Where were you raised and who influenced your career?
I moved from Western Sydney to Caves Beach when I was 5. My parents were always my idols: Mum was a police officer, Dad a pool installer. Both worked very hard and therefore made myself work extremely hard. My first partner’s father was a top executive in business within Newcastle and that also sparked a flare in me.
You completed a bachelor of exercise and sports science at UoN then a masters of Applied Finance and Financial Management – why the change?
I loved sport but I realised that it was just a hobby, not an occupation. I started dabbling in the stockmarket and other investments and opted to do my Masters.
You then worked in the UK in finance and innovation. How did it shape you?
I worked for the largest R&D specialists in Europe, with some amazing technical and sales people (best in the world), learnt how to sell to top executives, win deals and take anything on. After being their leading sales person out of a team of about 200 I decided I wanted to go out on my own.
I learnt to sell to top executives, win deals, take anything on.
In 2020 you founded Robust Claims in the UK. What does it do?
It is an automated FinTech Saas platform that allows founders to prepare and manage their R&D claims themselves, and still benefit from the expert advice and review by R&D Tax Incentive professionals. It offers a more efficient way for businesses to approach R&D claims.
You founded Caves Capital in Australia. What is its remit?
It’s an R&D advanced lending specialist that helps innovative companies that are undertaking eligible R&D activities claim up to 43.5% of the expenditure as a refund from the Australian Taxation Office. Caves Capital allows companies to access their R&D tax refund earlier than the end of the financial year so they can expedite further R&D activities, bring forward commercialisation plans; satisfy ongoing cash flow needs; and delay or avoid expensive equity raisings. We also bridge the gap between companies and the venture capitalists and institutional investors who are seeking investment opportunities.
Why did you launch your consultancy BourkeHood, and why that name?
BourkeHood was launched to help me doing what I virtually always did in London – help global companies get back R&D funding and helping them scale. By helping companies access R&D funding we can accelerate their growth and this was always the vision. The name is a combination of my Mother’s maiden name, Bourke, and my family name, Hood, and is in memory of my late mum. I got a call out of the blue on a Saturday in March, 2019, in London and she had been diagnosed with melanoma cancer. I got on the plane immediately and arrived home in Sydney on Monday and she died three days later. She had no symptoms or anything. When I returned to London, my business partners in a company I started wanted to lower my equity. I had to leave London with no business and arrive back home. I moved in with my dad, brother and sister in Newcastle in September 2019. Bourkehood was started in December.
What is its niche?
Our bread and butter are the R&D tax incentives: we purely specialise in these schemes which allows us to achieve greater efficiencies and realise our niche offering, which is the optimisation of the claims. Our clients are small to medium businesses in a mix of sectors and industries. Nowadays, R&D can occur in so many different industries therefore our clients are diverse, including BioTech companies, farmers, software development companies, EdTech companies, automation, AI firms, and more.
What mistakes do companies make with R&D funding?
They do not realise they are eligible to apply. R&D is not just limited to science and deeptech, where you develop a new groundbreaking tech – it is also when you improve existing processes, materials, systems, applications, etc. Also, failed projects can also claim.
What is Bourkehood’s business model?
It has a success fee basis only, which is an advantage over competitors who work off a fixed fee basis, which does not incentivise to fully uplift and optimise R&D claims. Our consultants are not limited by the number of fixed hours they would spend on each claim, instead, every client and every claim can receive the full attention they deserve, from start to finish.
What growth has it had?
BourkeHood now covers four geographies, with over 200 clients who we helped to claim $30m-plus in collective R&D benefits, and also making an annual income well within the 7 figures. It has offices in Sydney, Auckland, London, and San Francisco and a network of business partners with complementary services. We also have an R&D lending facility, allowing to advance people’s R&D benefit to manage cashflows.
What trends are you seeing in innovation in Australia in the pandemic?
It has focused its innovation around the bioTech, pharma, and wellbeing sectors, drawing on collaboration with top universities – we’ve seen startups working on organic supplements to boost immunity/gut health, disinfection solutions that are safer than existing disinfectants, and more.