For Australian entrepreneur Amreeta Abbott, the path to becoming an entrepreneur or top executive is one of the most challenging for any woman to take. But it’s a path the award-winning fintech founder has chosen many times and one where she is reaping the benefits.
Shortly after selling her first fintech NowInfinity in 2020 for US$25m to an ASX listed company, Amreeta founded a new venture Annature, now a leading Australian eSignature provider for small business and enterprises on track to exceed 500% revenue growth this financial year.
Amreeta’s entrepreneurial spirit and success has garnered her widespread recognition, from securing Fintech Leader of the Year in the Women in the Finance Awards 2017, to her most recent accolade, being named Woman of the Year in Business and the Professions at the coveted global Golden Bridge Awards.
Amreeta is also a passionate fintech thought leader and experienced non-executive director in the fintech sector, sitting on a number of boards including CarExpert, PayMyTax and Succession Plus.
To celebrate World Entrepreneurs' Day, we talk entrepreneurialism and leadership with Amreeta.
How and why did your first startup NowInfinity come about?
From the moment I bought my first house, I realised how unnecessarily complicated signing documents was. My background was already filled with accounting, SMSFs, financial advisory, and I was developing a deep understanding of the finance industry. But I was getting perplexed over what I now call the friction points of business transactions. The businesses I started were dedicated to solving these.
The concepts that created NowInfinity were taking shape piece by piece in my head. People weren't getting documents when they needed them. Their dreams were being delayed because documents weren't being delivered for signature. They'd spend days of their time chasing and then delivering them to companies.
And to companies which then had to find the space to file all that paper away correctly because the documents would be needed again and again, pay rent for the premises in which the paper was stored and pay staff to do all the work. In fact, an endless paper chain. Nothing efficient about that. But there was a way to correct it. Change everything. This is how NowInfinity was born.
Eight years down the track, I had grown my business NowInfinity to the point where it could be sold. We disrupted the legal, accounting and financial services industries through technology. We allowed accounting professionals, for instance, to create and manage outcomes for their clients by offering every document, digitally, needed for the client business. Early in 2020, we were able to sell NowInfinity to an ASX-listed company Class Limited for AUD $25 million.
What made you want to do it all again, and during the pandemic too?
We had created a juggernaut with NowInfinity, by allowing people to overcome the frustrations of filling out ASIC forms, setting up companies, trusts and SMSFs and so much more. As a creator I wanted to do it all again – and just as COVID-19 hit, Annature came into play.
Pandemic lockdowns transformed business and global organisations accelerated the digitisation of customer and supply chain interactions. eSigning became a necessity. Traditional electronic signatures were at the end of their shelf life – they wouldn't work in a global business environment.
Creating Annature and building it on secure blockchain technology, I wanted to develop a solution capable of seamless integration into all major document management programmes, transparent pricing the multi-nationals were unwilling to match even as technology became cheaper by the day, Know Your Customer and Anti Money Laundering functionality and with data storage and management in Australia.
What plans do you have to scale Annature?
Annature has ambitious international growth plans with the goal to become the most innovative, Australian-owned online platform for eSigning and ID verification. Following launch in late 2020 and since then has seen its first quarter of envelopes electronically signed, triple in 2021 and record a 400% growth in envelopes signed in the first quarter of 2022.
Recent client additions to the ever-growing Annature platform include LegalVision, Sprintlaw, BBQs Galore, illumin8, Salestrekker, LoanQ and Margin Gains. Annature now partners with Stripe, FYI Docs, myprosperity, APS Reckon, Xero and Chatti.
With many countries worldwide mandating Proof of Identity requirements for eSigning for government and private business, Annature is compliant with in-country legislation around the world.
What does it take to survive and grow in the market during uncertain times?
I've always been self-motivated. The challenges any entrepreneur faces are keeping the focus on customers, using technology to ensure operations improve at every level, overseeing finance and transactions, evaluating risk as a manager and being people-centric. Executing those skills well is the journey; being enthusiastic about it has never been a problem. Being the leader of the pack means you not only have to keep an eye on everything that is happening in the present, but you also must maintain a vision for the future.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I would describe my leadership style as visionary. I love solving problems and building a roadmap of solutions to everyday challenges that need a new way of doing. I am very much a big picture person and hire the right people around me to get the job done. I place a lot of trust in the capable people around me to collaborate and execute on the overall picture. This is why so many on my team are long-term colleagues.
