Marketplace of Essential Tools for Entrepreneurs

Angel Investment Network has been helping entrepreneurs meet investors for fourteen years now. The community is nearing 1 million users and more and more people are successfully raising money and meeting useful partners through our platform.

Pat on the back for us, right?
entrepreneurs pat

Well, we’re not happy.

We think we’ve been lazy. We believe we can do far more to support entrepreneurs in achieving their ambitions. In this sense, the platform has a long way to go.

What more are we doing to help?

We are entrepreneurs and our job has been to help entrepreneurs for the last decade and a half. So, we feel pretty well-qualified to know what support entrepreneurs need most. Beyond just meeting investors. And we know that we’ve not been providing everything!

So, we spent the last year reaching out to some of the most highly-reputed companies in their spaces. These companies provide specialised tools and services to help people like you grow their companies.

We have now partnered up with the best of them to bring you our Marketplace for Entrepreneurs!

You can now get expert help with:

– Legal/Finance/Accounting
– HR/Recruitment
– Design & Development
– Office Space
– Marketing
– Alternative Finance

From companies like:

SeedLegals – Easily complete all the legals for your funding round online in a fraction of the time, paper-free
Fanbytes – Advertise through SnapChat
SnapHR – Developer hiring
Kandidate – Non-technical hiring
Jobbio – Careers marketplace & talent matching
Hubble – Office space
Tide – Modern business banking

marketplace entrepreneurs (1)

There is also a host of useful tools to ramp up your entrepreneurial efficiency.

This marketplace is open to all, not just members of Angel Investment Network so feel free to share with anyone you think would find it useful.

If you would like to see a service added, let us know and we’ll get our Partnerships team on the case!


Impact Investing Interview #1: Work For Good

What is Impact Investing?

Impact investing is when an investor backs a business which has a social and/or environmental mission at its core.

This is not the same as philanthropy where investors expect no returns on their investment other than the reputation boost; and an impactful business is not the same as a non-profit.

Impact investments are made, with financial returns in mind, into businesses targetting profitability alongside their social mission.

An impact investor is, therefore, someone who chooses to support great businesses aiming to do good and make money, rather than just turn a profit.

The decision to be an impact investor is an empowered choice which has already enabled many world-changing businesses to do great things. The rise in awareness of the key social and environmental issues of our time has started a shift in the way many investors view the desired outcome of their investments. More and more want their financial outlay to have an impact as well as generate returns.

What are we doing to help this movement?

Angel Investment Network recently launched Seedtribe to attract more of its investors into the impact investment space.

Seedtribe is an angel-led, crowdfunding platform when everyday investors can invest from as little as £1000 into opportunities backed by angel investors and curated by the Seedtribe team. Investments can be made directly through the platform so the process is as seamless as possible.


We are confident that this new model will help impact businesses complete their funding rounds quickly so that they can focus on bringing their benefit to the world.

We are delighted to have Work For Good as one of the first impactful businesses on the Seedtribe platform.

Who are Work For Good?

UK annual charity income is around £20bn, but only 2% of this comes from businesses, as the process is complex, costly and lacks transparency with many legal and tax impediments. Work For Good’s platform removes these barriers and has created a market for corporate giving.

Work for Good makes it easy for businesses to give in a way that’s good for them and charities – by doing what they already do. By giving through the Work For Good platform, they can impress their clients, inspire their people, and be a force for good in the world.


Liv Sibony recently took charge as the Head of Crowdfunding at Seedtribe and brought Work For Good onto the platform. (Liv previously founded and sold Grub Club, a platform aimed at helping chefs build a reputation and an income by hosting pop up dining experiences.)

She sat down with Danny Witter, CEO & Co-Founder of Work For Good, to get some insight into the problem of corporate giving and the Work For Good solution…

The Interview

What’s your vision for the company?

To make business giving the norm and to unleash the giving power of the business world. Business giving makes up only 2% of all charity income in the UK which is a disgraceful figure. We can not rely on the giants of the business world to do it for us, The FTSE 100 charitable donations are down 25% from 2013 to just £1.2 billion in 2016, so why not create a culture where the other 5.7 million businesses support causes just by doing the work they already do? If 5% of SMEs gave one day’s revenue, it would generate £208 million annually.

It also improves the bottom line for businesses (68% of SMEs believe their company’s donations to charity had a positive effect on their company’s profitability and 37% of SMEs claim that giving to charity helps to attract new clients) and improves employee morale while raising vital funds for charities.

For charities, especially the smaller, local ones who have less capacity to market themselves and seek donations, we will create greater visibility and support for them to grow their efforts and allow businesses to match with charities that are local or relevant to them.

We don’t think this vision should be limited to the UK either, we strive to see people working for good across the globe, and are delighted that we’ve now received trademark protection across the US and EU.

Can you tell us more about the meta-trend of purpose in business, as you see it?

Investing in good causes grows your business too. In fact, many companies are using it as a major part of their business strategy – TOMS’ ‘One for One’, Warby Parker’s ‘Buy a Pair, Give a Pair’, and Bombas socks ‘One pair purchased = One pair donated’ are just a few using ‘giving back’ as part of their marketing strategy. Cause-related marketing is not just a fad, it’s the response to consumers buying with their own values and in mind.

Consumers increasingly care about where their products come from and how businesses behave, and we see lots of marketing around sustainability and responsibility, and now, giving. The trend is deepening fast, and when in January Larry Fink, CEO of the world’s largest asset manager BlackRock, published a letter saying that firms that lack a social purpose “will ultimately lose the license to operate from key stakeholders” it marked a watershed moment in the importance of authentic corporate responsibility. This applies from global behemoths to sole traders, and Work for Good is particularly focussed on SMEs that have less resource to do so.

