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StartUpBuzz



At AIN, we celebrate connecting investors to back the great businesses of tomorrow, whatever they do. With this in mind, our latest round up includes a new form of property marketplace, a platform using AI to reinterpret education and a company making new types of soup!

Soupologie

Soupologie

Whilst you may think there isn’t much to differentiate soup, Soupologie would beg to differ. Soupologie makes award winning soups and ready meals that are driving a number of innovations including: the world’s first ‘5 a day soup’ and ‘first free from the 14 main allergens soup’. 

Capitalising on the plant based movement, the company has achieved strong growth and has even released two cookbooks. With an exit focused management team and strong revenue growth, the company is on a fantastic path.

Key Facts

– On track for £3.2m revenue in Y/E May 22

– Products sold at Waitrose, Tesco, Ocado and leading supermarkets 

– Over 21k+ followers on social media  

“Soupologie have steadily built a strong business core around an innovative product range. Alongside executing the fundamentals of the business brilliantly, they amplify the brand exceptionally well through wide reaching media campaigns and an enviable following. The combination is powerful and we knew it was something that our network would be keen to see” Sam Louis. 

Find out more about Soupologie here.

Vesta

Vesta

Vesta is a marketplace for buying and selling rental property, and has sold over £50 million of property since it’s launch in 2018. 

It’s the leading marketplace of it’s kind covering buy-to-let, student accommodation, and portfolio properties for example. The properties often come with a tenant in place – if you buy a property with a tenant in place, the tenant is happy as they don’t need to find somewhere else to live, and the buyer is happy as they have an immediate rental income. 

Key Facts

– The rental market is expected to be £1.7 billion by 2025 

– Vesta has a growing pipeline currently worth £100 million.

– Revenue currently > £20k a month

“This is a space that has been of interest to me for some time and Vesta clearly sets out what the investment options and how much I can hope to generate from the moment I buy the property” Xavier Ballester.

Find out more about Vesta here.

Habitat Learn 

Habitat Learn

Habitat Learn is an ecosystem of products designed to remove the barriers of learning. With the ethos that ‘when online learning works better for all students; all students work better.’

Habitat Learns comprises a suite of products easily integrating into existing education technology. This includes: 

– Video conferencing software, designed specifically for education, as well as providing high quality live stream content, there is AI captioning and translation, and digital watermarks to safeguard IP. 

– Advanced analytics including everything from live recording, invoicing and student attendance records

– An option to get notetakers to take notes remotely. 

Key Facts: 

– Projecting £3m revenue in 2021, (£600k: 2020)

-185 customers (universities and colleges) including Harvard, Yale and Cornell

– Experienced team founding multiple successful startups 

“With lockdown Edtech has seen a real surge but I also looked back to my uni days where I spent most lectures frantically scribbling and missing half of what was said… Oh to have had Habitat Learn!” Xavier Ballester. 

Find out more about Habitat Learn here.

Keen to hear more?

If you would like to see what other companies are up to on Angel Investment Network, or are interested in raising funding yourself, you can find your local network here.

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#SixtySecondStartUp with Alpaca Coffee

In this week’s #SixtySecondStartUp we catch up with Alpaca Coffee who are making ‘better coffee for you and the planet’:

  1. What does Alpaca Coffee do?

Alpaca Coffee looks to bring better coffee for you and the planet. We are working towards being UK’s first fully sustainable coffee brand by promoting sustainability at every touchpoint:

Ethically-Sourced Specialty Coffee: Traceable sources to support family businesses that adhere to international standards on sustainability, better pricing, and quality

Zero Waste Roasting: Roasted via circular technology with biofuel instead of fossil fuel 

100% Plastic Free & Compostable: 100% plastic-free, from our labels and our bags, all the way to our shipping boxes and compostable tape.

Offsetting Our Carbon Footprint: For every 10 bags of coffee sold, Alpaca Coffee will plant one tree in the Amazon Rainforest.

  1. Why did you set up Alpaca Coffee?

I fell in love with specialty coffee during a trip to South America, but soon became aware of the negative environmental impact of the coffee industry. Due to this, we decided early on to become the new industry standard and to put sustainability at the core of what we do, making quality and sustainable coffee accessible for everyone. 

  1. How did you get your first customer? 

We validated our idea with a Kickstarter campaign. The featured by Kickstarter and our >200% oversubscription jump started our initial customer base and we are fortunate that a lot of the customers from then have stayed with us since then. Despite the fact that we have grown since then, I will never forget the moment my best friends tried our coffee and their amazed look. 

Alpaca Coffee

  1. We knew we were onto something when? 

Kickstarter was a start, but when we were featured by the UK Government as part of the SMB Climate Hub, among other publications such as Goodfind and Wherefrom, we knew we were onto something. 

  1. Our business model: 

B2C with a focus on e-commerce. We are rapidly expanding into the retail and B2B space so hit us up for a chat 😉

  1. Our most effective marketing channel has been: 

We are currently organic-heavy with our marketing, and so far has offseted >1,300,000 grams of carbon with >3000 bags of coffee sold. Social media has brought in great ROI, from word-of-mouth through user-generated content to collaborations with brands with similar philosophies. The team is working hard to further our presence by strengthening our branding and unboxing experiences. Stay tuned for our launch in December 🔥.

  1. What we look for when recruiting:

We look for people who share our values in sustainability and understand our mission. Being a challenger brand, we want to recruit fearless, passionate people. Diverse backgrounds, perspectives, talents, and ideas are important to us and we are driven forward by this diversity.

Coffee?

  1. The biggest mistake that I’ve made is:

Saying yes to too many things. I’ve learnt that it’s important to approach any part of our business with a clear goal and understanding of the return on investment. We now approach anything we do together as a team with a clear understanding of how it fits with our mission and vision, and how it drives the business forward.

  1. We think that there’s growth in this sector because:

We are part of the “fourth wave of coffee”. As one of the most consumed drinks in the world, the quality of coffee as well as its impact on the environment and society, has become increasingly important to people around the world. As a specialty coffee company with sustainability at its core, we hope to become the new industry standard and push for better coffee for you and the planet. 

  1. We worked with AIN because:

AIN democratises angel investment and offers an unprecedented access to a supporting ecosystem and community of entrepreneurs and investors. This helps level the playing field and empowers entrepreneurs like us to grow. 

Keen to hear more?

If you would like to see what other companies are up to on Angel Investment Network, or are interested in raising funding yourself, you can find your local network here.

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#SixtySecondStartUp with IBS Coach

Liamhl Asmall shares the story of IBS Coach, a digital dietary treatment for the 800 million people affected by IBS.

  1. What does your company do?

We help the 1 in 7 people who suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome to get instant and effective digital treatment from the phone in their pocket. It may come as a surprise, but IBS is one of the most common digestive conditions on the planet. It’s not life threatening and is still taboo (which is most likely why it’s been so overlooked for so many years), but it severely impacts relationships, work, travel, and ultimately, quality of life.

In one study patients with IBS were willing to give up 15.1 years of their remaining lives to achieve perfect health. People are desperately seeking a cure.

  1. Why did you set up this company?

Healthcare for IBS is inefficient and unaffordable. It is incredible that patients have to wait a reported 1 year to see a specialist on the NHS, or pay up to £320 for private treatment. We set out to solve this problem that our friends and family had faced. Our mission is simple: to make effective digital treatment accessible, affordable, and scalable for this 800 million person IBS healthcare market.

The IBS Coach App
  1. How did you get your first customer? 

When developing a medical product you’ve got a long road to walk before you can sell to customers. Our journey went from achieving medical compliance to setting up a closed beta testing group for people with IBS, to launching in the app stores. The overwhelming positive feedback gave us confidence that patients would buy our product. We launched commercially in October this year and had our first sale almost immediately. It’s a good feeling to know we’re helping people manage their IBS.

  1. We knew we were onto something when? 

We interviewed 30 people with IBS at the start of our journey and just listening to their stories and frustrations showed us there was a clear need for an affordable, simplified treatment for IBS. Very early on we shared a post on Facebook and had almost 200 sign ups in the first 24 hours. These were early points of validation and were supported by lots of desk research.

  1. Our business model: 

IBS is a lifelong condition that needs ongoing symptom management. Because of the ongoing nature of IBS, we aim to support patients throughout their life. The business model is a recurring revenue subscription and we are currently testing our acquisition channels and pricing. One of our goals is to establish a marketing flywheel with our next SEIS fundraise. 

  1. Our most effective marketing channel has been: 

Organic sales in the iOS app store. We’re now putting marketing spend behind Apple Search Ads and Google Ads which are ‘high intent’ channels. We’ve run multiple Facebook campaigns to test landing pages and messaging, and we’ll be exploring ways we can partner with brands.

  1. The biggest mistake that I’ve made is:

One of the early mistakes was focusing too heavily on the product (we have a great product, and as a medical product we perhaps needed to spend a lot of time here!). However, if I were to start over I’d spend slightly less time on product and more time testing sales channels. It’s a fine balance as founders have to wear many hats. The risk is that founders focus on the jobs they like, or feel most ‘comfortable doing’. It’s good to be aware of our bias towards tasks.

  1. We think that there’s growth in this sector because:

IBS is a lifelong condition and the latest reports suggest the rates of IBS have actually increased during Covid. Couple the above with the mass adoption of digital healthcare, the large unserved market, and the scalability of our effective digital program and we have the right trends for our company to grow. 

  1. We worked with AIN because:

AIN has a reputation as one of the best platforms to share our ambitious plans with engaged angel investors; We hope to make many new connections and raise our current SEIS round.

If you are interested in learning more about IBS Coach, please get in touch via the Angel Investment Network platform.

Keen to hear more?

If you would like to see what other companies are up to on Angel Investment Network, or are interested in raising funding yourself, you can find your local network here.

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AIV Capital completes investment into meat alternatives business Eat Just Inc.

AIV Capital has announced investment into alternative food business, Eat Just Inc. Eat Just Inc develops and markets plant-based alternatives to conventionally-produced egg products. Founded in 2011 by Josh Tetrick, the San Francisco based business is reducing dependence on chickens and battery farms for egg production by creating a realistic and viable alternative from mung beans.

Eat Just Inc. has raised over $500Mn to date and will use its latest round of funding to continue to improve the unit economics of the business and to focus on international expansion outside of the US. It was announced recently that the key ingredient in its plant-based JUST Egg products received approval from the European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) expert panel on nutrition. This opens a pathway for the initial launch of JUST Egg to occur in Europe in mid-2022. Its high profile produce was also on the menu at Barack Obama’s recent 60th birthday.

The company has also raised over $400Mn for its subsidiary, Good Meat which focuses on cultivated meat as an alternative to traditional chicken based products. Good Meat is the first company in the world to receive regulatory approval to sell the cultivated meat products which are now available in Singapore. Earlier this year, the company secured rights for a manufacturing facility in Qatar as a partnership between Doha Venture Capital (DVC) and Qatar Free Zone Authority (QFZA).

AIV Capital is the recently launched institutional investment arm of Angel Investment Network, the world’s largest online angel investment platform. Led by experienced investment manager Ethan Khatri, AIV Capital’s focus is on investing between $10 -$75Mn+ into established businesses ranging from Growth/Series B to pre-IPO and has a flexible approach utilising both primary and secondary capital. 

According to Khatri: “We are delighted to have partnered with CEO, Josh Tetrick and the team at Eat Just Inc. With the demand for plant based products soaring they offer a viable alternative to conventionally-produced egg products and are offering impressive returns for all stakeholders. This is a prime example of the sort of business we will be working with at AIV Capital. One with a strong management team with a demonstrated edge in the space they operate in.”

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#BehindTheRaise with Euclideon Holographics

Derek Van Tonder shares the story of Euclideon Holographics and the key learnings from taking it through multiple rounds of funding, including the importance of benchmarking your company for investors and building meaningful relationships:

Tell us about what got you into start ups: 

Euclideon Holographics was founded because we tried out traditional Virtual Reality helmets and we really didn’t like them – we hated the cord, the screens in front of our eyes were awful because we couldn’t see anything, and most importantly, they gave us motion sickness. So we decided to solve that problem by removing the screens in front of your eyes and moving them onto the walls around you to solve all these problems with VR, and Euclideon Holographics was born.

Why did you decide to raise investment?

Our products have been very successful and many customers even purchased them before they were properly finished (in beta) – we are using this success to prove to investors that their funds can make a good profit when we use investment money to set up warehouses and showrooms around the world. 95% of our customers have seen our holograms in person before committing to purchase, so it makes sense to put showrooms closer to our customers, and that requires investment capital. We are also using fundraising as a way to network with new partners. Many of our investors end up working with us in the business, for example by becoming a representative for our products in a far-flung region of the world that we normally would not easily be able to access. Since they are shareholders, they are passionate about our company and it works very well.

What is your top tip for anyone raising investment for the first time?

Be careful of scammers, using a service like Angel Investment Network greatly reduces the number of shady people you will have to deal with. Make sure that you understand your market very very well – investors don’t just want to know how much you could sell if only 1% of the market bought your products – they need better and more realistic estimates than that. Ideally, you should have proved that people want to buy your product/service before raising investment. Investors may love everything about your company and technology but could be scared away by the risk factor – you have to be absolutely transparent about risk with investors. If you have debts, disclose those. If you are at all cagey about disclosing financials, many investors will see this as a big red flag. The gold standard is to have an independent, 3rd party accountant sign off on a copy of your balance sheets before you raise capital. Every serious investor will ask for this, and rightly so. Investors also like you to be very clear about what’s in it for them – you should not give “pie in the sky” and overly optimistic projections and forecasts. Instead, try to find companies similar in size and scope to your own and use them as a benchmark for comparison purposes. For example, we use the company Tritium, they are literally in the same street as our HQ, with a similar number of employees, and they are also an Aussie technology manufacturer with their own factory. Because they are very similar we can show them to investors and talk about their great success story.

What attracted investors to your company?

Shareholders of Euclideon Holographics are interested in a long-term pre-IPO Intellectual Property play, they are investing with us because we have a lot of unique IP and patents, we have proven that customers want to buy our products, and we are offering new Hologram products not seen before that solve a lot of the problems with Virtual Reality. And we also support popular 3D simulation engines like Unreal and Unity. Manufacturing our products in Australia is also seen as a big advantage to our customers, particularly with regards to our military clients, Australia is seen as a “safe” and friendly country by military buyers. Australia is viewed favourably as a hi-tech and very stable Western democracy so that also helps us.

My biggest fundraising mistake was…

At first, only emailing investors and not touching base with them in other ways. You should reach out to them on LinkedIn, send text messages, phone them, everything possible – otherwise you will never know whether your important email got stuck in their spam/junk filter. The absolute gold standard is to have a Zoom call with every investor. Investors like to invest in people. You need to meet them somehow, ideally in person if you can.

Why did you choose to use Angel Investment Network?

AIN has consistently delivered quality investors to us over the years as we have expanded our operations. We now have an excellent shareholder list and many of our shareholders are actively involved in helping us distribute our products and find new opportunities and clients all over the world.

What has the funding enabled?

We use our funding for expansion and to fund R&D on new products. For example, our first foray onto AIN netted us $700,000 (AUD) of investment, which we subsequently used to refine and commercialise our Hologram Table product, which is now our 2nd most popular bestseller.

Keen to hear more?

Listen to Derek in the extra video for #BehindTheRaise:

If you would like to see what other companies are up to on Angel Investment Network, or are interested in raising funding yourself, you can find your local network here.

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BehindTheRaise with Paperclip

Rich Wooley is the CEO and founder of Paperclip, a challenger marketplace taking on eBay. Rich shares lessons from his fundraising in #BehindTheRaise: What’s the biggest thing he thinks investors look for? What would he do differently if he did it all again? And well, does AIN really work?

Tell us about what got you into start ups:

I’ve always had an entrepreneurial mindset – my first business was at school selling Big Red chewing gum that I imported from the US, it certainly made me more money than my paper round!

At university, my housemate, Alan, (later, co-founder) and I made good money importing clothes from the US and selling them on eBay, and we saw an opportunity there for a challenger marketplace to take on eBay’s monopoly. We shelved the idea at the time, and both went into our respective management consulting careers – but eventually I thought that if I didn’t do something entrepreneurial soon, I might never, so I took a career break and started attending startup events in London like AngelHack and London Startup Weekend. I pitched Paperclip, we came second place, and we got to work.

Why did you decide to raise investment?

Being a marketplace, we realized that we’d need to go for a few years without any discernible revenue, and so we sought investment to fund the runway. Not only this, but we wanted to get a strong network of investors onboard that could add value on the journey – introductions for commercial partnerships and to other investors, and so on.

Marketplaces are always tricky, and it can take a while until the critical mass of buyers and sellers and unit economics start to take shape. However, when they do get it right, they have the power to influence people’s everyday lives – which is something that excites me a lot. Platforms like Amazon, JustEat, Uber, Deliveroo, and Depop are a testament to that – they provide value to millions of people, and have made massive returns for their investors, but they were cash hungry at the start and required significant investment to get to that scale – we are no different in that regard.

What is your top tip for anyone raising investment for the first time?

It’s always tricky at the start.  Your personal network can help a lot at that time – my first investors were a friend from university, a family friend, and my old boss! But other than that, seek investors that add value in the right areas -speak with founders that have exited similar or complementary types of businesses.

Any government support such as grants can help a lot to get momentum going, and speaking to pre-seed funds that can match fund will help things significantly: if you have an offer on the table for match-funding (e.g if you raise £100k then the fund will match that with £100k), then it helps things along significantly.

I’d suggest not being too inflexible on your valuation, but be wary of adapting your investment terms to something you’re not comfortable with, such as giving away too much control or appointing directors that don’t share your vision, or that might become an issue later down the line. The right kind of investors can make your journey far smoother, the wrong type can make it hell.

What attracted investors to your company?

I think investors like the concept of what we’re trying to solve and the novel way that we are approaching it – it helps that the secondhand goods market is massive and also set to expand 500% over the next 5 years – and so the potential is huge. However, at the start, investors are mostly investing in the actual team – and having a strong team really helped with that.

We were fortunate enough to get some high profile investors onboard at seed stage, such as  David Buttress,  co-founder and former CEO of JustEat and Hayley Parsons, the founder and former CEO of GoCompare. Most people in the UK would have either seen or used their platforms, and so it added some credibility to our cause.

Rich Wooley, CEO, Paperclip


My biggest fundraising mistake was…

Probably the biggest fundraising mistake I made was not pushing back on some of the investment agreement terms in our first VC raise. There are a bunch of reporting, corporate governance and approval processes that I have to go through. For example, I need to gain approval for spending over £5,000 on something, or hiring someone with a salary of over £35,000. 

These terms ultimately do benefit and protect our shareholders, so they’re not all bad – but for the stage we’re at, they can be slightly onerous; they  can slow things down at times or take me valuable time to report.

Why did you choose to use Angel Investment Network?

Over the years, I had heard of Angel Investment Network, but I never wanted to pay for it!  Then one day at the Natwest Accelerator, two of the founders I was mentoring came over and told me they’d raised over £250k each on the platform, and so I signed up right away.

I’ve also tried other platforms, both UK and US focused, and have never had the same level of success on them. It’s clear to me that Angel Investment Network has the largest and most active pool of angel investors in the UK – perhaps in the world; I’ve met some incredible people and received investment from all over the world; Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Africa – the list goes on.

What has the funding enabled?

Investment has made a huge difference to the talent we have brought onboard, and the build phase that we’re in. Some of our investors have made valuable introductions, and so it has had a massive impact on our business. Going forwards, I can see that the investor base that we have will be able to provide us even more value as we grow.

Keen to hear more?

If you would like to see what other companies are up to on Angel Investment Network, or are interested in raising funding yourself, you can find your local network here.

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Four benefits of backing more diverse startup founders

The worldwide startup ecosystem is well established and growing strongly in many different territories. The success of Angel Investment Network in creating more connections between founders and investors globally is testament to that. However, while investment in startups has rebounded strongly after the worst of the pandemic, we can also follow this with an increase in funding for diverse startup founders. Why does this matter? Well, it’s not just about having better representation for the sake of it, important though this is, it actually also makes better sense commercially.

In the UK while just 5% of founding teams have two female founders, research has also shown that only 1% of venture-funded startups have black founders. It’s a similar picture in the USA, where according to Crunchbase, black startup entrepreneurs still received only a tiny fraction — 1.2 percent — of the $147 billion in venture capital invested in U.S. startups through the first half of the year.  To disrupt this, here are four reasons why we need to boost investment into more diverse founders.

  1. It can lead to new business opportunities
    Many diverse business startups can offer products targeting diverse consumers uncatered for currently in the market. However, if the investors themselves are not more diverse, they may not have the same understanding of the market to know where the opportunities are. This is a challenge many female founders also face. For example, we can purchase most groceries online except ethnic food – which you still have to visit your local market, small grocer or if you’re lucky, there will be a small selection in the supermarket however, it’s unlikely you can order online. As this is a minority need many would struggle to get backing from a British bank however, Mariam Jimoh founded Oja, developed an app that delivers ethnic produce from local groceries to customers’ doorsteps. After much hard work, she was successful in finding funding. As one of only a handful of success stories here, we know there are many other missed opportunities to serve a potential market of many millions.
  1.  New markets can develop and thrive
    New markets thrive on having dynamic businesses and competition. However if certain businesses are unable to grow, their products or services remain in need and the circulation of money in the economy then shrinks. We can create opportunities to serve different markets, have more alternative viewpoints in the business decision and drive forward education and revenue based around new business variations which cater for wider groups. Let’s also remember these are emerging and growing markets too, so there are fantastic opportunities for investors with the right foresight.    
  1. More diverse teams do better
    Just as in nature, having diversity is key to the health of ecosystems, the same applies to diverse teams in startups and wider existing businesses. Research has shown that companies with diverse management teams are more innovative and have 19% higher revenue. In many of the fastest growing sectors such as tech, this growth is key to success. So diversity is not just about a tick box activity, it’s about the make up of high performing teams, who are going to positively impact the bottom line. The reverse is also true. The more we can represent the whole of the country and their different needs, the better solutions we can develop and ensure new markets can flourish
  1. Backing more diverse founders across the globe can help tackle some of our greatest challenges
    Of course while it is important to look at backing more diverse founders at home, we also need to look at more diversity in funding globally. So much capital is concentrated on a few established, wealthy hubs. However, having more underrepresented founders across the globe we can also potentially have new insights and ideas for tackling many of mankind’s most pressing problems. People on the ground in countries most impacted by climate change may well have some more untapped and innovative solutions, but often they need the contacts and capital to turn their idea into reality. By looking at ways we can boost nascent startup ecosystems in developing countries, we will be in a better place to address many of the problems threatening the planet with sustainability based solutions which could become hugely profitable.

