Everything you need to know about Fundraising for your Manufacturing Business

Fundraising is rarely easy. But the challenges faced vary between industries. The manufacturing sector, in particular, has its own pathways and hurdles to be navigated when it comes to fundraising.

Below, I cover the sources of finance available for manufacturing businesses and offer advice on which to choose for your business.

Why the right finance is so important for manufacturing businesses

Figures reported in January 2018 show that 17,243 UK companies entered insolvency – a 4.2% increase from the year before. It’s no secret that the first few years of a business are a critical time for its survival. The survival rate of business to year 5 is 44.1%.
________________________________________

“The UK is a great place to start a business, but survival rates are low. The recession has had an unsteadying effect on small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and we need to work hard to rebuild their confidence.”

David Swigciski, Head of Corporate, DAS UK Group

________________________________________

The reasons that a business fails range from product failure, lack of market understanding and too much competition, through to the complexity of tax systems and too much red tape.

Financial planning is perhaps the biggest reason, especially for companies more than a year or two old. Without a stream of cash to sustain itself, a business will die very quickly. Lack of funding, late payments, increased business rates and maintaining your cash flow all contrive to limit the cash available.

When is the right time for a business to borrow?

The life cycle of a business needs cash injections at many stages, including:

• Expansion into new products or markets
• Fulfilling new orders above usual production demand
• Sourcing new suppliers
• Increasing inventory volumes to reduce costs
• Bridging a late payment from a large customer that is in financial difficulty

A good financial model for cash flow forecasting will highlight when your business may need more cash to continue to operate and understanding your working capital cycle is a vital part of this model.

The Working Capital Cycle Explained

The Working Capital Cycle (WCC) is the length of time it takes to convert net working capital (assets and liabilities) into cash in the bank.

If a business has a short WCC then it quickly releases cash from its production cycle which is then free to either reinvest or to purchase more materials. As a result, the business will require less funding.

If a business has a long WCC, then capital is ‘trapped’ in the working capital process and is not free to use. Businesses in this position are more likely to need funding and finance.

A business will try to reduce its WCC to as few days as possible, usually by increasing the payment terms with their suppliers and reducing the time to collect what it’s owed by its customers. Other ways to reduce the gap include streamlining processes, reducing manufacturing times and decreasing the sales cycle.

Understanding the WCC of a business is essential to plan for stability. As any CEO will tell you, the ability to weather all storms is the key to business success.

Once a business is aware of where the financial ‘gaps’ are to be bridged, it can then implement funding to ensure a healthy cash flow is available at all times in order to continue operating. This can range from organising a working overdraft, invoice financing or a short-term bridging loan for growth periods, for example when completing either a new order or launching a new product.

With this knowledge, a business owner can then look for sources of funding to support the business and to keep a healthy cash flow.

How to Choose a Finance Option

First, look for any government funding and loans that are either a non-repayable grant or a low-cost loan. These are regulated by specific guidelines and are often regionally based.

Failing this, you then need to look at equity or debt options…but which one?

debt vs equity angel investment netowrk manufacturing
Ask yourself the following questions:

1. How much money do you need?
Debt finance is suitable for anything between a few thousand to millions of pounds – dependent on finding a willing lender. Equity finance is usually from tens of thousands up to tens of millions and many VCs will only consider investing large sums.

2. Are you prepared to give away equity and a share of your business?
This is a clear choice between equity and debt. You will also have to consider how much equity you’re prepared to give away if you choose to go down an investment route.

3. What are your growth ambitions?
An equity investor is predominantly motivated by aggressive growth, for a return on their investment. A lender such as a bank is only concerned with their capital being repaid and growth is generally not an issue.

4. How long do you need the money for?
For a short-term cash injection, debt finance is the most suitable. If you have long-term needs, then equity investment could be a better option.

5. Do I need support?
An angel investor will also act as a mentor and can have significant input into helping you start up and grow a business. If you have a great product or a proven business but need help to take things to the next level, then an angel could be the best option for you.

It is worth noting that equity finance is a more expensive way to borrow money, but the investor is taking most of the risk. Debt finance means that you keep control of your business – and at a lesser cost – but most of the risk is yours.
Manufacturing fundraising angel investment network

What do I need to prepare to apply for funding?

