Three Minute Squiz With… Katherine McConnell

Katherine McConnell is one of the most genuinely caring people you could ever meet. She also has an incredible mind that she’s applied to finance throughout a successful career, first with Macquarie Bank, then with her own business, Brighte. With some high profile investors backing her, you should remember her name because she’s going places. Please welcome Katherine to the Three Minute Squiz. 

How and where do you Squiz?
On my iPhone on my commute to work, but I’m keen to try the podcast as I have heard it is great.

Let’s start at the beginning: why did you start your business, Brighte?
I am one of the few people in the startup community who wasn’t a born entrepreneur. I really enjoyed my corporate job but saw an amazing opportunity, and knew I had to go for it. I really believe that solar and batteries are going to change the landscape of Australian homes and allow families around the country to be more mindful about how they live and how they consume energy. Later on, once more homes have solar and batteries we will be able to share the energy that we generated with our neighbours… I truly believe in this future and I knew I could do something to bring this forward and make it happen faster.

Give us the pitch – why should we all get solar and a battery hooked up to our homes?
It’s this simple. Solar is great for the household budget and great for the environment. It’s the best investment decision you will ever make.

So how can you help us?
Brighte makes the paying part a little easier! You can use our affordable payment plan to buy solar and batteries today and start enjoying the savings from generating your own energy today. Brighte’s payment plans allow you to pay for it over time.

You’re putting in epic hours and had phenomenal success getting started. For example, Atlassian founder Mike Cannon-Brookes is an investor. Do you feel like you’re getting somewhere?
The truth is I spend most days thinking it’s all going to fall apart. And then at the end of the day when I breathe and reflect – I am in awe of what the team has achieved. As a sole founder and CEO, success to date is because I have an amazingly dedicated, diverse and super-smart team!

Was it a big call for you to quit your great big job at Macquarie Bank and take a punt on founding a startup?
When I reflect I can’t believe I made the decision to leave. I had a fantastic job and one of Australia’s most remarkable companies. Looking back it was a very nerve-wracking time and a big decision. I have a really supportive partner in my husband and he was the one who pushed me over the edge and gave me the confidence to resign and go it alone.

If you knew how hard starting your own business would be, would you have done it?
Without a doubt. For me its never been about the financials – its been about the sense of purpose. Brighte has been my greatest career achievement.

You’re also a mum to two boys and, as you mentioned, the wife of another successful startup founder (Pete McConnell from Commtract). Your lives must be a bit crazy right now… How are you doing it all?
Chaotically. But the whole family is on the journey and I am pretty sure none of them would change it.

What was the first concert you ever went to?
Young Talent Time Christmas Concert at Sydney Entertainment Centre in the early 80s.

And the first album you ever owned?
Whitney Houston album in mid 80’s (again) and favourite songs were How Will I Know, All at Once and Greatest Love of All.

Name four people – living or dead – you’d kill to sit down to dinner with.
Maybe I can rephrase the question to ‘sit down with more regularly’ to have dinner with? Regular family dinners, unfortunately, don’t happen as much I would like due to work hours…. so I would include my husband Pete and my two young boys and the final person I would love to have would be my Baba ‘grandmother’ from my Mum’s side. I always tell my boys stories about her as they remind me of her a lot. I know she would have loved to have hugged them and had a Ukrainian meal together (with lots of sour cream on everything).

Your favourite book?
This is going to sound very sad, but at the moment I almost solely read business books, often written by other founders. As they say in the classics if you want to see great distances you need to stand on the shoulders of giants. Currently enjoying High Growth Handbook by Elad Gil which was a present from an investor.

What skill or talent do you not have but wish you did?
Running. I live in perennial jealousy of those people who make a quick run around the botanical gardens look so effortless and enjoyable.

The best piece of advice your mother/father gave you?
I can’t recall a particular statement or phrase but Mum and Dad are the most genuine, generous and humble people I know. Their lives are such an example of happiness and true success.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Wit (after doing a quick read of Aristotle’s 12 virtues).

What’s your worst and best habit?
Worst – control freak (apparently I have passed this on to one of my children as well?!)
Best – my love of life.

What would you say is the most currently overlooked news story Australians should know about but don’t?
The shark attack at Manly’s North Steyne last week… Lots of locals are asking questions!

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