For all the personal graft no business was ever built by the founders alone. Just as it takes a village to raise a child it takes a community of stakeholders to build a business. Without loyal customers, reliable suppliers, supportive investors, engaged communities and dedicated employees you have no business. Today, these constituencies want more from the companies they interact with. They are as interested in the story behind the business, the purpose the drives it and the positive values that underpin it. It is no coincidence that B Corp businesses, exemplars of the purpose-led commercialism, have been shown to grow 28 times faster than the UK economy. The giving mechanisms on our platform can also allow for a company’s clients/customers to choose the charities to which they donate. It gets everyone involved and motivated.

Why is it currently so difficult for businesses to give to charities?

The mechanisms currently in place just do not create a marketplace for business and charities to find each other and make transactions. It’s not just as simple as seeing a charity you would like to support, and then donating. Charities often do not even have a payment portal on their sites. The days of writing a cheque are long gone. Charities also find it hard to cut through the noise to create relationships with relevant businesses who may be interested in supporting them.

Work for Good is encouraging businesses to give in a smart way that is good for business, specifically by linking donations visibly to what they do, and talk about it with pride and authenticity in a way that will engage all their stakeholders, and inspire other businesses to follow suit.

However if you link donations to sales and talk about it you get caught by the charities acts, which prescribe that you have to bilaterally negotiate a commercial participation agreement with every charity you might give to, and the charities have risk of paying VAT on those donations.

As such it is painful to implement, and many charities have minimum annual donation requirement of up to £100,000 a year before they’ll negotiate a CPA with a business, which excludes virtually all SMEs.

Work for Good has solved this, the combination of the terms a business signs with the platform and the terms signed by any charity jointly form the CPA, allowing businesses to give to as many charities as they like in a few clicks, in any size, and without having to engage the charities direct, with both parties being entirely compliant. There is also no VAT payable by the charity.

What does “Impact” mean to you as a profit-driven company?

It’s a way to merge the profit-generation that people already strive for with the purpose of producing a specific benefit to society. We want to maximise that impact potential for businesses.

For us, the amount of money going to charities via our platform is the metric we concentrate on most. We believe that good business should have a positive impact on society. Our mission is to create a culture of business giving and therefore an increase in the amount of donations charities receive from SMEs. We also believe that giving has a positive impact on a business’ bottom line – two-thirds of businesses we surveyed reported higher profits when they incorporated giving into their business strategy.

Interested in Impact Investment?

If you want to find out more about Work For Good and their current fundraising round, visit their pitch page on Seedtribe.

Do you anyone who might consider using Work For Good for their business?

Do you know anyone interested in impact investing?

Please consider sharing. You’ll be doing good!

Our Top Female Founders for International Women’s Day

Here’s our list of the top women founders we’ve worked with over the years. Why? To celebrate International Women’s Day 2018, of course!

There are some great names and some great companies. So in no particular order, our women of the moment and their success stories so far…

Tech Women

Pip Jamieson – Founder & CEO, The Dots

pip jamieson international womens day 2018
Pip started out in the British civil service, then worked with MTV (actually launching MTV in New Zealand aged just 24). She then founded a ‘LinkedIn for creatives’ called The Loop in Australia.

After exiting this, she returned to the UK and its £76bn creative sector to replicate that success. From her houseboat by King’s Cross, she started ‘The Dots’. The company is on a mission to connect 1 million creatives this year and is going viral across the sector.

Pip is a Sunday Times Top 100 Entrepreneur, an outspoken advocate for diversity in the workplace and a champion for dyslexics worldwide.

I recently interviewed her with my colleague for The Startup Microdose Podcast. We talk about the story of the Dots, diversity issues in the workplace and its important role in the creative process, on avoiding unconscious cultural biases and on how companies like The Dots are working to create more equality of opportunity.

🎧 The podcast is not fully released yet, but you can listen to a chapter on diversity in tech here 🎧

Kim Nilsson – Founder & CEO, Pivigo

Recently named Entrepreneur of the Year, Kim has featured heavily on this blog over the years.
Kim-Nilsson international womens day 2018
Following a career in academia (including work on the Hubble Space Telescope), Dr Kim Nilsson has walked a gilded path since founding Pivigo in 2013. Pivigo has closed numerous funding rounds to propel its impressive growth – it is now the world’s largest community of data scientists.

Kat Bruce – Director, Nature Metrics

NatureMetrics is an award-winning technology start-up using cutting-edge genetic techniques to monitor biodiversity. Check out their website for more information.

Dupsy Abiola – Founder, Intern Avenue

After leaving a successful career as a barrister, Dupsy founded Intern Avenue in 2010.

Intern Avenue is a multi-award winning early stage tech company named best recruitment start up in Europe at the Techcrunch/Web Summit run Europas Award 2013. The platform connects with employers with students and graduates. It was acquired by Bright Network in December 2017.
dupsy abiola international womens day 2018
Dupsy was named as one of the most influential black businesswomen in the UK in 2013. She also successfully pitched on the Dragons Den TV series.

Julia Tan – Co-Founder & COO, Peg

The Peg platform help marketers collaborate with influential YouTube creators. They have raised £1.6m in funding to date.

On the side, Julia co-built a free, crowdsourced list of over 1000 investors.; graduated from the Makers Academy coding bootcamp; and ran the Berlin and Rome marathons.

Food & Beverage Women

Olivia Sibony – Co-Founder, GrubClub

Olivia founded the FoodTech, sharing economy, start-up Grub Club in 2012. It’s an award-winning marketplace for unique, social dining experiences, featured in The Guardian, BBC, Evening Standard, Daily Telegraph, Stylist, Nudge, Time Out.
Liv Sibony international womens day 2018
Since exiting Grub Club late in 2017, Olivia has started as the Head of Crowdfunding at SeedTribe, Angel Investment Network’s new angel-led crowdfunding platform.

Tania Rahman – Founder & CEO, Chit Chaat Chai

Tania launched Chit Chaat Chai as a street food market stall across London and Hampshire, it has gone on to receive critical acclaim from the Independent and the BBC. The Asian Business Awards recently recognised Chit Chaat Chai as New Business of the Year 2017.

