Regulatory compliance start-up First AML has raised $2.5 million in its latest capital raise led by Pushpay founders Chris Heaslip and Eliot Crowther.
Heaslip, who founded the almost US$1 billion digital church collection payment operator Pushpay in 2011 along with Crowther, will join the board of First AML as chairman, tasked with helping the company to scale and grow into new markets.
First AML plans to use the capital to invest in technology development and expand into Australia, Singapore and wider Asia. The company also plans to hire more than 10 product developers, add new features to its platform, and explore "natural language processing" to improve customer due diligence processes, co-founder Milan Cooper told the Herald.
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First AML was founded two years ago by Cooper and corporate bankers Bion Behdin and Chris Caigou to address "the pain point AML compliance places on companies". The company has built a regtech platform that automates identity verification for a company's customers and suppliers, streamlining compliance for new anti-money laundering laws.
The company began operating in July 2018 and its platform is now used by a handful of high-profile New Zealand law, accounting and real estate firms, including Grant Thornton.
Cooper said First AML wanted to follow in Pushpay's footsteps - and ultimately become a billion-dollar company.
Pushpay reported a full-year net profit after tax of US$18.8 million against a loss of US$3.3m in the year to March 31. It posted a revenue of US$98.4m in the year. The company is targeting an annual revenue of US$1b in the medium term.
"Chris has the experience of over the last 10 years growing a Kiwi tech company and launching it in new markets and we're hoping to leverage the lessons he's learned from that," said Cooper, who has a background in strategy consulting.
"We see First AML as a global business and we want to certainly follow in those footsteps and what Chris and Eliot went through, and take this to the world."
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In the short term, the company will be focused on hiring new staff, largely for its product team. Medium-term it will look to push into Australia and Asian territories.
"This is a $100 billion global market - there's massive opportunity out there. We're really focused on making it easy for companies that need to comply with their AML obligations."
First AML has been supported by Icehouse Ventures, which provided the company's first round of funding. Until now, Icehouse has invested more than $500,000 in the company.
The founders raised seed investment from Icehouse's Flux Accelerator in March, which enabled the company to expand its team. Shortly after completing its six-month accelerator programme, First AML presented at Icehouse's annual showcase to 1000 investors in August.
First AML is the first start-up Chris Heaslip has invested in since he stepped down as chief executive of Seattle-based Pushpay.
"First AML has built a world-class experience in such a short time, using smart technology to automate customer onboarding and improve the compliance experience for businesses," Heaslip said. "Having been an accountant myself, I can empathise with the frustration the additional administrative burden weighing on companies needing to comply with the new regulations."
Icehouse Ventures and Flux Accelerator partner Barnaby Marshall said it was pleasing to see the founders of Pushpay back First AML.
"It's fantastic to see a young company like First AML be able to attract significant capital from high-quality investors early in its growth journey. This shows investors recognise the opportunity from the problem they are trying to solve, the timeliness of the product, and the calibre of the founders."