What do you consider to be the qualities of a good entrepreneur and leader?
Being the leader means you not only have to keep an eye on everything that is happening in the present, but you must also maintain a vision for the future. Not least because every team member looks to you for decisions – on which everyone’s future depends. I also encourage everyone in my team not to focus on the competition. Let’s establish our own benchmarks and chase those…let the others follow us! It’s liberating and inspiring to run your own race.
What do you consider your biggest career highlights?
Firstly, the sale of NowInfinity to Class for $25million. Eight years of hard work and commitment crystallised into an economic return which would change the trajectory of my life – and my sons’ lives. It is a point of pride that we still work with the new owners, Class Limited, today and are incorporating the NowInfinity capabilities into Annature to make the lives of professional accountants more streamlined, automated and efficient.
A second highlight, and one that means a lot to me personally was during the pandemic. As COVID-19 hit and the Australian Government’s financial support programs keeping people employed rolled out, our first eSigning customer completed digital documentation for 5,000 of its staff in a matter of hours. Technology should make our lives better and it was heart-warming to know we were achieving that with Annature.
What are your top tips for successful leadership?
There is a common thread in people who develop successful companies – they approach problem-solving from all sides. Taking the often-exceptional solution, their team has produced and applied the entrepreneurial mindset. Often that involves thinking differently than the rest. Once you realise you can do that, you can deepen that way of thinking even further. It becomes a reflex and a habit because you know, and you've learned that your first solution may not be the best one. And you recognise when you have the correct answer.
And what advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
My advice is very straightforward: work out your vision, go for it and let nothing stand in your way. If you can't break through an obstacle, any obstacle human or otherwise, go around it. And keep going.
What one thing would you tell your younger self just starting out?
Becoming an entrepreneur or a top executive is potentially one of the most challenging paths for any woman. Take heart. It is not at all impossible, and the odds are slowly moving in our direction.
Even the hardships caused by the pandemic infused us with something else: more agility, more courage, more ability to see beyond what we were doing in business terms and finding ways to surmount often great difficulties. Go for it. Your mindset will change your own world first, those around you and eventually the world at large. It is the most exhilarating experience.
Annature is built for the digital age on a highly secure blockchain model and being feature rich the Annature eSigning platform is recognised for more than digital signing capabilities. Its ISO 27001 data management accreditation provides peace of mind for thousands of customers worldwide.
Australia's premier electronic signature, ID verification and payment solution, Annature, took its eSigning platform to the next level in early 2022 – announcing a fully integrated Identity (ID) verification solution powered by Stripe.
Previously, Annature has integrated Stripe Payment, Billing and Invoicing technology to easily accept subscription payments for its eSigning business growing at scale. Stripe is ideal for continued development of Annature’s billing and subscriptions engine, easily embedding its powerful Payment APIs – and now ID APIs, into Annature's workflow for a holistic contract execution experience.
With enhanced ID verification and an embedded payment process, Annature's multi-jurisdictional compliance and reporting capacity provides renewed focus on Know Your Customer (KYC) compliance. The alignment with Stripe is expected to attract considerable uptake among accounting firms, where KYC/AML requirements are growing in demand.
Key software companies have made Annature their default eSigning solution, attracted by its competitive price, bank-grade security and onshore data storage in Australia. Its reputation for ease of use and easy access to local customer support teams is praised for being more knowledgeable and responsive than overseas multinationals operating in many markets worldwide.
Australian businesses' continued uptake of eSigning and identity verification solutions has accelerated Annature’s 300% revenue growth forecast, now on track to exceed 500% this financial year. Its confidence in Stripe Payments and Billing has helped support its accelerated growth rate.
The key to Annature’s stellar surge across the broad range of industries it services is its capacity to integrate the execution of agreements and the client verification process in one transaction, on one platform and at an incomparable price.