1. Evaluate your business to understand what it requires

2. Draw up a business plan to clearly outline your strategy for growth and how you will use the required funding

3. Use research to show that your plan is realistic and achievable. Know your business, the market and your figures inside out.

4. Get advice on the application process, especially if you’re seeking equity investment. Speak to an adviser who can help you prepare your plan and who can give you advice on how to apply and pitch.

Sources of Finance for Manufacturing Businesses

Government Grants and Regional Agencies
The government has a variety of schemes, grants and funding options for businesses at every stage, from startup to innovation and exporting, and every business should review what funding and support is available. This type of funding is focused mainly on small businesses but not exclusively.

Grants and schemes are all subject to strict criteria and some are match-funded, which means the business must either self-fund or find external funding to match the grant on offer.

Funding support is available for businesses around the UK, with a variety of grants and loans on offer, all with specific regional criteria. Grants are constantly changing; therefore, it’s best to review what’s currently available here.

• For business innovation, Innovate UK has a series of competitions to fund between £25k and £10m for a product development project.

UK Export Finance can offer advice and support to businesses who are exporting, usually though underwriting loans and finance.

Business Finance Partnership helps small to medium-sized businesses find finance from private sector investors.

The Prince’s Trust has helped small businesses and entrepreneurs under the age of 30 since 1983. They offer mentoring, grants and loans.

For more info, I wrote a separate post on grants here.

Startup Loans

For a new manufacturing business struggling to get finance, the government-backed Startup Loans can offer a personal and unsecured loan of up to £25k. The benefit of this loan is that you do not need any assets to secure funding but the individual is personally liable for the loan and not the business.

To be eligible to apply you must be:

• Unable to have secured funding from elsewhere
• Your business is less than two years old and is based in the UK
• You are 18 or older and a UK resident, with the right to work in the UK

If there are multiple partners, each person can apply for a loan of £25k up to a maximum of £100k investment in one business. The loan is to be repaid over one to five years at 6 percent.

With the funding, a business also receives one year of mentoring and support to prepare a business plan.

________________________________________

“Bank Loans and commercial mortgages are the fourth most popular form of external finance among UK SMEs”

British Business Bank Analysis, SME Finance Monitor

________________________________________

Bank Business Loan

For an established business with a trading history, a bank loan is one of the most popular choices for securing finance.

Your options are based on the credit history of the business (including the business owners’) and whether you have any assets that you can offer as security. Property is usually the bank’s first consideration for security but machinery and equipment may be considered.

The business must prove that it can afford to repay the loan.

The other option, of an unsecured loan, will usually require a personal guarantee from the owner or directors of the business and will be subject to higher interest rates.

The benefit of a business loan is that you retain control of your business and can arrange funds quickly.

For a manufacturing business, a close relationship with their bank is essential to support their financial plans and to facilitate expansion and growth. Business loans are suitable for buying equipment, machinery or to fund the development and launch of a new product.

Bank Overdrafts

Another option for established businesses to support cash flow is a working capital overdraft with the bank. 16% of SMEs use an overdraft.

An overdraft is not a loan but is a means to both facilitate growth and to manage cash flow. An overdraft is expected to be used to bridge gaps on a monthly basis with the account being in credit for part of the month.

Overdrafts tend to have high interest rates but this is only paid on the overdrawn balance and so offers a flexible solution on a short-term basis to bridge gaps. There will also be an arrangement fee to pay.

Venture Capital (VC)

One of the most popular ways to fund a start-up or a business in its early stages, that has aspirations to scale quickly.

A VC is a fund of investors who are motivated to make an above-average return on their investment and in return they’re prepared to take a risk on early-stage, unproven businesses. They do factor that a certain percentage of their investments will fail but the ones that succeed can deliver massive returns.

The VC is focused on investing in a business that has long-term growth potential and will require a significant percentage stake in the business to reflect the risk that they’re taking. They expect to hold an interest in the business for five to seven years before they see a return.

Investment is delivered in a series of ‘rounds’, beginning with the seed round to test a proof of concept and then ‘series A’ onwards will be large cash injections to allow the business to scale.

A VC is not only looking for a strong business plan, they’re also concerned with the founders and the management team, and are investing in their ability to quickly scale and grow their business, as much as the business idea itself.

Venture capital investment can be used by a manufacturing company that has a new product to launch and expand into new territories or on a worldwide scale but in return, they will have to give away an equity stake in the business.

