Impact Investing Interview #3: How what3words are Changing the World

My first project when I joined Angel Investment Network back in 2014 was to organise a pitching event in central London. We selected five of the most exciting UK companies who were fundraising; we had no specific agenda to include impact companies – we just wanted innovation! We prepped them to pitch to 150 investors whom we had specially invited from our network.

what3words was one of those companies.

Mike Lebus & James Badgett, the founders of Angel Investment Network, had already invested in what3words’ seed round – so they were keen for Chris Sheldrick, the CEO and co-founder, to put in a good performance.
chris what3words impact

He obliged. His understated charisma perfectly complemented the visionary nature of the project – dividing the globe into 57 trillion 3×3 squares and giving each a three-word “postcode”.

I was thoroughly impressed. The investors appeared less so, preferring to engage the other companies (some SaaS products and a few apps) in conversation during the post-pitch drinks. This lack of impact baffled me. I asked some of them what they thought of what3words – it was a cool idea but apparently, they couldn’t see its application.

Four years later they must be kicking themselves!

Since closing £600k through Angel Investment Network, they have gone on to raise $13.8m across several funding rounds with Intel Capital leading a $3.5m Series A; and Aramex International leading a $8.5m Series B. Their most recent round was a corporate one with German car manufacturer Daimler buying 10% of the company in January 2018.

And that application problem?

Well, I’ll let you read for yourself in my interview with the what3words team below.

Prepare to have your mind blown…

The Interview

Part 1 – About what3words

What’s your mission?

We are on a mission to make the world more efficient, less frustrating and safer. Our goal is to be a global standard, giving everyone and everything a simple, accurate and reliable address they can use whenever they need it. what3words impact 7

We want businesses, governments and services worldwide to use 3-word addresses to become more efficient, and improve their customer experience.

At the same time, we look forward to showing how better addressing can reduce businesses’ environmental impact, ease pressure on crowded cities, fuel economic growth in developing nations and save lives.
what3words impact 3

Who are your clients?

Our 3-word addresses are now used by over 650 businesses, government agencies and NGOs across over 170 countries, and by sectors including automotive, e-commerce, logistics, automotive & mobility, travel & navigation, post, national infrastructure, events, humanitarian, disaster response and emergency services.

Our customers include Mercedes-Benz, who are about to launch the world’s first car with built-in what3words voice navigation. Drivers will be able to say a 3-word address and navigate to a precise destination, anywhere in the world.

Global logistics giant Aramex has integrated what3words to optimise its last mile operations in the Middle East and South Africa. Many other couriers and food delivery customers are using 3-word addresses, including Domino’s Pizza in Saudi Arabia.

National postal services in 10 countries to date have adopted what3words, giving over 200 million people an accurate and reliable address, many for the first time. Many of our customers are innovative future-facing companies including DXC Drones and IBM’s #AccessibleOlli.

Our humanitarian partners include the United Nations, who have adopted the what3words system for its disaster response and recovery app UN-ASIGN, alongside the Red Cross. Other NGOs include Gateway Health in South Africa, who are using what3words to address township homes on the outskirts of Durban, and who have trained local ambulance drivers to use 3-word addresses to reach pregnant women faster in the township areas, saving lives.

(Remember that application problem?)

What stage are you at?

what3words started in March 2013. A team of three managed it through its early development and funding. We now have over 70 employees across the world and we’re growing fast.

what3words can be easily integrated by businesses, governments and NGOs into apps, platforms or websites, with just a few lines of code using our online API or SDKs. Our free what3words app, available for iOS and Android, and the online map enable people to find, share and navigate to 3-word addresses is available in 22 languages. 3-word addresses can be switched instantly into any supported language, and even looked up in one language and shared in another.

what3words impact 4

Our newest product, 3WordPhoto, allows people to easily label photos with a 3-word address and share them in any language. This means that a simple photo, shared in a message or on Twitter, can give a precise location.

We have already had great success integration our system with voice input with specific automotive partners, and intend to roll out voice capability into our own products in the future.

What is your business model?

what3words is free for individuals, and qualifying not-for-profit and humanitarian entities.

For business use, we sell licenses for our products including our API and SDKs, and services such as very large-scale batch conversion of 3-word addresses to GPS coordinates or vice versa.

How much funding have you raised to date?

To get to where we are today we put a lot of energy into seeking out the right investors to bring the business credibility, contacts, experience, and knowledge as-as well as funding.

We are incredibly lucky to have a range of industry-experts backing what3words, all drawing upon extensive expertise, following successful careers in the automotive, technology, venture capital, and challenger sectors.

