Our Story: kleene.ai Raise £1.5M Seed

A few weeks ago, I read Johnny Boufarhat’s Hopin blog post, detailing the incredible journey he and the Hopin team had been on, and their plans for next steps after securing their Series C. The heartfelt and personal tone Johnny brought to his blog was fantastic, and something I would like to emulate as much as my word-smithery will allow in what follows below.

In March 2017, Andrew Thomas, Ben Long and I had spent our careers to date working in some shape or form with data. Utilising data to drive science based decision making with the companies we worked for was one of the unifying factors for us. The other was the frustrations that came with that. You’ve heard the stat – some arbitrarily high percent of a data professional’s time is spent in data prep. Loading, cleansing and organising. It’s not what they want to be doing. It’s not what their employer gets value from. A necessary but unwelcome bunch of tasks sit in the way of analysis, insight, and expectations and there is nothing you can do about it.

That’s what we got to discussing. There must be a better way. And if we can build that better way, imagine the possibilities. Sitting in a pub, on the banks of the Thames, we pooled our collective experience and began designing some high level infrastructure.

I say “designing” – between the three of us, no one had brought a pen or paper to capture the box and line architecture we were elaborately articulating. We gathered all the different coloured beer mats we could find and laid them out across the table. Incredibly, that hazy start turned into something tangible.

Bootstrap funding enabled Ben to dedicate his full time effort, while evenings and weekends were utilised to turn that beer mat vision into an actual product. Our first few customers followed and the product developed.

By September 2018, there was no avoiding it – we had a company on our hands. Our first few employees were in, refactoring the code and adding features. Our ever patient early client base was expanding and our confidence was growing. I stepped away from my “real” job and focused my efforts on growing the commercial side of our burgeoning business.

My amateur sales efforts were duly bolstered by our fantastic (and very non-amateur, fully professional and expertly led by our VP Revenue, Greg Freeman) sales team. We built our sales team, our customer success team and our analytics team, alongside growing our tech team, in the middle of the global pandemic. There is no doubt in my mind that we have benefited from the truly tragic circumstances we find ourselves in. The talented young people who are available in such large numbers in the job market today is often heartbreaking to see. Every round of hiring has left us with a desire to expand the team faster – sometimes turning 2 roles into 3 when we simply couldn’t not hire all the A players we spoke to.

The growth, potential and opportunity was clear. The inevitable cash flow barrier needed to be removed.

I am very happy to announce, alongside Andrew, Ben, Greg and the rest of the incredibly talented team at kleene.ai, that we have secured our Seed funding round, led by Episode 1, and supported by the team at Superseed.

That investment is going to empower us to scale even faster, ramp our product development and support our wonderful clients in their data journeys.

And what a set of clients we have.

Startups and scale-ups from every vertical, industry and many geographies have been added to our family in quick succession. Charities, retail, hospitality, ecommerce, B2B SaaS – you name it, we leverage our technology and expertise to truly move the needle when it comes to getting value from data.

The number one metric we go after is “speed to insight”. How long does it take before you get an answer to that question you have? This time is what we aim to drive to zero through data pipelining and the construction of the single source of truth.

The reality is, the big guys out there can afford to leverage large teams of engineers to try to tackle this challenge, while the businesses like ours, who are growing rapidly and attempting to compete on a level field are at a clear disadvantage.

We want to change that. It shouldn’t cost the earth to have transparency into your metrics and KPIs. And for the field not to be level is obviously not good for competition. Competition helps us all and keeps us honest.

Episode 1 and Superseed have invested in us to unlock our vision of levelling the field. The earlier the data challenge is nailed, the earlier the competition truly starts.