________________________________________

“VC is an incredible partnership between financial professionals and founders. Many VCs are often ex-entrepreneurs, so their advice can be invaluable.”

David Mott, Chairman, Venture Capital Committee, BVCA

________________________________________

Private Equity (PE)

Where a VC is focused on early stage investment in a business, PE is a medium to long-term finance option. It’s more relevant for a proven business that wants to grow or move to the next level and which needs help to achieve that.

The PE investment comes from individuals or specific private equity businesses, rather than funds made up of investors looking to speculate.

The PE investor will take a significant share of the business, often taking control. For this reason, this source of finance is relevant for owners who feel they have taken the business as far as they can and who now need help to achieve the next level, and are willing to relinquish control in return for this. Or, they may want to retire or step down from running the business and instead, retain a minority stake.

For a manufacturing business, growth could represent developing new and existing products, reducing costs and streamlining processes for more profitability and expanding into new markets.

________________________________________

“You build relationships in Private Equity over three or four years. So, if you’re thinking of retiring and there’s no obvious succession plan, Private Equity makes your exit easier.”

Tim Hames, Director General, BVCA

________________________________________

Angel Investment

Angel investment is finance provided by private, high-net worth individuals.

An angel investor usually has substantial business experience, with the knowledge and contacts to help other businesses succeed. They often take a hands-on approach and have significant input into the business. A strong working relationship is essential between an angel investor and the business owner they invest in.

Our service at Angel Investment Network is to connect entrepreneurs with our network of 180,000 angels investors worldwide.

A manufacturing business that has developed a new product would benefit from angel investment or a startup that needs the expertise of an experienced business owner to mentor them.

Expansion Capital

Once a business is established and has proven its success, it will want to grow. Rather than relinquishing control with private equity funding, expansion capital can be a partner to help the business achieve its goals by having the ability to inject funds at each growth stage with subsequent investments.

Expansion capital tends to be for higher amounts, such as £1-20m and an investor will expect a 10-30% stake of the business in return.

For a manufacturing business, expansion capital can be applied to the production of new products, entering new territories or even the strategic acquisition of another company (for either their manufacturing capability or even the intellectual property of another product).

Asset Finance

For an established business that has a trading history and which can show assets (that have value) on the balance sheet, finance secured on those assets can be an option to raise funding for growth, without giving away equity.

Banks often require a security guarantee for a loan but are restrictive in what they accept as security – usually only property. An asset finance lender will accept a wider range of security such as, the debtor book, machinery, equipment and stock. In some instances, intellectual property rights or patents can be used.

Traditionally, asset finance was considered a ‘last option’ to raise funding but has become more popular for any business that needs to quickly raise cash.

Leasing and Hire Purchase

A form of asset finance that is so popular in the UK with small to medium businesses that it’s second only in use to overdrafts.

The difference is:
Leasing means you pay a ‘rental’ on the item that you require, such as a van or a piece of machinery. At the end of the rental period the item is returned.
Hire purchase is an agreement to buy an asset over an agreed period of instalment payments. This means the business has the equipment it needs immediately without a large upfront investment and keeps the item once it’s paid for.

For a manufacturing business that needs to invest in a new fleet of delivery vehicles or production equipment this is an option to quickly put in place what is needed. Ideal for start-ups and growth periods.

________________________________________

“It does the job that businesses need it to, allowing them to get the asset on board quickly and simply so they can start using it within their business.”

Sam Dring, Senior Product Manager, Asset Finance, Lloyds Banking Group

________________________________________

Invoice Financing

Also known as factoring, invoice financing is a way to reduce the working capital cycle by releasing the value of an invoice as soon as it’s issued to the customer.
An established business will need a trading history and payment terms of less than 90 days on their invoices. They will also need to show that their customers are reliable payers.

An invoice financing lender will lend up to 90 percent of the value of the invoice and then manage the payment recovery from the customer. The cost of the financing is a percentage of each invoice.

Especially relevant to manufacturing businesses who want to reduce a long working capital cycle, release finance out of the cycle quickly and manage their cash flow more efficiently.
The business owner has access to cash and retains control of the company without relinquishing equity.

Summary

It’s very rare that a business is so cash positive from the outset that funding is never needed. Even cash positive businesses often need external finance to accelerate growth and scale quickly.

Fundraising is, therefore, a bridge that almost all business owners face. Making the right choice for your business will save you time, stress and money; and could, ultimately, be the difference between success and failure.

