowball Effect, which has meant that Romer has become a weekend side hustle.

However, Emily says she is passionate about further developing the app into a paid subscription model, which could mean that a second capital raise isn’t too far away.

Emilly’s capital raising tips

  • Always be ready to pitch your business growth plans. You never know where a conversation will take you.
  • Bringing on investors is like a marriage. You need to be able to connect with them on a personal level and make the relationship work.
  • Personality goes a long way. People want to invest in the founder behind the business, so don’t try and make out that you’re something that you’re not. 
  • Have clear business milestones and a plan for how you’re going to achieve them. 
  • Don’t be afraid to utilise the power of public relations and media coverage to help raise awareness of your business’ capital raise. 
  • Operate outside of the box when it comes to marketing campaigns, capital raising and even brand collaborations to stand out from the crowd.

Are you interested in raising capital for your business? Our team are happy to answer any questions and can be contacted at [email protected] or by calling 0800 SNOWBALL.