DigitalBridge founder sets sights on US market after £3m Series A

Avatar, July 24, 2019 4 min read

The founder of Manchester-based DigitalBridge says taking on VC funding was crucial to the company’s ambitious plans of expanding to the US.

The AI-powered interior design scaleup has recently attracted £3 million in Series A investment. The round was led by Maven Capital Partners and came from two funds it manages: Venture Capital Trusts and NPIF Maven Equity Finance.

DigitalBridge started life in 2012 and has since evolved from an AR-based interior design app to a “guided design tool” which allows customers to design virtual kitchens and bathrooms.

Founder and CEO David Levine has now set his sights on the US market and is unapologetic about the scaleup’s ambitions. We sat down with the entrepreneur to find out more.

What is the story of your company?

David Levine: I started the company back in 2012, when I was struggling to visualise what new wallpaper might look like in our family living room. I was convinced I couldn’t be the only person unable to bridge the ‘imagination gap.’

While solving this initial problem on the John Lewis accelerator (JLAB), we realised there was a bigger gap in the market for an easy-to-use space planning and visualisation tool for kitchens and bathrooms. All the other tools in the market focused on the professional; we wanted to build something for consumers.

What is your product and what problem are you trying to solve?

Anyone who’s recently renovated their bathroom or kitchen will tell you the current process is flawed; it’s painful, slow and full of friction. You have to wait to arrange that gap in your diary to visit a professional at the outset or be visited at home.

Then, there’s all the overwhelming unknowns associated with renovating a home, for instance how to design the room, which products are needed for a project, what happens if something goes wrong, finding a trusted professional, working out your budget and then how it all comes together for installation.

Consumers today expect a frictionless retail experience, including free returns or ‘cashierless’ stores – but home improvement retail is not keeping up. DigitalBridge is bringing home renovation into the 21st century and putting customers in charge.

Manchester is an amazing place to build a tech business. The computer revolution actually started about 200 yards from our office when Kilburn and Williams invented the world’s first stored programme computer in 1948!

Why did you raise the funding round?

We’ve clearly proven product-market fit and, with existing deployments with B&Q in the UK and Castorama in France, the time was right to expand. We’re ambitious – very ambitious. We are addressing a very important customer need that is underserved and the US is a gargantuan market for us; last year the bathroom and kitchen market was worth over $150b.

To really access those incredible opportunities we have, we knew we needed to raise and set up an office in the US.

Why did you choose your method of raising, versus others?

We had previously raised money from angels and felt we needed to step up the level of investment we received as well as the level of support. We wanted a partner who would help us grow and could leverage expertise garnered in scaling other businesses and helping a UK business expand to the US. Additional angel investment, crowdfunding or debt was just the wrong vehicle for that; choosing the right VC was.

How did you go about securing the funding?

I spent 18 months doing what the incredible Mark Suster calls ‘lines not dots’, building relationships with investors and giving them multiple data-points over time for them to judge me rather than just turn up on their doorstep the day before I was due to close.

I spent time meeting, talking, having coffees, attending networking events, etc, with a whole range of different investors to understand what they were looking for and if they were a good fit for us (and vice-versa). I’ve actually written a blog about the raise on Medium. Having travelled the world, or to the US and back at least, it was amazing to find what we were looking for on our doorstep in Manchester.

What considerations did you make before accepting the investment?

Signing a contract with anyone is always daunting but especially when it’s making a decision on what’s best for the next stage of your business – which is really an extension of me. I needed to understand what our partner would bring to the table, in terms of expertise and contacts as well as the funds.

It’s hard signing a term sheet as it means you have to commit to one single party while turning your back on others to enter a due diligence process where the result may not even be an investment. However, having spent the last six weeks working closely with Maven, I’m even more convinced they’re the right partner for us to grow DigitalBridge.

What’s it like being a tech company in your city/region?

Manchester is an amazing place to build a tech business. The computer revolution actually started about 200 yards from our office when Kilburn and Williams invented the world’s first stored programme computer in 1948!

We have access to incredible talent, the quality of life is so much better than London; property is affordable with most of my team either on the property ladder or getting very close to being so. We’re also only two hours away from London door-to-door. Many of the world’s leading tech businesses have or are in the midst of setting up shop here.

Where it is harder is funding. In the US early-stage means market-size and team. In the UK, ‘early stage’ often means >£100k MRR (monthly recurring revenue). In the North West that aversion to risk is often more pronounced. It is changing – but slowly.

What’s on the horizon for your company?

We’re in an exciting place. We’ve got lots of jet fuel in the tank, a very clear product and customer growth plans – and we’re in the midst of setting up an office in the US.

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