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Fintech secures funding for next wave of video conferencing

A Scottish fintech start-up is set to increase its headcount by a third following a successful six-figure seed funding round.

The newly-rebranded Aveni, previously known at Hatch-AI, has raised £520,000 ahead of the launch of its Aveni Connect technology for the financial and legal sectors. The product is designed to take video conferencing to the next level as the Covid-19 pandemic has led to a surge in the use of services such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom.

The investment has been led by TRICAPITAL, the syndicate of more than 40 angel investors based predominantly in east-central Scotland and the Borders. Stirling-based Wallace Equity, Scottish Investment Bank and Old College Capital – the University of Edinburgh’s in-house investment fund – also supported the fundraising.

Work to put the deal together started back in November, well before the coronavirus outbreak.

“If you throw in multiple investors and a global pandemic, then yes, it’s been a very interesting funding round,” Aveni chief executive Joseph Twigg said. “But we were also lucky in a way with the timing.”

The company’s origins go back to 2018 when Mr Twigg, a former head of strategy and business management at Standard Life, was studying for his MBA at the University of Edinburgh. There he met researchers from the university’s School of Informatics, who were working on projects that spawned Aveni’s technology.

Aveni Connect will initially be available in a free-to-use version similar to existing video conferencing platforms. This will be rapidly followed by an off-the-shelf version for SMEs that includes additional features such as the capacity for digital signatures, GDPR compliant data storage, digital witnessing and secured sharing of documents.

The latter is already being trialled by a couple of professional advisors, and is expected to become widely available in the next few weeks.

Aveni has also been working with a national bank for the past nine months on a tailored version with AI and natural language abilities to help rapidly identify customers at risk who need immediate assistance, or situations where financial crime could be taking place. When this is the case, advisors receive an immediate prompt to take further action.

Mr Twigg said this augments the human by allowing the advisor to focus on the client’s requirements, rather than dividing attention with the need to also detect signs of irregularities.

“We believe these general-purpose video conferencing products you see like Microsoft Teams or Zoom will evolve into ‘Zoom for Advisors’ or ‘Zoom for Legal Services’, and that is where we are positioning ourselves,” he explained.

The fresh funding will allow Aveni to raise its headcount by four people to 15 as the firm gears up for what Mr Twigg believes will a permanent shift towards a blend of physical and digital meetings between professional advisors and their clients.

“A large number of the changes that have happened over the last couple of months will find a degree a permanence in our new methods of operation,” he said.

“The transition to a hybrid advice model is the way I see it. That has huge implications for the industry.”

Moray Martin of TRICAPITAL said the syndicate was “delighted” to lead Aveni through its initial fundraising amid a turbulent economy.

“We recognise the exceptional ability, experience and commitment of the founding team and the perfect fit for the technology across a wide range of sectors,” he said.

“We could not, though, have foreseen just how relevant and important this technology will be in the post-Covid business environment – a real game-changer in so many ways.”

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