Anti-money Laundering Startup First AML Raises $8m
AUCKLAND, New Zealand, September 16, 2020 - Anti-money laundering tech startup First AML has raised NZ$8 million in a Series A funding round led by US-based Bedrock Capital, with support from Pushpay founder Chris Heaslip and Icehouse Ventures.
First AML’s regulatory technology (regtech) platform streamlines AML anti-money laundering compliance for the likes of financial service providers, law firms, real estate agencies and accountants. The company’s end-to-end Customer Due Diligence platform automates the identity verification of customers, giving companies complete visibility and management oversight of the process, minimising money laundering risk.
This is the first New Zealand investment for Bedrock Capital. Managing Partner Geoff Lewis, who spent five years at Silicon Valley-based Founders Fund before establishing Bedrock two years ago, said he’d been scanning the country for “underestimated startups incongruent with the popular narrative” and was introduced to First AML by Pushpay’s Chris Heaslip, who led the company’s seed fundraising round last October.
“Bedrock is delighted to lead one of the largest Series A financing rounds in New Zealand for First AML,” says Mr Lewis. “The company has built a unique technology solution that is upending profoundly antiquated AML compliance processes, while also delivering dramatic efficiency improvements and cost savings to customers. Led by a talented management team, we believe First AML is positioned for global impact over many years to come.”
Impressed by New Zealand’s vibrant startup ecosystem, Mr Lewis recently applied for a Edmund Hilary Fellowship, and will join a growing community of entrepreneurs and investors helping Kiwis drive global impact.
First AML Co-founder Milan Cooper is excited by the opportunities the new investment affords: “Our plans to accelerate global market expansion and product development have just got a whole lot bigger.
“Interest from customers in countries like Australia and the US is heating up as businesses look to prepare for new regulatory requirements, and we are now well placed to capture these opportunities and offer the world’s best AML compliance platform thanks to our new investment partners at Bedrock. This is a $184 billion global market - there's massive opportunity out there.”
While the second tranche of AML legislation is expected to hit Australia within the next two years, First AML is already gaining traction there, with several of the country’s top venture capitalist firms using the platform. The company is looking to hire 10 new staff in Sydney, and has 40 employees based in Auckland.
Australian venture capital firm Blackbird is using First AML, and business operations manager Dan Danilov says: “It’s reduced our AML case bottleneck, completely removing the burden of collecting and verifying AML documents, with an easy-to-use dashboard that tracks the status of all our cases. Many of our investors have reached out to let us know how much better the experience is.”
A new release of First AML’s platform is scheduled for later this month, which will include improved biometric identification for remote verification and new visual tools to help users understand the ownership of complex company structures.
According to Icehouse Ventures CEO Robbie Paul, a capital raise of this size, so early in a startup's journey, puts First AML in the esteemed company of agritech startup Halter raising from San Francisco-based venture capital firm Data Collective; Crimson Education raising from New York-based private equity giant Tiger Global, and Pushpay raising from New Zealander Peter Hulich’s family investment firm.
Mr Cooper formed First AML in 2017 with his two co-founders, Bion Behdin and Chris Caigou, who were working as corporate bankers when the first phase of AML regulations were introduced for banks in 2013. A few months later, the three founders took part in the Icehouse Ventures Flux Accelerator, then went on to present to 1000 investors at the annual 2019 Showcase event, raising $2.5 million in angel funding within six weeks. Mr Cooper credits the Icehouse Ventures team for inspiring the company’s co-founders to think big from the outset.