Earlier this year, Daimler acquired a 10% stake in the business, following the announcement that Mercedes-Benz is about to launch the world’s first car with built-in what3words voice navigation. Our Series B investment round was led by Aramex, with other notable investors including Deutsche Bahn and Intel Capital.

What’s next?

Within the next year, we will launch our 28th language, allowing 3.8 billion people to use 3-word addresses in their home language (that’s 51% of the world).

We also expect to open more local offices to add to those we’ve opened in Mongolia and South Africa.

Our growth plans involve more global integrations to add to Daimler, Aramex and the UN, along with focused local market activity targeting all sectors within one country or region, creating an ecosystem in which 3-word addresses become a standard.

An example of this is Mongolia, where what3words is already used for post, e-commerce, taxis, banking, fast-food delivery, tourism and microfinance.

Part 2 – What3Words on Impact

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

We believe that companies should do good by doing business. We want to make our system as accessible as possible – what3words is free for individuals, and qualifying not-for-profit and humanitarian entities.

The practical impact of what3words is very clear: we give everyone and everywhere a simple address. Providing a simple way to communicate the location of homes, remote areas and disaster zone enables social and economic inclusion, the delivery of mail and facilitates emergency responses, registering to vote or opening a bank account.

We recently conducted global research and discovered that an astonishing 33% of people are open to trying an entirely new form of addressing.
what3words impact 2

Can you give me an example of how what3words is used in the UK? And in the “developing world”?

The what3words technology is being used all across the UK: from a number of police forces to the emergency response teams at Glastonbury, delivery companies and Black Tomato a luxury travel company.

But it’s not just companies benefiting from the technology; individuals in the UK are using what3words every day to meet friends at festivals, organise running clubs in Hyde Park, planning hikes in the Peak District, communicate the location of injured animals on farms and to guide guests to their AirBnB entrances.

We are enabling everyone, everywhere in the world, whether they are in cities, on remote islands or even in tents on the Mongolian plains, to have a simple and reliable address.

An example of this, as mentioned above, is the fast developing country of Mongolia – remote and nomadic in culture – who have adopted what3words as their official addressing system. Now, for the first time, Mongolians are able to receive mail, register for a bank account and receive food deliveries – all by using a 3-word address. Similarly, we have been adopted by countries such as the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, and Nigeria as a recognised form of address.

Do you support any charities?

what3words is, and always will be free for not-for-profit and humanitarian entities. We are used by diverse humanitarian partners, and it’s powerful to see our technology supporting those in need. We were used by the Mexican Government to aid disaster relief during last year’s earthquake, and are being used today by the Red Cross, NATO and the United Nations to provide humanitarian aid.

We are also used by a number of smaller nonprofits – one of our earlier partnerships which still remains incredibly special to us is Gateway Health. The Gateway Health Institute provides healthcare and community services in disadvantaged areas across South Africa. They run programs to deliver medicine, supply emergency transport for women in labour, and identify hot spots for human rights abuses. But many of these programs struggle due to the lack of reliable addressing.

Gateway Health uses 3-word addresses in the township of KwaNdengezi, near Durban. The what3words grid system means that every part of the township – including homes, community centres and facilities like water pumps – already has a pre-assigned and fixed address.

what3words impact 5

Once a home knows its 3-word address, its residents can share the location accurately and reliably. Medical services can identify where pregnant women live and provide them with essential pre-natal care. Should any complications occur during labour, ambulance crews also know exactly where to go, to provide life-saving assistance.

What is your current biggest challenge?

Our biggest challenge is that we’re trying to effect a huge, global behavioural change. People have been using street addresses their entire lives, without questioning them. They get lost, packages go astray and billions of people worldwide have no address at all but, until they’re challenged to really think about it, some people don’t inherently feel there’s a problem.

We’re overcoming that challenge by refining how we clearly and quickly demonstrate the problem, finding examples (and there are so many) of when poor street addressing frustrates individuals and costs companies billions. As soon as people see how poor addressing affects them personally, they immediately see the need for our solution.

What are you most proud of/excited about for your business?

The Mercedes-Benz partnership was a huge achievement, and the announcement at CES was an incredible memorable moment for us. The process was also especially fast – taking only 6 months from inception to integration – and there are already over 700,000 cars on the road which are what3words enabled.

what3words impact 6

Because poor addressing affects so many industries – from navigation to travel, logistics to events – it’s exciting to see the tangible impact that our technology brings, and the room for exponential adoption. Bad addressing is so universal that our potential partners and use cases are unconstrained.

