Atlanta-based Lillii RNB has just closed its $3 million seed round co-led by Serena Ventures and Aperture Venture Capital.
Spearheaded by computer science grad Barbara Jones-Brown, Lillii RNB is an innovative retail fraud prevention and data analytics firm. Its proprietary software assists retailers in optimizing their returns processes by identifying fraud and loss that is hidden in their own data.
Launched in 2013, Lillii RNB’s latest investment is with Serena Williams’ early-stage venture fund Serena Ventures and William Crowder’s Aperture Venture Capital, which is well-known for creating pathways for founders of color.
The fraud analytics tech company recently launched its Freeing Returns platform, which analyzes software return data and assists in detecting fraudulent returns.
In an exclusive with UrbanGeekz, Jones-Brown spoke candidly about her latest investments and steps she is taking to scale her brand since the effects of COVID-19. When asked how she managed to connect with Serena Williams, Jones-Brown said that a conversation with an investor and an advisor paved the way.
“Mary Schrader invested in the company but she also became an adviser to me. She was made aware that Serena Ventures was looking for B2B companies to invest in. And [Schrader] told them about us,” the founder explained.
After a four-month process, Jones-Brown was able to meet with the 40-year-old. That partnership led to the company raising over $3 million furthering the metrics of success for the B2B entity.
Despite her network of relationships culminating in secured investments, Lillii RNB wasn’t without minor setbacks.
The company lost 50% of its business after stores closed during the peak of COVID-19. However, with businesses still recovering from the delays of the pandemic, developments for economic growth have not only changed but have been re-imagined.
“Most of our clients are in top tier one retailers. Those were our clients and our bread and butter so we had to look at our revenue to determine how to sustain through the changes,” she said.
As the corporation’s existing projects rested on the shoulders of the second and third quarters, Jones-Brown had to implement strategies that would carry over temporarily.
“My goal was to make sure we have enough money,” she said. ” So resources such as the PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) and the EIDL (Economic Injury Disaster Loan) played a significant role for us,” the University of Texas at Austin alum said.
We did lose some clients but after salvaging the loss, we were able to reinstate those retailer relationships because they continued to believe in our value.”
The entrepreneur wants to use that value for her company as a vehicle to combat the yearly $400 billion retail revenue loss. “Closing our pre-seed round of funding in 2021 and now successfully closing our seed round in the first quarter of this year are huge testaments to the progress we’ve made and the momentum we’re building,” she said.
She recognizes that retail companies have “long suffered at the hands of fraudsters, hackers, and have lacked effective tools to fight back.” Jones-Brown explained, “With this capital and the support of top-notch investors, Lillii RNB is one step closer to helping retailers and business owners turn the tables on bad actors and focus on growing their businesses.”
“Since a lot of retail is moving online, stores are noticing returns were going up and fraud was occurring,” she said. “The need for products like ours was becoming prevalent because retailers are looking for new, innovative solutions.”
As the priorities for Lillii RNB increase, the CEO says she wants to expand her team and bring in top-notch fraud fighters from the loss prevention industry.
“We want to bring in experts in asset and fraud protection within retailers because our expertise is centered around the tech side of it all,” she detailed.
“My company is very strong, but what we need now is more of that wisdom and insight from people who have been fighting loss.” Lillii RNB does have some surprises in store to help aid in that fight but as now, it’s a hush-hush deal.
As managing partner, Williams is delighted to endorse Jones-Brown’s organization and its initiatives. “I am happy to support and invest in women like Barbara and companies like Lillii RNB Inc., who are addressing a huge need for retail brands,” the seven-time Wimbledon winner said.
“This investment is in line with [Serena Ventures] vision of a world where dreams are not stifled by a lack of access to resources.”