In late 2016 HAVAÍC invested in a creative research business, Delvv.io (“Delvv”). Soon after investing, they were a finalist in the FNB Innovation Awards, and competed at the Start-up World Cup in San Francisco. Whilst it was clear that this business was going somewhere, at the time we couldn’t have predicted that they would be where they are today.
Taking a step back, at the time of investment we certainly couldn’t claim to be experts in the global research market, dominated by companies such as WPP whose market cap is comparable to the GDP of many mid-sized countries. But what we did know was that the founders of the business Remon Geyser and Trevor Wolfe were absolute experts in the field of creative research and feedback, and had unlocked a new and infinitely more effective way to provide clients with meaningful creative feedback, all powered by technology, an area we understand well. This premise was reinforced by them having landed large blue-chip SA and international clients within the first year of opening their doors.
A few years on, Delvv has continued to service their client base and add many more. However, despite a stellar start, the growth wasn’t at levels commiserate to the cutting-edge solution Delvv provided. What followed was a process of strategic and collaborative deliberations with management, where it was agreed that the real potential that the founders showed would be most effective if split into two businesses. Delvv would continue on its path of securing local blue chips as clients, maintaining existing relationships and growing the local business. However, the bigger future potential identified was to focus on an international market and instead of offering external creative feedback as Delvv had done and continues to do, they would change the focus to providing internal feedback for the same large blue-chip clients. Thus a new US based company was registered, a new focus born, new risk was taken on and BigTeam was launched.
As with Delvv, BigTeam hit the ground running and within months of relocating to Atlanta, they were accepted onto the TechStars accelerator program. And again, within no time, it was clear that the team was onto something with their new AI powered feedback tools, as they very quickly landed pilots with some of the largest corporates in the US. This was in despite of CEO Trevor Wolfe having to fend off other companies participating in the program from poaching their staff, as the SA skills were just that much more suited to real world problems than their more developed world counterparts.
With some nice early traction, BigTeam decided it was time to go big or go home and began raising further capital for US expansion from US Venture Capital firms.
This is where things get interesting.
Unbeknown to us, three things were happening. Firstly, MailChimp, who has more than 20 million customers using their email management platform, surveyed their users asking what the one product development was that they would like to see from MailChimp. Overwhelmingly their users were calling for a survey tool to help them gather customer feedback.
Secondly, BigTeam noticed a trend where the departments within the corporates they serviced who were using their feedback technology the most were those related to customer care. These departments were using BigTeam, which was designed as an internal feedback tool, to actually obtain customer feedback.
And thirdly, one of the other startups who was on the TechStars program, where BigTeam stood out, had recently been acquired by MailChimp.
And the stars aligned…
Fast forward to present day, BigTeam has concluded an investment from MailChimp and are moving to work alongside Mailchimp teams in their head office. Together they are working on a survey tool using BigTeam’s technology to service MailChimp’s 20 million business clients.
Given the pedigree behind the entrepreneurs of Delvv and BigTeam, I am not surprised by the fact that they are each doing absolutely amazing things. However, I’d be lying if I said I knew this is where it would end up 3 years after making an investment.
As a takeaway, whilst there is a lot of science that goes into investing, and at HAVAÍC we are fortunate to have a team of professionals ranging across investment bankers, CA’s, CFA’s, MBA’s and M&A lawyers, the science can only get you so far, particularly in early stage investing. Sometimes, it’s about buying a ticket to the game, as without it you won’t get to watch the big show in person, just like we are watching BigTeam as they continue to go BIG.
At HAVAÍC we invest in early stage high growth businesses that use technology to scale internationally, thereby allowing our investors the opportunity to invests “Rands” and ultimately earn “Dollar” returns. And pleasingly our investors who originally invested Rands in Delvv a few years back, are sitting with shares in a great SA business as well as international one, with BigTeam poised for a Dollar exit.