"Full circle moment" for Cape founder as fintech acquired by Anna.Money

"Full circle moment" for Cape founder as fintech acquired by Anna.Money

Cape founder Ryan Edwards-Pritchard will become CEO of Anna.Money Australia. 

The entrepreneurial journey of Ryan Edwards-Pritchard, founder of Sydney-headquartered expense management platform Cape, has gone "full circle" today with the announcement the fintech has been acquired in a scrip-based deal with the UK's Anna.Money for an undisclosed valuation. 

With a career built in buy and sell side firms in the UK implementing regulatory change into their systems, as well as leading one of Europe's largest digital marketplaces for digital finance for SMEs, in 2020 Edwards-Pritchard moved to Australia in search of opportunity.

The first step was to listen to chief financial officers to get a sense of what might be missing in the market, and what became clear was that "workplaces could and should be different" - places where "people are trusted, respected, heard, less frustrated with spending time on menial tasks".

"We can’t solve everything, but we do have the knowledge and the drive to make businesses smarter and more profitable. With that in mind, the area we decided to tackle is business spend," he says.

"It’s a broken area where companies force their employees to lend them money, which is just insane; the fact that you need approval from a line manager to buy a cable for $10, but it’s perfectly fine for your line manager to waste $10,000 on an exec offsite meeting without approval.

"Unfortunately everyone is currently forced into this broken system, from buyers, managers, to finance teams, all because the right tools don’t exist. Our solution is to streamline everything, while removing the stress and tedious manual work involved for everyone."

The result of years of development at Cape is an offering that makes it easier for employees to spend on what is necessary for their work, without finance teams needing to worry about messing up the books or budgets in the process.

"Employees need the freedom to spend on things the business needs, and finance teams need the assurance that they can keep the spending under control," the founder explains.

"With merchant categorisation controls, our customers can block a payment going through at a terminal before it's too late.

"Our platform allows them to see spending at a glance, and to track outgoings by individual, team, merchant, or even project. It’s all in one place. And we go further, showing actionable insights to help them save hundreds of thousands of dollars a year."

These are just some of the functions of the fintech and Software as a Service (SaaS) player's service, which Edwards-Pritchard worked on in stealth for nine months before the company was officially established in September 2020, bootstrapped until it received support from grants and angel investors prior to a pre-seed raise of $3.1 million in venture capital equity in 2022.

That funding has supported the business ever since with a key breakthrough being the launch of a beta product in April last year, and it was only a few months later that Cape was approached for takeover from another payment service provider.

"They actually happened to be one of our customers as well, which is always a good sign, and they approached us about whether we'd be open to an acquisition," the entrepreneur explains.

"At that point in time that wasn't on our minds. We were very much just focused on the public launch and just wanted to keep our heads down, churn out these features, onboard to customers that we were going after, and that's it.

"This approach came out of the blue directly from them, which was great. It was fantastic, but it wasn't something we were expecting. So we actually started going down that path - that conversation then triggered a number of other conversations, and really looking at what the next three to five years look like."

It was at that point that he remembered Anna.Money, a current account and tax app that for the last seven years - well before the explosion of ChatGPT - has been building out its own large language models (LLMs).

"They are at the forefront in terms of building out really intuitive finance assistance for SMEs and freelancers, and for me that's just such an exciting opportunity because in our space I don't think anybody's conquered that," he says.

"It feels a little bit like going full circle. When I came out to Australia, it was at the forefront of my mind that I would love to build something like Anna in Australia, having come from the UK and seeing the team there just do a flawless job in terms of execution."

Edwards-Pritchard says the acquisition took around seven months to complete from the start of conversations with Anna.Money's leadership, and there were other bidders and potential avenues as well.

"For us it was just right on so many levels; I've got so much admiration and belief in the founders and the team and the product and the vision," he says.

"They're definitely ahead of the pack, so it was just a no brainer."

Edwards-Pritchard will be the CEO of Anna.Money Australia with a brand transition to happen over time, and he describes the equity acquisition as a "good deal for the employees and shareholders". Cape's team of seven employees remain with the group, although two are already London-based and have transferred across to Anna.Money's office.

The acquisition is Anna.Money's first and signals an ambition by the UK group to create a new SaaS category to take on competitors including the "big four" banks in Australia, offering expense management and corporate cards designed to save small businesses valuable time and money.

Anna.Money will now have the unique capability to blend corporate card and cash flow management with AI-powered business account management and tax assistance to serve Australia’s estimated 2.5 million small businesses, targeting those with one to 19 employees. It will launch a smart business current account and debit card, followed by further products including invoicing, bookkeeping, tax calculations and tax filings in Australia and the UK over a two-year period.

The key industries to be targeted are technology, healthcare, professional services, agencies, e-commerce and retail.

"This acquisition is a monumental step in our journey and we’re so excited to be joining Australia’s dynamic startup landscape," says Anna.Money co-CEO Eduard Panteleev, who co-founded the company with Boris Dyakonov in 2017.

"Entering the Australian market with GetCape at our side empowers us to bring our award-winning financial services to Australia’s vibrant business community and help them to thrive."

Anna.Money currently supports more than 100,000 UK businesses, while Cape successfully onboarded 300 SMEs to its beta product, processing millions of dollars per month in transactional business spend.

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