Investment with purpose

By Rajeev Gupta
Location: Sydney, Australia

Meet the three Business School alumni who have forged a new path to success, without the sacrifice.

Rajeev Gupta, Jason Rich and Michael Considine are three alumni who founded Alium Capital Management in 2016, after working together for many years, over many continents.

We sat down with Rajeev Gupta to discuss investment, global trends, success and how they got there.

What led you to found Alium Capital Management?

After graduating, we all worked overseas in London, Singapore, Hong Kong and New York. This gave us a perspective on many aspects of investing – notably identifying global themes like BRICs, technology, disruption, sustainable farming and renewable energy.

When we returned to Australia about five years ago, we felt there was an incredible opportunity to invest in Australian entrepreneurs that were focused on innovation.

Universities and government alike were focused on raising the profile of innovation across the country. Combined with the rise of co-working spaces, grants and mentorships, this resulted in entrepreneurs springing up across Australia. This has, over the last few years, meant that businesses require capital to grow and scale. We are committed to being a technology and innovation focused investment fund for Australian entrepreneurs.

We have also been involved in the University of Sydney's INCUBATE program and look forward to supporting the ideas that are generated there.

How does Alium Capital Management work?

We deploy capital that families and superannuation funds entrust us with, to companies we identify will change either consumer or enterprise behaviour. In the last 12 months, we have met with almost 800 companies that are involved in technology and are seeking growth capital.

We usually meet five companies a day from a variety of sectors, from software to marketplaces to AI to AgTech. We invest in private start-ups, all the way to large ASX listed companies.

We have an intense due diligence process, where we meet with the management team at least half a dozen times. We then conduct interviews with employees, customers and competitors. We conduct research on the product and the underlying technology. We try and identify what hasn’t worked and what the management team does to fix problems.

Alium Capital has invested in about 50 companies. We assist our companies as much as they need us to with regards to strategy, customer discussions and capital growth, all the way to a potential ASX listing.

How did the University of Sydney shape your career?

The University of Sydney was instrumental in the way we conduct our professional and personal lives. The culture was about openness, thoughtful relationship building and being proactive to drive outcomes. We deploy these facets every day.

With our portfolio companies, we demand continuous disclosure. The University's tutorials and group projects were a terrific foundation to enable us to adopt similar ethics and values when we are in discussions for an investment in a new company – question, respectfully debate, enhance your understanding.

What does the future of Alium Capital Management look like on a global level?

We have invested in companies in Australia that are having a positive impact globally. If we can identify more domestic talent that wants to build global, transformational businesses that enhance industries or disrupt the status quo, then we will have served our purpose (assuming a significant return is also generated!).

Alium Capital is on the hunt to be a capital facilitator to homegrown talent, wherever they may be. We have invested in Australian talent in the USA, Canada and Singapore. As we continue to invest in talent, we will grow the Alium Capital footprint with likely offices in Silicon Valley and Asia over time.

What are some of the global trends you are currently watching?

There are two key trends we are seeing that will have a significant impact over the medium term. The first is automation of workflow. Organisations today hire, train and pay a slew of staff or consultants to do work. This ranges from meeting organisations, note taking, accounting, travel, contract management, signatures etc. All these workflows are critical for business to get done. However, with intelligent technology, these can be automated and in the process are more reliable, speedy and efficient. Why do you need an assistant to book travel or meetings and then send receipts to your accountant? This can all be automated. The worker of the future will be asset light in our view.

The second emerging trend is around the use of AI, which many people confuse. You cannot build an AI company, it is a way of operating. It is a methodology. We believe everything we do is data-driven. How can one use AI to create better outcomes? Why does it take so long to get through an airport? With facial recognition and smart sensors, it should be a seamless process. If data about you and your items were readily available, you could go from kerb to aeroplane much easier.

What are you working on at the moment?

We are currently undertaking detailed due diligence with a business in the fintech arena. The founder is also a Sydney alumnus and is a serial entrepreneur. He has been incredibly transparent through the process and his staff have built a strong culture. His product appeals to the low-middle class that are seeking day-to-day savings in their everyday spending budgets.

It is an incredibly easy business to understand that has been self-funded for the past 10 years. As a University of Sydney alumnus, he stands for the same principles that Alium Capital values – openness, thoughtfulness and outcome-driven.

What are some of the challenges Alium Capital Management has faced?

Investing has its constant challenges, ranging from a company losing a key staff member, to losing a customer to product delays. We rely on our collective 60 years of financial market experience to deal with such challenges.

Challenges can often become terrific opportunities. We've had companies lose a CFO or COO, which then turned out to be a positive change. We've seen management get disheartened when they lose a customer proposal, but just a few months later they gain a marquee global client.

A key challenge for us is to keep people motivated through the natural ebb and flow of business.

What is your proudest achievement?

My partners and I started to discuss our business in early 2016. Three years later, we are a $200 million fund and are regarded as a top tier technology investor in Australia. We had always aspired to get here but didn’t anticipate it would be with such velocity. We are grateful to our investors and the founders that allow us to invest in their companies.

How do you define success?

Success is achieved when you have tangible value creation. We do this in multiple ways. We support our entrepreneurs and founders with capital to scale their business. The success here is when companies add new customers that use their enhanced product or service. For our investors, success is achieved when we find amazing companies that disrupt or redefine either enterprise or consumer behaviour and create more valuable companies which manifests itself with investor return.

Personally, for us, success is about being happy and balanced both personally and professionally. All we can do is focus on our input. We value ourselves on respect, transparency and being helpful. If we retain the integrity of those inputs, then we trust that the output will be a success.
Rajeev Gupta

Rajeev Gupta

Rajeev is a Business School graduate with a longstanding interest in technology. He is one of the founders of Alium Capital Management, a technology and innovation investment firm. Rajeev has over 20 years of experience investing, analysing and building technology companies, and has worked in Sydney, Singapore, New York, Hong Kong, Melbourne and Delhi.