So where does what3words come on the Impact Scale?

The vision of this company is extraordinary. Four years ago it was so extraordinary that many of our investors could not see its application and potential impact. The what3words team’s execution over the past four years has made a mockery of that.

Here is a company that can count itself among the most innovative to come out of the UK tech scene in recent years. Who knows what the future holds for them but I’d put my money on good things!

Angel Investment Network’s latest project SeedTribe, which focuses on angel-led crowdfunding for impact companies, was built to help companies like what3words get off the ground and change the world. You can view latest impact companies here.

I hope that what3words’ story can inspire budding impact entrepreneurs and investors to build impactful companies.

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

Startup Investment – How do you get good deal flow?

Investors are all looking for a startup investment they believe will be successful. That much is self-evident. Of course, some investors will be looking to invest in companies in which they are interested or experienced. But ultimately, everyone is linked by the shared ambition to back winners.

So that begs the question – How do you pick a winner?

Pick an investment winner

The answer to this comes in three parts: the first is to do with Deal Flow and will be discussed in this post; the second concerns Deal Evaluation which was discussed in a previous post; and the third part is to do with Due Diligence, which will be covered at a later date.

Deal Flow:

One of the most important factors in successfully picking a winner is to have a large and varied number of deals to choose from. Naturally, the more deals you can get eyes on, the more astute you will be when it comes to picking good ones to invest in. That statement comes with a slight caveat – the deals you view have to be of a reasonable quality for you to learn anything valuable.

So where can you find a constant stream of deals of reasonable to high quality?

Network, Contacts & Friends:

The traditional way to do this is through your contacts. If you’re acquainted with people in the startup/investment community, whether they be entrepreneurs or investors, it’s highly likely that they’ll send deals your way. Especially if you ask them. (Silicon Valley in the US is basically fuelled by referrals).

The more you get involved in conversations the more you’ll be included in further conversations. For instance, if a friend or investment broker, sends you a deal, even if you know you’re not going to invest this time around (for whatever reason), it’s still worth responding to them and thereby keep the conversation open by demonstrating your continued interest and engagement.

Many of our investors on Angel Investment Network say that carrying out Due Diligence on companies vastly increased their networks by the simple virtue of having conversations with the right people (even if most were via email!); and as a result, they all started coming across increasingly better opportunities.

In other words, the more you build and nurture your network within this sector, the more you will be exposed to better investment opportunities.

Angel Investment Sites:

Using your network, as set out above, is the traditional way, but it still holds just as true. However, since the digital networking boom with the rise of sites like LinkedIn, it has become easier to broaden your professional network in less ‘organic’ ways. You no longer have to know someone to know them.

It is now easier than ever to expose yourself to quality investment deals and startup contacts online, and in so doing expand your personal network as never before. And you are, no doubt, aware of this as you browse this content on a site called Angel Investment Network!

Further to this, when you actually invest in a startup not only are you casting yourself in a very positive light to the company you invest in, but also to whoever was involved in brokering the deal, other investors you spoke to during your Due Diligence and to friends of the company you invested in. Once you’ve done this, you can guarantee that an increasing number of deals will come your way a) from the fact that you’ve expanded your network in the right way and b) from the fact that people know your serious and not a time waster.

Paul Graham says the following in support of this in a talk he gave at AngelConf in 2009 called ‘How to be an Angel Investor’;

“The best way to get lots of referrals is to invest in startups. No matter how smart and nice you seem, insiders will be reluctant to send you referrals until you’ve proven yourself by doing a couple investments. Some smart, nice guys turn out to be flaky, high-maintenance investors. But once you prove yourself as a good investor, the deal flow, as they call it, will increase rapidly in both quality and quantity.”

(Paul Graham is the guy who founded Viaweb (the first SaaS company) which was acquired by Yahoo in 1998 for a reported $49million. He then founded Y Combinator which has funded over 1000 startups since 2005, including Dropbox, Airbnb, Stripe, and Reddit. So he knows a thing or two about this.)

Startup Pitching & Networking Events:

The final string to your bow when it comes to receiving good deal flow is, of course, networking and pitching events. At these events, you’ll be able to both see deals pitched directly to you and to discuss them and network with other investors and entrepreneurs. You can learn a great deal and expand your network over complimentary drinks and nibbles.

There are tonnes of these events especially in startup-focused cities. We hold a pitching and networking event biannually. For information please send a quick email to info@angelinvestmentnetwork.co.uk.