The restaurant has been featured widely across the media, including in The Telegraph, the BBC, CNN International, BBC Radio London, Hospitality Interiors magazine and in Time Out magazine, listed as one of the three best new Indian locals for 2017.
tania rahman international womens day 2018
She is a mentor for food start-up accelerators in both London and Singapore, helping young food start-ups, including as a panellist at the House of Commons empowering minority leaders in the UK workforce.

She was recognised in the British Bangladeshi Top 100, a celebration of 100 leading British Bangladeshi figures who are helping to shape a better Britain with their ideas, example and talent, and received an Honourable Mention as a Finalist in the Rising Star category at The Caterer Shine Awards 2017.

Fashion Women

Molly Goddard – Co-Founder, Desmond & Dempsey

Molly co-founded luxury sleepwear brand, Desmond & Dempsey, with her now-husband, Joel, in 2014. A Guardian Startup of the Year in 2015-16 and a graduate from Angel investment Network’s accelerator programme, the company continues to go from strength to strength. Renowned for its super-cool prints, slouchy cotton fabric and effortless tailored cuts, they’re now stocked in department stores from London to New York.

Polly McMaster – Founder & CEO, The Fold)

Polly set up The Fold London in January 2011. Her love of fashion and desire to empower women in the workplace were the inspiration to create a chic new brand for professional women.
polly mcmaster international womens day 2018
Polly comes from the competitive world of consulting and finance, with a Cambridge PhD in Molecular Biology and an MBA at London Business School. In July 2013, Management Today voted Polly one of ‘35 Women Under 35’.

It’s been a pleasure working with all of them. And we, at Angel Investment Network, wish them all the very best for the future.

Who was Entrepreneur of the Year 2017?

The Women in IT Awards, the world’s largest technology diversity event, recently revealed the winners of its 2017 programme including ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’ in front of 1,000 business and technology leaders.

It came as no surprise to us that Dr Kim Nilsson, founder of Pivigo, was ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’.

Pivigo’s upward trajectory…

18 months ago, I reported that data science marketplace, Pivigo, had closed its latest funding round (£300k through Angel Investment Network) off the back of some impressive growth.

6 months ago, I reported that Pivigo was one of the 15 fastest growing female-founded UK tech companies selected to represent the UK government in a link building initiative with Silicon Valley and the US tech scene. (The lowest growth rate of the 15 companies selected was 118% annually!).

pivigo data science entrepreneur

Following a career in academia (including work on the Hubble Space Telescope), Dr Kim Nilsson has walked a gilded path since founding Pivigo in 2013. Pivigo has closed numerous funding rounds to propel its impressive growth – it is now the world’s largest community of data scientists.

This latest accolade came at the Women in IT awards, an event aimed at celebrating diversity and inclusion in the tech industry, hosted by Maggie Philbin OBE and Martha Lane Fox.

Dr Kim was typically magnanimous in her acceptance of the award, highlighting the great work of the whole team at Pivigo:

To be chosen as the winner in a highly competitive category is great validation for the work we do at Pivigo, innovating and disrupting an exciting industry.

On behalf of the team at Angel Investment Network, I would like to extend our warmest congratulations to Kim and the team.

Keep up the good work!

If you’re a business looking to leverage the power of its data or an individual looking to build your career in data science, visit Pivigo to find out more.

How to perform due diligence on your investors

Why is due diligence important?

Strict due diligence was not always necessary.

In the past, if you wanted to find investment for your business, your options were closely tied to the reach of your personal network.

This had the following consequences:

On the one hand, any investor you were introduced would most likely have come from a referral you trusted. As a result, trusting the prospective investor and their credentials was relatively easy. Most of the due diligence was accomplished via the intimacy of the referral.

On the other hand, your reach would have been limited to your network. And as a result, many businesses would have failed to find funding because their entrepreneurs weren’t linked to any ‘Old Boys’ Club’ or similar.

due diligence old boys' club

Today, the rise of networking and connection sites like LinkedIn and more specifically, Angel Investment Network, means that you can now access investors from all over the world. Investors whose network would never have overlapped with yours.

This democratisation of access means that more and more people are receiving investment, irrespective of background. This is, of course, great news (though there is still much work to be done).

However, this brings its own dangers.

Entrepreneurs looking for funding are often in a vulnerable state. They have invested time, effort, passion and resources into a project, but they need financial support to take it further. As a result, they can be overeager to accept funding from wherever it is offered which can be a bad idea.

This is where simple due diligence work can help entrepreneurs to easily avoid the pitfalls of scammers and con-artists.

What is due diligence?

Due diligence is the general term used to describe any background check on a company or individual to see if they are legitimate and suitable to do business with.

Basically, in the case of angel investment, it’s checking that an investor is who they say they are and can help you in the ways they suggest they can.

This process starts, in a loose sense, from the moment you connect with a prospective investor as that’s when you start forming an impression of them. But you only need to formalise the process when you are sure they are interested.

In this sense, due diligence is a complementary part of investor relations.

You don’t then need to carry out full due diligence on every investor you speak to. But, when the relationship progresses to the point of meeting and discussing deal terms, then it’s a good idea to make sure you know exactly who you’re dealing with.

How do I perform due diligence on investors?

1. Talk to the investor

It is a good idea to be upfront and tell the investor that you want to research them.

This is such a simple course of action. But too many entrepreneurs are afraid of annoying their investor leads and scaring them away.

A good investor will not only understand why you want to check but will be reassured that you want to. It shows that you are diligent and professional.

Remember, they want to trust you too if they are going to invest in your company!

You can tell a lot from an investor’s reaction to this. If they help you in your research, then you’re onto a winner. They should provide you with links to their online profiles and emails addresses for people they have worked with.

If they are not happy with your desire to investigate them, it suggests they may have something to hide. A red flag for sure!

2. Conduct basic research online

A lot of investors will have websites, blogs, and profiles on sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. They may be found in articles or have written articles themselves. These can all be found easily on Google.

due diligence power of google

Of course, a digital presence is more likely in different parts of the world and depends to some extent on the age demographic of the investor. So, you should factor this in.

