ProSpend CEO bypasses venture capital funding to succeed in $19B market
Sharon Nouh bootstrapped her startup to become a leading spend management platform among established global players, proving once skeptical VCs wrong.
Use of funds:
Expand marketing team and tactics
Invest in product innovation
Rebrand the business
Lighter Capital Funding
Grew customers to over 550 accounts
Almost no customer churn
Became major player in a competitive global market without VC money
Growth & Achievements
Sharon Nouh had a promising enterprise — and a couple of major obstacles keeping her from making it to the top: She had a startup.
A mere 4% of startups got their funding from venture capitalists in 2022. The likelihood of securing venture capital gets even smaller from there for female and minority founders — something Nouh experienced firsthand — 98% of all venture capital funding last year went to male founders.
Nouh founded her SaaS business working as a solopreneur more than a decade ago in Australia. What started as an expense tracking module, called Expensemanager, has evolved under Nouh’s savvy leadership to become ProSpend, a highly adaptable and configurable spend management platform that keeps innovating to help businesses digitize and automate all their spending processes.
“We sit alongside the finance systems as the workflow tool to manage spend, which is done by the users with support from ProSpend’s approval workflows and automation,” Nouh explains. “Then we push that data into the customer’s finance system.”
Innovative, certainly, but surprisingly not attractive to VC investors — not in its early days, anyway.
A true bootstrapping success story
Nouh tried the venture capital path years ago only to discover VCs weren’t willing to take a chance on a startup they didn’t think could compete with global players in the market, ignoring the young company’s qualifications and its promising early growth.
Bank loans appeared to be the SaaS startup’s least costly capital option, but without the hard assets the banks required, the potential cost from personal guarantees and warrants to secure these loans was just too great.
Nouh made an ambitious decision to stay the course and bootstrap her startup without the help of venture capital. “We toughed it out on our own, and we proved them wrong,” she says.
The company continued to grow on its own steam, even through the pandemic. “The secret to our success has been always listening to our customers — delivering innovative products that solve their real business problems,” Nouh says, “and having a passionate team of forward-looking industry leaders with comprehensive FinTech knowledge and expertise.”
Scaling a SaaS startup with non-dilutive debt
In 2021, as the world emerged from COVID-19 and started to settle into “a new normal,” Nouh saw a timely opportunity to accelerate growth, but she needed a quick injection of capital.
Her company had gained enough traction that Nouh felt confident she could bypass VC funding to hit her targets. Nouh didn’t want to dilute equity, either, so she looked for debt resources.
Nouh eventually discovered a non-dilutive debt financing solution that best fit the startup’s needs when she connected that year with Lighter Capital through Heads Over Heels (now Apropela), an Australian networking platform for female entrepreneurs.
“Lighter Capital was perfect for us,” said Nouh, “and I liked that if we needed more funding, we could go back and get it as the business evolved.”
As CEO of ProSpend, Nouh leads more than 25 employees and has a book of over 550 customers (with very little customer churn) that includes international brands such as KFC, Baskin-Robbins and Billini Shoes. Her company has become a major player in a multibillion-dollar market without ever taking any VC money.
Putting the capital to work
The enterprise has raised $825,000 non-dilutive funding over three rounds from Lighter Capital, each time propelling the company forward and amplifying its value within a competitive market.
ProSpend has used its funds from Lighter Capital to:
Execute a rebrand to better position the company within the market
Launch products including Virtual Cards and E-Invoicing
Expand the marketing team and develop its strategy
Hire more developers and engineers
Since rebranding from Expensemanager to ProSpend in February 2023, the company has broadened its position as a leader in the business spend management market, which is valued at more than $19 billion USD globally and is predicted to grow at an annual rate of 11.9% by 2030 to reach more than $46 billion.
“I bootstrapped my vision,” said Nouh. “I could not be prouder of where we are today!”