Summary:

Ultimately, it all comes down to expanding your network and maintaining positive conversations with people in the industry. To recap the best ways to do this are:

– Startup events

– Angel Networking sites

– Investing

And in all cases, it’s the value of the interactions you make that will dictate the positive influence on your network and concomitantly, the standard and consistency of deal flow that gets referred to you.

What’s the outlook for mobile app startups and investors in 2017?

“There’s an app for that”, or some variant of the phrase, is now one of the most common responses to anyone raising a complaint or bemoaning a problem, however small.

Rise and fall of man

The extreme sense of entitlement coupled with the profound idleness that characterises our age has created a market for apps which manage or assist with our dry-cleaning, our sex life, our tampon subscription, our polyphasic sleep-mapping, our pets’ bowel movements…I wouldn’t be surprised if somewhere in the murky depths of the App Store there’s an app for communing with the dead – or perhaps I’ve just been watching too much Black Mirror.

The last decade has seen the rapid and unstoppable emergence of the mobile application. And it’s not just quick-on-the-uptake millennials who are enamoured with this new way of being, by now nearly everyone is a smartphone-toting app addict.

But is this set to last? And what’s the outlook for mobile app entrepreneurs and investors?

The general consensus from anecdotal reports is that mobile app companies are finding it more difficult to raise finance. This requires some unpacking. Thanks to a report from our friends at Beauhurst, who track the funds raised by thousands of seed, venture and growth-stage companies, we can see that the amount invested in mobile apps in the UK reached its highest ever level of just over £560m in 2016 (that’s up from £67m in 2011 and circa £275m in 2015).

Mobile app deal numbers and amount invested 2011-2016
Mobile app deal numbers and amount invested 2011-2016

So what’s the problem? Clearly, there are enormous (and increasing) amounts of capital still being ploughed into the app industry by investors. But hold on, there’s a nuance to this.

The crucial change which gives credence to the consensus is that the stage of the app companies raising money has changed. In 2013, 70% of app companies who raised money were seed stage, but by 2016 that number had dropped to 62% with more investors opting for the more proven venture and growth-stage companies.

So from this, we can see that for early stage app companies the prospect of raising finance has indeed become marginally harder. However, the amounts being invested into the sector are still growing at an impressive rate so for apps good enough to compete, there’s still a world of opportunity.

With thanks to Beauhurst for permission to use their data. You can read their article here

Business Funding Show Event – Canary Wharf 23rd February

Angel Investment Network will once again be joining a host of other companies from the startup investment space at the latest Business Funding Show on 23rd February near Canary Wharf tube station.

PICTURE with Logos

Attendees will be given the opportunity to:

– Meet famous entrepreneurs like Mark Wright (BBC Apprentice Winner)
– Learn from Angel Investors such as Mike Greene (C4 Secret Millionaire)
– Meet a range of leading financial institutions
– Get free 1-2-1 with Top Investors & VCs
– Attend talks from industry experts

Wondering what it’s all about? Check out what it was like last year in the video below:
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If I were an SME today and I’d just started a business or I was growing a business in my early days, I’d be here at the Show, because I want to learn more and more about all the different forms of funding available, meet potential funders every year, meet with fellow entrepreneurs and learn from them, learn from the speakers, who are very experienced.Lord Bilimoria of Cobra Beer

Picture Richard

My mission is to help entrepreneurs to set-up and grow their business. So, the Business Funding Show is a perfect event for this, as it’s all about helping entrepreneurs to learn how to get money and grow fast.Richard Reed of Innocent Drinks

Our very own Xavier Ballester will also be giving a workshop on raising money through angel investors!

You can get tickets here.

Success Story: Data Science marketplace Pivigo secures investment following rapid growth

Pivigo (http://www.pivigo.com/), a data science marketplace and training provider based in London, has announced the successful closing of its funding round with investment secured from high profile consortia including Angel Academe, Craigie Capital, Dubai-based Dunamis Ventures Ltd and London Co-Investment Fund, the Mayor of London’s early stage business fund.

Angel Investment Network is delighted to have made a significant contribution to this success story through its introduction of Dunamis Ventures Ltd.

You can view the full press release on the Pivigo blog here

Now that they are fully funded, they are well placed “to reach a much larger audience, help connect more people with each other and work with companies to gain value from data…” as Founder and CEO, Kim Nilsson, puts it.

We can’t wait to see the progress they make!

Proposal Tip of the Week

What’s the point of a proposal? Why use sites like Angel Investment Network? Why not just send your full business plan to people you want to invest?