So where to start? The first thing we need to do is look at how we can support micro-enterprises. They are on the very first rung of the startup ladder and the more of these we can support, the more chance of startups on a pathway to Series A and even Unicorn status can emerge. This is why Ace Entrepreneurs has created our first micro funding program for the diverse community. While we have seen a huge democratisation of startup funding in the past few years, we now need to complete the journey and make sure a truly diverse startup ecosystem can flourish.

By Nadine Campbell, entrepreneur and founder of Ace Entrepreneurs. The ACE Entrepreneurs Investment Program has been launched to tackle a funding gap for black-owned businesses. 

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#StartUpBuzz

Here’s our pick of companies raising investment on Angel Investment Network at the moment. 

From launching podcasts, to helping you select the most appropriate emobility solution, or a modular sofa that will actually fit through the front door, these are the startups that are solving meaningful problems with capable teams, and a clear route to market. 

Auddy 

Whilst starting a podcast may seem deceptively easy, actually launching it successfully, building a user base, maintaining growth and monetising it, are a lot easier said than done. That’s where Auddy comes into help. 

Auddy is one of the UK’s leading podcast publishers. Using cutting-edge data and analytics, they make the business of podcasts hassle-free. They work with top creators to produce and market premium shows before distributing them to all major platforms. They then provide advertising and sponsorship sales, paying properly meaningful royalties back to the creators.

Controlling the end-to-end process means they can also produce private shows for corporate’s internal employees or leading branded content for a company’s content strategy. These are high margin jobs and provide a diversified revenue stream beyond pure consumer publishing.

Key Facts

Founder has numerous IPOs and exits, including for Virgin

B2B clients including Vodafone and Open University 

Acquired leading UK branded podcast publisher – Radio Wolfgang

‘Auddy has an incredible team behind it, driving a sophisticated business model in what is a rapidly expanding market space. We were hooked from the off and we think it’s an exciting opportunity for the network!’ – Sam Louis 

Find out more about Auddy here.

Electric Rider


In big cities, suddenly electric mobility solutions are appearing everywhere. Electric Rider is an online marketplace selling emobility solutions from ebikes to escooters, even electric unicycles. 

The trend for the electric revolution appears to be getting strong momentum, buoyed in part by London and other major cities introducing low emission zones.

Electric Rider makes it easy to find the most appropriate electric mobility solution for the user – with a ‘help me choose’ solution finder, as well as flexible payment options. 

Key Facts

The emobility market is forecast to grow at 20% year on year

Electric Rider achieved £1million gross revenue with 30% margin in first 18 months

Over 55 brands in stock and growing

‘Impossible to ignore what they have achieved in such a short space of time. Along with the current move towards electric transportation in cities it was a company that I really wanted to help raise.’ – Xavier Ballester

Find out more about Electric Rider here.

Cozmo

Ever ordered a sofa with a long lead time only to find it didn’t fit through the door? Or pulled a muscle in your back trying to lug a sofa up the stairs? Cozmo is a new type of sofa company, reinventing what sofa purchasing should look like – modular and delivered in a box. It’s also a sustainable solution, allowing easy changes to both configuration and also its design with changeable top covers.  

Key Facts

The emobility market is forecast to grow at 20% year on year

Electric Rider achieved £1million gross revenue with 30% margin in first 18 months

Over 55 brands in stock and growing

Find out more about Cozmo here.

Keen to hear more?

If you would like to see what other companies are up to on Angel Investment Network, or are interested in raising funding yourself, you can find your local network here.

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#BehindTheRaise with Wedo

Wedo is a Neo-Bank set up for the freelance community by 5 times founder Indiana Gregg (Indy); in our latest #BehindTheRaise Indy shares her top tips for fundraising success:

Tell us about Wedo and how you came up with the idea

Wedo is the place to start or grow your online business: create live video and audio alleys, share content, take payments and send and receive money completely hassle-free.

I’m a 5x tech founder and have also run a digital media company where a lot of our gigs came from freelance sites. I had an exit five years ago and focused on learning everything there is to know about the freelance communities that were shooting up and getting tons of traction; so, I became a freelancer myself. It quickly occured to me that this rapidly growing piece of the global workforce would soon be in trouble. Freelancers pay to play. It’s not very cool. I couldn’t help but wonder if there was a more fair way to serve them with an ecosystem where they weren’t having as much as 20% of their earnings paid as commission fees. Wedo was the answer.

I started building a prototype at the beginning of COVID and by June, 2020, we had a team. The team bootstrapped for the first eight months and then I came onto the AIN to look for pre-seed investors at that point. We raised £515,000 on a £5M pre-money valuation early this year (2021) This allowed us to get regulatory coverage in the USA, UK and Europe to operate as a bank challenger and we built the SaaS technology MVP and began to private test users this spring. 

We are a community with tools that help create the network freelancers need to connect with clients – They can onboard new clients and connect with existing ones by creating their own Alleys (these are video and audio conference rooms where they can discuss with clients, share files, take instant payments, send and receive invoices and bank seamlessly). 

With Wedo, you can set up a payment link to your conference, consultation or subscription. The deposit goes directly into your Wedo account. You decide whether to use it to pay for something or to transfer it to another account.

Indiana Gregg, CEO, Wedo

Why did you decide to raise investment?

We raised investment in order to build the technology and acquire the partnerships and some of the tech rails we needed. We were also at a point where we needed to hire more people to fill skill sets we were short on. We are currently raising our Seed round again here on the AIN and it’s been epic! We’ve met a lot of amazing investors. We aim to close the round by the end of October. 

What is your top tip for anyone raising investment for the first time?

Don’t raise money until you have thought through your business model and can communicate what you are building/creating or selling very succinctly. If investors don’t understand what you are aiming to achieve, it means you aren’t communicating the problem you solve properly yet.

Practice with people in your surroundings to see how you can improve your pitch and ask experts their opinion of your model, you projections and your deck to refine and develop it so that when it’s time to present your plan to investors, you are confident and they are confident that you will be persistent and hit a home run for the company. Investors are on your side. They want you to succeed and if they say no, ask for feedback. Sometimes it’s just not a match; however, oftentimes their advice and feedback can be invaluable. 

What attracted investors to your company? 

Our team is brilliant, the timing is right for the market opportunity,and our technology and business model is a first. 

My biggest fundraising mistake was…

Oh boy. I  probably have a lot of these. Raising investment is a learning curve over many years. However, probably introducing an idea too early before it has been baked and refined can be a time waster. Ideas are just ideas. When you begin to execute your idea, it becomes more real and you have an entire research and discovery period to go through prior to asking other people to invest in it. You also have to be fully invested yourself. If you aren’t and it’s too early, don’t go out to raise. Make sure you can validate your idea during each step of the fundraising rounds and you have KPIs and targets that you will hit with the capital that you raise. 

Why did you choose to use Angel Investment Network?

I chose angel investment network because I’ve had great experience finding investors for my companies and other companies I’ve consulted in the past here on the AIN.

It’s a really big network and I love that you can search and really pinpoint investors who are most likely to be interested in the company you are building. There is an enormous spectrum of investors globally with varying interests and it’s a great way to connect. 

Our number 1 focus for Wedo for the year ahead is:

Our number one focus will be penetrating the market heavily, we’re going after small businesses and freelancers who open accounts and use our services. We’ll continue refining our tech into full product/market fit, and customer retention. Wash, rinse and repeat! If you’re reading this now, please join us!

Keen to hear more?

If you would like to see what other companies are up to on Angel Investment Network, or are interested in raising funding yourself, you can find your local network here.

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Tips from the top: Raising investment

In our recent survey of startups in the UK and USA raising investment was raised as the number one challenge they faced, emerging from the pandemic. In the first of our new series of expert advice articles, David Pattison, experienced angel investor and leading media agency PHD founder, gives his top tips for those raising investment for the first time.

I have spent a lot of time chairing/advising young businesses and founders on how to approach fundraising.

It has always struck me that, at the very point when young businesses and their founders are looking for funding, you are at your most inexperienced and vulnerable. You are often in a negotiation dealing with very experienced deal makers. This negotiation is often pivotal to the future of your business. One bad clause signed up to in an early negotiation can magnify in size as time and fundraising rounds go on.

What can you do to try and even up the negotiation?

Before you start remember these three things:Investors only care about one thing and that is their money. In the case of Venture Capital and Private Equity that is how they are measured. They have clients who fund their funds and financial success is how they are judged and how they can then raise more funds. They want you to make money for them.

Raising money is hard. Right now there is a lot of money in the investment market, but you have to have a good business and a really strong offering to raise money. Young businesses seem to be lulled into believing there is a money tree at the bottom of the garden that just needs a shake. There really isn’t.

Raising money is really distracting. It takes focus away from the business and most companies suffer a slight drop in performance through this process. Just at the point where it’s not wanted. Share the load around and take advice from trusted sources.

Once you have got your head around that, what else can you do before and during the process?

Here are five of the many things you should do:

1. BE THE BEST BUSINESS YOU CAN BE

It sounds obvious I know, but investors are looking harder and deeper into prospective investments. You will need to present yourselves as the best business you can be. Showing that you understand all aspects of your company and your markets.

You need to be a well balanced and appropriately experienced team with a shared view of the future. Have a proof of concept (does it work?), ideally some revenue (is someone prepared to buy it?) and will they buy it more than once. A good understanding of the competitive set. If appropriate some IP protections. Most importantly that you are in control of the finances of the business and have good quality finance resource.

If some of these points describe your business, then you are well prepared for the questions the prospective investor will expect you to answer.

2. do not get close to running out of money

Never leave it too late to raise funds. Investors will sense if you are running out of money and will try and delay the completion so that they can ‘chip’ the deal just before closure.

Leave yourself plenty of time. Never underestimate how long it takes to raise money, allow 6-9 months if you are looking for serious money. Try to give yourselves options. Taking money from the least worst option is never good.

3. RUN YOUR BUSINESS AS IF YOU ARE ALWAYS ABOUT TO ENTER DUE DILIGENCE

Prepare, prepare, prepare. It sounds obvious but make sure you know your business and your market better than anyone. Do not take fundraising lightly. In the digital age it is easy to set up a data room that has all the company data in one place. Have good governance in place. Get the financials and the legals in order. Remember that DD is not a one-way street when you are raising funds then check out the potential investors.

4. be clear on what you want to achieve

This works in two ways. Firstly, be clear amongst the team on what you want for the business moving forward. Are you all aligned on the future strategy and exit points? Mixed messages to investors don’t travel well.

Secondly, when the time comes to raise the money be very clear to the investors what the money is for and what success looks like. Not many investors want to fund cash shortfalls and saving the business, and if they do it usually comes at a massive cost to you. They are called investors for a reason.

5. beware of deal fatigue

When you are in the fundraising process be aware of deal fatigue. Investors, and particularly the institutional investors rely on you running out of steam. If your chosen investor is a significant shareholder, they will be a big part of your business life. You don’t have to love them but make sure you respect them and their motives.

Very often management get to a stage in the process where they just want it done. They agree to a deal without looking at every last detail. This is where investors can add the hidden clauses that bite you in the future. Stay attentive and on the way through make sure you share out the workload amongst the team.

One final piece of advice. Everyone I speak to who is involved in fundraising says the same thing, ‘get the best lawyer you can afford’. Don’t be afraid to upgrade as you go through the investment stages. A good lawyer should be seen as an investment and not a cost. They will also do a lot of the legwork on the legal documents for you and keep you focussed and avoid a lot of the pitfalls.

As I said right at the start of this, fundraising is not easy, and you should take all the constructive help you can find. I have been involved in a lot of fundraising.

If this blog has been of any help, then you might be interested in reading my book: The Money Train: 10 Things young businesses need to know about investors. It’s a guide to preparing for the investment process from seed capital to Series A, with lots of real-world examples. Whatever route you take to raise funds I wish you good luck and success.

David Pattison has had a long and illustrious career in the advertising industry and as an angel investor. He co-founded PHD in 1990 and more recently he has been involved in a number of startups in a range of industries including, marketing, publishing, construction, motorsport, AdTech, MarTech, FinTech, production and broadcasting. He was recently announced chairman of Conversational media platform Octaive.

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#SixtySecondStartUp with Cancha

For this edition of #SixtySecondStartUp we have Jack Oswald, founder of Cancha, he shares how his experience as a professional tennis player led him to set up Cancha – unique tennis bags designed from the ground up:

  1. What does your company do?

Cancha is a customizable sports and travel bag brand. Our bags feature a unique modular design, which allows different accessories to be mounted and detached from each other in a matter of seconds, allowing users to tailor their bag to their favourite activities and daily routine

Cancha Bags are also made from an abrasion-resistant, high-tenacity nylon, and incorporate the latest advancements in textile manufacturing processes, such as laser-cut fabrics, heat-bonded zips and RF Welded construction. Cancha launched during the pandemic of 2020, and has since seen a strong uptake among sporting and outdoor enthusiasts looking for an innovative and durable way to travel with their gear.

Jack Oswald - Cancha
Jack Oswald, Founder of Cancha
  1. Why did you set up this company?

    As a professional tennis player traveling around the world for over a decade on the circuit, I became frustrated with the tennis and travel bags out there for sport and active-minded people. I saw the need for a better tennis bag; One that could adapt for the next trip or activity and durable enough to keep up with an active, travel-hungry lifestyle. 

However, I soon became aware of the wider demand for durable, highly customizable sports bags that could adapt to each individual’s daily routines.  So I teamed up with my friend, who is a world-class soft goods designer, to develop a modular system that would allow a backpack, tennis bag, wet-dry clothes bag and shoulder travel bag (our first range of products) to attach and detach with relative ease. 

This took much longer to develop than originally planned – our 6-month schedule starting in early 2018 ended up taking almost 3 years! We refined and refined the designs, tested them among top tennis players, travelers and anyone who would be willing to try the bags out. We went through over 50 prototypes, all painstakingly built by hand in our small workshop. Eventually, after countless hiccups along the way, we were confident that our bags were ready for the wide world. 

  1. How did you get your first customer? 

I remember very clearly; It was in November of last year. The first batch of bags had landed in the UK and we had just launched the site. A lovely lady in London was our first customer, who bought a bundle of the Backpack and the Wet-Dry Bag attachment. I couldn’t believe my eyes when the order confirmation appeared in my inbox. I think we have never packaged up an order so carefully!

However, the hunger for more sales very quickly grows, and the desire to improve the customer experience starts to becom a bit of an obsession – whether that’s improving our website and social media touchpoints, responding fast enough to customer queries and, of course, continually finding ways to innovate the products themselves!

  1. We knew we were onto something when? 

The first few sales are always a bit of a novelty, but when the consistency of sales kicks in, that’s when you start to believe you have got something. Retailers actually wanting to stock the bags was also a huge confidence booster for us. I remember sending out samples to stores and just being petrified that they would hate the design, or that they would simply say that they didn’t believe there was a market for our products. When we started to get into some stores and have their validity and backing behind our products, things really started to kick off for us. 

  1. Our business model: 

Our bags are currently manufactured in Asia and then shipped off to the UK from there, where we fulfil our orders internationally. We make a large part of our revenue through ecommerce sales on our online store, but partnering with both online and brick-and-mortar retailers has given us the stability to grow.. 

  1. Our most effective marketing channel has been: 

Media outreach. With eCommerce being a big part of our business, we have to mix a wide range of marketing channels into our strategy. However, being able to spread the word on the Story behind them brand, my background as a tennis player and the need we are filling, we have really been able to connect with our customers. I often get customers emailing after their order saying they heard me on some such podcast and the story alone swayed them to buy our products. It’s one of the most overjoying moments when you hear from people all over the world that they identify with our background, our mission and reason for being. This is why media outreach has been so successful for us, as it has allowed both Cancha and myself, as the founder, to get our message across in a sincere and personal way.

  1. The biggest mistake that I’ve made is:

Committing too early (financially and mentally) to a project. We launched our crowdfunding campaign in December of 2019, when our product wasn’t near enough to a  production-ready stage. My own desire to get Cancha’s offering out there made us rush our marketing strategy and meant that backers of our campaign had to wait substantially longer than forecast to receive their Cancha Bags. This is something I think that founders tend to struggle with in general; their passion, desire and determination to achieve their goals sometimes overtakes their company’s progress. While this characteristics is extremely useful, (crucial in fact), sometimes it can cause a company to pull the gun too soon, when it would have been more beneficial to build strength a little longer. 

  1. We think that there’s growth in this sector because:

Times are changing, and we’re changing with the times. Cancha is not just about designing innovative and sustainable soft a products for consumers. We’re also committed to creating a sustainable and highly technical manufacturing service for western athleisure brands. The reality is that shipping products 3,000+ miles from outsourced production or assembly sites in lower cost nations has been the go-to strategy for western brands for some time now. However, we are seeing a substantial shift in the business environment, both among customers and brands for closer proximity of manufacturing and more responsive business models. We want to be a leader in driving this trend, providing more responsible methods to drive innovation and customer experience in the textiles and soft goods industry. 

  1. We worked with AIN because:

We’re looking to bring some forward thinking, ambitious individuals into the project. We’re looking not just additional capital, but also for expertise in retail and production to help propel Cancha in this direction. AIN’s comprehensive network of investors across a wide range of backgrounds and industries made them the obvious choice to share our project.

Keen to hear more?

If you would like to see what other companies are up to on Angel Investment Network, or are interested in raising funding yourself, you can find your local network here.

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Angel investment Network announces launch of Institutional investment arm, AIV Capital

Ethan Khatri

London-based Angel Investment Network, the world’s largest online angel investment platform, has announced the launch of its Private Equity and Venture Capital division, AIV Capital.

Led by experienced investment manager Ethan Khatri, AIV Capital will invest between $10 -$75Mn+ into established businesses ranging from Growth/Series B to pre-IPO and has a flexible approach utilising both primary and secondary capital. Its sector agnostic focus will be on strong management teams with a demonstrated edge in the space they operate in. 

AIV Capital Managing Director, Ethan Khatri brings 16 years of investment experience across the European and Asian venture markets. Over the course of his career, he has successfully completed 27 transactions achieving 13 exits, covering technology, enterprise software, pharmaceuticals, healthcare and consumer. He will be combining his experience with AIN’s early stage market coverage and portfolio of businesses they’ve historically funded. 16 year old AIN has a global network of more than a million entrepreneurs and more than 280,000 investors, winning investment for a host of powerful businesses including What3Words, Simba Sleep and SuperAwesome. 

According to Mike Lebus, founder of Angel Investment Network: “AIV Capital is the natural next stage of AIN’s evolution. AIN has been a game changer in democratising access to angel investment and powering the dreams of so many startup founders on the first stage of their fundraising journey. With the right experience and team in place, led by Ethan, we are now able to support businesses right through the fundraising cycle, from the idea in a bedroom to seed funding right through to pre-IPO.” 

According to Ethan Khatri: “AIV Capital is a powerful new force in private equity and venture capital. Building on the evergreen network of AIN, our experienced team has access to an extraordinary talent pool of growth to late stage businesses which we can match with the right funding structure to ensure they deliver absolute return opportunities. Our watchword is flexibility. We invest across the capital structure and this is the method by which we maximize returns for all stakeholders.” 

Ends

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Majority of US startups very optimistic about the next 12 months

A majority of US startups (52%) are now ‘very optimistic’ about the next 12 months, despite 62% seeing business growth negatively impacted by the pandemic. This was a key finding of a new study of US startup sentiment 18 months after the start of the pandemic, by Angel Investment Network (AIN). The study of 1,205 US based startups found 76% expressed optimism overall with 19% quite optimistic and 52% very optimistic, versus just 24% who were pessimistic. It followed on from a similar survey we conducted of UK startup sentiment last month.

The results show the extent to which confidence has returned to early stage businesses Stateside, who are emerging strongly from the downturn. Of the 62% of respondents who revealed they had been negatively impacted by COVID, 37% had been ‘very negatively impacted’. Meanwhile 63% of those who had been planning to raise funds said they had delayed a raise as a result of COVID.

Top strategies to mitigate the impact of stalled fundraising were: Focusing more on networking, favoured by 46% of respondents, holding off launch plans (38%) and bootstrapping instead (32%), with a similar number delaying marketing.

Entrepreneurs were also asked what their biggest challenges were going forward. The top result given was raising investment (84%), hiring/recruiting the right talent (22%) and product development (22%). Ongoing COVID issues were a problem for 13% of those polled. 

US startups also believe more Government action is needed to encourage investment and help startups flourish. 57% favour making tax relief more generous to boost angel investment, 32% making R&D tax relief more generous and 22% lowering corporation tax. 70% of respondents are confident the US will retain its place as a startup hub.

AIN has seen surging growth on its platform with connections between entrepreneurs and investors up by 23% since the start of the year. Meanwhile revenues have increased by 40% to a new record, indicating the huge pent up demand from startups now seeking funding. 

According to Mike Lebus, founder of AIN: “It is encouraging to see how US startups have shown their mettle to ride out this really difficult period and emerge battle tested and with high levels of confidence. Many have been negatively impacted but have used their time wisely to build up their pipeline of contacts and bootstrap their businesses as far as they can go. RaIsing investment remains the biggest challenge going forward and as the world’s largest angel investment platform, we have been encouraged by seeing a record number of connections between investors and startups.” 

How did you respond to the pandemic?

  1. Focused more on networking: 46%
  2. Held Off launch plans: 38%
  3. Bootstrapped instead: 32%
  4. Delayed marketing: 32%
  5. Held off making hires: 27%
  6. Had to let staff go: 20%
  7. Relied on business loan: 19%
  8. Pulled back from R&D: 12%

What could the Government do to help?

  1. Make tax relief more generous to boost angel investment: 57%
  2. Make R&D tax relief more generous: 32%
  3. Lower corporation tax: 22%
  4. Offer more clarity on COVID restrictions: 14%
  5. Make it easier to provide VISAs for recruiting the right talent: 13%

What are your biggest challenges going forward?