3. Examine their business and financial status

You should ask the investor and anyone s/he puts you in touch with about their industry experience and about any previous investments. This will give you an idea of their authenticity as an investor and how useful they could be for you beyond simply financial help.

You will also want to find out where their funds are coming from – money from offshore accounts should be avoided unless they can give very good reasons (which you can verify with a lawyer).

You should also do a routine credit and criminal check.

4. Speak to any entrepreneurs the investor has worked with

A legitimate investor will let you which companies they have been/are involved with, and will give you a way to contact them. So, make sure you ask!

However, you may also want to do some research and approach people not referred by the investor.

You should dig into what the investor is like to work with and whether there were disagreements, and if so, whether/how they were resolved.

Try to do this in person as you’ll get a more detailed response. (Obviously, this won’t always be possible.)

5. Speak to other investors or brokers

If you can, speak to other investors (whether they have invested in your business or not). Ask them for a second opinion on your prospective investor.

Sometimes their reputation (good or bad) precedes them and other investors/brokers on the scene may be able to give you some useful insights.

due diligence good or bad (1)

6. Avoid upfront fees

Another major warning sign is if an investor asks for upfront fees before they invest. Fake investors will come up with all sorts of plausible reasons for the fee. These should be ignored without exception.

At Angel Investment Network, we constantly try to reiterate this to entrepreneurs on our platform:

No genuine investor will charge an upfront fee.


While the danger is real, awareness of the information in this article and others like it, should provide every entrepreneur with a framework for spotting an investor who is not genuine.

They will, therefore, be able to process the situation rationally and to not act hastily in desperation to close their funding round.

There is a world of possibility out there for entrepreneurs. If it is treated with respect and due caution, it will yield its rewards.

Acknowledgement for this blog:

We’ve been selected by Feedspot in the Top 5 Angel Investment blogs

Angel Investor Blogs

Startup Idea Secrecy: Why fearless learners change the world. And how to be one…

An open letter to entrepreneurs who think their idea is worth stealing…

Dear smart person with $$$$ idea,

Well done on your $$$$ idea. I don’t know what the idea is (you won’t tell me!), but I’m sure it’s good.

Ideas are the motors of innovation; they move the world forward, often to a better place. Without them, civilization stagnates and withers away, pining for its former glory. Innovation is as essential to the world as food to our bodies, as love to our souls. So, thank you for your inspiration and for providing momentum to the great human mission.

Your idea is worth a lot. $$$$, as I understand it. In fact, it’s worth so much that telling people about it is a huge risk. What if they steal your idea? And with it your chance for $$$$? What a miserable outcome that would be. All your clever idea-making for nothing.

This line of reasoning produces the following reaction in many entrepreneurs:

They tell no one.
They don’t ask anyone for help, input, feedback, partnerships or funding.
They take the $$$$ idea to the grave.

No one will find it there.

idea secrecy 1

But what if you want to realise the dream? To execute your idea? That’s great. You’re the type of person who takes risks to make a difference. Your fearlessness to try and to be wrong again and again until you are right is supreme.

This is the crux of the matter. An idea alone means very little. No matter how innovative or original your idea seems, someone else has probably had the same idea. In fact, hundreds have probably had it.

What matters then is execution.

Execution over Idea. This phrase is now so often quoted that it seems cliché. But many people still fail to act on its message. So, why does execution trump idea?

As you start out on the journey of making your idea reality, every person you speak to will offer a slightly different perspective. The input of some will have more value than others, sure. But until you ask, it won’t be clear from which data points you will derive most value.

This is so important. What matters is that the more people you ask, the more data points you collect for decision-making. The more informed your decisions are, the better your execution will be. Without ‘talking’, how do you verify assumptions?

How do you know you are doing the right thing?


The truth of it is that no product matches the original idea born in the ‘lightbulb’ moment. Ever. No good product is the same as its first version or its second etc, necessarily. Products which survive and thrive are updated, continuously. Changing customer demands require constant innovation. To execute well, companies must be alive to this. They must be able to listen to feedback and iterate if need be.

This is widely understood and accepted for products which already exist in the marketplace. But, many people don’t see that this holds true for products which are still ideas. Executing well from idea-stage to completed product should be a similar process to updating an existing product based on customer needs.

Otherwise, you are building something without knowledge, without guidance, based only on your own opinion and assumptions.

How can that be good?

It can’t.
Consider this:

Your mother is retiring after 45 years. Her hard work ensured that you were fed, educated and entertained in warmth and security. Every good memory you have can be traced in some way to the opportunities her labour afforded you. You have a lot to be thankful for. You want to find the perfect gift to encapsulate how much she means to you.

Do you:

a) Go with the first idea that comes to mind.

b) Jar of dirt with a rude note about your deprived and wretched upbringing.

c) Brainstorm a few ideas that seem good to you. Then approach people who know your mother and ask what they think of your ideas and/or what they would give her in your position.

No prizes here!

Maybe one in a thousand times you’ll be blessed with a moment of visionary inspiration and option a) will work. But, those are not good odds. Especially when your mother’s happiness or the success of your dream business is at stake.

idea secrecy buddha

Consider this too:

Imagine a hypothetical situation in which you have the choice of investing in one of two companies at concept stage. Which would you choose for a £100,000 investment?

1. An average idea guaranteed to be executed outstandingly


2. An outstanding idea guaranteed to be executed averagely

While it is possible for great ideas to be successful through semi-competent, muddled execution, in the game of probability, your best bet will be to focus on a concept which is being executed efficiently and powerfully.

This ties in with a point I made in my post “How do investors evaluate startup pitches?” The article was based on a piece by Silicon Valley investor Paul Graham on his blog. The core point was that good investors spend a large portion of their due diligence analysing the merits of the team behind the project. Why? Because they know that the idea in its current form will have to go through many iterations before it can be truly successful. Given this, they want to be sure that the team are good enough to navigate the choppy waters of building a great product to fit their market.

