Disrupting financial services with AI: behind the growth at FeedStock

FeedStock is an AI-driven SaaS business and a powerful performance driver for the financial services industry. The firm uses natural language processing technologies to allow complex businesses across the sector to track, filter and interpret data and digital communications.

We first partnered with FeedStock in 2019, after we were hugely impressed with the experience and vision of co-founders Charlie and Lucas. AI is already disrupting financial services in a positive way, and proprietary software like FeedStock’s will be at the heart of future business models worldwide in the coming years.

Here we catch up with Lucas Wurfbain, co-CEO and founder, to take a look back at FeedStock’s funding journey and discuss their plans for the future.

About your business

  • Can you tell us a bit about your business and the journey you’ve been on with Praetura Ventures in the first six months of your partnership?

The backing from the team at Praetura Ventures couldn’t have come at a better time for us as it coincided with our push to onboard large multinational organisations. Having the additional capital and the support of the team at Praetura Ventures was crucial in attracting that next level of client.

When we first partnered with Praetura Ventures, we were on course to expand rapidly with an active recruitment process underway, but two months into that the world went on pause as a result of the pandemic.

It was a time when we leant on the expertise of Praetura Ventures as a sounding board. The team immediately stepped in to support us in digesting the developments and various government announcements as they happened. It helped us communicate with our colleagues and customers, and revise our strategy for the months ahead with ease.

We learned a lot from Mark Lyons and the team’s insight on how their other portfolio companies and contacts in the wider market were reacting as the situation developed. They made sure we had everything we needed to batten down the hatches and weather the crisis successfully.

From the start of our partnership, Praetura Ventures has provided a lot of additional resource from their own team, including the support of HR director, Kate Norton, which has been extremely helpful in driving our growth and helping us to attract new talent.

Running a business that is growing quickly is complex even under normal circumstances, so having the eyes and ears of experts in the market has been a huge help over the past few months.

The right investment partner

  • What were you looking for in an investment partner?

 Our investment in January wasn’t our first funding round, so we had a good idea of what we were looking for in an investment partner. Running a business with ambitious growth plans is a complex task, and the more people you can have on side that really understand your business and who can pitch in ideas, the better. That’s what we looked for when we kicked off our search.

We knew we wanted to find an experienced team that could contribute positively at board level, support our recruitment process, leverage their contacts to grow our network, and help spread the message of what we do. We wanted them to be active and thinking about the business as much as we were.

From the first conversations we had with Pete Carway and Mark Lyons, we knew they were committed to helping to grow our client base and strengthen our operations.

Their ability to contribute ideas and insight to the business even before investment really stood out for us, and there were clear synergies with similar businesses the team had supported. We’d been impressed with Peak’s growth journey and how much of that was down to the backing of Pete and the team, so we knew it would help us achieve our goals faster.

  • What have you learned since partnering with Praetura Ventures?

At the end of the day, you have to be 100 per cent sure that an investment partner understands your business. For anyone else looking to find an investment partner, my advice would be to ask questions and do your due diligence.

It’s also worth weighing up whether you like the people you work with. We clicked immediately with the team at Praetura Ventures. They’re hands-on and have really got to know our business behind the spreadsheets, so we have a lot of respect for them and their opinions. We’ve also been impressed by the strong working relationship they’ve formed with our existing investors, Illuminate Financial. It’s clear they’re not just there to present a cheque at the end of the process – they have big ambitions for our business.

Overnight transformation

  • How has the business had to change/pivot its business model during the current crisis?

 The way we interact with clients has changed with the pause on face to face meetings, but we haven’t noticed much friction as a result. It’s helped that we don’t need people to go on-site to put solutions in place.

We’ve remained just as productive as a team, but there is a keenness to get back into the office for higher levels of human interaction. We’re in the process of looking for a new office in London to house our growing team, so the future remains bright.

  • Has demand changed during the crisis and how is this affecting the way you work?

There was already a buzz in the financial services industry around the benefits of new technology and slicker AI, so demand was gathering momentum even before the pandemic hit.

Many financial services businesses are in the process of moving to cloud computing and introducing AI across operations and we’ve seen a lot of our larger clients accelerate these trends during lockdown.

When we began to introduce our solution five years ago, a lot of people were uncomfortable with information being hosted in the cloud – but now it’s the exact opposite picture. AI has become more widely accepted as a useful tool for improving business operations and processes, so its clear people are seeing the practical applications of it with improved revenue and costs.

  • Why is AI technology vital at times like these?

 One of the tricky things for businesses working from home to grapple with is making sure people are not breaching compliance obligations. Business leaders want to make sure all the usual processes are being followed, and our solution really helps with this.

We leverage leading edge AI technology to digitise high-value relationships inside and outside organisations. The system integrates seamlessly into existing technology, to structure unstructured communications and measure relationships without ever disrupting employees, so it’s a vital tool at times like these.

Another component of the cloud is that if you get it right there is a meaningful cost conversation to have there too. It can deliver revenue improvements, and firms will be looking more actively at ways to streamline and reduce surplus spend in the years ahead.

Moving forward

  • Where do you see FeedStock after the immediate priority has passed, and in five years from now?

 Our focus for the year ahead is to continue to deliver proprietary technology to enterprises that are looking to leverage AI as a core component of their business for efficiency gains and revenue generation, and for businesses required to comply with MiFID II.

Ultimately, while it’s been a challenging year, our expertise in large, highly regulated businesses stands us in good stead to strengthen our client base and continue to scale.

We provide financial services firms with the compliance, technology and data analytics solutions they need to get ahead of their competitors, and we’re confident AI will play an even greater role in the future of financial services worldwide.

With the support of the team at Praetura Ventures, we’re on track to continue our growth strategy, and we’re committed to making global headway in the coming years.

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