  1. Raising investment: 84%
  2. Hiring/recruiting the right talent: 22%
  3. Product development: 22%
  4. Ongoing COVID issues: 13%
  5. Consumer sentiment: 12%
Featured

Behind The Raise with Porter

Gary Piazzon founded Porter after becoming frustrated finding a suitable hotel. He shares some of his key learnings from fundraising and his biggest mistake in this edition of #BehindTheRaise.

Tell us about Porter and how you came up with the idea

It was a nightmare, timely and stressful booking experience that led me to the idea of Porter; I visited one of the large online travel agents, entered my search criteria and was hit with a pretty intimidating 2,000+ results.

I wrongly assumed the hotels near the top of the list would be a great match for me. They were nowhere near where I wanted to stay and only appeared higher up as they were clearly paying a higher rate of commission.

That got me thinking, why see the results you’re not interested in?

Porter is designed to make booking a hotel simple and fun by learning about the elements that matter to users so it can assess the thousands of potential property options to help recommend the right places to stay.

In a nutshell, Porter simplifies hotel booking, by only recommending your best matches. 

Why did you decide to raise investment?

Raising investment was pretty much a necessity to really get things off the ground.

As we’re building a very technical platform leveraging various levels of machine learning and artificial intelligence, we needed to ensure we could attract the right talent, as well as pay the bills for hosting etc. so raising investment was really important from that perspective.

Beyond the technical aspects, it’s also been crucial in helping us raise some initial awareness of the site, and further we purposely targeted ‘smart money’ and ended up with a collection of very experienced, knowledgeable investors, all of whom have contributed advice, support and knowledge to the business. 

What is your top tip for anyone raising investment for the first time?

My top tip would be to ensure you have a clear story, and think about the traction you can show to demonstrate interest.

From a story point of view, I think it’s really important that when investors look at your pitch, or speak to you, they come away with a really clear understanding of what you’re trying to do, why you’re doing it, and how you’ll do it better than anyone else.

You should then be able to support this with some sort of traction that demonstrates people being interested. This could be in the form of users signing up to your pre-launch page, user engagement on your MVP, revenue numbers etc. 

What attracted investors to your company?

I’d say there were a few key things:

·        All of our investors resonated with the problem we’re trying to solve. They’d all experienced the frustration and wasted time of endlessly searching for the right place to stay when going on holiday. This immediately put us in a good position when discussing the business.

·        Secondly they recognised that there’s an enormous opportunity to go after, and the market has proven itself capable of supporting numerous large players. Globally, the online travel agent market is worth c£440bn, but in the UK alone, the market is worth around £35bn. That means, even if we were to capture 1% of the market, we’d be achieving £350m of revenue.

·        The final thing that attracted investors to our company was our strong founding team, and the interest we’d demonstrated through our pre-launch page. We built an initial team with experience spanning Development, UX, Product and Marketing and built a pre-launch waitlist of over 3,000 users. The combination of these two points gave our investors the confidence that we were the right team to try and tackle the problem. 

My biggest fundraising mistake was…

Initially failing to adapt pitches and conversations for my audience. I quickly learnt that different types of investors were looking for different information from our discussions, with a big difference between angels who were much more interested in the vision and team, versus VCs who were much more focused on the quantitative side of things. 

Why did you choose to use Angel Investment Network?

I was actually recommended to AIN from a fellow founder who has previously raised a number of rounds through the platform.

AIN was a no-brainer thanks to its ability to connect us with such a large number of investors. Not only did using AIN help us successfully close our pre-seed round, but it also helped us meet some really interesting industry experts.  

What is the main focus for Porter for the year ahead?

We’ve actually recently started raising our next round of funding to allow us to accelerate product development, grow our team and reach more people.

This is a really exciting time for Porter. As travel restrictions start to ease, we’re already starting to see an uplift in people wanting to travel. Our focus now is ensuring we’re best placed to help as many users as possible discover and book their best matched trips. 

Keen to hear more?

If you would like to see what other companies are up to on Angel Investment Network, or are interested in raising funding yourself, you can find your local network here.

Featured

#StartUpBuzz


Each month our team selects some of the companies raising on Angel Investment Network that really stand out, as part of our #StartUpBuzz feature.

This month’s picks includes: Smart Container Co – real time tracking for beer kegs, Bx Technologies, a platform facilitating carbon offsetting by connecting corporates with farms, and ARQ, an investment platform for personalised wealth management using AI.

Smart Container Co

Enabling Transparency and a net-zero draught beer supply chain.

Smart Container Co turns traditional kegs into ‘smart’ containers, so that breweries, distributors and pubs can monitor the state of the beer inside, by combining a small waterproof IOT device connected to each keg (a KEGTRACKER), with their BEVEREDGE software.

It means that relevant parties can track the location, volume, temperature and motion for the liquid inside, reducing the risk of wasted stock, helping obtain more accurate shipping information, and gaining granular information about which product is being consumed where and when.

– UK patent pending 
– Chairman with 30 years experience including SAB Miller
– Piloting technology with Brewdog.

Sam Louis, Head of Consultancy, Angel Investment Network shared why he is most impressed by Smart Container Co:

“We’ve known the Smart Container team for a while now and have been incredibly impressed with their progress. What we like is that they have a product that integrates smoothly into an exceptionally large existing market, giving significant opportunity for fast scale.

Since we first spoke with them, they’ve built strong relationships with some of the largest brewers and keg owners in the world, all of which have approached them cold. The timing is also very good – the pandemic has meant pubs and bars have become increasingly open to technology, something that was previously a hurdle, and many breweries have seen strong profits from retail sales.

All in all, it sets the company in a very strong position going forward and we’re excited to see where they go next”.

Find about more about Smart Container Co here.

Bx Technologies  

Helping farms prove carbon emissions and offsetting – connecting farm to corporates.

Farmers are incentivised to maximise crop yields, but are rarely accountable for their carbon footprint. However, there is enormous interest in carbon offsetting from corporates to help them meet their ESG goals. 

Bx Technologies is the first two sided marketplace that connects corporations with farms and agriculture, reversing climate change through carbon offsetting and economic service investment. 

Bx Technologies use a farm management SAAS system with a trading platform powered by blockchain to create a carbon credit investing platform, allowing farmers to see both their carbon position and the profitability of their orchard. At the same time, Bx offers Ecosystem Service Investments for corporates, securing a long term supply of carbon offset tokens. 

– 1st SAAS client signed – paying $200k per year. 
– Expected to hit profitability by March ‘22
– Pipeline of over 12k hectares established 

In terms of what excites him about Bx, Sam Louis explains:

“We were drawn to Bx Technologies for a number of reasons, the first of which was the boldness of their mission – remove 500m tons of carbon from the atmosphere per year. They’re operating in an exceptionally important and exciting vertical, with the opportunity to make an incredible impact on the planet as well creating massive growth potential.

They’ve tied these lofty aims to a strong underlying business model, with profitability within sight, and they aren’t expecting any altruism to make their business work. They’ve aligned the incentives of all their stakeholders, making it genuinely robust model. All in all, it’s the type of business we love – exciting, impactful and pragmatic.”

Find out more about  BxTechnologies here

ARQ 

A wealth management app using AI personalised insights and comparisons. 

 ARQ is an investment platform that creates a personalised wealth management experience using AI and deep science. 

The intelligent tools rank your investments performance using huge quantities of data and gives insights that can be used to improve your portfolio. ARQ are making tools that are only available to the super rich to more mainstream investors. 

– A team with over 100+ years experience in financial services 

– ARQ are offering white label services for wealth managers 

– In house tech team behind leading fintech apps.

Xavier Ballester, Director of Angel Investment Network’s Brokerage Division shares why he is particularly impressed with ARQ.

“What I love about Arq is that I have this very issue: an Excel sheet with my various investments that doesn’t really give much insight after I have made my initial decision to invest. The beauty of this platform is that I can see my net worth and how my money is working for me and I imagine it will be a huge hit with financial advisors too.” 

Find out more about ARQ here.

Keen to discover other startups?

If you would like to see what other companies are up to on Angel Investment Network you can find them through your local network here.

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Behind the Raise with eleXsys Energy

Richard Romanowski is co-founder and Executive Director of eleXsys Energy. eleXsys has developed a unique, international award-winning, enabling technology that will drive the transition of global energy grids to a clean energy future.

Tell us about eleXsys and how you came up with the idea?
My co-founder, Dr. Bevan Holcombe, was a senior engineer at an Australian distribution utility with 30 years’ experience and was working on how to decarbonise the local suburban grid.  I was a cleantech angel investor, looking for fabulous ideas.

The biggest issue to local decarbonisation is that the grid was designed as a one way grid. Bevan was trying to find a way to solve this problem, that is, the very limited grid hosting capacity of renewables due to the one-way grid design. He could not find a solution anywhere so in 2012 we decided to team up and started a company now called eleXsys Energy to solve this problem.

eleXsys in simple terms turns the one-way grid into a two-way grid in a cost effective manner enabling a huge increase in local renewables that the grid can host or accommodate in each suburb.

When we started eleXsys, Bevan and I had a vision that discovering a way to turn the one way grid into a two-way grid would be our contribution to saving the Great Barrier Reef by speeding up global distribution grid decarbonisation.

Over the last 9 years eleXsys developed a unique, international award-winning, enabling technology that will drive the transition of global energy grids to a clean energy future.

Why did you decide to raise investment?
The co-founders, Bevan and Richard, are the initial high net worth investors.  We invested over $7.5 M USD of our own money.  Then some friends and close associates also invested almost another $4.0 M USD.  We had developed an MVP (Minimal Viable Product) and a few field demonstrations and planned a slow organic and affordable commercialisation, starting in Australia. Then slowly going global as we knew Australia was a few years ahead of the rest of the world in terms of grid hosting capacity problems due to so much rooftop solar we have Down Under.

Then we won the World Energy Council (WEC) global start up award in 2019. When we won the award, the WEC Secretary General at the time (Christoph Frei), challenged us as follows, he said:

“This technology is game changing; you need to think 100 time bigger” …. that is, we need you to help speed up global decarbonisation and fast!

Since 2019 that is what we set out to do, and in that vein, we needed much more investment to speed up commercialisation and go global faster.

What is your top tip for anyone raising investment for the first time?
It’s never easy, the 1st time or the 10th time. Be prepared to spend a large amount of time raising funds and listen and learn from every pitch. If they say no, ask why. Always be raising and expect to pitch to 50 or more before you hit any jackpot.

What attracted investors to your company?
The IKEA flagship project in Australia which helped investors realise how eleXsys can radically speed up global decarbonisation in the local suburbs.  The IKEA project represents a microgrid at up to 10 times bigger than what current Smart Invert technology and grid constraints would allow.  So up to 10 x greater energy savings for the tenant, up to 10 x more rooftop rent for the landlord, plus up to a 10 x larger $ project for the asset owner (e.g. solar and battery power plant) to earn a secure, uncurtailed ROI over 20 years.

My biggest fundraising mistake was…
Not listening at first to potential investors.

Why did you choose to use Angel Investment Network?
A very supportive, understanding, and innovative group with a focus on ESG (Environmental – Social – Governance) investing. We are now raising our Pre IPO round.

What has the funding enabled?
The main focus was fine tuning our global expansion plans through our planned licensing model. Licensing allows us to scale global quickly as opposed to originating, developing, and building microgrid projects ourselves, which would be a very slow and cumbersome process.

Through licensing our vision is that eleXsys becomes the “Intel Inside” of the global local renewables supply chain.  That is, almost everyone is using eleXsys in their local suburban renewables projects to speed up global decarbonisation.

Did you know that filling every roof with solar could generate > 120% of Australia’s total electrical needs? Same should apply across the global sunbelt ≈ 75% of world’s population.

Cannot be done – local distribution grids will not integrate this much distributed energy due to grid physics limitations (curtailment) due to one-way grid design

Grid curtailment of DER (Distributed Energy Resources) begins to occur when the utility hits ≈ 15% of customers with DER, making projects non bankable .eleXsys cost effectively solves this fundamental problem one-way grid problem.

So far, we have one Master Licensee MOU signed and are negotiating with four more. Plus, established a few Alliance Partners licensees within Australia to be the sales channel and EPC of projects.  Some of the Alliance Partners are global multinational using Australia as a test bed eleXsys licensee, with the intention to then become a global licensee.

Plus the funds are being used to enhance our manducating capability along with recruiting more staff to support the faster growth.

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#SixtySecond StartUp with Telbee


Nicholas Phair shares why he thinks online voice messaging is the future in this month’s #SixtySecondStartUp.

  1. What does your company do?

Online voice messaging. We help businesses build trust with their audiences using the most powerful tool they have… their voices. Our online voice recorders can be added to websites, workflows, social media and more, and used in online and offline campaigns to hear from customers, followers and fans and engage in two way asynchronous voice conversations. 

  1. Why did you set up this company?

    To go back to basics. Voice has always communicated far more than typed text alone – emotion, emphasis, connection – and we saw an opportunity to bring the same ease and utility of voice messaging found in consumer apps such as WhatsApp and FB Messenger to help businesses better engage with their own customers.
  1. How did you get your first customer? 

By asking them to pay! It seems like an obvious point but it’s a lot harder than you think. Believing in your product means putting a price tag on it, and asking people to pay. Thankfully our first customer, a prominent podcaster in the US, saw the value immediately.

  1. We knew we were onto something when? 

… we received this early testimonial: “I’m just massively impressed with this entire thing. I’m kind of shocked that it doesn’t really exist to this level, and we can see this being extraordinarily helpful for us.” 

Reading these words, after months of hard slogging in product and planning was golden. When our next 10 customers signed up organically and mirrored the above, we knew that if we kept going we’d succeed.

  1. Our business model: 


Freemium self-serve SaaS with consultative sales to the enterprise. In short: people sign up free on www.telbee.io to experience what voice messaging can do for them and their businesses. We limit the amount of voice messages that can be sent and received to 60 minutes per month and the service remains free (forever) until you decide you need more features, or want unlimited messaging minutes. And for larger businesses and enterprises we offer custom white labelled solutions and integrations specific to their needs. 

  1. Our most effective marketing channel has been: 

Hands down it’s been word of mouth – which shouldn’t be a surprise since we’re all about speaking and listening! 

  1. What we look for when recruiting:

We ask why they want to work with us, and listen keenly to the answer. When the whys are strong enough the hows take care of themselves – or so the famous saying goes. We look for people that want to build something truly unique and grow personally and professionally with the business. 

  1. The biggest mistake that I’ve made is:

Putting the cart before the horse, and investing in sales and marketing capabilities before breaching that elusive threshold of comfort in finding product/market fit – and while that threshold keeps shifting, mistakes keep coming, but ultimately they are there to make us grow! 

  1. We think that there’s growth in this sector because:


Our voice is what makes us human – and in recent times the rise of automation, artificial intelligence, and lockdown-inducing pathogens, have highlighted the importance of building and cultivating real human relationships. We’ve seen an explosion in voice applications across the board, from podcasts, to voice assistance to new types of short and long form voice-based social media. Whilst we are still in the exploratory stage of this nascent sector, what is certain is that businesses everywhere are beginning to see the trust-building benefits of asynchronous voice communication for sales, support and retention. This is only the beginning – and there is so much to be excited about. 

  1. We worked with AIN because:

We worked with AIN because they gave us access to investors globally. As a UK company but with a product relevant worldwide, we knew that part of what we wanted from investors was to extend our market reach beyond our existing network. AIN allowed us to speak with investors from the US and Asia as well as the UK.

Keen to hear more?

If you would like to see what other companies are up to on Angel Investment Network, or are interested in raising funding yourself, you can find your local network here.

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#SixtySecondStartUp with Jumpstart

Matthew Sarre shares the story behind JumpStart in this month’s SixtySecondStartUp:

  1. What does your company do?

    Jumpstart is the UK’s only start-up graduate programme. We find exceptional graduates (the top 1% applicants), train them up, match them with start-ups, and then provide ongoing, mentorship and a peer network. 
  1. Why did you set up this company?

    To stop the brightest and most ambitious graduates from sleepwalking out of university and into big corporate grad schemes to go ‘sell their soul’. Instead, we get them to go and have an impact in a start-up and build something meaningful. Basically, my co-founder (Kabir Bali) and I built a programme that we would have wanted to do when we left university. 
  1. How did you get your first customer?

    We set up the company in the depths of the pandemic, so it was not easy to find start-ups to pitch to. But, at the end of every zoom call with friends & former colleagues, I would ask: “are there any start-ups that you can introduce me to” and follow it up with awkward silence until they made an introduction… Good advice for anyone who wants to build out a customer base. 
  1. We knew we were onto something when?

    We thought we were onto something when we got 10 applications to our programme on our very first day live. This was, of course, very misguided. But, we are now trending upwards of 1500+ applicants a month and have carved out a niche that seems to work: we place graduates in Founder Associate roles to take B and C tasks off the founders’ plates so that they can focus on A tasks. 
  1. Our business model:

    We’re a little like ambulance chasers in the sense that we operate a “no win, no fee” model! That means that we only charge a fee if the graduate is still in role 3 months after they have started. 
  1. Our most effective marketing channel has been:

    Word of mouth referrals. Which, I am reliably told is a good sign! 
  1. What we look for when selecting our candidates:

    It boils down to attitude. Sure they are smart, but we look for ‘hungry’ go-getters who have done something interesting like founding a company or society while at university. 
  1. The biggest mistake that I’ve made is:

    I once allowed someone into my Zoom meeting who I thought was a founder and ‘pitched’ them as if they were a start-up. It turns out that they were a graduate applying for the scheme… 
  1. We think that there’s growth in this sector because:

    There is a growing trend away from traditional career paths and a rapid acceleration of the start-up scene in the UK. 

  2. We worked with AIN because:

    They have an exceptional network of start-ups.

Keen to hear more?

If you would like to see what other companies are up to on Angel Investment Network, or are interested in raising funding yourself, you can find your local network here.

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Behind the Raise with Wealthyhood

Alex Christodoulakis is co-founder of Wealthyhood, the app ‘to turn you into your own wealth manager’.

Alex shares his story about Wealthyhood, how he raised investment, and his advice for entrepreneurs:

Tell us about Wealthyhood and how you came up with the idea

A few years ago, together with Kostas, co-founder of Wealthyhood, we wondered how we could invest our money on a monthly basis. We were busy professionals at the time and couldn’t devote much time to research or execute any sophisticated investment strategies, and of course not in the position to actively trade the markets.

So, we spent time trying to identify what was out there to solve this problem. However, we soon realised we weren’t alone in that. The problem was everywhere around us. There was a typical question among our friends, family and colleagues: “How can I invest my money? I don’t have the time or the knowledge to trade…”.

But how will they do that? 

Trading apps are usually too complex for beginner investors. They offer no guidance on how to get started or tools to create a long-term portfolio. They incentivise you to actively trade, by constantly notifying you for random price movements. Everyday investors get caught up on their emotions and end up gambling instead of investing. This was not the experience we were looking for.

So, we decided to build Wealthyhood to bridge the gap. Instead of just giving friendly advice to our friends, we decided to build a product that would guide long-term investors to build their wealth over time, by intelligently investing their money the way they want, with fewer fees.

It’s not only how our interactive guidance helps users to invest the right way, but also how we help them develop the right wealth-building mindset. You don’t have to be a millionaire nor an expert to have a successful and pleasant investing journey.

And this is how Wealthyhood was founded to become the first DIY wealth-building app for long-term investors.

Why did you decide to raise investment?

Unfortunately, Fintech is a very capital-intensive industry, even before you decide to spend aggressively on growth and marketing.

The initial costs have to do with securing regulatory approval and FCA compliance, even before you get started. And this is why we initially decided to raise some external money, alongside covering some operational costs and our plans to grow the team.

Apart from that, raising money from angel investors is a great way to validate your value proposition and showcase their belief in the vision of the company and the ability of the team to execute!

A successful angel raise doesn’t just get you money, but also access to the network and connections of your investors, so it’s a two-way process. The right investors can significantly accelerate our progress.

What is your top tip for anyone raising investment for the first time?

It’s always easier to approach angel investors, than early-stage VC funds. Start from your own network, pitch them your company and vision and then expand to your second degree connections, angel networks and of course the Angel Investment Network.

If you can’t persuade angel investors to invest in your company, then you should reconsider your pitch.

Always have a story to share; why you’re building this product, what’s the problem and why you’re the perfect team to  succeed!

Any signs of initial traction are a great validation that you’re heading to the right direction.

What attracted investors to your company?

I think it was a combination of different things. Probably the most important is the problem we solve. Our angel investors immediately acknowledged the gap between trading apps and robo advisors and the need for a DIY wealth building app for long-term investors.

Our vision to create the wealth-building app not for the top-1%, but for the 99% fully resonated with them.

At the same time, our investors had faith in the team behind Wealthyhood and us as co-founders. The first angel investors were people from our close network with strong  belief in our capabilities as a team. Then, friends of friends and finally professional angel investors, who got to know us better and believe in our determination and skills to execute.

Apart from that, we had already built some momentum, showcasing that we were heading in the right direction. We had more than 3,000 users signed up to our waiting list, over 10,000 followers in our LinkedIn and Instagram pages and had developed a community of 50 Wealthyhood Ambassadors across Europe.

Last, but not least, a few months ago we won 1st place on FinQuest Accelerator and are currently participating in the VISA Innovators Program, which for angel investors shows strong progress.

My biggest fundraising mistake was…

My biggest fundraising mistake was that we began by approaching early-stage VC funds, instead of angel investors.

This was wrong; it cost us time and money, but we soon realised it and switched our focus to angels, who were a much better fit for our stage and needs!

However, it helped us challenge our value proposition, improve our deck and positioning and make it more robust.

Why did you choose to use the Angel Investment Network?

Angel Investment Network was an amazing way to connect with the right investors for our company. It’s very time-efficient for founders and probably the best portal to share your story from a fundraising perspective.

It was first suggested by our advisors and we soon realised they were right to insist. 

Our number 1 focus for Wealthyhood for the year ahead is:

To build the investing experience we envision and make it publicly available through a web platform, iOS and Android apps. We’ve already launched a beta version of the product and are onboarding the first users from our waiting list.

Over the coming months we want to onboard the whole waiting list and give instant access to new users in the UK and EU!

Keen to hear more?

If you would like to see what other companies are up to on Angel Investment Network, or are interested in raising fundraising yourself, you can find your local network here.