In other words, they want to be sure that the EXECUTION is going to be on point.

You should not be concerned about someone stealing your idea. You should be concerned about someone executing it better than you.

Some of the best businesses are simple ideas.

Google’s core concept allows people to search for stuff on the internet. But it wasn’t the first internet search engine. Henry Ford built the most successful car manufacturing company of the 20th Century. But he didn’t invent the automobile.

What made them so successful?

You guessed it.


Google brought the dynamism associated with startups to the corporate level. This means that it can measure and respond to changing user demands rapidly (and that it is an attractive place for top talent). There is a great article on TechCrunch about this called Why Google beat Yahoo in the war for the internet. (Worth a read if you have time).

Henry Ford helped revolutionise factory efficiency by sponsoring the development of the assembly line, and in so doing, he was able to mass produce the first affordable car.

They did the idea best. There was no pretence to ownership of the idea; no notion of ‘my’ idea. They just found an idea and executed it. That’s how they now own it.

This is not to say that the idea isn’t important. Terrible ideas don’t get very far. But how can you truly know whether the idea is good or bad until you share it and learn?

I am not suggesting that it’s okay to be totally indiscreet. There is merit in hiding what you are doing from competitors etc. You should be judicious in your choice of people to share it with. But not to the point of telling no-one!

We sometimes encounter this problem on Angel Investment Network. An entrepreneur wants to raise money for their concept. They sign up and submit a pitch. But they don’t want to reveal too much in case someone pinches the idea. And their pitch ends up containing no interesting info for our investors.

The result? Surprise, surprise. Zero investor leads. And some-number-more-than-zero complaints directed at us.

idea secrecy sad

If you want to raise money from investors, you should be prepared to sell your idea. And to sell, you must tell; the story, the numbers, the notion. Otherwise, someone else will. It’s that simple.

In practical terms, there are protective measures available:

– NDA’s – You can ask anyone you show the idea to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement. This means you have a contract with them. This can work out fine. But it is also a huge turn-off and friction point. Most VCs will tell you to get lost – they understand that execution beats idea!

– Teaser Pitches – you can try to write your initial pitch as a teaser which reveals enough to get people interested to sign an NDA. But this a real art form and there is a danger that you undersell the business and lose out on valuable feedback and/or leads.

– Patents/Trademarks – depending on your business, you can consider getting legal patents and trademarks for the idea.

These can all be useful ways of protection in some cases. But they do not grant 100% protection. And they can be impediments to getting useful feedback – the sort of feedback, which means your execution is good. The only way to get close to 100% protection is to make your business better than the rest! And to keep doing so. That’s what the best companies do.

In summary…

I commend you for your $$$$ idea. But I urge you to be brave. To hold your idea up for scrutiny. To listen to the feedback that will allow you to execute well; the feedback that will transform your idea into a successful and lucrative reality.

It is the fearless who change the world. Those with the courage to learn and listen; with the courage to face criticism; with the courage to be continuously wrong until they are right. And when they are right, they get it so right.

The startup community is an admirable one. You can expect a warm and attentive reception – the feedback will be critical, but that’s why it’s so useful. So, I encourage you to take full advantage of this. You can be sure your competitors will be (unless you still think they are trying to steal your idea).

I look forward to your feedback.

Happy Christmas!


7 Positives for the UK Startup Scene from the Autumn Budget

Yesterday the Chancellor unveiled his budget plan for the UK.

The main headline was that we can expect slow growth (around 2%) for the next few years. And that Brexit seemed to be the principal cause of this. A gloomy budget indeed.

But, as ever, even in the murkiest river a nugget of gold can be found. With a little sifting, I’ve found some positive news for us spirited folk on the startup scene.

The sifting was very boring. I’ve tried to set out my findings as clearly as possible. So, you can enjoy the gold without getting your feet wet! You’re welcome.

The Treasury conducted a survey called ‘Patient Capital Review’ which set out to consider how to support innovative firms in getting funding and achieving scale. The conclusions drawn are positive and will be a boon for early-stage companies over the next 10 years.

These conclusions resulted in an ‘Action Plan’ in the budget which aims to unlock £20bn over the next 10 years to support growth in innovative firms.

The main points are as follows:

1. Tax Breaks (EIS & VCT)

– EIS allowance for people investing in ‘knowledge-intensive companies’ will double from £1m to £2m each year.
– ‘Knowledge-intensive companies’ can receive twice as much EIS & VCT investment each year. That’s a move from £5m to £10m.

(Check out a previous post for more info on the benefits of EIS.)
SEIS & EIS budget
Result: An estimated extra £7bn of investment.

2. Government-backed Co-investment Fund

– A £2.5bn Investment Fund incubated in the British Business Bank will be established to co-invest with the private sector.
Result: An estimated extra £7.5bn of investment.

3. Backing Fund of Funds

– The British Business Bank will invest in a series of private sector fund of funds.
Result: An estimated £4bn of investment will be unlocked.

4. Backing Fund Managers

– The British Business Bank will continue to back new and existing fund managers through its existing Enterprise Capital Fund.
Result: An estimated extra £1.5bn of investment.

5. Backing overseas investment into UK

– The Department of International Trade will support overseas venture capital into the UK.
Result: An estimated extra £1bn of investment.

6. Support for Regional Investment

– The British Business Bank will establish new investment programmes to support business angel groups outside of London. This will complement existing programmes like the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund and the Midlands Engine Investment Fund.
– £21m is budgeted to expand Tech City UK’s reach across more regions.
Result: Unlocking of investment potential outside of the London hub.

tech city uk budget (1)

7. Other

– British Business Bank to investigate supporting Women Entrepreneurs getting access to equity investment
– £2.3bn increase in R&D spending
– £1m Games Fund to support video game development
– Helping Pension Funds invest in innovative firms
– Qualification for Entrepreneurs’ Relief will no longer de-incentivize accepting external investment

I hope all that makes sense.

