Published: Feb 15, 2021
Maven caught up with Durham-based military grade security and intelligence platform, Intelligence Fusion, who secured funding via the Finance Durham Fund to invest in an in-house technology team to make significant enhancements to its platform.
Intelligence Fusion has achieved impressive growth since launching its platform 5 years ago, quickly establishing the business as a key player and innovator in its industry. But how does a technology business such as Intelligence Fusion secure funding? How do you find the right funding partner or decide if you should grow organically?
In Maven’s latest guest blog, investee Michael McCabe, CEO and Founder of Intelligence Fusion, talks through the company’s funding journey, how the finance has impacted the business and the company’s long-term goals.
- Please can you tell us a little bit about yourself – what does your business do and what’s your role?
I am the CEO and founder of Intelligence Fusion. Prior to founding the company, I worked in the private security sector in Iraq as an intelligence analyst. During my time in Iraq, I was the Regional Intelligence Officer in Anbar Province for Aegis Defence Services. Aegis were contracted to provide close protection to the United States Army Corps of Engineers. I then went on to become of Head of Intelligence for Olive Group in Iraq and was based in Basra. Before that I was in Military Intelligence for five years. It was during this career that I came up with the idea for Intelligence Fusion, which revolves around an intelligence platform that disseminates intelligence in real time, which has accuracy, breadth, depth, speed and consistency of data. In addition to selling access to our platform to clients like BASF, Kimberly Clark and Spotify, we also sell our data to other security and intelligence companies which they then white label through their own intelligence platforms. This puts us in a really interesting position with a lot of responsibility, because of how many people make business decisions based on our reporting, sometimes decisions which may have a significant effect. For example, just recently a security company who were conducting a hostage negotiation mission in Nigeria, used our platform to plan their road move through the country.
I should point out this is at the more extreme end of why subscribers use our service. Generally, we sell to security managers who have a responsibility to keep their people, assets and reputations safe. The final strand of our business is building custom intelligence software for clients. We have just been contracted for 8 years to build a custom intelligence platform by one of the world’s largest oil and gas companies headquartered in the United States. This platform will be used to manage their global intelligence, and is a real feather in our cap to be retained by such a high profile company and build software that will be so critical to the security of their operations.
- How did your search for funding lead you to Maven and what attracted you to Maven as a funding partner?
We have gone through three rounds of investment, and Maven invested into our company in the last two rounds, through the Finance Durham Fund. Maven became aware of us both through one of their investment managers who was at Rivers Capital, when they invested into us in the first seed round, and through our incubator, Growth Capital Ventures. What attracted me to Maven was their position as one of the UK’s most active private equity managers. Finding investors can be a difficult process, so I was ideally looking for an investor who could follow their money and continue to fund our growth and success.
- How has the investment impacted your business?
Our first round of investment allowed us to test the market with a minimum viable product. In the second round, which Maven participated in, it allowed us to build the first intelligence platform which not only truly matched my vision, but that we also owned the intellectual property to. Prior to this fund raise, although we had made sales and gained some traction, the majority of our time was spent on building up our global intelligence feed, which is essentially our product. This round of investment allowed us to hire our first marketing and sales staff, as well as full time analysts. With the third round, this allowed us to bring our technology team in house, which is what I am currently in the process of doing, by hiring multiple developers.
- Knowing what you know now – is there anything you would have done differently when you began your funding journey?
I would have perhaps self-funded the first round and got the minimum viable product built and gained some traction before I went for my first round of investment.
- What would you say to a business that is put off by taking on investment and would prefer to grow their business organically?
Choose the right time to go and get that investment. Try and get traction initially, wherever possible, which will help your case in getting an appropriate valuation. Also, shop about with investors. Speak to as many VC funds and Angels as you can and try and get the best valuation and terms for investment. The issue you have though with waiting and gaining traction, is that this is time when competitors could be building your great idea and achieving market position. You have to balance getting to your objective quickly, with facing equity dilution for existing shareholders.
- What do you think are the main obstacles to accessing finance to grow that businesses face today?
The time it can take to raise investment. If the investment process was quicker, it wouldn’t take as much time away from the founder, who is often the person who is driving the business forward and building the traction investors want to see. If you end up doing a 12 – 18-month fund raise, that means that the founder has probably spent about half of their time working on financial forecasts, meeting investors and tweaking slide decks. It is all time that risks the business’ financial runway and could lead to the business running out of cash. It is never too early to speak to investors if you are actively considering or may require investment in the future.
- What are the long-term goals for your business, and how will the funding you secured through Maven help you to achieve them?
Our long-term goals are all centred around scaling a business that will be acquired at some point in the next few years. There is a lot of acquisition movement in this sector, with intelligence companies being bought by large security companies and our position in the market should make us an attractive acquisition prospect. This is due to us being the main source of intelligence data for many other security and intelligence companies, as well as building intelligence software for large multinational companies. Using the recent funding we secured from Maven, we need to build additional technical tools to help us collect a larger, more consistent intelligence data set that will help us to pick up more data feed clients. Also, with our own internal technical team, this will allow us to continually upgrade our intelligence platform, highlighting to prospective clients how innovative we are and therefore win more contracts to build intelligence software for new clients.