thoughts 💭

Why we Invested in Hnry v2

2021-07-22
 

When we first invested $1.5m in Hnry in 2019, our investor notes spoke to a concept of “cake-level engagement” as a mental model for the type of customer advocacy that informed and underpinned our investment decision. Wind forward the clock, and we are proud to be investing a further $4m into the business, as a result of both Hnry’s continued almost fanatical customer advocacy, but also as a result of the team’s exceptional execution over the last 18 months.

    

When you first invest in a company it is difficult to have strong conviction as to the capability of the team. Interpersonal dynamics are unknowable and it is hard to determine if we have strong “investor-founder fit”. All the diligence in the world can often misconstrue relationships and personal motivations. These are arguably the facets that have a greater impact on investment outcomes over the long run. To somewhat mitigate this risk, we have in the past avoided a transactional approach to venture investing, preferring to build long term relationships with potential investee companies and getting to know founders over a period of time. This is not always possible, especially as the competition to get deals done quickly heats up, in line with the ever growing availability of early stage capital. Often investment decisions are made with limited interactions and incomplete conviction around the founding team. Mark Suster coined the canonical phrase “investing in lines, not dots” to describe the predicament.

 

A major advantage for any venture fund is its ability to invest in follow-on rounds. An effective follow-on strategy allows a fund to reserve capital to allocate disproportionately to its best companies, whilst limiting exposure to those that underperform. At EVP we reserve c. 50% of our funds for follow-on investing and it is often these follow-on rounds that prove to be our best investments.

 

The same metrics and data set that were used to support an investment decision in the first instance remain available, but now, in addition, there is access to vastly more qualitative information and insight based on months (or even years) of interactions. With our active investment style, we take a  hands-on operating approach with our portfolio companies. Our relationships are not limited to the founders. We often work directly on projects with staff from across the team. This experience informs a rich tapestry from which to make investment decisions; an almost opposite setting to when one first invests into a company.

 

Over the past 2 years we have seen James, Claire and the entire Hnry team:

  • 10x their customer and revenue traction to support over 20k Hnry users across AU/NZ

  • Enter the Australian market

  • Build the team to 30 staff (and we’re hiring!)

  • Maintain growth rates at north of 4x per annum

  • Maintain Customer NPS > 80

  • Be a complete delight to work with

 

In short, the performance has been exceptional and the data before us points squarely to us “doubling down”.

 

While the traction is certainly impressive, our belief is that Hnry is only just getting started. Long term tailwinds supporting the shift to independent earning are driving key changes to how the population earns. As a result, there is an entirely new infrastructure to be built to support this new working arrangement. All of the services afforded to salaried employees are being reimagined for a new freelance environment. The appropriate hype term is “the creator economy” and the entire tech stack to service this ecosystem is in flux. From Substack and Cameo to Onlyfans and Stripe, the plumbing enabling individuals to make a living outside of the typical 9 to 5 is changing.

Hnry plays directly into this macro-theme. The team is looking to solve and automate the tax and financial admin that sits in the background for participants within this new creator economy. For many of these independent earners, tax particularly, is a veritable fear. And for our users we relieve this burden entirely.

 

The business still enjoys that raving fandom that excited us back in the day. The team assembled exhibits the operational excellence we’re looking for. And the market is exploding (in a good way) around the business. In our experience it is these ingredients that lead to great outcomes.

 

And that’s why we invested in Hnry… (again)…