Episode 13: Australian Entrepreneur on Both Sides of Equity Capital
Greater Des Moines (DSM) startup Pitchly recently closed a seven-figure series seed capital raise round. Pitchly provides a web-based, content service platform for merger and acquisition professionals serving firms from 100 to 60,000 employees allowing them to organize and activate their client experience.
The name? “It came from the original vision of improving the pitch. Pitchly was short, simple and was at a time when the –ly names were popular so it was pretty obvious after that,” Co-Founder and CEO Ryan Gerhardy told Startup Stories DSM host Mike Colwell.
Gerhardy grew up in Australia and likens it to DSM. “It’s a small country in itself with a number of people so there’s a lot of opportunity. You need to seek it out and find it and invest in it but it’s a great place to develop experiences quickly.”
His Australian background influences his company today. Pitchly offers unlimited PTO (of which employees must take at least two weeks of vacation).
After marrying an Iowan, Gerhardy spent some time in Sydney, Australia and gained a background in private equity, venture capital and investment. When the couple looked for a move out of the big city, they turned their attention to DSM where the startup system was rapidly expanding. They made the leap in 2014. During a four-week reconnaissance trip to DSM prior, he was able to fire off emails and soon found connectors in DSM who were receptive to meet for coffee and help him get established.
How to pitch
Gerhardy spent four years at Next Level Ventures meeting and working with companies to help them present for capital and assist with deal due diligence and terms. Having been on both sides of venture capital, Gerhardy advices to be relentless.
“The dating and marriage analogy is well worn but you really need to spend time with them to build the level of trust to see how you handle problems and to see small signs of traction,” Gerhardy said. “We’re investing early and we’re investing at a point where we know things aren’t all figured out and that’s part of the reason you’re raising money because you want to figure more things out and grow quicker doing so.”
Pitchly got off the ground when in 2015 Gerhardy met his soon-to-be Co-Founder Michael Brook at a TechBrew in Downtown DSM. Brook was able to bring the technical know-how to build the product.
DSM’s tech ecosystem attracted Gerhardy to move across the Pacific, but he says there’s still opportunity for it to be not so, well, Iowa nice.
“I think we need more people to be more — and I suffered with this as well with Pitchly — collaborative and outspoken,” Gerhardy said. “I go to these events with startups on stage and they’re bigger, they’re bolder and they’re louder. Whether or not they’ve got something or not it’s just they know who they want to be.”
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