Featured

The New Era of Flexible finance: Why Startups are Embracing Portfolio CFOs in 2021

Addition offer a suite of financial services, from bookkeeping to growth funding. Their CEO Graham Davies explains in the guest article below how start-ups can benefit from having a portfolio CFO working alongside them.

When it comes to multi-tasking, entrepreneurs take the crown. Wearing a plethora of hats is pretty much a given. Not all roles can be juggled, however. A jack of all trades is a master of none – which is why a growing number of startups are choosing to outsource certain company tasks.

The average self-employed person spends an average of 12 working days a year on tax compliance alone. Time is golddust to entrepreneurs, and 12 days worth of drumming up new leads (or spending time with loved ones) is a lot of time to spend on something you may not even fully understand. 

It isn’t only about saving time. Strategic outsourcing is usually a money-saver, too. This is especially true when it comes to accounting and financial planning. According to Glassdoor, the average CFO wage in the UK is £121,443 per annum. Taking on a full-time Chief Finance Officer is far too costly for most startups. However, they still look for these insights and advice to help them plot a course for growth. 

This is why portfolio CFOs have started to become increasingly attractive. 

But let’s take a closer look at this on-trend dynamic. 

What Is a Chief Financial Officer?

A chief financial officer (CFO) is a senior executive who manages the financial actions of a business. Their duties typically include:

– Tracking cash flow

– Financial planning

– Analysing and acting on financial strengths and weaknesses

– Forecasting

Essentially, a CFO oversees every aspect of your company’s accounts, finances and compliance. Their job is to ensure informed decisions are made to support the financial wellbeing of the business.

What is a Portfolio CFO?

Many startups choose to outsource their financial management to a third-party CFO. These high-qualified individuals usually work with agencies or freelance, and will manage multiple company accounts – or portfolios – at once. They will typically have extensive experience in their field, and offer dedicated services at a much more affordable rate. 

Why are Portfolio CFOs so popular?

Startups are becoming increasingly attracted to Portfolio CFOs. But what is the chief driver behind this surge in popularity? 

John Miller, Chief Operations Officer at Addition, links this rise to one simple factor: cost. Having previously served as CFO in green tech startup Spring, John now manages Addition’s CFO services. “Startups don’t require a CFO on a full-time basis,” He reasons, “as the cost is arguably not worth it. At £80k – £150k+ for a full time CFO in a startup to a medium company, this expense is often hard to justify.” 

Of course, hiring a portfolio CFO is still an expense. However, the investment is well worth the cost. “The aim for all back-office roles, like finance, is to pay for yourself.” Says John, “Therefore, having a CFO on a part-time basis makes this easier in a small business. At £3k per month, it’s almost a third of the cost, whereas I would argue the benefits will not be a third of the size.”

Are Portfolio CFOs similar to Accountants?

As your startup grows, you’ll likely be advised to hire an accountant. This is definitely sound advice. Accountants will help with your tax compliance, bookkeeping and reports. But once the ball gets rolling faster and you’re looking to drive growth, a CFO can work wonders.

In order to appreciate what each of these roles brings to the table, you need to understand exactly what it is they do. “An Accountant or bookkeeper is focussed on implementing the rules and guidelines set out in the accounting standards for companies.” John explains, “This includes ensuring your company meets its statutory and tax obligations, accounts filed, returns processed etc.”

A CFO, meanwhile, is a strategic position in a company with the aim of driving the business towards its goals. “CFOs need a particular set of skills to do their job that accountants generally don’t.” says John, “One of the main skills needed is agile thinking – the ability to understand the ramifications from proposed or imposed decisions very quickly. For example: should business A start offering their online english tutoring business to China? The Portfolio CFO needs to quickly think about the ramifications of selling in China and the tax implications. They need to consider legislation, marketing the service in a different language, hidden charges and how to monitor progress. The role of a CFO goes beyond following the letter of the law – it involves creating strategic opportunities for growth.” 

Portfolio or not, the CFO supports the startup on its journey and drives it forward in the most effective way possible. “Ultimately, an accountant and CFO work hand in hand.” John acknowledges, “It’s a symbiotic relationship, which is why at Addition we have a team made up of portfolio CFOs and bookkeepers. This gives our clients access to both elements required and is more economical to use both roles where they are best suited. There is no point in paying a CFO day rate to complete bookkeeping tasks.”

What does a Portfolio CFO do?

They might not be a full-time employee, but make no mistake: portfolio CFOs are definitely on your team. 

During their contracted hours, a portfolio CFO will work as strategically and diligently for you as any of their full-time colleagues. Here are five of their main areas of focus:

1.   Financial Management and Strategic Planning

Your portfolio CFO will implement controls so funds can be spent easily, but with solid regulations. They’ll help you determine where the business wants to go, and what it needs to get there. Finally, they’ll turn this understanding into a financial strategic plan.

2.   Forecasting and Budgeting

This involves breaking the overall strategic plan into nuts and bolts. Your CFO might ask questions like, “How much are we going to spend – and hopefully earn – on all elements?” They’ll help adjust your budget to reflect this, 

3.   KPI and Performance Tracking 

KPIs are vital to financial growth. A portfolio CFO will implement automated ways to periodically track performance to plan. They’ll help answer questions like, “What do we need to do more of – or less of? Do we need to do something completely different?”

4.   Cash Flow Management

Cash is king for all startups. Staying on top of what is coming in and what is going out is vital for survival as well as success. Your portfolio CFO will help you utilise your cash-flow efficiently. 

What Can a Portfolio CFO do for my small business?

While anyone can make use of a portfolio CFO’s services, the best fit are small to medium startups- especially ones who are focussed on operational delivery direct to customers. 

You may wonder what scale ‘small to medium’ is operating on. “Once a business gets to a certain size,” says John, “let’s say 50 full-time employees and £25m+ revenue, getting a full-time CFO would be more economical.”

For John, this is due to the complexity of the organisation. “Someone who is fully focussed in the CFO role would be able to add the most value to that entity. Therefore businesses who are smaller than that, I would argue, may not get the full benefits for the cost of a full-time CFO.”

Establishing when the time is right isn’t always straightforward. For some helpful context, here are some examples of startups who’ve hired portfolio CFOS:

Example 1: A restaurant group with several sites. They’ll obviously have experience when it comes to running the restaurant profitably. However, a portfolio CFO could help with raising money to open a new site.

Example 2: A startup which has seed investment (before PE where it gets serious –  a PE firm may want a 100%-focussed CFO to guard their investment and drive growth their way). This business is still in its infancy. The experience of a part-time CFO to guide the founders ideas will be vital to success.

Example 3: A hairdresser who is looking to expand into another site. A part-time CFO could spend some time working out a business plan for the new site. This would be presented to a bank to help raise the funds. The CFO could then track the performance of the site to make sure it is delivering the plan (and if not, help with what to do next).

Example 4: An online tutoring startup which may offer English courses all over the world. The tax treatments need to be carefully managed.

Example 5: A gym or fitness centre looking to sell. A CFO can support with financial reporting to give to potential buyers, as well as projections to support the valuation.

All of the above examples are in need of good financial management and leadership. However, they aren’t large or complex enough to require a full-time CFO within the business. Their main focus is on operationally delivering for their clients. This means a bank-office role such as a CFO isn’t needed daily. 

“The CFO doesn’t help these example startups to cut more hair, offer more classes, or clean more flats.” John analyses, “Therefore in order to maximise profits, why not take on a part-time CFO?”

What Makes a Good Portfolio CFO?

When it comes to key traits and talents, portfolio CFOs and in-house CFOs fall under the same umbrella. Demonstrable experience and qualifications are obviously important. However, with portfolio CFOs managing multiple clients at once, commitment and dedication to each customer is more important than ever. 

A stand-out portfolio CFO should be:

1.   Transparent

“When it comes to numbers, the CFO’s analysis and guidance needs to be true and actionable for the client on the journey to achieving their goals.” Says John, “Due to the portfolio nature of the role, this is a challenge. Dipping in and out of several businesses means focus cannot be 100% 24-7 – unlike that of the client with their business. Therefore, it’s about building solid advice on the facts of the business.”

2. Experienced

A catalogue of prior experience with startups and goals similar to yours is key, according to John. “I’ve found that providing experience of how events have played out in historical scenarios really helps clients understand ramifications.” He says, “Failing that, it’s about drawing on the diligence disposition of a CFO to research, investigate and provide insight, as well as drawing on the network of contacts.”

3.   A team player

As mentioned before, you’re not paying a CFO day rate for them to replace your bookkeepers. That being said, they should be working closely alongside your bookkeeper. 

“30% of my day is spent with bookkeepers to ensure that all base financial data is strong, solid and makes sense.” Says John, “No analysis works without good foundations, which is why our Portfolio CFO’s are supported by a team of bookkeepers.” 

4.   A visionary

Once they have the necessary information, a good CFOs should make the most of it. “I use informed insights about my client’s business to give them actions that, when put in place, help them achieve their goals.” John explains. “Your CFO should be modelling out the future for your business, and helping set a course for the future. This could be help with raising money; working out which hires to make; whether to add a new product line and many other strategic decisions for small business.”

5.   Clued in

A good CFO (portfolio or not) should always be aware of the latest financial guidance pertaining to your business. “10% of my day is spent researching the latest guidance from the government.” John states, “This is to ensure that we can provide insight on the latest legislation, as well as which grants could be claimed for.”

6.   Ethical

Advising multiple clients calls for an extra set of scruples. This is especially true when it comes to any potential conflict of interest. 

“We have one set of clients where there could be room for connection. In order to ensure ethical practices, we divide the work between myself and my business partner.” Says John, “Were either of us in a situation where we were working on our own, we would not take on the work if we believed there was a conflict of interest. Our integrity is worth more than the paycheck.” 

A good CFO should also keep on top of their ethical and professional requirements – as part of their membership to the relevant accounting bodies. 

7.   Attentive

We all know how frustrating it can be to wait on a response from someone – especially where money is concerned. Along with the cost-effective perks of a portfolio CFO comes the fact that they can’t be on call 24-7. 

“A portfolio CFO cannot serve all clients at the same time and immediately.” Says John, “Some startups value this more than the cost of full-time versus part-time. The biggest challenge as a Portfolio CFO is staying on top of multiple clients and prioritising effectively. The way we get around this at Addition is by having two portfolio CFOs to share the load.  We also have a team of highly qualified accountants and bookkeepers to ensure the financial information is clean, robust and clearly presented.”

AIN members can obtain the following offers in our Perks & Benefits section.

1. Annual Budgets & Forecasting

Addition helps you plan your business’ journey for the next 12 months and transform your vision into an actionable finance plan. £1,500 per scenario – Angel Investment Network members get 20% off.


2. Financial Modelling

Every business decision has a financial impact. Addition creates a dynamic model for your company, based on today’s needs and tomorrow’s goals. £500 per scenario – Angel Investment Network members get 20% off.


3. Financial Pitch Deck Review

Addition has helped startups from pre-seed to to Series A and beyond. They know what investors are looking for when it comes to financial reporting and projections in your pitch deck. £650 per review – Angel Investment Network members get 20% off.

Featured

Behind The Raise with Ziglu

Up next, Ziglu, a digital platform bridging the gap between cash and crypto; Yang Li, Chief Growth Office, shares his story behind the company’s £6.1 million seed round:

Tell us about Ziglu and how you came up with the idea

Ziglu was born out of the realisation that both traditional and challenger banks were preventing their customers from having access to cryptocurrencies. With the rise of cryptocurrencies we could be seeing the biggest ever transfer of funds into a new asset class, and decentralised finance (DeFi) is providing unprecedented opportunities to grow wealth.

Yet the majority of consumers are unaware of the opportunities of cryptocurrencies and DeFi, or are confused by them, or have no affordable way to participate in them. To solve this problem, Ziglu has been designed and built to combine modern challenger banking features for everyday spending with safe, simple, affordable and insured access to cryptocurrencies. 

Why did you decide to raise investment?

We saw some remarkable early customer engagement and wanted to accelerate our customer acquisition, particularly to coincide with the amazing bull run we’ve been seeing in the crypto market. Giving ownership to customers also gives them a chance to benefit in our growth and success too and that’s at the heart of what we stand for.

Furthermore, our product and tech team had built an innovative but aggressive roadmap of features that they wanted to deliver. Fundraising has meant we can now deliver new features and improve customer experiences pretty much as fast as we can think of them.  

What is your top tip for anyone raising investment for the first time?

Don’t overly focus on how your product compares to competitors. Be clear about how your product truly delights customers. No startup has failed due to competition alone. 

What attracted investors to your company?

Ziglu has an experienced team with a proven track record of building amazing startups like Starling, Monzo, Wirex, Meituan, and a product that provides a significantly better crypto-investing experience for beginners and aficionados alike. This combination of a proven track record and a visionary product and proposition has proven to be very attractive to investors.

My biggest fundraising mistake was…

Worrying too much about the aesthetics of the pitch deck.

Why did you choose to use Angel Investment Network?

Angel Investment Network stood out to us because of its superb track record of assisting innovative startups to find strategic investors: investors that provide us with first hand advice about disrupting huge industries, broaden our network of partners and add significant value beyond cash. 

What has the funding enabled?

The funding has allowed us to significantly ramp up our marketing, build new features faster and accelerate our plans for international expansion. The team is currently very focused on Ziglu’s international expansion, with our first overseas launch slated for the second half of 2021.

Keen to hear more?

If you would like to see what other companies are up to on Angel Investment Network, or are interested in raising fundraising yourself, you can find your local network here.

Featured

FOCUS ON SUSTAINABILITY

The US Government recently made a headline-grabbing commitment to a 50% reduction in carbon emissions, while the UK committed to an even steeper 78% carbon reduction by 2035. So the question on everyones’ lips is how to achieve this while ensuring economic growth continues? The solution to marrying a low carbon future with answering our continuing energy needs lies in innovation and the ideas of many brilliant startups now seeking funding.

For our latest in depth focus article, Olivia Sibony, CEO of SeedTribe takes a look at sustainability and the development of startups that have the power to help save the planet. Olivia has recently been recruited by the Government to advise on the impact-focused startups we should be encouraging to set up in the UK.  

THE NUMBERS

Size of market
The global Green Technology and Sustainability market size is anticipated to grow from USD 11.2 billion in 2020 to USD 36.6 billion by 2025, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 26.6% according to Report Linker 

On the platform
– Renewables became the 11th most popular keyword for searches in the past year, a rise of 37 places compared to 2018. 
– This trend is being replicated by other popular keywords being used at the moment. During the pandemic Greentech became the 13th most popular keyword, up from 47th two years ago.

What is the reason for the soaring interest in sustainable focused startups during the past year?

I think the change really started snowballing in 2019. The mood music had changed on the back of consumer activism and changes to government policy. From Greta Thunburg to the Extinction Rebellion there was a concerted effort to ensure climate change became top of the agenda. It worked. Governments and businesses suddenly started making dramatic commitments to cutting carbon. While it might have been expected that investors would be retreating from these categories in favour of safer investment opportunities during the pandemic, the exciting news was these businesses are actually generating more interest from investors. 

Concerted government policy worldwide is certainly helping, along with increasing grants from the UK Government to stimulate innovation in this space. In order to hit these ambitious targets, innovation will be critical. Investors know this and so are backing the early stage startups with the vision to help governments and business in general hit these ambitious targets. We are also seeing something of a shift in the investor profiles, with some younger millennial investors coming to the fore who have purpose very much as their watchword. For many investors, rather than a ‘nice to have’ having purpose baked into their business plan is becoming a prerequisite for receiving backing.

What are investors saying about sustainability?

Investors are starting to see ESG measurements and reporting being embedded into listed companies and realising that the more they invest in companies that do this from the outset, the better chance they have of succeeding as they scale. It’s important to note that a lot of investors are interested in this segment but struggling to understand it, as there’s a sliding scale of shades of grey in what the “impact” and investment spaces, ranging from profit-first to impact-first. 

Our belief is that there shouldn’t need to be a compromise, so that profit and purpose are perfectly aligned and inextricably intertwined. The key difference is that it’s important to take a long-term view as some of the growth may be slower, but in the long term it’s more sustainable so has a better horizon for long-term profit. So investors are interested in this space but need help understanding the change in growth curve. When investors understand that growing consumer demand (culture), coupled with an increase in regulation (policy, systemic change) are driving this growth, it’s a clear path for investment for anyone looking beyond a three year horizon for their investments.

What innovations are most needed to power sustainability?

The three key areas of focus should be circular economy, carbon-capturing technology and renewable energy. We need a big focus on the entire food and agriculture chain where farming needs to capture carbon, food should be produced as close to home as possible, vertical farming practices are further developed, food surplus becomes minimal and a resource to turn into energy. Where water from agriculture is clean and no longer contaminates our waterbeds. We need to focus on trapping heat emissions from carbon and methane in order to slow down the melting ice caps. The quicker the ice caps melt, the more gases and unknown bacteria and viruses will be released and the harder it will be to reverse. We’ve already seen the impacts of one single lone virus and this should be a good incentive for us to not release unknown ones that have been trapped in our ice caps for millennia and have potential to cause incalculable damage. 

CASE STUDIES

Zoï environmental network uses its technology to treat and monitor wastewater systems, especially cleaning fats from public drains and pipes. Their core product is an environmentally-friendly system which doses special bacteria to the wastewater system and degrades the fat molecules in the system. The system prevents the development of fatbergs in the sewer & wastewater systems, allowing cleaner water to flow through our systems. Check out this Video of them.

Bionat Solutions is a Certified organic solution applied in the waxing process of fruits, with the aim of providing a longer shelf life without using fungicides or artificial products. The novelty is in the circular alternative made from the same agroindustry residues to increase the useful life of fruits.

Biohm is a multi-award-winning research and development led, bio-manufacturing company. The company enables the use of healthy, environmentally friendly, circular materials like food waste and transforms it into building solutions which can apply across the design and construction industries. This eliminates the concept of waste, demonstrating how business can equitably and ethically work in collaboration with the natural world, industry, academia, government and community.


Zero Carbon Farms has developed a data-driven system 70x more productive than traditional farmland. It uses 100% renewable energy, 70% less water and reduces food miles/food waste. Not only is the produce consistent quality, highly nutritious and herbicide-free, it is also hyper-local and year-round, specialising in subterranean farming.

Join Olivia Sibony on Thursday June 3rd in the next AIN ClubHouse ‘Business as a force for good’ session where she will be discussing how startups can pave the way to a zero carbon future for food production.

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Research & Development Relief: An Overview for Startups 

In this guest blog, James Taylor, Director at Dragon Argent, shares his top tips of how start ups can claim R&D tax credits, a useful relief or rebate from HMRC. Here are the key things that you need to know:

Many new businesses spend the first season of their existence researching and developing a concept or a prototype.  They then prove their product market fit, secure their first customers and start generating revenue.  What some founders don’t realise however, is that any project which advances the fields of science or technology are eligible for tax relief, through its annual corporation tax return. 

This extra relief could be as much as 25% of the cost of the project.  For a loss-making company, a cash rebate of up to 33.5% is available in lieu of tax relief, which is often paid within 4 weeks or a successful claim being made.  

This relief or rebate could make a huge difference to a bootstrapping startup and as HMRC believe that 75% of business who could be claiming R&D tax relief do not, it is too often a missed opportunity.  

Does Your Business Qualify?

You can claim R&D relief up to two years after the end of the accounting period of the expenditure. The following criteria are flags that you could be eligible: 

You are innovating, improving, or inventing processes or technologies which are not currently available on the market.

To your knowledge, at the start of the project you have no clear answer of how the project will conclude. This uncertainty proves the first point that the development is producing new knowledge.

You can document evidence of your research and development, and the expenditure relating to these activities

Eligible Costs 

If your company meet the criteria laid out above, you should endeavour to maintain detailed records of every cost associated with the project, including:

Staff costs associated with the project. Some staff may work entirely on the project. In these instances, it is straightforward. Other staff may work a proportion of their time on this project, or on things associated with the project such as recruiting someone to work on the project. Using timesheets or similar, a log should be kept of this proportion as that might be eligible. For example, a staff member who works 30% of their time on the project while on a salary of £30,000 can be deemed a cost of £9,000 on which extra tax relief is available.

Subcontracted staff. On the same basis as above, the costs associated with subcontractors rather than employees is eligible.

Software associated with the project. If software was bought or licensed entirely or in part to service the project, these costs are eligible too.

Consumables. Any utilities or materials used in the project are eligible for tax relief.

Ineligible costs. These include the costs of distributing the goods produced, capital expenditure, rent or rates, and the cost of patents.

R&D Tax Credit Cap 

As part of the Finance Bill 2021, introduced in April, HMRC have announced a cap on the amount that a loss-making SME can receive in R&D tax credits to stop abuse of the scheme.

Currently, loss-making companies can reduce the cost of their R&D by up to 33%. However this amount will be capped at a maximum of £20,000 plus 3 times the total PAYE and NI paid by the company in the year.

HMRC have maintained that the aim of this legislation is to target those who are seeking to abuse the system, rather than genuine claimants. However, SMEs with very few staff, or with directors taking low salaries, may also be affected by this.

If an SME is loss-making, normally claims around £25,000 in R&D credit but whose only employees are directors being paid a non-tax attracting director’s salary will now only be able to claim £20,000, a loss of £5,000 on their previous expectation.

This means that it may become tax-efficient for the company to increase their director’s salary so that it attracts National Insurance so that 3 times that amount can then be reclaimed through R&D. There will be other implications of doing this so it should always be considered in conjunction with these other factors.

HMRC have also included an exemption for any entity who meets the following two tests:

The company’s employees are creating ‘relevant intellectual property’.

Expenditure spent on work subcontracted to a related party makes up under 15% of the total R&D expenditure

The tax relief an R&D claim results in can often make a big difference to startups and SMEs at a critical stage in their development.  Its sensible to seek professional advice to make the process of claiming as efficient and fruitful as possible and also to ensure the business as a whole is tax efficient in respect to the new R&D Cap. 

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#SixtySecondStartup You’ve Got This

  1. What does your company do?

You’ve Got This is a talent marketplace for startups. We bring together experienced professional talent with the UK’s fast growing startup ecosystem. 

We’re making it quick and simple for hiring teams to find mission aligned team members with the sales, finance, product and sector knowledge they need now. 

We enable you to get to know each other on a project basis and hire on an employment basis when the time is right. 

