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Risking it all gave Katherine McConnell a Brighte future

The Technology Fast 50 program ranks the 50 fastest growing public or private technology companies, based on percentage revenue growth over three years. The competition has been running since 2000 and the 2019 program was proudly sponsored in Australia by the ASX, DLA Piper and NAB. In this blog series, we take a look at the 2019 winners to find out how they got to where they are.

Sustainable home improvement financing company Brighte won the 2019 Tech Fast Female award – a new award for 2019 that ranks the top growth companies founded or cofounded by a female or with a female CEO – Brighte also came second in the overall Tech Fast 50 rankings with a whopping 8,881 per cent growth rate.

We chat to founder and CEO Katherine McConnell about her experiences in the tech start-up world and why women should be called out for their successes.

Katherine McConnell risked everything, including her home, to set up Brighte, a company that provides finance to home owners and businesses for solar, clean energy and home improvements, but it was her belief in her vision and the fact she’d risked it all for that vision that gave investors’ confidence to bankroll her dream.

“I’d re-drawn my home loan – so the money I’d put into the business was real risk money. Investors saw that I had huge skin in the game,” says Katherine.

She’d given up her job of 14 years with Macquarie Bank to start Brighte. She was working seven days a week to develop the business and take it to market for seed funding. It was a race against time; her mortgage was running out and the team needed to be paid.

“We'd built the tech platform, the apps and all the processes behind the scenes as well as the financial models,” she says.

“It took about six months and close to 100 meetings, but I managed to raise three-and-a-half million, which was a huge amount at that time for a product that hadn’t launched yet.”

Katherine proved investors were right in backing her and since launching, Brighte has attracted 40,000 customers and seen incredible growth, but evenKatherine and her team weren’t expecting the 8,881 per cent growth rate calculated by Tech Fast 50 judges.

“We were so surprised seeing that rate of growth, and then coming second overall and winning the female category! To win this award is a huge honour, to know I can win this, that the risks I’ve taken and the risks my family has taken have been worth it.”

The Fast Female award is new to the Tech Fast 50 program and Katherine believes that awards calling out women’s successes are vital.

“Given that gender parity isn’t there yet, I think it's really important to call out females as a separate group in the Tech Fast 50. Women will find it easier to forge ahead when they see that there are people in front of them that have done it before and they hear our stories of, ‘yes, it's hard, but you can get there’.”

Katherine has become a role model for many in the tech start-up world, especially women, and she recognises that anyone would find it hard to break into this, but despite challenges she feels she’s been well supported.

“I was able to access mentors. I was able to get backing from very large stakeholders and many offers to come alongside me and help me navigate complex issues where I had no experience. I did find that unusual, because I hadn't felt as well-supported in my corporate career.”

Katherine is also finding incredible support from her family and her team at Brighte and with plenty of work ahead to continue their growth into 2020 and beyond having that support is essential.

“Last year my husband became the primary caregiver at home, and he had a very, very successful career. I get home and I see my kids wearing their Brighte t-shirts and I see they’re so proud of what I do. And my team at Brighte, they love working here and that keeps me inspired.”

“This is now bigger than me. It's about them. It's also about my customers. For me to have a bad day, the idea of packing it up, giving it all in, it's now bigger than me. It's like this snowball is rolling down a hill.”

Having won the 2019 Tech Fast Female award, come second in the overall award and made the top ten of the 2019 Tech Fast 500, Katherine says entering Tech Fast 50 is a ‘no brainer’.

“You do this for the recognition to show your peers and the industry. For brand awareness, to be seen and share your story and for the team to celebrate the successes.

“I hope that winning this award inspires other women who are thinking of making a leap into starting a start-up or joining a start-up, that they can look at me winning this award and they know they can do bigger and better. That there’s a bright and exciting future ahead.”

Find out about more about the awards, meet all the 2019 Tech Fast 50 Australia winners and pre-register for 2020 Tech Fast 50.