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!

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:

Overview

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.

How?

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).

Summary:

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.”

Responding

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
Duh!

– 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.

Reminding

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.

Consider:
a)

“Hi X,

Did you have any more thoughts about our project?

Thanks,
Founder Y”

b)

“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?

Thanks,
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 oliver@angelinvestmentnetwork.co.uk