Carolyn Mee was one of the finalists at the Women as Entrepreneurs WE PITCH event and since then, she has raised money and grew her business. We chatted to her on how she did it. Carolyn and her business is based in Sydney, NSW.
Hi Carolyn, can you please introduce your business in a few words, and the story behind how you came up with the concept and who you decided to pursue it?
cmee4 Productions believes everyone’s future is worth playing for with mobile games now providing innovative ways of addressing age old health issues. Sound Scouts, the company’s flagship offering, is a revolutionary, clinically validated game created to detect hearing loss in children. Developed in collaboration with the National Acoustic Laboratories, Sound Scouts makes hearing testing fun and accessible to all children, ensuring they are ready and able, to play and learn.
I began developing Sound Scouts after discovering that undetected hearing issues had the potential to prevent a child achieving their full potential. Having been introduced to the concept of serious games it was quickly apparent that they could be harnessed to create an engaging hearing screening solution.
What did you prior to your startup? Can you give us a bit of a background?
When was the time when you decided you wanted to take on investment, and why?
I have been fortunate to secure grant funding from the NSW government. I received prototype funding in the very early days of development and used these funds to demonstrate the viability of the concept. I then self-funded the main build of the app which enabled us to complete our clinical trials that demonstrated the efficacy of the product. At this point I realised funding for commercialisation was essential. Happily at the end of 2015, after a rigorous application process I received a Medical Devices Fund Grant from NSW Health.
What do you think of current investment opportunities and the landscape for women in particular in Australia?
The landscape appears to be changing and I believe it is becoming more supportive of women. Even larger organisations such as EY are making a notable effort to support entrepreneurial women. I have, for the most part, had a very positive experience. To attract investment opportunities you must have a good product and you must be able to tell a compelling story that validates your product. Women must believe in themselves as much as their products. Certainly the NSW government has been supportive of the Sound Scouts initiative.
Did you have any prior finance knowledge or knowledge on investment options before securing money? How would you rate your knowledge and mindset around money in general?
Having run million dollar budgets in the production industry and having managed a small business I was certainly no stranger to managing money but I must admit I wasn’t familiar with the language of investment. That said as soon as you enter the entrepreneurial space you start to learn and the learning never stops. I’d encourage those new to the space to dive into the terminology and begin to understand what it all means. Ask lots of questions and talk to other entrepreneurs about the options they chose and why.
In your opinion, what made you successful in raising money? What made you the best candidate?
In my case solid R&D completed in collaboration with a highly regarded science partner made my case compelling. My business can be classified as a social impact business. We’re working to effect change supported by a business model that will make the company both self sustaining and profitable.
Is there any advice you’d give to other women looking for investment?
Confirm there is a market for your product and that it’s not just a cool idea you thought up in the shower (although the shower is a great place to come up with cool ideas). If you can validate the concept work towards creating a prototype that demonstrates the capabilities and appeal of your product. Understand the nuances of your market so when you are creating you are creating for the user and not for yourself. If you’re pitching make sure your pitch is clear and concise and that your personality shines through. Investors need to be confident in the person they are backing.
How did the WE (or other) community helped you in achieving your goals?
I met WE at the start of my Entrepreneurial journey. For years I had been creating a game to test hearing but when I was introduced to WE I realised I had the foundations of a business. Discovering this at that point was critical to my progress. Startup communities are so important and I would encourage anyone developing a scalable product to talk to other startup founders to both share and learn.