Thanks to Sage for allowing us to use and share their original copy and images. You can view the original post here

Should you Invest in ICOs?

The cryptocurrency market has caught the attention of many people in recent years – from traders who want to make a quick profit to angel investors concerned about the authenticity and transparency of the system. Within the startup community, ICOs (Initial Coin Offerings) have come into prominence.

So far, ICOs have helped many entrepreneurs raise funding far more rapidly than traditional avenues. Many investors too have reaped the rewards of being able to exchange an asset that would normally only realise its value when and if the business exited via trade sale or IPO.

How does an ICO work?

Before a currency is put on the market, ICOs are made available for sale as tokens, which can be converted into currency or resold as tokens once the company becomes successful. When an ICO is started, the tokens are usually sold at a very low price making it easy for investors to buy lots of them.

Once the ICO hits the exchange platforms, there are very high chances that their value will increase. Investors who bought the tokens can sell them at higher prices if there is demand.

There have been lots of success stories on ICO funding, and people are already anticipating that there will be an increase in the number of ICO fundings within the next five years. We have certainly seen a rise in the number of companies offering ICOs on Angel Investment Network in the last year or so.

Btxchange.io mentions the example of SpectreCoin in their infographic, as one of the most successful ICOs of all time with a whopping 37,175% increase in their crypto coin value.

Are ICOs all good news?

While ICOs can have advantages compared to conventional funding methods, there are some downsides that investors should be aware of.

ICOs are poorly regulated by nature, and there have been incidents of fake fundings like the Benebit case in 2017. The initiators of the coin offering scammed people into investing large sums of money, and then just disappeared with the funds, without a trace.

Also, even if the ICO is legitimate, there is no guarantee that the new coin will gain enough value for you to make a profit. It’s a gamble like any other investment!

The bottom line is that, if you are interested in ICOs, and you don’t mind taking the necessary risks, then there is an excellent opportunity to generate quick returns from startup investments. Initial coin offerings have fast returns which could double or triple your capital in just a few months.

If you are either a complementary investor or an angel investor, it’s a good time to get involved with ICOs.

Btxchange.io have produced a helpful infographic to explain the ICO landscape further:

REVOLUTIONARY WAY TO GET FUNDED: ICO ROUNDUPS

https://btxchange.io/ico-roundups-infographic/

Infographic: How Startup Funding Works

Raising funding for your startup is, in part, a navigation problem. This is especially true when you are doing it for the first time. Entrepreneurs often focus on the problems right in front of them and so lose sight of the bigger picture. It is always helpful to approach immediate problems with knowledge of the lie of the land ahead.

This infographic on how startup funding works is one of my all-time favourites. It neatly and concisely sets out a typical map of what a fundraising journey looks like over the lifetime of a successful company.

startup funding infographic

I hope you find it useful.

Credit to Anna Vital for producing such a great graphic.

The Startup Microdose Podcast & The Future of Information Sharing

Podcasts are becoming some of the most avidly consumed content available. More and more people are tuning for their ‘microdose’ of wisdom from industry leaders and pioneers. It’s a great and easy way to broaden your mind while you commute, work, cook, exercise and relax.

I’ve got in on the act with my colleague, Ed Stephens, from the senior team at Angel Investment Network.

On our show, The Startup Microdose Podcast, we interview successful entrepreneurs and investors to unpack their stories, opinions, quirks and wisdom.
Microdose 1

Popular episodes include:

Oleg Fomenko, Founder of Sweatcoin – the fastest growing health and fitness app in history

Anthony Rose, CEO of Seedlegals – angel investor and the man who built BBC iPlayer

Pip Jamieson, CEO of The Dots – ‘The LinkedIn for Creatives’

Tim Armoo – the 23-year- old marketing whizz behind Fanbytes – a Snapchat-focused influencer marketing platform

You can view all available episodes with full descriptions on iTunes or www.startupmicrodose.com

microdose itunes

The Future of Podcasting – The Interactive Experience with Entale

As part of this project, we’ve teamed up with our friends at Founders Factory-backed Entale.

They are revolutionising the podcast experience by incorporating visual context, time-stamped links and chaptering. These additional features allow listeners to derive a deeper and more interactive experience from their favourite podcasts.

microdose entale

They’ve got a tonne of great shows already on the platform including The Startup Microdose, so make sure you check out their app!