Well, for a start, not everyone has the contact details of a large number of investors just sat in their inbox. Networking/Connection sites like Angel Investment Network hold the key to advertising your latest business venture to thousands of prospective investors so that you can find the right ones to suit the nature of the project. That sounds a little sales-y, I know, but it’s important to understand in order to realise the significance of the short proposal instead of the full-blown business plan.

When you’re marketing an idea to thousands of people, not just in the fundraising community but anywhere, you cannot simply take it for granted that people will actually take time to consider your idea; in any marketplace thousands upon thousands of ideas are competing to grab the attention of the onlookers. Precedence is not always, and certainly not necessarily, defined by merit, but rather by the ability to capture attention.

Don’t think ‘I know my idea is brilliant, so why wouldn’t investors read my business plan? They’d be stupid not to…’ That attitude will help you raise the square root of nothing. Think instead ‘How can I make it so that investors literally cannot wait to get their greedy paws on my business plan and start properly digesting my idea?’

Here’s where your short proposal comes in. It is meant to be pithy and concise. Something that can be easily understood and result in them wanting to know more. It is the first rung on the ladder towards them investing; and that can often be the hardest part – getting them to step onto the ladder. Once they’re on, of course some may fall off on the way to the top, but at least you’re beginning to win them over and it becomes progressively harder for them to get off.

As such you should consider your proposal as a ‘hook’, to use Nir Eyal’s term, or in internet-speak a CTA (call-to-action). In your proposal make them love your idea enough to take the next step. Tell them the best bits. Don’t swamp them in superfluous detail.

Proposal Tip of the Week

It’s funny what working near a beach for 3 weeks will do to one’s ability to keep their blog updated! But I’m back in the office now, back to the grindstone so your weekly dose of pitching/proposal advice is back up and running.

The previous 4 tips have talked in general terms about the ideal structure for your proposal: Tip #1 advised you to put your achievements first, Tip #2 encouraged you to then articulate the problem you solve, Tip #3 how you solve that problem and Tip #4 told you to make it clear how big the market opportunity is.

This week I wanted to talk about tone. How should your pitch come across? Funny? Serious? Detailed? Light?

When I arrived in the office this morning one of my colleagues was bragging about how he had re-written someone’s proposal for them after they had got no interest from investors after 90 days on Angel Investment Network. Now the business wasn’t bad at all, but it wasn’t an Uber or Facebook by any stretch of the imagination. The reason the guy had done so poorly was that the way he had written his proposal was about as exciting as watching paint dry in prison.

My colleague made no drastic changes – the fact of the business and its products (innovative power tools) were beyond his control. And yet his changes resulted in 82 investors contacting the entrepreneur. 82. When previously he’d got zero.

What did he change? He injected some life, some enthusiasm, some excitement into the proposal. The subject matter remained the same, but he gave the proposal a buzz. He infused it with a sense of success just around the corner; and that’s what intrigued the investors.

So give yourself a fighting chance and make sure you strike the right tone…

Proposal Tip of the Week

Tip #4 “How big’s the itch and is it spreading…like a rash?”

To continue the itch metaphor from proposal tips #2 and #3 (which dealt with the importance of giving a clear explanation of the itch you scratch and how you scratch it), in this post I’d like to touch on the size of the itch and how it’s growing.

For those of you beginning to find my strangled metaphor tedious, I’ll stop. I’m talking, of course, about the market your business operates/plans to operate in.

It’s no use solving a problem – even if you solve it unbelievably well – if it’s a problem only extant for a single hermit on the remote island of Tristan de Cunha, then it’s great for the hermit, but not a viable business (unless he’s sitting on pots of gold).

The problem you solve has to be one that a large and growing number of people suffer from without a solution; and are willing to pay for.

The more statistics you have to indicate this, the more prospective investors are likely to give your idea credence! There are plenty of websites available to help you with this, so don’t skip this bit…

Success Story: Atlantic Healthcare closes $24 million financing

Some good news came in over the weekend in a press release from Atlantic Healthcare. It’s encouraging to see our Pharmaceutical companies flourishing alongside their arguably more trendy tech counterparts.

We raised circa £350,000 for Atlantic Healthcare as part of their seed round. It’s taken a few years, but that’s nearly always the way with pharmaceuticals; and now they’ve just closed a $24 million round with funds coming from the founders of Salix Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Fullbrook Thorpe Investments LLP (the family investment arm of Andy Leaver, founder of Clinigen Group plc); and LDC (the private equity division of Lloyds Banking Group plc); alongside their existing investors.

This round will allow them to complete the pivotal Phase 3 of their product development and will make alicaforsen market-ready for the treatment of IBD pouchitis which currently has no approved treatments.