It’s pleasing to see that, in difficult times, the government recognises the importance of supporting the innovation sector as a key driver of our economy.

If you want more detail on this Action Plan in the budget, I’ll be at the UKBAA National Investment Summit on 28th November. Keith Morgan CEO of British Business Bank will be leading the discussion on the Chancellor’s proposals.

You can get tickets here

Hope to see you there!

Free Access to Europe’s Biggest Business Show with Angel Investment Network

Angel Investment Network are proud to announce our latest partnership with the Business Show. As part of this, we are offering complimentary tickets to their London event on 16th & 17th November 2017. For more information and to claim your tickets please see the article below by Shane Ransom, Senior Marketing Manager at PRYSM Media Group:


After 19 years of running, PRYSM Group are proud to announce the 38th edition of The Business Show will be kicking off on the 16 & 17 November at London’s Olympia.

To anybody who has attended the show, it will come as no surprise that it has firmly established itself as Europe’s largest event dedicated to helping startups and SMEs successfully evolve or expand their businesses.

Due to the show’s sterling reputation within the B2B events community, 25,000 tenacious entrepreneurs and business owners will flock to The Business Show. All on a mission to source the latest services, solutions and strategies to take their business to the next level.

World-renowned Speakers & Business People

Renowned for acquiring a calibre of attendee unmatched by any rival show; over the years the exhibition has attracted industry legends looking to discover the latest business innovations to stay ahead of their fierce competitors. This list includes James Caan, Lord Alan Sugar, Peter Jones, Touker Suleyman and many more.

business dragons

The Business Show continues to be at the forefront of all other business exhibitions, from Apprentice winners to a plethora of dragons from Dragons’ Den, from the head of B2B marketing for Google UK to even the chairman of Crystal Palace F.C, our show consistently attracts the industry’s most relevant speakers and – as you can see – November’s speaker lineup is no exception.

See full keynote line-up here

Learn how to Grow your Business

With 350 visionary exhibitors showcasing the latest products, systems and services transforming the business world, our show allows more SMEs and startups to connect with more sought-after suppliers than ever before.

Every one of our 250 seminars features up-to-date content, based on current UK business trends. We have attracted a vast array of world-class speakers working within the health and fitness industry – a sector that has grown in popularity over the years – including; Peter Roberts, the founder of the largest gym operator, PureGym; and founder of LA Muscle Parham Donyai.

Our phenomenal lineup of speakers also consists of success stories that would inspire any ambitious business owner. Levi Roots will be here to provide you with the insights into how he became one of the most iconic and charismatic figures in business world. James Gold, co-founder of Skinnydip, will discuss how his creation of the phone case accessory helped him develop one of the most successful privately-owned companies of this generation. Ben Towers, who has been named by Richard Branson as “one of the UK’s most exciting entrepreneurs” will share his journey to becoming a multi-award winning business owner by the age of 19.

Business Show_Olympia_Main

Your Free Ticket

Your ticket grants you access to more than just the seminars and suppliers. November’s instalment of The Business Show will play host to an endless array of features including the Google Digital Garage; which offers free digital skills training to people looking to grow their business, their career or their confidence online. If you register for a free ticket, you can even book a one-to-one mentoring slot with the world’s most influential business via our website, but you need to make sure you book in advance!

Over the two days visitors will also have access to 15 masterclasses; whether you’re looking to expand your knowledge of branding, digital marketing, e-commerce, trading or franchising, we have got you covered. You will gain all the information and guidance you need to achieve the business growth you desire.

To ensure you make the most out of your visit we have split the show into six different zones; the Startup Zone; the Marketplace; the Finance Zone; the Digital Zone; Going Global Live; and for the very first time, the Legal & HR Zone. These zones have been carefully crafted to provide expertise across all sectors of the business world.

To top it all off, the show offers visitors unrivalled networking opportunities; our Speed Networking Feature located in the SME Zone allows you to make 40 new contacts in just 40 minutes! It is the quickest and most efficient way for you to add potential suppliers, clients and partners to your contact list, but seats to this free feature are first come, first serve so make sure you get there early to secure your seat!

business show tickets

If you’re looking to start, grow or expand your business then you must register for a ticket to The Business Show, and you will have an opportunity to experience an exhibition like no other. Attending this event could define the future of your business, so what have you got to lose? Register for your free ticket now!

Click here to register for your complimentary tickets

Thanks to Shane Ransom and the team for writing this post.

Hope to see you there!

10+ Best Practices for Engaging Potential Investors

Last week, I wrote an article called ‘How to Update your Investors for best results’. The post set out the importance of updating your investors; and how you should go about it. I laid out a useful (hopefully!) formula for your updates. And gave you some real-world examples from fast-growth companies in my network like Sweatcoin and ScreenCloud.

The post proved more popular than I expected; a number of people have been kind enough to contact me with their thoughts. The response was positive except for one thing: I had only covered one aspect of a broader theme…

Investor Relations.

Last week’s post gave advice for the tail end of the fundraising process i.e. after investors have actually invested in your business.

But what about before they’ve invested? When you’re still trying to persuade them to do so?

Angel Investment Network connects angel investors with startups looking for funding, contacts, advisory board members etc. It would be remiss of me not to complete the picture and give advice on investor relations for the first half of the fundraising process…

Engaging Potential Investors

When interacting with people you hope to convince to invest in your company, there are 3 principal types of interaction you will have:

1. Reaching out
2. Responding
3. Reminding

In this post, you will learn the best practices for each type of interaction.

I’ve been helping people do this for a long time now. I’ve seen some hilarious but tragic examples of how not to do it! But more importantly, I’ve built up a picture of the best approaches. I hope this article means that you or anyone you share it with can avoid the common conversation-ending mistakes.

The aim is to help you generate more leads, and convert a higher percentage into investors.

Reaching Out

To be clear, this section does not deal with how to find investors. That’s a different question for another time. You can find some ideas here though.
reaching out to investors

But assuming you’ve identified and acquired the contact details of potential investors, how do you go about approaching them?