  1. Why did you set up this company?

Covid has accelerated job losses but it’s also given us the opportunity to weigh up our priorities and how we allocate our resources. Many of us want to be more efficient with our time and to work on things that connect with our values and sense of purpose. 

At the same time more mission driven businesses are being created. Innovative startups and SMEs are looking for ways to bring on flexible diverse talent, and that is harder to find through traditional channels. 

They look for highly skilled individuals that can get them through the early years and establish shared values and trust before they hire long term employees. That’s where we come in. I felt there was an opportunity to use technology to help us find meaningful flexible work with businesses and become their early team members if there’s a fit. 

  1. How did you get your first customer? 

Our first customer came through our co-working space. They’re a startup in the renewables space. They had tried platforms like Upwork but couldn’t find what they needed; someone with specific qualifications, who could work part-time, come into the office a couple of days a week and become their first hire down the line. 

  1. We knew we were onto something when? 

We had a first degree connection with the first 50 professionals that signed up to the platform. After that we started to get referrals from individuals who we’d matched for conversations with businesses.

Similarly one of our businesses who we matched with a part-time Finance Director came and asked if we could connect them with a Sales and Marketing expert. 

Together with my CTO Stephen, we’ve built a platform based on customer insight and a roadmap that positions us well alongside platforms such as Upwork and People Per Hour. 

We’re now producing content for our user base on joining and building high performance teams. Our content has been reshared by NatWest business builder and venture capital funds.

  1. Our business model: 

We’ve looked to modernise the traditional recruitment model of upfront commission on annual salaries. Many of our startups find this prohibitive in the early stages. It’s free to search and start connecting with available professionals. 

We apply a service charge on the value of bookings made through the platform. We also provide the process for getting timesheets approved and payments made once work is complete. You can read more about our pricing on our website here

Based upon our conversations with our  business users, we’re planning to launch a pay monthly service with a discounted service fee and extra features for our regular users. 

We think that there’s growth in this sector because:

The gig economy is growing rapidly, with 50% of the workforce are expected to be full-time or part-time self-employed by 2025. 

Automation is replacing the jobs of people who have worked in one sector for many years, pushing people to make a career change later in life.

There are 1.3 million SMEs in the UK (1-49 staff), currently spending an average of £6,000 per year on recruitment. This market is worth £7.9 billion. We’re looking at entering new markets in the future.

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Five takeouts from our first sessions on ClubHouse

As a communications professional it is imperative to keep abreast of new trends and platforms. ClubHouse is the newest kid on the block, delivering something quite different in today’s social media landscape. Part networking platform/ part radio show/ part events business/part members’ club it has an intriguing proposition. It offers something quite different to other social networking platforms. Namely the ability to have a really informed discussion on topics of interest where your ‘real’ self is exposed, rather than curated.

In a world of anonymous trolls spewing bile from behind keyboards being able to talk with real people on a platform also represents a refreshing change. It is focused on the ‘voice’ and offers an ability to network and debate that we used to have from live events. Remember them? For me personally it has also been a nice change from having to see your own face on a screen during a stilted Zoom conversation. Particularly with hairdressers being closed for so long! The discussions I’ve seen and taken part in so far have been wide ranging: Mental health, building resilience, social media techniques, how to win investment, even the Burning Man festival. 

As an online network connecting hundreds of thousands of people from across the world it also offers a perfect opportunity for us at AIN to bridge distances. Our own channel startup.fm has featured some fascinating discussions so far and I wanted to pick out five great revelations from our guests so far.

  1. True grit separates those who succeed with those who don’t
    In our first conversation we heard from Thomas Vosper, founder of ecommerce startup aisle 3 on how he bounced back from redundancy 13 months ago. He has since led two successful funding rounds with a rapidly growing ecommerce businesses employing 15 staff across several continents. In winning funding and growing his business in the teeth of the pandemic,  he epitomises the character and determination startup founders need. A great revelation we heard that epitomises this was setting his alarm at 3 in the morning to respond to investors in Australia in real time. He is an expert in his field but this sheer level of focus and determination is what sets successful startup founders apart. It’s a tough business and it simply isn’t for the majority of people. Investors know this and character counts.

  2. Being prepared to pivot
    There can simply be no time for rigid thinking in the BETA world of the startup. Accepting things are in transition is a brilliant starting point for throwing off attachments and being ruthless in decision-making. This revelation came from Rav Robert from PharmaSentinel, the healthcare startup leveraging AI to provide personalised medicines data intelligence. He revealed the story of presenting his initial wireframes for his app to a board advisor with relevant experience. The blunt feedback was to ditch the initial idea and return to the drawing board. Rav realised quickly he needed to take this advice on board and adapt. Indeed this was why he had recruited this particular advisor. The result? Having launched its consumer app ‘medsii’ (Medicines information for Me) in October 2020 on the App Store & Playstore. It already has over 15,000 app downloads in 150 countries. The lesson was not be emotionally attached to any one idea and trust the advice of the experts you have brought on board. 

  3.  Don’t be too distracted by investors
    This might seem anathematic for those involved in a fundraise, but this was the loud and clear message from Saalim Chowdhury, former partner at 500 Startups and an angel investor. His strong contention was not to be distracted by the thought of investment rounds. Instead entrepreneurs should have a laser-like focus on winning customers and sales in the early stages and should bootstrap as far as possible. Paradoxically, the best way to impress investors was not being over focused on them. As he succinctly put it ‘Taking investment is as time consuming as setting up a business.’ Dan Simmons, founder of launch accelerator Propelia also thought it was vital to really focus on milestones early on and work with the right investors to help guide this process. His view was that there was a lot of inefficiency in the early stages of fundraising and it was really important for startup founders to be matched with the right investors as ‘co-pilots’. 
  1. Engage your community in your journey 
    This came through so loud and clear from several speakers. Saalim emphasised the benefit of crowdfunding –  not so much for gaining investors but building a community and gaining customers. For Ruari Fairbairns from One Year, No Beer, building a strong tribe and community was vital for the development of his app of alcohol-free evangelists and the direction of travel for the business. It is also easy to forget that investors can also be customers. Indeed he he was able to raise £1.6m of investment from his community. This included many corporate leaders who had taken on his booze-free challenge and seen the benefit in their life and productivity. A brilliant way of building advocacy.
  1. Opposites attract when it comes to co-founders
    Another great misconception is that cash is the reason startups fail. Several guest shared the view that it is the people dynamic that it most critical. While solo founders can succeed a succession of speakers and participants extolled the virtues of having co-founders with complementary skill sets, such as Kathryn Tyler and Nikki Cochrane from Digital Mums who joined us in week one. This was something Thomas also said was the ‘secret sauce’ in his working relationship with his business partner, James Valbuena. For solo-founders the advice was recruiting advisors and mentors who can offer skills you may not have. The message in effect was to acknowledge your weaknesses and rather than try to correct them, find someone who excels in those tasks. 

    We look forward to more great insights and revelations in future weeks of ClubHouse. Please join Adah Parris, Chair of MHFA UK, Olivia Sibony, CEO of SeedTribe and Michael Solomon, Director at Responsible 100, on Clubhouse tomorrow Thursday, 28th April as we discuss, can business be a force for good?https://www.joinclubhouse.com/event/mWreGdga

Toby Hicks, Head of PR, Angel Investment Network

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SixtySecondStartUp with HyperionDev

We caught up with Riaz Moola, CEO and CoFounder at HyperionDev. HyperionDev are aiming to close the global tech skills gap by enabling education as an accessible alternative to more traditional university degrees. Doing this through specialised mentored coding bootcamps, offered online and on-site at its Johannesburg and Cape Town campuses.


What does your company do?

At HyperionDev we teach people to code. Not give lessons. Teach.  Intense, immersive courses that get completed in 3 – 12 months (course dependent) with a unique human led mentorship that is built upon our unique codebase. A meld of automation and human touch that scales and works. 

At our core, HyperionDev teaches people the essential skills they need to find fulfilling, rewarding careers in tech. However, we do way more than just teach: over the course of 3 to 12 months, we immerse our students in a high-pace dedicated coding environment that takes them from total beginner to a job-ready industry professional.

Our meld of automation and human mentoring gives us the power to give each student in-depth and personal attention, but in a way that we can scale to students in over 40 countries. 

Why did you set up this company?

We didn’t go looking for a problem to solve, we found a problem that really needed solving. At university in Africa, a group of friends and myself were shocked at the extremely high dropout rates that affected not just our classes, but classes across the country.

We decided to do something about it: we started a mentorship program to help students to master the fundamentals of coding. We added mentor after mentor, until our network spanned dozens of universities across two continents. 

Later on, I realised the difficulties people faced with learning the skills that could get them rewarding, fulfilling careers – and so HyperionDev expanded to teaching people even outside of university.. 

How did you get your first customer? 

A government-run research group that carries out AI research actually approached us, saying that we were the largest trainer of the Python programming language in their region, and asked us to train for them.

We initially thought we’d have to raise money to do the training, and were surprised when they offered to pay us. In the end we charged 10 times less than we should have for the service!

We knew we were onto something when? 

We just didn’t have people stop signing up for our courses every day, and didn’t have a month where we didn’t make revenue from our online courses. At the start you think it a temporary, short-term demand, but when you see the continual interest, it feels like you’ve unlocked something completely new.

Our business model: 

There are essentially two, B2C online immersive courses that are cost effective, and accessible from anywhere in the world that we  built to scale. The courses, while cost-effective for students, are profitable to us as we grow. We reached profitability in Q1 2020.

Our Code Review base is a B2B SAAS product under the CoGrammar brand, used by tech companies and even other leading software schools internationally 

Our most effective marketing channel has been: 

Our alumni network – we still see word of mouth driving a huge number of new students. The network effects from this group has been critical to our growth.

What we look for when recruiting:

A-players. People who can work in an intense environment and are driven by our mission to create people who can take up the vacuum in the global tech skills gap.

The biggest mistake that I’ve made is:

Not realising that we could build a really good profitable business , as well as create awesome social impact, sooner.  You don’t need to be a non-profit to truly help people.

We think that there’s growth in this sector because:

Nature abhors a vacuum! Every startup is facing the same problem, where to get talent. The group of startups is growing, the talent pool isn’t keeping up. Know what that is? We call it opportunity. And with that opportunity we solve real global socio-economic problems and make a difference in people’s lives. It is one of the best problems worth solving that we know about.

We worked with AIN because:

Networking is perhaps the most important part of any future-facing business or campaign. It’s what got us started as a grassroots organisation of coding mentors, and it’s what grew us into the continental tech education leader we are today.

You can only get closer to the success you envision if you surround yourself with the right people, with the same vision and goals: and the AIN networks are one of those alignments. 

 How are you coping with lockdown? What is your strategy?

We have moved to a remote first way of working, from a previous policy of a remote friendly. And the positive response had been fantastic. Execution and productivity are actually up.

Is there anything your business is doing to help in your community or with the wider crisis?

South Africa’s biggest problem is unemployment. The numbers are staggering. We are actively supporting communities directly with scholarships, education and the resultant access to the global shortage of coders in the market. The knock on effect is heartwarming to say the least.  

Keen to hear more?

If you would like to see what other companies are up to on Angel Investment Network, or are interested in raising funding yourself, you can find your local network here.

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Breaking the cycle – how female-led startups can succeed in 2021

Bumble’s recent IPO generated stellar headlines for making Whitney Wolfe Herd the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire. However it was the exceptionalism of the story that made it so significant. Women make up about half of the global population but account for less than 5% of the world’s 500 biggest fortunes, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. 

In order to have more women at the top of the list there needs to be more investment and encouragement going into early stage startups. The UK has one of the most developed startup ecosystems in the world. Yet it falls down when considering the huge gender imbalance in the startups winning investment. Indeed research from the British Bank shows that for every £1 of Venture Capital investment, all-female founding teams get just 1p.

This matters from both a moral, fairness perspective but also from the end consumer perspective. According to research from Catalyst.Org, 67% of all UK Household consumption is controlled or influenced by women. However their needs are often unmet in a world where so many products and services are brought to market without the input of 50% of the UK. Across the country there are so many entrepreneurial women with brilliant ideas for gaps in the market to improve our lives, but these are likely to remain unfulfilled. The lack of funding opportunities and visible role models makes the ideas more likely to remain in heads. Not least because you can’t be what you can’t see. 

As a result of Covid, the situation has become even more precarious. Firstly investors are more likely to stick with more established businesses, more likely to be male-led. Secondly the bulk of domestic responsibilities (including childcare) tend to fall on women, simply meaning there has been less time and ability for many to focus on the all consuming life of launching a business. Home schooling has been a clear example. In order to shake things up and start to rebalance the situation we should focus on practical measures women can take.

Develop a wide network

Start-up investment has traditionally been a very closed world. Much of it stemmed and often still does from old school ties which tend to be stronger with men. This is then often reinforced throughout our lives. Platforms like Angel Investment Network, SeedTribe and crowdfunding platforms have undoubtedly helped to shake things up by democratising the world of early stage investing but it remains crucial for women to focus on building their own networks. Encouragingly there are a host of forums for women to network and create their own forums. This includes investment groups such as Angel Academe, which trains and empowers women to invest in female-owned start-ups and Ada Ventures which invests in under-represented founders; the Female Founders Forum, set up jointly by Barclays and The Entrepreneur Network (TEN), or more specialised groups such as Hatch’s incubator for first-time female founders and the Mayor of London’s Women in Cleantech group. Once you know groups are out there, you can then focus on the one or ones that are right for you. 

Being bolder in pitches and asks

Some research from Barclays revealed Britain’s female entrepreneurs are less likely than men to ask for business funding to scale up operations. We are also likely to be more timid in pitches. We need to be direct and ask for what we need to get a business the launchpad it needs. In my personal experience investors will buy into the vision and ambition. Remember investors are expecting to be asked for money. Tell them in no uncertain terms the amount you require, what you will do with it and of course, the share they can expect. You will be surprised by how positively your request will land.

Doing your homework on the investor

Switching perspectives so we can understand the right argument to make is one of the best and most simple steps we can do to boost our chances of investment. When I launched my start-up GrubClub I realised the importance and power of understanding different perspectives. I would then adapt my pitch according to the investor I was speaking to. Key to this was really researching each investor, including their background and interests.  This helped me understand the different reasons they might invest. It’s also helpful to ask the investor directly about their prior investments. This isn’t rude. It is a two way street. The investor will conduct Due Diligence on your company and you, and you should also feel comfortable to Due Diligence on them as an investor. However at the same time, it’s important to be flexible and open to other approaches, but never to the detriment of what is fundamental to your company.

Backing other women

In instigating change, we need to be the change we want to see. It’s up to women to support other women in the industry. This is the only way to disrupt an entrenched system. Having launched and sold my own business, I dedicate my time to supporting impactful entrepreneurs to grow in more sustainable ways. My strong conclusion is we need successful women to become investors themselves to shake up the system. If we can encourage more women investors, we will start to see the level of funding increase for female-led startups. This will in turn create a virtuous circle of successful female entrepreneurs who are likely to become female-backing investors themselves.

 However, support doesn’t just include fundraising. It is also about opportunities for offering mentoring or other support. The individual power we all have is far greater than we realise. Let’s be the catalysts for the change we need to transform the prospects for female entrepreneurs.

Olivia Sibony is CEO of SeedTribe and Head of Impact for Angel Investment Network

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BEHIND THE RAISE WITH PSYT

In our latest Behind The Raise we caught up with Nick Begley, founder of Psychological Technologies (PSYT) on disrupting the self-help market, peoples’ willingness to invest in their wellbeing and the time and attention needed to execute a successful fundraise.

Tell us about PSYT?

We all want to improve and we usually turn to books, audiobooks and videos. But how much do they actually help us change? 

If we’re honest, not much. That’s because passively digesting information isn’t enough. Reading about how to ride a bike isn’t going to magically allow you to ride a bike, and the same is just as true when it comes to self development. It needs to be put into practice.  

So that’s what we do – take proven content, with proven demand, and deliver it in a more effective format, helping people put advice into practice, to create real change. Like Masterclass, we work with authors to leverage their established brands and fanbases. 

Why did you decide to raise investment? 

To build on the success of our MVP.  Our MVP was based on one book and the funding will allow us to build a multi-book platform which will have multiple courses in one place. 

What is your top tip for anyone raising investment for the first time? 

It takes a great deal of time and attention, so start early. Make sure you have enough runway and try not to be involved in any other big projects at the same time. The process is time consuming, not just the pitching,  but the follow up emails and calls as well. 

What attracted investors to your company?

I think there were 3 things; the previous experience of the team, the results of the MVP and market timing.  I was previously the Head of Research at Headspace, and my cofounder ran the world’s largest research study into day to day happiness out of the LSE. 

Our MVP product, The Anxiety Solution gave great proof points, through user reviews, metrics and Apple App Store endorsement and we had signed a number of fantastic NYT bestselling authors. 

The popularisation of meditation, mental health destigmatisation, and the willingness of millenials and Gen Z to invest in their wellbeing, has led to the market exploding in recent years, giving rise to many 9 and 10 figure company valuations in the space. Although the market is growing rapidly there is still a big gap between learning what to do and actually applying the advice to your life, which is the gap we fill.

My biggest fundraising mistake was…

Trying to run the company at the same time as fundraise. It’s a huge job for one person and takes all your time, don’t think you can be as productive on other things at the same time. 

Why did you choose to use Angel Investment Network? 

AIN was recommended by a friend and they have a huge network. Ed was helpful, proactive and professional and their terms are reasonable.

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Behind The Raise with LifeSaver

In our latest edition of #BehindTheRaise, we caught up with LifeSaver Co-Founder, Archie Wilkinson, about setting up a B-Corp, the importance of a great team and why getting your documents in order is so important.

Tell us about Lifesaver:

We sell & return power banks to charge your phone. With more smartphones than toilets in the world, we are focused on providing power on the go in a sustainable way. 

The power bank market is estimated to be worth $27bn by 2024 and we want to change this industry to be cleaner, circular & greener. We are the 199th certified UK B-corp, with a hire & return model across events and venues reducing battery waste as we recharge and reuse. 

We fill all our power banks with renewable energy saving 13 grams of CO2 per charge & recycle our batteries to areas with no electricity by making off-grid solar lights with Liter of Light

Why did you decide to raise investment?

To scale. 

We had proven a number of unknowns and required investment to accelerate our growth. We are an ambitious company with big goals to change an industry to be more sustainable, raising investment helps us to develop our product, hire the best people thus driving further sales. 

What is your top tip for anyone raising investment for the first time?

Keep at it. Listen & adapt as you go. You will have multiple pitch decks and always try to get feedback from investors that say no, and evolve. It is also important to have good documents (i.e. articles of association, shareholders agreement, term sheet etc.) SeedLegals is a brilliant and cost effective platform to streamline super slick documents and integrate your cap table. They also offer completely free support & advice on top of this.  

What attracted investors to your company?

Team, vision and a real problem that needs solving in a better way. Ultimately they are buying into the team & vision of the future. They say investors will invest in a great team with an ok idea over a great idea with an ok team, it is important to have people around you that make you feel like the weakest link! If you don’t have people you are learning from then you don’t have the best team. Don’t rest until you do. 

My biggest fundraising mistake was…

Possibly not having watertight company documents to start with, this delayed investment. SeedLegals helped us out on this and now we have very good documents with articles that align to our B-Corp status. 

Why did you choose to use Angel Investment Network?

Angel Investment Network is a great way to reach multiple angels in an automated and simple way to engage and inform investors. The network will open you to more investors and thus help in improving your business.

Keen to hear more?

If you would like to see what other companies are up to on Angel Investment Network, or are interested in raising funding yourself, you can find your local network here.

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Making It with Julian Seydoux

Julian Seydoux is a rare breed in Europe, an entrepreneur who has set up a company, scaled it, exited it, and is now investing and advising the next generation of start ups. As Julian has experience of Angel Investment Network, both raising funds and investing, we decided to pick his brains.

What impresses about his story is the belief that having completed his market research with intense focus and determination, he could take on the ultra competitive Chinese market, launching Vai Milno, a chain of gelato stores, and enter an industry that he had no prior experience of. 

He explained how he arrived in China with ‘two bags and nothing else’. That sense of determination clicked with investors, but also tying in the traction and a word that keeps coming back in our conversation ‘momentum’.

‘We explained the story of all the achievements we had made until then, which in hindsight was extraordinary fast. We signed several partnership agreement, persuaded the chef to join us from Italy. So investors when they saw this, could see that something was moving fast, something was happening.’

Switching to being an entrepreneur, seemed a natural next step for Julian after his job in M&A, working in emerging markets, he learned where there were exciting opportunities. In the city he had honed the skills necessary to evaluate quickly whether there was a business opportunity. 

Julian was finishing a part time degree at London Business School ‘One of my classmates approached me and said why don’t we set up a company? I think China would be a great place to start a business. And I thought if I’m working 18 hours a day, I might as well do it for myself!’

As Julian’s gelato business gained traction in the Chinese market, opportunities to exit began to appear. ‘‘I had a prior opportunity to exit, but we didn’t take it, I thought this is working, let’s just continue what we’re doing and focus. But at some stage life happens. You just need to decide whether to move on.’

Julian then thinks logically about how you determine when is the right time for a founder to move to on from his business. Splitting entrepreneurs between those who have the skills and desires to start a business, and those suited to growing it.

‘For the founders you need to decide what kind of founder you are – are you more interested in the startup craze at the beginning, or are you a later stage managerial founder who can get the processes right?’

In fact Julian has seen later stage VCs frequently appoint new CEOs, bringing new people to the board and key hires into the company, ensuring that they have the right skillset to grow the company. In Julian ’s words: ‘At one stage you have to think could someone else do better. One of the challenges for founders is acknowledging there’s a limitation of what they can do. 

And all these considerations came to mind when I decided it was right for me to leave the company and exit.’ 

In terms of getting your company so that it’s in a position to exit, researching who are the potential buyers early on pays dividends . ‘Something that I was keen to do early on was two way partnerships with people who could potentially be acquirers.’

How do you ensure that you get the deal you want? ‘Just remember – at the end of the day, don’t be afraid to negotiate, everything is negotiable!’

Julian is sanguine about his success on selling his business, he describes the emotions he endured as ‘part of me sadness and part of me relief I had gone through the process, and other parts of me were thinking about what to do next. I have seen some very sad people who have exited with plenty of cash, they are just struggling afterwards’. 

