Sean Brown knows what it’s like to have nothing.

As an 18-year-old backpacker in Australia in 2008 he ran out of money and slept under a bridge for two nights until he started his new job as a glass collector in a hostel.

In desperation he hatched an idea to sell raffle tickets to his fellow backpackers to win a sky dive that he’d persuaded the operator to give him for free and raised $250 from the exercise.

“It’s how I survived,” recalls Brown, who has come a long way since sleeping under the bridge in Brisbane.

Now 34, married and a father-of-two, Brown reckons he’s launched a range of 22 projects and companies in 16 years – with varying degrees of success.

However, it’s his current venture Versori, a provider of data infrastructure solutions, that is showing all the signs of being the ‘big one’ and has just closed a fresh seed funding round of $5.5m.

The details of the latest round haven’t been made public but it follows a £2.75m investment in 2023, led by Stage 2 Capital, with participation from notable angel investors including Cindy Bi of Capital X and Jamie Su.

It means the Manchester startup, which Brown co-founded with his CTO Daniel Jones, has raised more than $10m in less than two years.

The pair came up with the idea after identifying first-hand the difficulties companies had in scaling their businesses because of problems around data integration.

Orka Technology Group – the rise and fall

The result was Brown and Jones launched Versori to provide enterprises around the world with intuitive, powerful and cost-effective data integration software, thereby reducing integration times from weeks to hours.

Versori graduated from the famous Y Combinator accelerator in March 2023 and has since worked with companies like Frasers Group, Macy’s and the MoD.

Brown thinks it could be a future unicorn – but it’s not a metric he likes to use.

“Don’t just judge business success solely on the amount of money it makes and the valuation,” he said.

“Money isn’t my primary motivator. Building something with a global impact and value is more the focus with Versori. True success for me is in building the solution that powers world-wide system connectivity.

“For something to work you’ve got to feel really compelled to build it. You have to be really passionate. That was one of the mistakes I made earlier in my career.

Sean Brown, CEO, Versori

Sean Brown, CEO, Versori

“In my 20s I was a serial gasser. People get fatigued with people who talk all the time and do nothing. I fatigued myself for goodness sake!!  Now my focus is on doing rather than talking.”

Last week Versori was included in the inaugural ‘GM 125 Rising Stars of Business’ list, run by BusinessCloud and GM Business Growth Hub.

Versori is already working with large enterprises and SaaS vendors to solve complex integrations and workflow automations without the cost, time-to-live and resources required with other solutions.

Just don’t tell Brown that he’s a ‘one-hit wonder’.

He said: “I’m sure many more founders hear the same. But what people don’t understand is the amount of failures that go into building the one outlier, the one success.

“As with building anything from scratch, building a startup is extremely hard. The headlines we read of a ‘20-something year old, first-time founder building a billion dollar company’, glamourise the life of being a founder and ultimately promote a lifestyle on the back of false promises.

“I’m 34 and have only just started seeing the correct signals in Versori that it has what it takes to really become that outlier but certainly hasn’t been a one-hit wonder.

“Founders of companies do so for a multitude of reasons. The most successful ones I know of, haven’t done it for personal wealth, status or sense of ownership. We do it because we love to build, we love to create.”

GM 125 Rising Stars of Business 2024

Brown reflected on his own rollercoaster career and the lessons he learned along the way.

“In 2009 I built a little tech business called Social Scuba,” he said. “Social media was taking off and Social Scuba was a place where people could log their dives and build a community. I sold that for $6,000.”

In 2014 he launched the influencer marketing platform Hatch, before it was brought in-house by high-profile social media marketing agency, Social Chain, founded by Dominic McGregor and Dragons’ Den star Steven Bartlett.

Brown recalled: “Sometimes you learn a great deal but can’t put your finger on what it is. I joined Social Chain in the early days, becoming the head of product.

“At the time Social Chain was generating a lot of press and it seemed like a big step up. It’s only time that gives you a sense of perspective.”

In 2020, as a tongue-in-cheek attempt to learn about blockchain technology, he launched his own cryptocurrency called SeanCoin. “I wanted to understand more about cryptocurrency before I invested in it so I launched my own called SeanCoin,” he recalled. “The only people who had access to it were called Sean, Shaun or something similar. That was the novelty element.

“If I’m honest it was crap but it highlighted that you don’t have to launch every business from the perspective of making money.

“Every experience – good and bad – is a learning experience. Do I believe Versori has the potential to be a unicorn? Yes, especially when you consider more than $350bn is spent on complex data integration problems currently solved by consultancies and service providers.

“However what excites me the most is building something game-changing along the way.”