Reaching out to potential investors is a tricky business. People hate cold approaches. Even if your company is the next big thing, people have a strong aversion to being hailed from out of the blue. A stranger danger thing perhaps. But get the tone and hook just right though, and you can overcome this aversion.


The key is to keep the email short. Value is king. People want to understand it quickly. If they see huge chunks of text in an initial email, they will be put off before even reading.

At the same time, if you shorten your email but lose the articulation of your value proposition. Then the hook is gone.

So, while moderating the length, you need keep your sights on the purpose of the message. The ability to do this ultimately comes down to being able to pitch your venture clearly and concisely.

This is crucial. The purpose of the email is not to explain the whole idea. It’s to hook the contact into wanting to know more. Once you’ve engaged them, you can dive into the detail.

The question you need to ask yourself is:

“What is the most attractive thing about my business likely to be for this potential investor?”

If you can answer this, then you can frame your message around it.

What are some good hooks?

– Introductions – if you can be introduced by someone they trust and know, your chances of engagement increase dramatically

– Relevant & large market opportunity

– Trending topics e.g. AI, Blockchain, Machine learning (obviously not always applicable but check this out!)

– Impressive traction e.g. funds raised, key partnerships, big-deal advisors

– Problem/solution articulation – can work for early-stage projects but is risky because they might not see the problem as you do

Beware, there are also some “anti-hooks”!

A contact of mine was approaching a VC company in London. He made the mistake of asking for an NDA. They never replied. Annoyed, he ACTUALLY walked into their offices and asked why he never got a response. They explained the NDA turn off and sent him on his way. (More on this next week).


Keep it short and make sure your hook is clear.

End with a call-to-action. This gives them a framework to respond. At this stage, the most likely example is:
“Can I send you some more info? I’d love to get your feedback.”


This interaction is particularly important to anyone raising via the Angel Investment Network platform. On the platform, an entrepreneur submits a pitch using the template and onscreen instructions which is listed and sent to the network of angel investors. Interested investors can then click to connect. It’s at this point only that the entrepreneur can message an investor. So, there’s a lot riding on the response!

That said, this advice goes for any time you receive a message/email from an investor whether they are reaching out or responding to you.

What should you do then?
appropriate response to investors

The advice is dead simple. But you’d be amazed how often I see people do the opposite.

– Respond promptly (24-48 hours)
Quick responses make investors feel important. They also show that you are professional and organised.

– Avoid spelling and grammar errors

– Make sure you address every point they make
You’ll leave a bad impression if you don’t have a considered response to address every issue they raise.

– Avoid blocks of text
Blocks are boring. And not easy to digest. Address questions/points they make with bullet points or numbering.

– End with a call-to-action
This gives them a framework for responding and will increase the chances that they do.

This advice seems so trivial that it pains me to write it (the first 3 in particular). But I’ve seen it go wrong too many times through haste, laziness and even stupidity.

Last year, I watched the final night of a play written by a friend. At the party afterwards, I was talking to one of the actors. During the performance we had all remarked on his incredibly muscular physique – the man was a monstrous! I asked him ‘why’.

“Why so much gym?”

His response impressed me. And can be applied to this situation and many others.

He said;

“Control the things you can control.”

In his case, he realised that one of the reasons he didn’t get every part he auditioned for was because he was out of shape. But more importantly, he realised that this was an aspect of his life and attitude that he could directly address. And as a result, he would optimise his chances of getting great roles. (I’m afraid I can’t say who he is!)

So, to optimise your chances, ‘control the things you can control’.

Remember this interaction with investors is a bit like an audition. The reality of it is that investors don’t have much time to judge you. Their impression of you will be created over the course of a few emails, a call and perhaps a coffee.

When deciding to invest a considerable sum of money in someone, that’s not a lot to go on!

So, in the small window of opportunity you are given to make an impression, ensure that what can be polished is polished. That way, you’ve given yourself the best chance.


So, you reached out to an investor, they responded, you exchanged a few emails discussing the venture, it all seemed to be going so well. But now they’ve gone dead. No response to your last message. Cue tumbleweed and depression…

What can you do?

The first thing to remember is that in most cases, any investor worth having is going to be very busy.

So, you should never take it personally if you don’t get a response for a while. You don’t know what’s happening at the other end. They may be taking the time to carry out proper due diligence and discussions with various people before pushing ahead.

There is no sense fretting and waiting for a response. It may never come. In which case, you’ve wasted valuable time worrying about it. Equally, it may come. In which case, you’ve also wasted time.

That said, you shouldn’t wait indefinitely. It is perfectly acceptable to nudge people to respond.

But how do you do it without royally p***ing them off?!

Time is important. DO NOT nudge anyone if they haven’t responded after 3 days. (Unless they specifically asked you to).

7-10 days is an acceptable interlude. But longer is fine too. I was helping someone raise money once: we actually met the investor face-to-face before pitching anything as we had been connected via a strong introduction. He then said he would follow up via email after he had had time to think.

We waited 29 days and had given up all hope when his email finally came through. It was a positive one too!

What about the content of a reminder?

This will vary according to time and circumstance. But there is an optimal approach.


“Hi X,

Did you have any more thoughts about our project?

Founder Y”


“Hi X,

It’s been a good few [insert time period] since we last spoke.

We are showing strong growth across the following key metrics: [insert impressive figures].

Also, [insert Mr/Mrs Big Deal] has committed £X and joined the advisory board.

Did you have any more thoughts about our project?

Founder Y”

Sometimes approach a) may be appropriate. But most of the time, b) will be better.

The reason for this is momentum.

This builds on the ‘hook’ idea we looked out when discussing reaching out to investors. You have to give them some incentive to respond. Hack their desire to engage with you.

At this stage of the process, you can do this by the impression of momentum. By updating them on your good progress, you can make them feel like the opportunity is a train leaving the station. Without them.
investors missing the train

Fear of missing out is a strong psychological influence to tap into. No investor wants your business to be the one that got away. So, make them feel like it is getting away with positive updates in your reminders. You should find an uplift in engagement.