Now an Investor, Julian is often shocked by how bullish founders are before remembering that he too was like that. He feels that he can quickly get a sense of if there is a fit – he looks at spaces where there are potential and where his skills can add value, and  when talking to founders quickly gets a sense as to whether the team can execute. 

His parting advice for founders ‘if someone offers you money, take it!’ he says, before laughing. 

Keen to hear more?

If you would like to see what other companies are up to on Angel Investment Network, or are interested in raising funding yourself, you can find your local network here.

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#SixtySecondStartup with Halal Fresh

Saima Duhare is the founder of Halal Fresh, the UK’s first halal non subscription meal kit service predominantly catering for the Muslim community.

  1. What does your company do?

Halal Fresh is a meal kit service providing freshly preportioned ingredients, with an easy to follow recipe card to cook great tasting meals. Making dinner times stress free and enabling our customers to be adventurous in the kitchen, as well as supporting their healthy lifestyles.  

  1. Why did you set up this company? 

 My vision was to bring back the joy of cooking by offering every Muslim household the opportunity to cook homemade fresh meals from around the world, making dinner tables exciting to sit at. 

I grew up in a household where food was the catalyst of bringing people together, my Grandma, Mum and Aunty are amazing cooks and would cook foods from around the world and we would always have family and friends over. I felt we were losing the importance of having a home cooked meal which gives an opportunity to spend quality time with family and friends over a great meal.  

Given the rise of fast food and the ease of it, coupled with  the busy lives we lead, I felt this aspect of our life  was slowly disintegrating. So Halal Fresh was born to make people’s life easier and offer varied, healthy delicious meals they cook from scratch at home, in addition to being mindful of our carbon footprint since everything is proportioned so there is no food waste and all of our packaging is recyclable 

  1. How did you get your first customer? 

We had no budget for marketing and when we launched we pretty much prayed we get customers, lucky for us people were googling  for a halal meal kit service, thus, my first customer was a Dr who kindly posted our service on  Instagram, result of that we approached various influencers from different professions,  and and from that we organically built and grew ourselves this is going back in April 2019 and still we haven’t spent any money on marketing apart from a offering a recipe box in exchange for a shout out, plus our lovely customers a promote us

  1. We knew we were onto something when? 

We were approached by a journalist from the Independent and at the time we had no clue which publication she was from until I delivered the box and we were included as being one of the best recipe boxes in July 2020.

  1. Our business model:

    We are an online non subscription business model, which people enjoy because they can use the service without feeling tied in, and that works for us and them.

    We’re currently only serving the London region, however, we are looking to expand nationally. We are growing slowly but surely and organically.  And the interest we receive daily in bringing it to other parts of the UK is promising and exciting. We are learning as we develop, progressing and improving our offering and service.
  1. Our most effective marketing channel has been: 

Instagram and  word of mouth from our customers and being in several reputable british and British Asian papers has helped us and put us on the map as a 5* Halal Recipe Box.

  1. What we look for when recruiting: 

We are a very small team, and the team we have are very passionate about food and the industry. We look for people who are creative and open to learn as much as we are, and contribute to what we are trying to achieve, to make people’s lives easier, and can work on their own initiative.

My graphic designer for instance has had very little experience but her work excited me. I tend to go with my gut feeling, of course they need to have the skill but not necessarily the experience.  

  1. The biggest mistake that I’ve made is:

    Having no experience in opening a business I have made lots of mistakes, but  one of them for instance, when we had our soft launch I spent £6,000 to test the model on 40 people, in hindsight I could have tested the model on 20 people and tested it for much less.

    I created the MVP as if though it were a fledgling business, with 9 recipes, 2 chefs, all the packaging and pre portioned ingredients from suppliers, which I could have easily pre portioned myself and less recipes and 1 chef.
  1. We think that there’s growth in this sector because:

    The halal sector is booming – in 2019 it was valued at  £31bn, considering there are only 4.1 million Muslims in the UK, that staggering. It’s very exciting times for the food industry despite the current climate. We are becoming more mindful about what we put into our bodies and becoming conscious consumers.

  2. Is there anything your business is doing to help in your community or with the wider crisis?

    We are heavily involved with our local food bank which was set up by a friend of mine, and have volunteered, distributed food as well donated food. This is something we are also passionate about, which is giving back and helping those that are vulnerable in our community, so much so we are working on embedding this into our business model.

Keen to hear more?

If you would like to see what other companies are up to on Angel Investment Network, or are interested in raising funding yourself, you can find your local network here.

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Surging investor interest in agriculture, fintech and medical startups, finds AIN annual report

Angel Investment Network (AIN) has revealed its latest ‘State of the Angel Investment Nation’ findings. It is based on the data of more than 125,000 UK registered businesses looking for funding and 35,000 UK investors over the course of 2020.

Technology remained the top category of interest for angel investors looking to back businesses in 2020. Meanwhile, finance closed the gap, climbing five places to become the second most popular category for searches. In the year of the pandemic, medical & science climbed two places with a surge in investors backing entrepreneurs focused on improving health outcomes. We also witnessed a huge growth in interest in agriculture which saw a rise of 63% in searches and climbed seven places to become the eighth most searched term.

For entrepreneurs, property is the most popular sector for pitch ideas. Entertainment and leisure is the second, followed by fashion and beauty. This highlights something of a mismatch between the sectors in need of funding and the sectors investors are interested in backing.

AIN has also revealed the UK’s top entrepreneurial hot spots. London’s share of all pitch ideas has fallen slightly, although it remains responsible for 36% of all pitch ideas. The South East is second in the list with the North West number three. Growth in both Wales and Scotland outperformed the rest of the UK seeing a rise in the number of pitches as the startup culture continues to flourish across the UK.
 
According to AIN co-founder Mike Lebus: “It has been an extraordinary year with so many lives and businesses impacted by the virus. However in the face of unprecedented challenges, we have witnessed the resilience and adaptability of UK startups working to bring solutions to the problems of our time. From innovations in finance, technology bringing people together during social distancing to the wonders of medicine and science. It’s no surprise these are the businesses gaining interest and investment from our investors.”

“We are also seeing the nascent development of ag-tech and brilliant technological solutions tackling the very real challenges we face of feeding the population and maximising efficiencies and yields. The challenges of climate change are undimmed and this is a sector that is at the forefront of that battle.”

He continued: “While London has been dominant in the past we are now seeing the comparative growth of other nations and regions in the UK as our embedded startup culture takes further root. We can look forward to a continuing resurgence across the country as we emerge from this difficult period.”

Top 10 Sectors for Pitches:

1.   Property
2.   Entertainment & Leisure
3.   Fashion & Beauty
4.   Technology
5.   Food & Beverage
6.   Software
7.   Retail
8.   Hospitality, Restaurants & Bars
9.   Finance
10.  Business Services

Top 10 Sectors for Investors:

1.   Technology
2.   Finance
3.   Software
4.   Medical & Sciences
5.   Property
6.   Food & Beverage
7.   Energy & Natural Resources
8.   Agriculture
9.   Entertainment & Leisure
10.  Retail

The entrepreneur hotspot list is as follows (based on number of pitches from each region):

1.   London
2.   South East
3.   North West
4.   South West
5.   West Midlands
6.   East Midlands
7.   Scotland
8.   East Anglia
9.   Yorkshire and Humber
10.  Wales
11.  North East
12.  Northern Ireland

To connect with angel investors looking to back your business visit https://www.angelinvestmentnetwork.co.uk/

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Behind The Raise with Pharma Sentinel

We first met Rav Roberts, CEO of Pharma Sentinel, at one of the virtual events that we hosted. He recently successfully closed his investment round, and we are pleased to hear the learnings he has to share:

Tell us about Pharma Sentinel: 

Pharmasentinel.com is a UK Consumer & Business healthtech helping each person to lead a safer life, by leveraging AI to provide trusted, timely & personalised medicines and medical conditions news, alerts and medicines data intelligence.

 PharmaSentinel launched its consumer app ‘medsii’ (Medicines information for Me) in October 2020 on the App Store & Playstore and already has over 15,000 app downloads in 150 countries. 

Medsii provides information on side effects, drug safety alerts & recalls, and clinical trial opportunities for participation, in an engaging, patient-centric Twitter-style interface.

Why did you decide to raise investment? 

2 reasons

1) To accelerate our launch into the USA, our key market. 

2) To accelerate the launch of our Business SaaS data product.

What is your top tip for anyone raising investment for the first time? 

Persist

It took us months of pitching to get our first investor, then bit by bit, the floodgates opened. 

Secondly, use Twitter to link with very experienced USA VCs, e.g. Brad Feld, Jason Calacanis, Elizabeth Yin, who will give you tons of *free* advice AND *free* training on pitching, negotiating with VCs etc.).

What attracted investors to your company?

 1) Very experienced founding team (we all met in Business School 16 years ago). 

2) Healthtech very topical, even before Covid-19, with more people living longer & taking personal responsibility to manage their health to live quality lifestyles. 

3) Great business model, with globally scalable consumer & business products. 

My biggest fundraising mistake was…

Initially not being succinct during pitches. (Second mistake was not using an ethernet cable to pitch).

Why did you choose to use Angel Investment Network? 

I got a couple of tips from friends, then tried it and, (to my surprise), angel investors started to contact me and actually invest!

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Predictions for impact investing in 2021

AIN’s Head of Impact and CEO of SeedTribe, Olivia Sibony peers into her crystal ball for 2021 to see what it has in store for the impact investment space.

With the huge focus on the pandemic over the past year – many might have thought impact investing was on the back burner. Luckily this didn’t prove to be the case. In the teeth of the first lockdown on the Angel Investment Network platform we saw renewables become the 11th most popular keyword for searches, a rise of 34 places compared to 2018. We also saw terms like Greentech rocket up the rankings for investors looking to invest. So looking ahead, what can we expect? Here are three predictions.

A rise in interest in impact-focused startups


In 2021 we can expect more investors to back impact-focused startups. We have witnessed a new regime take office in the White House rejoining the Paris climate agreement, committed to net zero emissions. Part of a rapidly growing movement worldwide. More consumers are voting with their wallets in demanding brands’ values are in line with their own. Additionally more investors are wanting to see the ethical credentials of businesses they are considering backing. This is particularly the case with passion-driven angels. This virtuous circle means we will in turn help to inspire a new generation of entrepreneurs focused on the solutions to mankinds’ most pressing problems. We are also seeing the huge financial rewards for companies focused on ESG goals. Elon Musk becoming the richest man in the world was a watershed moment in this regard. It can be extremely profitable to embed purpose into your business model.

The establishment of more metrics for the measurement of ESG

Impact-driven investors are looking for more established measurement of environmental and social performance to give them more understanding of where and why to invest. We saw a real landmark moment at the end of the year with the big four accounting firms agreeing a reporting framework last year for ESG standards. We will see this more widely used and taken up in 2021. At SeedTribe we use the UN Sustainability Goals (SDGs) as the basis for our framework for the companies we back and for how entrepreneurs can benchmark their progress. The SDGs are the closest we have to a standard for ESG ratings. The 17 SDGs and their 169 associated targets are by no means perfect, but they are the best blueprint available to achieve a more sustainable future. They have been agreed by all countries.

What I am seeing on the ground is more demand for startups considering the full impact or end to end life cycle of a product or service. For example it is not enough to merely produce solar panels if they are not produced in a way that is in itself carbon-efficient or end up unrecyclable. Better still of course, is seeing start-ups embrace a truly Circular Economy. We need to ideally create close-loop cycles without any waste at all. A start up like Aeropowder is a great example of that. They have created the world’s first sustainable thermal packaging made from feathers – Pluumo. The poultry industry is drowning in feathers (3.1m tonnes per year in the EU alone) and has limited disposal options. Powered by feathers, Pluumo can keep food deliveries chilled while replacing expanded polystyrene. They are gaining huge interest from investors. 

Increasing cross-border collaboration


One silver lining from covid is the increasing level of cross-border collaboration using technology tools. In 2021 with most travel on hold for the foreseeable future, we are likely to see the further rolling out of systems enabling start ups to collaborate and share best practice and insights. For example, WeFarm is the world’s largest farmer-to-farmer digital network. They enable farmers worldwide to SMS any farm related question to a network of other farmers who can help, enabling farmers in Colombia to learn from farmers in the Congo. These sorts of initiatives can improve efficiency, best practice and help reduce CO2 emissions. This is being led by startups but will trickle up to larger firms with enormous data pools being harnessed to create actionable insights to reduce CO2 emissions. 

As we look to the future we can be confident in the vision of startup entrepreneurs and enlightened investors to help drive the change we want to see in the world in 2021.  

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Sixty Second Startups – FastWater Dispenser

We caught up with Wayne Edward Clarke, Founder of Fast Water Dispensers, who explains how he is revolutionising water dispensers in the Philippines.

What does your company do?

We manufacture a revolutionary new kind of water dispenser for refillable blue 5 gallon water bottles.

Fast Water Dispensers Product Demo

Why did you set up this company?


I come from Calgary, Canada, where the tap water is top quality drinking water. When I moved to the Philippines I wasn’t used to using refillable water bottles for drinking water, as everyone does here. The long amount of time it took to draw a coffeepot full of water from a standard water dispenser to make coffee every morning became more frustrating until it was intolerable.

I searched the stores and online retailers for a faster water dispenser, and found that there were none available.

It took a few days of research, design, and fabrication to produce the item that I now consider to be my proof-of-concept prototype, and I used it successfully for months. I realized that there must be millions of other people who are as frustrated with their water dispensers as I had been, and I recognized that this was an opportunity that was too good to let slip away.

The key to our success will be:


-A product design that’s a disruptive improvement over all the existing competitors
-A tough, quality, environmentally friendly product that should last a lifetime for a price that’s competitive with cheap plastic Chinese dispensers
-The very low cost of labor in the Philippines
-0% taxes for 6 years and zero import/export fees in the Philippines Special Economic Zones
-Utilizing the training techniques of elite athletic teams to achieve world-class employee performance -A manufacturing process that achieves an unbeatable investment-to-production ratio by utilizing very ingenious jigs and simple machines but no complex or expensive machines.

Our most effective marketing channel will be:

-Online retail sites such as Amazon, Lazada, Alibaba Express, etc.

What we look for when recruiting:

Bright, adaptable, fast learners. This applies to our office workers and to our factory workers, who will also need good hand and tool skills. At the pace we’ll be working we’ll need to rotate the assembly line teams from station to station fairly often to avoid repetitive motion injuries and employee burnout and to keep morale high, so they’ll each have to learn every task in the factory.

Once we reach sales of about 2 million FastWater Dispensers per year in it will be worth transitioning to a completely automated robotic assembly line. We’ll then use our highly trained and integrated manual manufacturing teams to build and operate the assembly line for our next ingenious product design, of which I have many, and the entire cycle should repeat about every three years.

The biggest mistake that I’ve made is:

Not researching Alibaba and the Chinese suppliers represented there sufficiently before researching my costs for equipment and materials. I’d prefer to buy from local Philippines suppliers, but there’s only a few of them and they’re hard to find and communicate with compared to the crowds of companies on Alibaba. The Chinese companies can be challenging to communicate with because of language and cultural issues, and I wish I’d learned more about that before I started. Having dealt with many of them to cost out my business plans, it’ll be a lot easier when I start purchasing.

We worked with AIN because:

AIN seemed like the method of raising financing that was most likely to get results. There seems to be a lot of fundraising services that specialize in online and high-tech businesses, and a few who cater to emerging market businesses like the guy who wants to upgrade his small pineapple farm, while AIN represents a much broader spectrum of what I think of as ‘normal businesses’, like mine.

How has coronavirus impacted your business and your fundraising plans?

-In-person networking has gone from being the most important part of any fundraising strategy to being almost impossible. I’m not sure if we’ll be able to reach our fundraising goals without it, but we’re giving it our best shot!

How are you coping with lockdown, and what is your strategy for it?

I’m doing pretty well, thanks. I already worked online from home, so my life hasn’t changed much. It would be very hard if I were single, but luckily I have a fulfilling relationship so we can keep each other company. I’m a mask and face shield guy, I take every precaution, because I’m 57 so I’m in a moderately high-risk group, and I’m not taking any chances.

Keen to hear more?

If you would like to see what other companies are up to on Angel Investment Network, or are interested in raising funding yourself, you can find your local network here.

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Digesting 2020

In many ways there were two sides to 2020. On the one-side, there has been a monumental personal loss to so many families, we’ve all been taking the strain mentally due to our daily lives being uprooted, even if we have yet to admit it to ourselves, and many good businesses have been torn apart by COVID. 

But though searching for positives might seem futile, there have been some, and they are noteworthy.

Change = business opportunity

When people have a problem that needs solving, that is often when there is an opportunity for a new business to emerge. 

When life is stable, people incur major problems relatively infrequently; most people’s problems have been solved, and there are less opportunities for businesses to be created.

When COVID happened, simultaneously putting the population at risk, disrupting the supply chain and dampening demand for many products and services, suddenly there were a lot of problems that needed solving.

For prospective entrepreneurs this is actually a good thing – people needed to:

  1. Keep safe whilst out and about during Covid
  2. Communicate effectively with their team whilst WFH
  3. Make childcare work when nurseries and schools were closed.

These new problems and others are creating opportunities for the businesses of tomorrow to emerge. 

Talent 

This might sounds counterintuitive, but in the good times it’s hard to create a great business. Why? A lot of the top talent gets sucked into corporates, and consumers are less inclined to change their behaviour, because, well, they don’t need to. 

Economic shocks mix things up – Thomas Vosper was made redundant at the beginning of the COVID crisis, he’s recently completed an investment round for an innovative new retail concept that he since started – you can read about it in his recent blog

Efficiency

And whilst COVID undoubtedly has caused huge disruptions, some companies in some industries were quickly able to shift into the ‘new normal’. 

Working from home was something that was alway going to happen, probably in a decade or so. When COVID happened, almost everyone had to do it, straight away. 

But this had a few benefits that weren’t necessarily foreseen, people by way of being forced to do it – actually became good at using video calls. 

Meetings where people would have travelled across town and back, and set up 1 hour meeting to justify the time, suddenly became more efficient half hour Zoom calls. A huge time and efficiency saving. 

Investor Outlook 

When the pandemic first hit, there were signs that investors were being more cautious – some had taken hits on their portfolio and dropped back on the number of the investments that they made, and pushed harder on valuations.

However, investors have adjusted to the new normal, for each in person meeting they have given up, there are many more Zoom and virtual meeting that they are taking. 

Lockdown enforced many people to become savers, as there were so few opportunities to go out and spend money.  Investment activity has rapidly obtained new momentum.

The upshot is that we are fortunate to just had our record ever month at Angel Investment Network, and feel well placed and optimistic to enter 2021, despite the continued uncertainty. We’re mindful that it remains a challenging time for many.

Wishing you a happy festive season, even if it’s not what you hoped for, we hope that you at least get the quality downtime that you deserve. 

See you in 2021.

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#Behindtheraise with aisle 3

We spoke to aisle 3 co-founder and CEO Thomas J. Vosper about his business revolutionising the online shopping experience. He talks to us about bouncing back from redundancy, what he learnt from pitching to investors and his passion for ensuring we have #nomoretabs.

Tell us about aisle 3?
Like most people I find it super easy to find a car insurance provider, book a hotel in seconds or find availability on a flight based on what matters to me. So why is it so hard to find out all of my buying options for a set of wireless headphones? I am not alone in having to open endless tabs across multiple retailers and marketplaces when I shop online.

At aisle 3 we are building a brand and destination site so that shoppers can see all of the relevant product information, price and availability all on one screen. We are obsessed with a #nomoretabs experience that works for both shoppers and retailers.

Right now on aisle-3.co, shoppers can discover colour and size variations on one page for our launch products – trainers. We are actively looking for new commercial and investment partners to increase our offer.

What is your background?
I’ve been fascinated by ecommerce and both the shopper experience and the retailer relationship since I started as part of a small team in Amazon’s nascent UK marketplace in 2007. It’s crazy to remember that there was about a dozen of us occupying half of the 5th floor of a Slough office block!  I was lucky to launch thousands of merchants across the full range of categories and products over 6 years.

After learning a very different corporate experience at Tesco for a couple of years I joined a price comparison start up and grew its retailers from 6 to 45,000 in three years before it unfortunately went into administration.

I’ve spent the last 14 years trying to understand and support both sides of the purchase journey. I’m obsessed with learning more about how I can support shoppers whilst delivering value and growth to help retailers in the face of ever increasing commercial challenges.

How did the idea for the business come about?
My ecommerce baptism at Amazon fanned the flames of my shopper obsession but having worked with thousands of retailers and brands I’ve become increasingly aware that there is a struggle on the other side of the purchase journey. 

Showing shoppers all of their buying options needs to work in parallel with supporting retailers and brands.  

Finding myself unexpectedly redundant a couple of weeks before lockdown was the forceful kick that (thankfully with some amazing co-founders support) was needed to look at how we could tackle a fragmented online shopping experience.

We looked at the current price comparison incumbents as well as Amazon and Google and were staggered that no-one was able to aggregate information that means we would see all of our buying options on one tab. Given the resource and scale of some of these businesses we wanted to stretch ourselves to see if we could take on the technical challenge of #nomoretabs that no-one else has solved.*

*12 days after our pre-seed round we deployed our own three algorithms that means you can now see all the sizes and colours of a particular trainer.

How have you overcome challenges during COVID?
Our entire business has been built throughout lockdown which has meant we have had to work hard to hire and adopt a new company culture without ever meeting each other.

The shift to remote working has made it much easier for us to find talent to join the team from across the world, however this has impacted us in other ways that we didn’t consider in the midst of our own personal bubble of a global pandemic. 

Outside of the disruption of Covid our team has been affected by Floods (India), Government disruption (Belarus), political tension (Armenia), Black Lives Matter riots (USA) which highlights the challenges of a diverse international team.

We’ve tackled a lot of this by working very transparently, putting trust in each other to hit clearly defined goals whilst making sure that we have a growth mindset that encourages constant feedback loops and support. We shot through the free tier of Slack in just a few weeks!

What would you say to others who have faced redundancy during this difficult time?
We’re all in this together. It is very easy to reach out to friends, family, professional networks across calls, WhatsApp, LinkedIn, etc. and my experience is that people are actively looking to support anyone in a difficult position financially or emotionally.

