When an industry such as compliance software has been around for decades and it’s suddenly been given a new name such as RegTech, it must mean something right? Evan Wong, co-founder and chief executive high-flying startup Checkbox thinks so.
“Calling it something else is pretty significant in itself because it shows the industry has a really strong focus on it,” he told InnovationAus.com.
“There are several factors driving this where there is an increased attention outside of technology on compliance with the royal commission recently.
“There’s also just been a movement of internal operation improvements, specifically in the legal sphere where there’s a new fad call LegalOps, which is about nailing the operations aspect of being a law firm.
“RegTech is really broad. It started off being categorised under FinTech, which is a good place to start because FinTech has a lot of weight, but RegTech doesn’t just apply to financial services. It’s in energy, transport, health, so it’s more a horizontal than a vertical.”
The 25-year-old founded Checkbox two years ago with his high school best friend and company chief technology officer James Han and chief commercial officer Paul Wenck.
Checkbox is a platform designed to help companies in sectors like insurance, banking, accounting, and legal to digitise, automate, and manage complex regulations and to turn manual internal processes into cloud software, all without requiring developer coding.
The idea for Checkbox – initially named Comployment – was born after Wong started his first business, a tuition agency known as Hero Education and was met quickly with employment compliance laws, like many small business owners.
At the time, he was also studying his first year of a combined degree in commerce and law at the University of New south Wales.
“I thought being a law student I could solve this myself, so I jumped on the government websites to figure it out,” he said.
“These websites were very cluttered and there is a lot of information that is not relevant. Trying to find out what I wanted was very difficult.”
Since it was started, Checkbox was completely bootstrapped. However, in July the company closed its first funding round securing $1.77 million from angel investors that has since been used to expand product and engineering teams.
“As founders, it was our philosophy to not raise money for the sake of raising. There’s a bit of artificial milestone created around raising funds; [that somehow] raising funds equals success,” he said.
“While there is some truth to that, selling our way to revenue is ultimately the goal. You start a startup not to raise money, you start a startup to build a sustainable business,” he said.
“But we realised what we were building was much bigger than anticipated and we were not going to do it without sprinting ten times faster, so we needed the money for that.”
Mr Wong said seeking out angel investors over venture capitalists was an active decision, claiming it was the “better option because with the angels you get more flexibility as founders to run the business.”
The company’s success has been acknowledged with a collection of accolades including being named RegTech of the year at the Australian FinTech Awards and best SaaS startup at StartCon last year. Over 12 months, the company won nine awards in Australia, Hong Kong, and Singapore. Mr Wong modestly said that entering awards was not intentional.
“Someone came across an award and said this would be relevant to us, and we ended up winning. Surprisingly, we got a lot of benefits we didn’t expect to get.”
“It helped build credibility for our customer base and it directly translated to more sales.”
One of the largest successes came after Checkbox was selected to participate in Accenture’s FinTech Innovation Lab 12-week mentorship program in Hong Kong. In October, the startup secured its first overseas customer, which it met through program.
On the horizon, Mr Wong said Checkbox will explore artificial intelligence to provide an added layer of support to end-users.
He also hopes to incorporate a social responsibility focus into the business and return his attention on Hero Education.
“Once Checkbox find its feet, I want to bring in a layer of social responsibility because that matters a lot to me. The success of Checkbox is because of luck and privilege, so I want to give back to the community,” he said.
“I currently use Hero as a medium to offer a lot of pro bono services, programs and grants to empower young people and people who have time but may not have the resources or skills to take initiatives to change the world.”