In any business the team acts as both the foundation and the glue that holds ‘it’ all together. Working with startups, we see this firsthand and it’s why we look very closely at the team during our due diligence phase. Founders not only have to pass a background check but we spend a lot of time with them discussing their plans for the business and how they see themselves achieving it.
Our feelings are also mirrored in research. A study published in the Harvard Business review demonstrates that 60% of new ventures fail due to problems with the team. But it’s not simply a lack of experience (although that is important too) but a lack of passion and vision.
The team therefore needs to be the perfect melting pot of skills, attributes and experience. Urbotanica’s co-founders luckily have it all with careers spanning 75 years, including roles in C suite positions. They also have demonstrated that they have the vision and passion being heavily involved in the startup environment and running their own businesses prior to Urbotanica.
Here’s a little look at Urbotanica’s co-founders.
Ray Hart - Manager Director and Co-Founder
Ray Hart has 25 years experience spanning corporate advisory and executive CEO/CFO/CRO roles. Among them are roles at Air Malta and Caribbean Airlines in senior restructuring positions leading €240m and USD$400m restructures.
Ray has been involved in the start-up environment in Australia since 2009, being the inaugural Chairman of the Perth Angels and committee member, which provides invaluable access to relevant industry and resources. He’s also launched and exited various businesses ranging from professional services, international airlines and technology enterprises. This experience underpins his role at Urbotanica, giving the business outstanding experience to grow with.
In 2001 he launched his own international consulting and advisory firm, Catalise Plc, in Europe focused on delivering shareholder value through holistic business transformation, restructuring and turnaround assignments.
Currently Managing Director of Urbotanica he is responsible for strategy and delivery, brand development, team building/performance, market development and Product/RandD.
Ray and the two other co-founders, Neale and Greg, through their varied experiences recognised the opportunity that was beginning to appear in the combination of a few global trends: an increasingly urban population, increasing need and demand for sustainable products, and growing concern around the food we eat, where it comes from, and what is in it.
Since the start of this journey in 2015 Ray continued to be inspired by the rapid growth of the AgTech industry however noted the focus remained on large scale projects such as urban farming and vertical garden, with very few concentrating on solving the problems for everyday people, giving them the tools to help themselves. The benefits of growing closer to home had become obvious which meant there was a gap in the market to bring this same technology straight to consumers. This opportunity manifested into the creation of the Urbotanica’s first product the UrbiPod which allows consumers to grow their own herbs, salads, chillies, flowers etc. Ray’s goal is that we all have the ability to grow some of our own food at home, and that in doing so we can be happier, healthier, and environmentally cleaner.
Greg Wheeler Director and Co-Founder
With extensive ‘C’ suite experience gained over 35+ years, Greg brings a wealth of experience to Urbotanica.
His previous roles include Partner at Grant Thornton and Deloitte and CEO/CFO/Chairman roles at various ASX listed entities. He also owns his own consulting business giving advice to directors, shareholders and stakeholders on a range of business outcomes including business improvement, strategic issue identification and management, corporate governance, risk management and mitigation strategies.
Greg is a past President, Councillor and Treasurer of the Western Australian division of the (then) Securities Institute of Australia (now Financial Services Institute of Australasia) and past Chairman of the Australasian CA Training Group.
As Director of Urbotanica Greg oversees finance, risk management, compliance and team coordination.
He sees the real opportunity in bringing high quality Australian products, especially agriculture related, to our close international neighbours like Hong Kong, Singapore, and Malaysia. Home to high density cities, Singapore for example only supplies 10% of its own food however are committed to seeing an increase in this area. Greg identities this huge opportunity to supply them with some of the tools to do to overcome the challenge of their high density living conditions and lack of agricultural space.
Neale Anderson Chief Customer Officer and Co-Founder
Neale has over 25 years experience in working with companies in Australia, Europe and the Caribbean, specialising in customer / business improvement programs across a number of industries. Neale and Ray have worked closely for 16 years at Catalise UK where Neale was a Director. Previously he worked with PwC in London and Direct Line Insurance in the UK, and in Australia, as well as with brands such as Caltex, Pepsi Co, Sony and Westpac.
Responsible for community building and full service customer experience, Neale works closely with Urbotanica customers to provide the highest quality customer service. The feedback has been resounding with customers appreciating the support available, all from within Australia.
Neale sees the opportunity of supporting people on their growing journey, and endeavoring to make it as effortless as possible with plans for introducing a subscription service and additional growing products to meet different consumer needs and give them the tools to continually grow more of their own food and favourite plants.
Urbotanica's equity crowdfund is currently live. Check out the offer here.