I’m also personally very wary of perceived success on social media. I’ve been very proud of the grit the team and I have shown and our achievements this year but I’m not satisfied that I’ve made anything yet. Personally and with aisle 3, we are still at the very start of a journey that started in challenging times amongst an incredibly specific set of circumstances.

For every story of someone building a business on a credit card there are 99 that fail. What really motivated me was the outreach of support when I was openly discussing my personal challenge (no job) and the ambition I had to create a company that could impact every Shopper on the planet (aisle 3).

I’d encourage anyone who has been made redundant to reach out to their network and ask for support. It might just be that someone suggests something that you hadn’t considered and from difficult circumstances comes your next big personal development.

Why did you decide to raise investment?
In March I was made redundant and wondered how I was going to settle the credit card bill for my hotel in a month that I wasn’t going to be paid!

My personal financial circumstances were not prepared for a new business, even if I knew that my career and personal development had been leading up to this moment. 

I took out a £25k Virgin Start Up loan to get aisle 3 started but we knew that bringing in smart investors from a diverse background would elevate the business and we could relentlessly focus on growing a world-class consumer offering in a massive market.

I’m a big believer that we are better working together and knew, however capable the team was, that we couldn’t take on such a technical growth challenge alone. Our investors help us make the right commercial decisions whilst providing the financial support to build a shopper obsessed product that no-one else has mastered.

What are your top tips for anyone raising investment for the first time?
Even if you feel very clear on your mission and execution I’d recommend drawing up a list of ideal investors and then flip the order so you are saving the most relevant till later. You have to practice your pitch so that it evolves naturally. I remember the pride we felt with the version of our deck but cringe now at some of those early conversations as we found our feet.

Make sure that you can explain enough of your business to friends and family so they can get a general snapshot of your business and what you need the cash for. If you can’t do that you might find you struggle with the elevator pitch to potential investors.

The questions that caught me out, certainly at the start of my journey, were the simple ones that I expected an investor to know and made me doubt my own answer. I sometimes found that the savvy investors would often ask quite a direct and/or simple question to see how you react and answer rather than to hear the details.

If you don’t know the answer don’t try and talk around it. One of my proudest achievements in our business is that we have been able to surround ourselves with colleagues, advisors and investors that complete our knowledge gaps. Investing is a two-way partnership and perhaps the answer to a question from an investor is ‘what would you do and how can you support?’.

What attracted investors to your company?
Investors understood the problems aisle 3 is trying to solve and they related to their own shopper journey – especially when I was able to walk them through the competitive landscape and how we had already exceeded the current incumbents. I think, as shoppers, we are too accepting of the status quo and the need to open multiple tabs on your browser even though hotels, car insurance or flights are easy to compare.

Whatever the type of product and size of purchases the investors I spoke with all shared their personal stories of difficult online shopping experiences – from struggling to find the best deals on Google, to an uninspiring functional Amazon experience or broken comparison-shopping sites that they’d stumbled across.

It increased our conviction knowing just how much our mission can change the landscape of online shopping both for shoppers and for the retailers that struggle to convert to sales on the other side of this broken experience.

I already knew we were fixing a big problem but when investors tell me that we could be creating a unicorn business here in the UK, during a global pandemic, I feel incredibly inspired to push the business even harder and solve problems. 

My biggest fundraising mistake was…
I’ve made lots of mistakes! The hardest questions are often the simplest and I cringe a little thinking about an early conversation with a VC that asked quite directly what my role in the business was. That was probably one of the easiest questions to answer and I could have picked any five of the spinning plates that I manage and have delivered results in but I turned into a waffling mess! I’d spent so long prepping the intricate details of the technical challenge that I was ready to answer any question other than then ones I had assumed the investor would know.

The lesson for me, was that you can prepare all of the details, but don’t forget your value, what motivates you and how you drive the business forward. It’s not about trying to learn everything to fill the gaps in your expertise or responsibility – that’s what I have an expert team for and the sum is greater than the individual parts.

I have also learnt to better read the signs after spending far too long entertaining conversations that I see now were never going to bring investment. I found it very difficult to push hard for a ‘no’ and walk away at the right time when all the signs were there that we weren’t a good fit for each other. Thankfully, we have ended up with a cohort of smart investors who care about our mission and have been incredibly helpful in assisting the team and I. 

Why did you choose to use Angel Investment Network?
Whilst we had a great pool of industry experts from over the years, we knew that reaching out to external investors would help validate our business ambition and the capability of the team without the personal validation. 

We’d looked at a number of different options and thought that AIN was a platform that would help us clearly demonstrate our ambitious, unlock conversations to new, smart investors and would also provide a good central location for investors to point to when sharing our details. 

We decided to launch with the homepage feature on Tuesday, by Sunday had issued docs to the interested investors and closed the round the following Friday on target.

Featured

Agile Funding can help you raise fast

We are delighted to welcome back Adam Blair, CCO at SeedLegals, for his second guest blog as part of our legal mini-series for start ups:

When funding goes Agile

In our first article we discussed some of the different fundraising methods available to you as a founder, and the impact and benefits of the SEIS / EIS schemes. See How to close your funding round before the end of 2020 if you missed it or need a reminder…

This month we delve deeper into the world of agile fundraising and share some practical advice that can help you raise money for your business before the end of the year.

Making the most of the Christmas rush…

The run up to Christmas is always one of the busiest times of the year in terms of fundraising activity and investment. This can be a great time to look for investment, as many investors are looking to move quickly and close investments before heading off on their well earned break (even if this year that will be at home…).

With less than four weeks until Christmas, there’s not long left if you’re looking to raise investment this year. But all is not lost – agile fundraising enables you to raise investment quickly and flexibly in situations just like this.

What is agile fundraising?

Over the last couple of years at SeedLegals, we’ve observed that many early stage companies are moving away from go-big-or-go-bust funding rounds every 12 to 18 months in favour of agile fundraising where they raise small amounts frequently, taking investment opportunistically (e.g. when you meet someone who wants to invest) and as needed.

We now see the savviest founders use agile fundraising to grow their businesses faster, spend less time holding up the business while they look for investment, and give away less equity than founders relying solely on the traditional go-big-or-go-bust funding rounds.

The two main agile fundraising methods are SeedFAST (Advanced Subscription Agreement) and Instant Investment.

Advanced Subscription Agreement (ASA)

An Advanced Subscription Agreement is the UK equivalent of the SAFE (commonly used in the US) and is SEIS/EIS compatible – great news for you and investors.

An ASA allows investors to give you money now, in exchange for shares in your next funding round. Your ASA investors will receive their shares, generally at a discount compared to other investors in the round, because they invested early, when you close your next funding round. 

Instant Investment

Instant Investment allows founders to close an initial funding round like normal, and then top that up anytime, within limits agreed in the initial funding round.

This enables you to raise only what you need or are able to raise right now, and get back to growing your business. Then, as you find additional investors, you can quickly and easily add them, effectively topping up your last round. At SeedLegals, we regularly see founders close a funding round and continue raising using Instant Investment for 12-18 months before doing their next round.

You can read our comprehensive agile fundraising guide here

Is agile fundraising right for me?

There are a number of scenarios where you can use agile fundraising to your advantage, whether you are going out to investors for the first time or have raised multiple rounds of funding already.

Here are a few of the most common use cases we see at SeedLegals:

  1. You’ve found your first investor…

First investor on board – now to find the rest, right? Yes and no…

While one option is to keep your round open as you search for other investors, a better way could be to use ASA to get that money in ASAP, rather than keeping those investors (and their investments!) on hold while you line up all the other investors for your round.

With an ASA you get investment there and then, which can be used to invest in growth or extend your runway, and the investor generally receives a discount on the upcoming round in return.

The fact that one investor has already committed and transferred funds will also typically be viewed positively by other investors you’re speaking to.

  1. You can’t agree on / don’t want to commit to a valuation…

Is my valuation £500k? £1m? £3m? £5m? Agreeing a valuation for an early stage business can be a minefield. Luckily, we’ve written this article about how to think about valuing your startup…

Great! So you’re good to go… But there are still lots of cases where investors and founders simply can’t agree on a valuation or may strategically not want to agree a valuation at that time.

An ASA can help both parties here, giving you up to 6 months to finalise the valuation. As a founder, this not only gives you much needed cash, but also time to grow the valuation to a point where you and your investors are both happy.

  1. You’ve got your key investor(s) on board…

When fundraising, founders will often have certain investors they really want to get on board. Perhaps they’re writing the biggest cheque, have a great network, or are able to provide unique advice and insights.

You’ve landed your dream investor(s) and have a decent chunk of your target raise committed – now what? 

This is a great time to consider closing your round and continuing to raise using Instant Investment. Negotiations around valuation and key terms are likely to be finalised or close to finalised by now, meaning that other investors are likely to be signing up to the same terms. 

This approach means you receive funds and can put them to work immediately, whilst continuing to fill and complete your round.

  1. You’re just waiting on the last investor(s) to sign…

Everybody has signed, except one or two investors… One is going on holiday for two weeks and the other is dragging their feet. What do you do?

You could wait until they get back, but this just means more time thinking about fundraising vs. growing your business. Instead, you can let these investors know that you’re going to close the round without them, but (and very importantly) they will be able to invest at the same terms once they’re back, or ready to commit.

This approach can sometimes lead to investors suddenly being available to sign and transfer funds, meaning the round closes as initially planned. Either way the round closes sooner, without losing investors, a win/win.

Summary

If fundraising is dragging on, or you just want to move faster, agile fundraising could be just what you have been waiting for…

SeedLegals

Questions about agile fundraising, or fundraising in general? You can book a call with one of the SeedLegals experts, who will be happy to help.

Featured

#Behindtheraise with Occuity

We spoke to Occuity founder and CEO Dan Daly about his revolutionary new device diagnosing chronic health conditions via a patient’s eye, building a winning team and top tips in securing funding from angel investors.

Tell us about Occuity?

Currently, the diagnosis and monitoring of many chronic health conditions is inadequate, leading to people suffering when they don’t need to or even shortening their life expectancy. 

Occuity’s mission is to improve this damaging situation through the development of cutting edge technology and production of a range of devices that will enable the non-invasive measurement of these conditions. Our devices simply shine light into the eye and detect changes and markers that indicate the person’s health. The first of the many  devices in our development pipeline which will utilise our proprietary technology, is a hand held optical non-contacting pachymeter.

What is your background?

I have always been interested optics and lasers. I started out as a physicist, specialising in micro-optics (very, very small lenses) and measurements using light. It was fascinating how you could see down to the micron level with the right system. However, as I progressed, I moved away from doing the science and became more involved in the commercial side and actually applying these technologies to the real world. It was therefore an obvious next step to combine the two and form a company that utilised the powerful potential of optical measurements.

How did the idea for the device come about?

It started by thinking about what measurements you can do with light. Then a desire to make measurements that were worthwhile, and would make a difference. This led to the interest in healthcare. Building on this, I started to think about situations where people are required to make many, regular measurements. Diabetes is  the obvious example. Clearly doing this in a way that  is pain free and non-invasive would be a major advantage.


How did you recruit the team?

We have a great team with a huge amount of medical and engineering knowledge, experience and brain power. Having worked in this sector for a number of years, many of the team have worked together in the past. Most of our newer team members have come via personal contacts and recommendations, whilst some have even joined us after hearing about our plans through our website. We’re still growing and it’s exciting to see the team develop, but as our growth increases, it’s important we utilise the right channels to make sure we’re able to recruit the best talent, whether this is directly or through specialists agencies.  

How have you overcome challenges during COVID?
We were relatively fortunate that when COVID hit, we were a still a nimble start up and  a lot of the engineering was still at the “developed in a garage” stage. This meant we were able to (literally) go back into the garage during lockdown and continue the development unabated.

We are also in the fortuitous position that as our measurements are non-contacting, they are much safer than the existing devices we are seeking to replace, as these devices must physically contact the patient or draw their blood. There is definitely a mood in the healthcare sector that the more you can do remotely, the better. The risk of spreading infections, causing accidental harm or pain is completely removed by our non-contacting devices, which is great news for both the patient and the clinician.

Why did you decide to raise investment?
Due to the length of time it takes to run clinical trials and obtain regulatory approval, medical devices are very expensive to develop and of course you can’t sell them to generate revenues until you’ve successfully completed the regulatory process. 

It was therefore necessary for us to raise funds and  we will  undertake further funding rounds before we get to market.

What are your top tips for anyone raising investment for the first time?
Firstly, don’t push the valuation too high initially. Leave some headroom for future rounds so that those coming in later have a reason to invest.

Secondly, look for investors who bring more than just cash. It can be contacts, market experience or whatever, but once they are championing your company, it adds significant value.

What attracted investors to your company?
It was definitely a combination of factors. A large part of the attraction is the upside potential of Occuity. We have a proprietary technology, protected by nine patents, and an expert team developing products which deliver clear solutions to large and growing markets. The opportunity is tremendous.

Take the glucose monitoring market as an example. This market alone is now worth over $14bn, and that is based on people sticking needles into themselves. It’s widely predicted that the first company with a non-invasive solution will take a large share of that very valuable market.

But the attraction is also the chance to be involved in something that’s doing good and significantly improving the quality of life for hundreds of millions of people.

My biggest fundraising mistake was…
Timing. It always takes longer than you think to run a fundraising campaign and with COVID and lockdown layered on top, we should in hindsight have started earlier.

Why did you choose to use Angel Investment Network?

It is the breadth and experience of the network that adds so much value. Most networks are regional and so draw on a limited pool of angels. The AIN is global and as such we were able to raise funds internationally from people who offer distribution support in countries where we would otherwise have no links. In addition, the team are great to work with and we trusted that they could help us succeed, and they did.

Featured

Angel Investment Network reports impressive annual growth

Angel Investment Network (AIN), has announced impressive annual growth, with annual revenues up 5% year on year and the last quarter seeing revenues increasing by 14%.

We now have more than 1.4 million users in total on the platform. In the past twelve months we’ve overseen a record 192,000 new registrations from entrepreneurs. The figure has almost tripled in the past five years with new entrepreneurial hotspots developing across the globe. Encouragingly for the businesses on the platform there is also more investor activity than ever with a record number of connections made despite the unfortunate circumstances this year.

Despite the pandemic, there has been impressive growth across Europe, with Germany seeing a 40% increase in revenue, the Netherlands up 130% and France up 27%. The USA has also seen a rise of 27%. Our performance has received plaudits from several media outlets, being covered by Techround, Growth Business UK, Bdaily, Business Mondays and Angel News.

Alongside the online platform, AIN also runs a successful broking division. Despite the challenging conditions it has seen impressive revenues year on year, despite longer funding rounds in today’s climate. AIN has been involved in several significant high profile raises in the past 12 months for a variety of businesses, including edtech startup BibliU, digital addressing startup OKHi and YouTube karaoke channel Sing King. 

Despite the backdrop of the global recession and pandemic, AIN’s results reveal the embedded startup culture both in the UK and internationally. They also highlight the enduring popularity of passion-driven angel investors as a source of early stage funding.

According to AIN co-founder Mike Lebus: “2020 has been a time of unprecedented turbulence for the startup world, as it has for general society. Despite the challenges, we continue to see record numbers of startups look for funding on our platform and angels willing to invest. The solutions to so many of the problems we face are in the minds of startup founders and we are proud of the work we are able to do to help them fund their ambitions.”

He continues: “We continue to see strong international growth with startup communities developing throughout the world. We now have 40 networks extending to 90 different countries. We are also building new partnerships with accelerators and continue to offer tailored offerings in the property sector with BrickTribe and impact investment with SeedTribe.”

Featured

What’s in-store for Google’s finest at the Xoogler Demo Day?

Jenny Collins brings her passion & experience for bringing together smart, impactful R&D teams, across Google – to optimize the European start-up eco-system, and in particular connect Xoogler (“ex-Googler”) entrepreneurs with angel & capital investment.

So what can we expect from the Xoogler Demo Day?

This is the annual opportunity for ex-Googlers who have founded their own start-up to connect with investors.

This year, we have 170+ investors lined up and we are selecting 15 of the most credible start-ups from around three times that many applications. We’ll help each of them to create a succinct & delicious elevator pitch, of 2 slides in 2 mins & 2 Q&As, to attract further discussion in the social element of the day.

I’ll be simply there to present the talent: we have keynote speakers, all the major capital & angel investors signed up and we are sponsored by Landscape, which seeks to reward great behaviours in the investment world and Remo.co as our platform.

But it’s not just about funding; it’s about creating an entrepreneurial community, in this locked-down world. It’s a space to connect like-minded people & expertise; to absorb advice, be inspired, to show off, and to express frustration; to laugh. 

Are there any common themes for the companies attending? 

Companies must have at least one former Google Employee as a founder, be committed enough to the goal to be working on it full time, to have raised initial seed at least from friends & family, right up to series A and be rallying further funds. Companies will need to have an initial MVP to showcase and be able to demonstrate customer traction. 

How does Google support Xoogler startups?

We have folks from inside & outside Google who help out; it’s entirely voluntarily – Xooglers tend to be self-reliant and like most things at Google, people help out because they are interested, not because they have to. We may look to syndicate further virtual demos to become more self reliant. 

How would you describe the characteristics of a Xoogler?

It’s a terrific blend of folks who are smart & humble enough to get through Google’s interviews, schooled in how to create globally scalable tech, and a desire & determination to now do things themselves.

What type of investors are you expecting?

We have everything from Googlers who are starting to fund early stage ex-colleagues, about 50 seasoned angel investors, right up to companies like Atomico, Sequoia, Seedcamp, etc. 

Have there been exciting successes from previous years?

It’s always fantastic when people you know do well, like Ex-Google Engineer Lewis Hemens, co-founder of dataform.co, who pitched in 2017, going on to complete Y Combinator & raise a seed round with a top European VC. The most recent exit is Irish based Pointy for $163m, and then (ironically) acquired by Google in Jan 2020.

How has Covid affected the demo day?

In response to Covid-19, XDD is now virtual, which has brought the future forward suddenly.

This makes it easier for more speculative investors to attend, but also means it’s even more requisite, because those coffee morning conversations and water cooler moments, in real life, are less frequent. Online community is increasingly important to promulgate this sector. 

Are there any practical takeaways for our entrepreneurs? 

Now is the time to get your startup sorted, to be ready to take UK/Europe out of lockdown Spring 2021. It will come quickly and there are plenty of gaps to fill that big corps are too busy scaling and often aren’t agile enough to notice.  

What was the biggest thing that you learnt personally whilst working at Google?

Always assume best intent.

Anything else?

If you are an investor interested in attending the event, or a suitable start up, you can apply here.

Featured

Founder Market Fit & what it means for early stage planning

In his second guest post for Angel Investment Network, Dan Simmons, CEO of Propelia, explains ‘How understanding the shift from Product Market Fit to Founder Market Fit in the pre-seed space can now help influence your early stage thinking and planning’:

Understanding The Shift 

There is a recognisable shift starting to happen in the early stage space. A shift that is important to be aware of and understand whether you are a founder or investor. A shift away from Product Market Fit and towards Founder Market Fit around and for pre-seed investment. This shift essentially means the way certain angel investors are starting to evaluate early stage founders is beginning to change. Change away from the traditional lenses that model and evaluate Product Market Fit towards a new phase where different tools, frameworks and assessment criteria are at play.

We can see this shift clearly by comparing and contrasting the two diagrams below:

We can see from the Product Market Fit diagram, that as you move forward, it essentially at each stage relies on and is informed by tools and lenses like OKRs, YOY, NPS, KPIs, CAC and CLV to chart founder progression and development. A progression that many founders when trying to structure and project the progress of their start up onto find very difficult to navigate. A difficulty that often then causes them to come up with and put forward assumptions and future projections that are essentially best guesses – just to align with Product Market Fit based questioning and be attractive to and try and close their potential investment.

However we can see that by shifting the focus towards Founder Market Fit, the nature of the early stage journey distinctly and meaningfully changes. 

Here we can see that different criteria are being used to assess value and progress of the founder, that utilise much more human language and exploratory values when compared to the tools and lenses of Product Market Fit. This is critical as to why this shift is increasingly attractive to and in the interest of early stage pre-seed founders.

Why This Shift Is Occurring Now?

For a long time the tools of Product Market Fit have been the only way to really evaluate an early stage founder and their future start up journey. This often creates an asymmetry and many ensuing systemic problems in the ongoing dynamics between founder and investor. Both parties when evaluating an early stage funding deal, are of course looking to gain comfort that the road ahead is valuable and worth pursuing together. The tools around Product Market Fit have been an attempt to create that comfort and generate that degree of future certainty.

A certainty that was always speculative at best. Ask any founder who has been asked over and over again to create and then endlessly tweak a 3 year spreadsheet of projections and you will be met with the frustrations and self-evident limitations of this methodology and approach in the pre-seed space.

However will market conditions now very much being set to ‘Uncertain’ post-COVID, it is clear that any founder predicting more than 6 months out is simply putting ‘their finger in the air’ and practising some sort of start up fortune telling with no real basis in the reality of events unfolding on the ground. For the first time, both investors and founders can agree that a change is needed to adapt to this underlying uncertainty – particularly around evaluating those first 6 months in the early stage space. This is all important in creating the conditions for the shift from Product Market Fit to Founder Market Fit.

Who Are Some Of The Key Stakeholders Helping Make This Shift Happen?

This shift is being fuelled by various key stakeholders in the early stage space that are sensing the market timing and opportunity to fuel and propel it forward. These range from early stage funds that are realising that updating towards Founder Market Fit is both valuable, viable and attractive as their pre-seed market positioning. Indeed by adopting this approach it could immediately make them more ‘founder friendly’ and differentiate them from their rival funding firms who are still focused on the tools of Product Market Fit and therefore lack this new perspective. Forward Partners and The Fund are good examples of this or early stage firms talking this language. 

However there are also additional stakeholders that are worth noting and exploring further. Here’s a few of them worth exploring.

 The legal parties that specialise in the early stage space. Companies like SeedLegals offering Agile Funding solutions that enable founders to take on smaller tranches of funding in a much more fluid and ongoing manner than if they were completing a larger round – see here:

The increasing awareness around Founder wellbeing and how applying the lens and pressure of Product Market Fit too early can have adverse effects on mental health. Many founders report the same symptoms and sleepless nights having to prove the projections they previously plucked from the ‘spreadsheet ether’ last quarter at their next investor meeting. See founder peer support groups like Foundrs who are there to ‘help one another break new ground without breaking ourselves’ and Courier’s excellent Founder wellbeing report.