Coming up on The Startup Microdose Podcast:

Maya Pindeus, Founder of Humanising Autonomy (Deep Machine Learning in Autonomous Vehicles)

Emma Sayle, Founder of Killing Kittens & one of the UK’s leading ‘sex-entrepreneurs

Julian Hearn, Founder of Huel (Nutritionally complete food)

Giles Rhy-Jones, CMO of what3words (A new address sysstem for the world – previously featured on this blog in a post called “How what3words are Changing the World

We are very excited to share this with you – enjoy!

Do you want to be interviewed on the podcast? Or know someone with entrepreneurial flair and knowledge to share?

I’d love to hear from you…

What are the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals?

In the past few years, there has been a dramatic surge in interest relating to so-called ‘impact’ companies and investments. Public awareness and concern for global economic, environmental and social issues are at an all-time high. We attribute this in part to the so-called ‘Blue Planet Effect‘ and in part, to the ever more ominous severity of the issues we face. As a result, institutions like United Nations have set out strategies like their Sustainable Development Goals to help solve these issues (more on these below).

The data from Angel Investment Network‘s 1 million users reflect this growth in interest. We’ve seen an astonishing 250% increase in the number of investors interested in the Greentech & Environment industry in the UK since 2016. The number of companies raising money who define themselves as ‘ethical’ and ‘sustainable’ has blown up at a similar rate.

And we don’t expect this interest to dwindle anytime soon. Our newest product, Seedtribe, was built to support investors and companies in the ‘impact’ sector. In a previous post, I described how Seedtribe is encouraging investors to commit more to this space and I defined ‘impact’ in this context as:

…when an investor backs a business which has a social and/or environmental mission at its core…[but is also] targetting profitability alongside its social mission.

This works as a general definition. And makes the important point that investing in ‘impact’ is NOT philanthropy.

This point is reflected in Seedtribe’s model for selecting companies. There two key focus areas in our evaluation:
  • We are committed to generating returns for our investors. We select businesses that we believe have the strongest chance of achieving high-growth and/or high-profit. These will ultimately have the best chance of producing returns for investors. Our investment committee has 14 years’ experience investing in and raising finance for startups. It employs due diligence methods honed over this period to pick the most promising companies.
  • We are also committed to working on ‘impact’ businesses. Our investment committee also evaluates businesses according to criteria developed by the United Nations, known as ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ (SDGs). It is these businesses which we believe will produce positive and lasting change in the world and allow our investors to invest in impact.

sustainable

But what are the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs)?

The SDGs, or Global Goals for Sustainable Development, are a collection of 17 global objectives set by the United Nations in 2015.

The 17 goals focus on global social, environmental and economic issues. Their purpose is to produce positive and lasting change across key development problems in all countries.

The official title for the project is ‘Transforming our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’.

The goals are broad and interdependent, but each has its own specific targets. Each goal is described in brief below:

Goal 1: No Poverty

End poverty in all its forms

Goal 2: Zero Hunger

End hunger, achieve food security and improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture

Goal 3: Good Health & Wellbeing

Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages

Goal 4: Quality Education

Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all

Goal 5: Gender Equality

Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

Goal 6: Clean Water & Sanitation

Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

Goal 7: Affordable & Clean Energy

Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all

Goal 8: Decent Work & Economic Growth

Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all

Goal 9: Industry, Innovation & Infrastructure

Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and foster innovation

Goal 10: Reduced Inequalities

Reduce inequality within and among countries

Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities

Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

Goal 12: Responsible Consumption & Production

Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

Goal 13: Climate Action

Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

Goal 14: Life Below Water

Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development

Goal 15: Life on Land

Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss

Goal 16: Peace, Justice & Strong Institutions

Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels

Goal 17: Partnerships for the Goals

Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

sustainable 2

How is Seedtribe helping?

The UN recognises that successful implementation of these targets will be most realistically achieved by individuals and institutions working towards them on a local and regional level. Lasting global impact will then be realised provided there is a sufficient collective effort across different regions.

Seedtribe aims to contribute to this collective effort. We help investors and entrepreneurs use their skills and resources to create impactful businesses with the potential to affect positive change across all these SDGs.

Watch this space.

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. https://investorlist.co/; 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.

Conclusion:

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.
Safely.

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?

idea

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

OR,

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.

Execution.

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!

Oliver

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!