Portfolio Company Spotlight – Aveni

Our second portfolio spotlight is Aveni. We had the pleasure of sitting down with their Chief Operating Officer, Jamie Hunter, to delve into Aveni’s history, their future aspirations, and their partnership journey with TRICAPITAL.
Aveni is an Edinburgh-based FinTech company propelling the financial services industry into a new era of hyper-efficiency. Aveni’s platform seamlessly merges advanced AI with human expertise resulting in significant efficiency gains across a business’ operating model. From comprehensive client admin support and CRM population to automatic quality assurance and performance assessment, our AI assistant has been purpose-built to accelerate FS workflows. Learn more at www.aveni.ai
Firstly, could you please provide us with an overview of Aveni’s core products and services? We are eager to learn more about the company’s background.

Aveni is an AI company that specialise in natural language processing and large language models. What makes us unique is the convergence of our founders’ expertise, with a couple of us having strong backgrounds in financial services. Joseph and I, for instance, both spent 15 years at Standard Life in the investment industry. During his MBA at the University of Edinburgh, Joseph crossed paths with Lexi, a specialist from the University of Edinburgh School of Informatics. Together with Barry, another co-founder with expertise in cognitive technology, we embarked on a journey to offer innovative solutions within Financial Services.

Our primary focus revolves around automation and extracting valuable insights directly from voice data. Currently, we offer two core products. The first is an automated risk solution, which addresses a common challenge in the financial services industry. Traditionally, financial institutions employ teams to manually listen to calls, assessing them for risk, compliance, customer service, satisfaction, and agent behaviour. This labour-intensive process is where our product, Aveni Detect, comes into play. It automates call transcription, leveraging machine learning models to identify vulnerabilities, complaints, and quality assurance metrics. We then perform machine assessments on 100% of the calls and prioritise those that require attention. This approach provides comprehensive coverage and directs resources to areas that truly need it. The demand for Aveni Detect has surged in response to recent regulatory changes most notably Consumer Duty.

Our second product which we recently launched, Assist, is gaining strong traction. It leverages recent developments in large language models (Chat GPT) to enhance productivity in financial advice. Currently, financial advisors dedicate several hours to post-meeting administrative tasks, such as populating CRM systems, drafting briefing notes, and preparing suitability reports. Assist automates these tasks efficiently, populating a draft version for review from the Adviser within minutes of the call, a substantial improvement over the traditional hours-long process. Since launching in July we have seen a considerable amount of interest with a large waitlist of companies in place. 

Could you share the journey of Aveni as a portfolio company of TRICAPITAL?

TRICAPITAL were really our first investor on Aveni. Before their involvement, we had received financial support from friends, family, and former colleagues. Our first investment round with TRICAPITAL happened in March 2020, and they invested £520,000. The timing was interesting because we closed the round during the first week of the COVID-19 pandemic. Moray, the Managing Partner at TRICAPITAL, played a key role in pushing for us to secure the funding. The entire TRICAPITAL team was enthusiastic and engaged throughout, even bringing in tech experts to look at us. Finding someone who believes in you is half the battle, so that’s how we became a TRICAPITAL portfolio company. They then continued supporting us on nearly every funding round that followed.

Our journey has been quite a ride. They invested and supported us in transitioning into a more structured organisation, introducing board meetings, reporting mechanisms, and budgeting practices crucial for startups. They’ve proven to be understanding partners, provided they observed us making progress. Overall, their support has been a significant factor in our success.

What motivated your company to seek funding from TRICAPITAL?

Initially, our motivation was, of course, to secure funding. However, securing that first round of investment is often very hard as many investors typically have a minimum threshold of traction before committing, be it in terms of customers or product progress. What set TRICAPITAL apart was their belief in our experience and the vision we presented to them from the start. They were genuinely keen to support us, which was crucial.

What was the most recent round TRICAPITAL has been involved with, and how has the funding received impacted Aveni’s growth overall?

We closed our most recent round in June 2023, this was a top-up investment from existing investors which includes TRICAPITAL.

In reality, most companies require additional funding beyond the initial investment. It’s not merely a matter of making one investment, crossing your fingers, and hoping for substantial returns. TRICAPITAL has played a pivotal role in this aspect for us. As I’ve mentioned before, Moray was always eager to maintain a close relationship with TRICAPITAL to secure as much investment as possible. They have consistently followed through in all the funding rounds we’ve participated in.

What sets TRICAPITAL apart from other groups, and how has their support benefited Aveni compared to other investors or funding sources?

If they believe in you, they’ll invest in you, no matter how early it is. They understand their role as early angel investors for companies seeking investment if they have good credentials.

Their introduction to governance and establishment of a framework has been really effective. They professionalise your company without being overly intense, which I think is important because it sets you up for future investment. Additionally, their diligence at the start isn’t too burdensome for the company. Obtaining investment can be time-consuming, and most companies don’t have a lot of resources.

What’s next for Aveni?

The next 18 months look exciting! We’re focused on commercialisation. We have two products, and we’re aiming to gain traction with Detect in the financial services sector while commercialising Assist. We want to establish a clear market presence and grow our revenue profile. Toward the end of next year, we’ll be looking to secure Series A investment to accelerate our growth.

Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers about Aveni’s experience as a funded startup, your involvement with TRICAPITAL, or the broader landscape of startup investing in Scotland?

In Scotland, there are many great resources to support businesses. Investors understand how difficult it is to start and grow a business, the key indicator in the early days needs to be making positive traction and having a clear story on where you are going.. There are lots of services available, such as Scottish Enterprise and various grant facilities, for businesses of all sizes. 

I also believe that building relationships is key. Networking events in Scotland are abundant, and people generally want to help. No one wants to see you fail. So, keep pushing forward, building relationships, and using the available resources. It’s a journey, and belief in your idea and the right support can make all the difference.