Grabble opportunity with both hands

Wollongong start-up Grabble has become the latest Aussie success story after being acquired by Walmart's research and development unit, but for a while it seemed the boys almost missed the opportunity.

Wollongong start-up Grabble has become the latest Aussie success story after being acquired by Walmart's research and development unit, but for a while it seemed the boys almost missed the opportunity.

The digital receipts technology was developed by Anthony Marcar and Stuart Argue, who got their first break when they were accepted into the Startmate accelerator program last year.

Grabble sends receipts to customers' phones, avoiding the need to keep track of paper receipts, and it received a $25,000 seed investment as well as intense mentoring over a three-month period.

More importantly, the program gave them access to some of Australia's most accomplished entrepreneurs and networks, both here and overseas, including Atlassian founders Scott Farquhar and Mike Cannon-Brookes, as well as co-founder Niki Scevak.

The mentors facilitated Grabble's first introduction to the Silicon Valley market, and an opportunity to pitch for a spot at famed incubator and investor 500startups, run by start-up kingmaker Dave McClure.

It's widely known that 500startups is based in the same building as Walmart's retail incubator, and it's fair to say that this proximity was one of the reasons that Grabble's founders crossed paths with their future employer.

The Grabble founders have declined to comment about the acquisition, but, in a previous interview, Marcar communicated the story of the rollercoaster ride to get their most important break — securing investment from 500startups.

They'd been invited to pitch directly to Dave McClure, a privilege bestowed on only a handful of start-ups, and it didn't take long for him to realise the product's potential.

When given the opportunity to ask questions, McClure offered to invest in Grabble.

"Dave asked the question and we said 'haha', and just moved on to the next question," Marcar said. "We didn't know what to say to that."

Once they realised the opportunity they had passed up, they scrambled to get in touch with McClure, but quickly learned that this was one of the biggest challenges in Silicon Valley.

"He's a busy man, and you can't send him an email because he doesn't read them. You have to go through people who know him intimately."

After some dogged efforts to reconnect with 500startups, they earned a follow-up interview with one of Dave's trusted advisers, and a partner in the organisation.

But they weren't home free just yet.

"We went through this lady called Christine, and we didn't know who she was. She was asking all these questions about our start-up, and we just thought she was almost a secretary and were wondering what was going on.

"We screwed that up."

Marcar said that the debrief with the mentors went something like this.

Mentor: Did you close Dave?

Grabble: No, he put us on this Christine person.

Mentor: Christine is a partner in 500startups.

Grabble: Oh s***.

They spent the next week trying to get another meeting, and finally got the rewards.

"Long story short, we got a verbal commitment from them."

Marcar said it was a great learning curve for Silicon Valley.

"That was a really good intro into Silicon Valley life; you wouldn't expect that in Australia, and you had to adapt."

Marcar said that the pair wouldn't be where they are today without the Startmate accelerator program.

"There's no way I would be here today. Startmate gives you that push.

"The way it works is last time they had two talks per week, where they tell you about what they've done and offer to help in specific ways.

"We were working out of Wollongong in our apartment, having a great time, and we'd have to go up to Sydney twice a week.

"That was always a push; we had to say what we'd done this week, what we were doing next week and pitch every single time."

"It was a real kick up the arse."


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