That’s all folks! Thanks for reading.

Tweet me () if you think I missed something etc…

Or get me on

How to Update Your Investors for best results

Investor Updates: Why? How? When?

What you’ll get from this post:

  • 1. Why you should update your investors
  • 2. A template for great updates
  • 3. Example updates from fast-growth companies like Sweatcoin and ScreenCloud

“We connect entrepreneurs and angel investors.”

That’s our tagline at Angel Investment Network. We’ve been doing it for 14 years so it makes sense! We help make the initial connection that results in feedback, meetings and often investment. Startups get the funding they require. Investors get access to great and diverse deal flow.

But as a result of this, most of our advice and guidance focuses on the early part of the fundraising journey: how to meet investors, how to value your idea, how to find great deal flow, how to invest etc…

This is useful (we hope!). But only as far as it goes. There’s a danger this gives the impression that the relationship between entrepreneur and investor only needs to be fostered at the very start.

This is not true, of course.


Investor = Evangelist

Any investor in your company can be an evangelist. And an important one. The best investors are not those who sit silently hoping their portfolio grows. They are the people who bring to bear all their resources to help their companies grow. But there is no guarantee they will always do this just because they invested.

It’s down to you to keep them engaged. Your updates will give them the inclination and the material to shout about you to their network.

Investor = Wise

Sure, you wanted investors for their cash. But if that was all you wanted from them, it was short-sighted. It’s a truism about angel investors that they bring more to the table than money. A good angel will have a wealth of experience in business and hopefully your sector.

But they are busy people with active interests all over the place. You’ll only get their attention if you engage them enough to deserve it.

So, let them be a light for you when all other lights go out.

Investor = Capital Mine

Some businesses only need one funding round. Some businesses go through many as part of their growth strategy. It’s not always clear which business yours will be. But it would be naive to think that you’ll never do another round.

And who are likely to be your hottest leads for later rounds?

Your existing investors of course!

They will want to avoid dilution and help the company in which they’ve invested grow. Additionally, they will want to bring on more people to invest. It’s in their interest, after all, to support the company in its growth.

That said, there’s no guarantee they will want to invest more or bring their friends on board. If you haven’t fostered the relationship and kept the excitement burning, they may want to cut their losses.

But, if you’ve kept them sweet with exciting updates, they’ll be champing at the bit to buy in and involve their network.


It’s good business practice to update your shareholders regularly. (Once a month is optimal and what the companies in my examples below go for). Good habits breed good habits. The more you force yourself to go through the motions of running a business properly, the more ably you will run the business, until it’s second nature. And, all of a sudden, you’re a business leader.

investor update

So, how then should you update investors?

It’s quite easy really. There’s a formula you can follow each time. Just have the relevant info ready for each section and input when your update is due:


Open with some positive statement about the exciting times the company has been going through since the last update. This should set the tone of the email.


Investors are almost always busy people. There is no guarantee that they will read your whole email. In this overview, give the main points you want to put across. This should give them enough info to feel enthused about you and their investment without having to read more. It also serves a secondary purpose – it should entice them to read the rest of the email!

– Revenue is up XX%
– New Product ABC is in the final testing phases. Watch this space.
– We closed two new major partnerships with Huge Brand X & Huge Brand Y.
– Big Deal XY joined the team/board. He/she will….

Key Metrics:

Your key metrics are the figures that show your concept works. They are the essential validation on which investor confidence hangs.
These figures will differ from company to company, but your presentation of them is the same.

We’ve seen impressive momentum across our key metrics. KPI 1 has grown XX% month-to-month. KPI 2 has grown XX% month-to-month. We are on course for a huge {insert current month}.

This information can be displayed in a graph. Hopefully, one that looks like this:

update graph


If you’re raising money, give details. You may want to indicate the impressive people/funds you are in talks with; and how far advanced the talks are.

You can also include your latest deck as an attachment. And invite them to take a look. Don’t forget to engage them directly by asking for feedback or to share with any contact who may be interested.


Investors may also be interested in your personal growth as a management team. So, details of any findings from tests, campaigns and product launches will make interesting reading. They may also encourage investors to give advice.


If someone on the team has had a big impact, you could shout about it here. The employee will thank you for it! It also adds to the general impression of accomplishment and progress you should be conveying throughout the whole email.

a-team_logo update


What are the plans, challenges and targets for the next period? Keeping the goals of the company in front of your investors is a great way to keep them aligned with your interests. And it will demonstrate that their investment is in competent hands.

Don’t hold back from requesting advice on any of the challenges ahead. Delve into the acumen of your investors and all the while keep them engaged.

There you have it. An important task fulfilled with minimal hassle.

It’s important to note that this formula is not prescriptive. Only mention sections that are relevant. There may be sections specific to you that you want to add too.

These emails do not have to be long (more on this in the examples below). Short and sweet will suit investors. But make sure you cover the essential details so investors don’t feel shortchanged.

There is no excuse. And, as we’ve seen, the upsides are huge.

Some Real-world Example Updates

This update from Sweatcoin is a masterclass in keeping it ‘short and sweet’. No bluster. No fluff. Just hard traction. It’s easy for them because they are growing so fast (they’ve added another million users in the last month!).

(Make sure you zoom to 90% or so to read it clearly).

Click to view Sweatcoin investor update

ScreenCloud’s is a longer piece which follows our update template more closely, making good use of HTML to give clear structure. Note how they give that important overview section for those who don’t read long emails!

Click to view ScreenCloud Investor Update

It’s worth saying that both companies do a good job of creating a sense of excitement and progress. They go about it in different ways, perhaps due to time constraints and what they find manageable. The point is that the info and the impression put across in both is excellent.

N.B. All this advice works as a template for keeping prospective investors interested; and investors you never closed too – make them feel like they missed out!

That’s all for now. Hope you found this useful!