In recent years this shift has been enabled by the application of R&D and Innovation Grants to the early stage space by forward thinking companies such as GrantTree and Data Fox. These companies have been able to reclaim capital spent and invested in innovative new products, services, processes, software or systems and are often willing to be engaged on a no-win, no-fee, no-risk basis. This has provided an alternative route to financing and capital in the early stage and is particularly well orientated to outputs of Founder Market Fit.

A final stakeholder that has emerged in recent years that helps value this shift differently are firms like Coller IP and Valuation Consulting who are managing to put the softer and intangible assets – like brand, business models, know-how and sweat equity – on the early stage balance  so that they can be factored into larger rounds. This starts to assign an actual value to the dynamics of Founder Market Fit that were previously considered to have a marginal worth at best when compared to the more tangible metrics and measures of Product Market Fit.

How This Shift Might Affect Early Stage Funding?

If you are currently engaged in an early stage funding round or indeed considering one, it might be useful to pause and think about the difference in approaches between Product Market Fit and Founder Market Fit. Whilst this shift is visible and happening it is still quite new, even to sophisticated investors who regularly fund founders and their pre-seed start ups. 

You should both as founders and investors feel like you have the permission from the outset to discuss and delineate which approach is being taken. They are both very different with different paths with different evaluative criteria and measured outcomes. Critically once you are down one path and everyone is aligned to that approach, it is notoriously hard to reverse out of. 

However factored in up front an awareness of the choice around this shift could help fuel a different type of initial conversation between founder and investor that helps from the outset frame and articulate future aims, expectations and values. It could even form part of an early whiteboarding or brainstorming session between founder (and their team) and potential investors.

Just by being aware of the shift and bringing it into the conversation is at the very least a sophisticated early basis for discussion.

How Do You Assess Where You Are On This Shift?

Finally a quick diagram to assess where you are at in relation to this shift. It is suggested that if you are in the pre-seed space then Founder Market Fit may well be the more suitable approach. This may also be the case if you are still in the Seed funding stage.

However it is likely that if you are in the Series A or above that you are further down the line in the territory and terrain of Product Market Fit and its evaluative tools and approach are still more suited to you.

The good news for everyone, is that by being aware of where you are in relationship to this shift, then all conversations and their related lenses, tools and frameworks, can start to hopefully become more ‘fit for purpose’ and ultimately as a result, more valuable for all parties and stakeholders involved.

Dan Simmons – Propelia Founder // dan@propelia.com 

Propelia is the UK accelerator navigating the use of Pilot Rounds in the pre-seed space in our post-COVID times. A Pilot Round is designed to rapidly connect early stage founders with aligned investors, to enable them to leverage SEIS capital to fuel, test and iterate uncertain market assumptions and prove Founder Market Fit over the next 6 months. Once completed, this enables them to then evaluate and ideally increase the value of  the greenlighting of a subsequent larger round to fund the further launch of their product and operations. All diagrams in this article remain the Copyright of Propelia Limited

Featured

7 software due diligence considerations

By Roger Planes, CEO Silicon Rhino

Investing in tech startups can be daunting, especially if you don’t have a tech background. Investing in new ideas, market opportunities and teams can be exciting, and should remain the most important deciding factors when considering an investment. Here are a few points to focus on from a software due diligence perspective.

Documentation

Documentation is hardly at the top of the priority list of many early stage companies. While the tech team may know all the ins and outs of the project by memory, it will be much harder to onboard new developers or take over the tech if the need arises.  Projects and quirks in the systems should be well documented.

At the very least, any startup should have a set of documentation to allow someone else to pick up the project if the key people became incapacitated.

Roadmap

Early stage startups usually fall into the trap of prioritising features due to customer feedback or potential deals in the pipeline. Ask for a 12 month roadmap to understand how the product will evolve going forward. 

Having a roadmap in place will serve as a general direction, but understand tech startups operate in an agile environment so feature prioritization may change to best achieve market fit.

Resourcing

The convention of a tech startup needs to have a tech team is being challenged. So long as there’s access to reliable resources to build the product, a product can easily go to market whether the team is in-house or not. What matters is how well the company is able to explain the relationship and access of the resource and how these resources are prioritised.


Leveraging third party systems

Early stage startups should focus in building and iterating the core of their product first and foremost. When resources are not widely available the team needs to prioritise what should be built by the company itself versus what third party tools can be integrated into the system. Payment processors like Stripe or Braintree are one the best examples for a product that takes payments but isn’t part of the core offering. Make sure the team is focused sharp in the product USP and integrate other tools to help speed up development.

Customer Data

Another advantage of using third party software is delegating the regulatory requirements and storage of sensitive customer data like credit card and payments. While you shouldn’t expect developers to be experts in data security, the team should be aware of the current laws, their obligations and have plans to improve security in the product roadmap if it’s not as robust as it could be.

Architecture

There are infinite ways to architect a technical product, and all of them have their pros and cons depending on budget, resources available and product availability. 

The most important pitfall to look for is the opportunity for a single point of failure. An example of this would be having your whole test stack plus storage in a single server or virtual machine. In case of failure or unavailability (it happens) this would mean the company and their customers wouldn’t access any data while the incident lasts. Distributing the technical stack between different services or microservices will lessen the risk in case of disaster.

Disaster Recovery

Technology can sometimes be unpredictable, so every tech team should have at least a disaster recovery plan in case there are problems with the hosting of the platform or some external services. Asking about backup location and periodicity, how long would it take to relaunch the tech stack in case of failure will give you an understanding about how much the team is thinking about disaster recovery.

This is by no means meant to be an exhaustive list but should highlight the common areas you should have a high level view over for potential additions to your portfolio (and potentially reviewing these points on your existing investments). All these areas can be relatively easily overcome in the early stages of a company. If these questions throw up something unexpected that gives concern, please speak to a trusted advisor. 

Next Steps

If you would like to receive further tips from Silicon Rhino about how to implement Technical Due Diligence, sign up here.

Featured

Looking back to help you launch forward


Propelia is a UK accelerator that has worked with early stage founders since 2012, developing the concept of ‘Pilot Rounds’ in the pre-seed space. A Pilot Round that essentially identifies and connects founders with aligned investors, to enable them to quickly leverage SEIS capital to fuel, test and iterate strategic market assumptions over the next 6 months.

It’s a shift towards ‘Founder Market Fit’ which is seeing new tools, frameworks and approaches currently being developed, to enable greater deal flow alignment and fluidity in the early stage space – where ideally everyone wins. 

Dan Simmons, Propelia CEO, shares his view of taking a different perspective for early stage fundraising:

Why understanding a founder’s journey through the 3 lenses of Projection > Planning and Proof can help you better evaluate the uncertain market problem now available to navigate and disrupt.

There are very few data points to help successfully plot the course forward if you are a founder or investor trying to launch into an uncertain market sector – particularly in these post-Covid times. This is why start up evaluation often revolves around incorporating and using future facing concepts and lenses like OKRs and NPS.

In truth for both parties this often feels like a ‘finger in the air’ exercise at best. A planning and strategic framework which can just about be used long enough in order to create and gain enough comfort to cross the line, move forward and often then quickly adjust as events invariably change on the ground.

Perhaps instead of looking forwards we need to to more frequently start looking backwards. Back into a better understanding and appreciation of the founder’s journey. Not just how they got from A > B > to their current pitch deck, but towards the consistent patterns of behaviour, exploration and also mistakes that have informed how they have arrived at a point where they wish to try and tackle an uncertain market problem and navigate with the associated risks.

Propelia has taken this approach with its founders since 2012. By doing so we have consistently found that when you truly look at a founder who has a nuanced and ongoing journey into their market sector, you commonly can discern similar signs, patterns and behaviours. These often enable both founder and investor to better assess whether the timing is now right to venture further and essentially invest in each other. 

Here’s some tools and tips that over the years we’ve found useful to hopefully better help you with a different kind of looking backwards evaluation:

TIP 1: PROJECTION

Too often when we talk about founders we refer to how they are disrupting the present. Almost every pitch deck in the last 5-10 years has featured commentary, speculation and projection on how their start up will disrupt their sector – often within the next 2-3 years.

However a new key element post-Covid has recently been added to and baked into the mix. That of the uncertain future. Seemingly the only thing that’s now certain is that this new feature of uncertainty will bear relevance and have to be factored in going forward.

Image © Propelia Ltd 2020

This can lead to a form of paralysis between founder and investors as they try and understand, incorporate and navigate this new terrain into their evaluation. 

It’s here where introducing a new horizon around the concept of the ‘Almost Now’ can prove to be very useful in breaking this deadlock. The Almost Now becomes like a whitespace of a horizon that can be projected onto and forecasted into that is suspended between the Disrupted Present and the Uncertainty Future. It is essentially saying this is the horizon around which we can now collectively meaningfully explore and evaluate, with the understanding that it will be inflected and affected constantly by changes in market conditions.

Interestingly it is founders whose journey opens up a unique path into this horizon of the Almost Now who find themselves most comfortable working and operating in this liminal space. For investors this is an immediate piece of feedback that if a founder can behave in this way addressing the Almost Now, then they are likely to be more adept and agile to work with when going forward.

TIP 2: PLANNING

Building on the above, any founder that has a journey that justifies them launching into a disrupted market sector should start to demonstrate and embody an understanding around a new framework that places the navigation of uncertainty as the key new function that informs future planning and strategy.

Like with PROJECTION above, founders with a deeper journey and understanding will be more comfortable baking in these two new functions into their plans and pitches. Equally founders without this journey will find this very uncomfortable and may demonstrate signs that they wish to only look forward via more traditional planning and strategy lenses and insights.

This new framework is emerging and impacting across all businesses and represents a real competitive opportunity for those start ups that are ready and agile enough to organise and execute in this way.

TIP 3:  PROOF

Finally, there are a couple very simple questions that as a founder you should be ready for and as an investor you can ask instead of things that would represent a traditional elevator pitch. Questions that quickly provide and demonstrate some PROOF that the founder’s journey might currently have relevancy, currency and influence over their market sector. 

These questions are:

Question 1  

Who could you now send a text to that is recognised as having authority over the market sector you’re looking to launch into that would i) immediately consider your question and ii) likely respond to you with their insight and input within the next 24 hours?

Question 2

Which email conversation in your inbox represents an ongoing dialogue with someone of influence that if it comes to fruition, could add immediate acceleration to your planning and strategy?


The 3 x tips above are just some initial ways to try and reveal insight into a founder that might be far easier to glean and assess by looking backwards, as opposed to consistently when approaching a new founder treating them as if they are essentially a blank slate and asking about future projections that both parties know are guesstimates at best. 

Just by being aware that there is this often underexplored terrain in the founder’s journey, that can start to be evaluated by simple lenses like the ones above. might mean that in these uncertain times, we can start better identifying, supporting and backing founders that are genuinely ready to cross the threshold in the unknown of the next stage of their venture.

Dan Simmons // Founder – Propelia – September 2020


Featured

What is a Portfolio Career anyway?

Ben Legg’s career has spanned army officer, McKinsey strategy consultant, COO of Google Europe and global technology CEO. He has worked in over 60 countries, has five kids and is a self professed exercise nut.

AIN caught up with him to learn about the new emerging trend of ‘Portfolio Careers’.

What’s a portfolio career? And what is the Portfolio Collective?

A portfolio career involves monetising your skills in many ways and having multiple income sources, rather than a single job at one company.

The Portfolio Collective is a movement and a community, centred around a platform, whose mission is to help all professionals launch and then continually optimise their portfolio careers. 

We are building a ‘market network’ platform that will work better than LinkedIn for portfolio professionals, along with some great networking, job finding and training resources.

Do you have a portfolio career?

Yes I do. My primary focus is helping startup CEOs to build great companies and improve society – in education, healthcare and other industries needing to be reinvented. I do this through mentoring roles, board positions, consulting projects and investing. 

What’s driving the ‘movement’?

According to the OECD 50% of all workers will have portfolio careers by 2030. However, setting up a portfolio career is hard – you are effectively the CEO, head of strategy, marketing director, public face, sales lead, customer service team, engineer and CFO of your own company. Yet no other organisation was trying to help portfolio professionals get set up and learn all these things. That is our driving force.

Do you see members with the entrepreneur community?

All portfolio professionals are entrepreneurs. They all have drive and passion, plus the self confidence/ craziness to give up a full time job to give something more entrepreneurial a shot. Many are comfortable remaining a single person company. Others see a portfolio career as a stepping stone to building and funding a new venture.

How about the investment community?

We have many angel investors within our community. Being a portfolio professional and startup investor are a very neat fit. As an angel investor you often need startups who need help, and have the time and skills to offer it.

What are the big changes to people’s careers that you anticipate?

There has been an evolution of career norms for decades – you can think of it as ‘atomisation’. Starting in the 1950s with ‘jobs for life’, we moved to ‘jobs for years’ to a separation of ‘core’ permanent jobs vs ‘temporary’ work conducted by consultants, interim roles, part-timers, external experts and freelancers. That is where we are now.

 The next stage is companies shrinking the core number of permanent ‘generalist’ roles even further, to reduce fixed costs, providing more flexibility and taking greater advantage of global experts (who tend to be portfolio professionals). Lockdown has accelerated this, as when people are working from home companies no longer need to hire the best talent in their town – they can leverage talent globally.

What are the biggest advantages of having a portfolio career?

Portfolio professionals tend to earn more than double the rate per hour or per day vs permanent employees doing the same work, so if you can stitch together a large enough portfolio of work, you can earn significantly more, while also paying less tax. It is also lower financial risk than having one single permanent job, as losing one client doesn’t mean you have no income.

A portfolio career is also much more enjoyable. You do only work that you enjoy and are world class at. You can work from anywhere and have a lot more flexibility to try and find the right work-life balance.

What are some of the challenges? And how do you help people overcome them?

There are many minor challenges that you need to overcome to build a portfolio career. One of the bigger and more important ones comes at the very beginning – helping portfolio professionals audit their skills and knowledge, to identify the most monetisable ones, and then shaping their narrative to come across as differentiated and professional. This ‘define your value’ work takes up a third of our Catapult (four week launch) course, as it is such an important and tricky subject.

How can people get involved?

If you are keen to learn more fast, come to one of my weekly Portfolio Career Workshops:

Ben hosts a weekly Portfolio Career workshop. Tickets are usually £25, but are free for the AIN community using the code: TPCFriends

Sign up here.

Featured

#BehindtheRaise with BorrowMyDoggy

We spoke to BorrowMyDoggy founder Rikke Rosenlund about disrupting the dog-sitting market, overcoming challenges during COVID and dos and don’ts in approaching angel investors. You’d be barking mad not to read on.

Tell us about BorrowMyDoggy?
BorrowMyDoggy is an online platform connecting dog owners with borrowers. People sign up, create a profile, write a little bit about themselves or their dog and then they’re able to take a look at the suitable matches in their area. Matches are based on location and availability, and it’s all about getting to know each other really well before sharing the dog.

For owners, it is a way of finding a trusted local dog lover to take care of your dog when you can’t. You can rest assured they will treat your dog like family. For borrowers it is a chance to have a dog in your life by spending time with one and helping out owners at the same time. Dogs also get more exercise, attention and most importantly, love. It’s a win-win! It could be someone who has just had a baby who might need someone to help take care of their dog. They might be connected with someone who has a five year old but can’t commit to the full time commitment, but has a dog void in their life. Every match is very different.

What does it cost?
£12.99 per years for borrowers and £44.99 per year for owners and all the members are verified and covered by insurance. They have 24/7 vet access. No money is exchanged between borrowers and owners, as borrowing is based on the love of dogs rather than for a profit.

How have you overcome challenges during COVID?
Of course it has been challenging. We put a notification at the start of the crisis to say don’t meet someone else from another household, although there were some exceptional circumstances. What has been truly heartwarming is seeing the community come together. During COVID we’ve seen different members of our community perform selfless acts, for example delivering medication to other members who were self isolating. 

Overall the interest in dogs has surged during COVID and many more people are looking at owning them. However it is important that people understand the cost and time commitment of having a dog. 97% of dog owners underestimate the cost, which is £21-£33,000 over its lifetime. A lot more people have got dogs during lockdown but a lot of people are going back to the office. There is also separation anxiety to consider.

Why did you decide to raise investment?
We wanted to grow our platform further, both acquiring new members and also optimize the product and make the platform better. The extra investment means more staff and technical work on the platform and customer acquisition.

What are your top tips for anyone raising investment for the first time?
Firstly understand it is a process that can take time and not something you can do over night. Make sure you understand investors. This means do your due diligence on interested parties. Also have someone review the investor deck so you can get feedback on the material. Finally check a crowdfunding platform if you want an idea of top investor questions.  I would also look at the top questions you would expect and have answers ready for them. 

What attracted investors to your company?
The dog sitting market is worth over £1 billion. This is something we are trying to disrupt and we really are the first of the kind. It is also helped that many investors are dog lovers. They could ‘get it’ instinctively and understand it would be great to have something looking after their dog. The other key thing that appealed was the product. We are a large community, we have some really strong numbers. A lot of our investors had heard about the platform. 

What has been good for acquisition?
Online acquisition, PR and world of mouth has been great. We also have an engaged community who are happy to recommend us. 

My biggest fundraising mistake was…
Historically realising how long it can take to raise funding. You need to be prepared that it may be longer, especially when it is the first time. For example with angel groups, they don’t necessarily meet that often. Even with a crowdfunding platform there is a lot of work to get a pitch ready and then the closing off of the investment round.

Any other advice?
Understand who has the capacity to follow on relatively easily if the company requires more money. Checking out the record of the investor is a good way of doing this. How do they add value to the company? Do they have a network they can introduce you to? Also, do you have good chemistry with the investor? It’s like getting married, because it’s hard to get divorced! 

Why did you choose to use Angel Investment Network?
A friend raised funding for the network and  thought it was really easy to use. I found it straightforward to see what was required to get a pitch live and the team is very nice.

Featured

#BehindtheRaise with WeCoffee

We spoke to Ben Carew, Co-Founder at We Coffee, about how to complete a successful fundraise, and also equally important, what not to do.

WeCoffee aims to provide flexible and affordable workspace for post Covid working, along with curated events.

Benjamin Carew, Co-Founder of WeCoffee

Tell us about WeCoffee:

WeCoffee was created to make working from anywhere something anyone could enjoy. 

By curating  a distributed network of free and unique workspaces and a community you can cowork with online and in real life, we believe we are well on the way to achieving this. 

Why did you decide to raise investment?

We decided to raise investment so that we could bring our unique and exciting model for coworking to the whole world. Something that mine and my business partner’s lifetime savings wouldn’t quite allow, at least at the speed with which we want to do it. 

People often ask why the speed and scale matters and for us we see a window of opportunity, while the world’s ways of working are changing, to allow a better social norm. 

We believe for too long the standards have been set by employers with outdated policies, or more recently landlords hijacking the term coworking only to supply fixed office space as a service. 

We want to make sure that the future of work will give power and choice back to the worker, ensuring a happier and more productive worklife. 

What is your top tip for anyone raising investment for the first time?

I’m going to be cheeky here and give a few:

  • Angel investors are people not ATMs, understand them and make them feel confident and safe with you by treating them how you would like to be
  • Be firm on your timeline, if you don’t have one set one 
  • Don’t be shy to check they actually want to invest, not just introduce you
  • Treat it as near to a full time job as you can. Maybe 50% off the time, as yes you need to run a business. 
  • As soon as you have a yes, add them to the term sheet. Its less scary to follow someone else
  • If VCs keep being really nice but don’t invest your probably too early. Save yourself the time and build more traction and try and do an Angel round or friends and family
  • Be flexible in what your raising, if you get half can you make a business or the next step? If double what would you do? 
  • Don’t be scared to say no. We met one total **** who was incredibly aggressive, wanted to force a board member who was an ex-founder removed from the company by their shareholders for negligence, thought WeWork’s IPO would go through and that only 8 banks failed in the 2008 crisis. We were very happy to not molly his coddle 
  • Lastly join WeCoffee as there are lots of us on or who have been on this journey. We are more than happy to help one another avod the ****, find the right investors and generally navigate the startup world. 

What attracted investors to your company?

You would probably have to ask them, but I think a big part of it was the total and utter passion that is born out of us as a team. We clearly know and love what we do, so if you believe in the idea that we won’t all work in an office 5 days a week, there is no better horse to back. 

My biggest fundraising mistake was…

It took me some time to realise that I needed to run it like any other business activity, as a structured process. I spent months pitching at intermittent events and meetings waiting for my angel to land in lap not realising what I was doing was practising.

I was at the wrong events, with no real investors; and worse meetings with the wrong people who were more interested in introductions than investing. 

Once I sat down, opened the round in SeedLegals, got all my deliverables in place, built a sales funnel and set a firm date to close the round then I was well on the way. 

Why did you choose to use Angel Investment Network?

I used AIN as it came across to meet my target investors (angels), as it had a wealth of investors that I could filter for by sector. Insanely helpful! 

If it wasn’t for you Angel Investment Network we wouldn’t have raised as much as we did.

Keen to hear more?

Try out one of WeCoffee’s online networking events to meet ‘creatives, marketing gurus, product creators, free thinkers, entrepreneurstech geeks, doers and dreamers’.

Sign up here for a 100% discount, i.e free entry.

Featured

#SixtySecondStartUp with Pharma Sentinel

We caught up with Rav Roberts, CEO of Pharma Sentinel to hear his plans for their new ‘Medsii’ app, which makes it easy to discover if your medicines have unsafe side effects, give allergic reactions or have been recalled for safety reasons.

Rav Roberts, CEO, Pharma Sentinel
  1. What does your company do?

    Pharmasentinel.com is a pioneering B2C2B healthtech, leveraging AI to provide our users with trusted, timely and tailored medicines and medical conditions (mental health, diabetes, skin conditions) news, information, alerts and related content such as video podcasts, live streaming.

    We also give 10% of our profits to patient-support charities such as Bipolar UK & the British Menopause Society, as chosen by our users. We launch with our consumer app called Medsii (medicines information for me) in 4 weeks time, yikes!
  1. Why did you set up this company?

    Our Chief Scientific Officer Nasir (a Co-Founder) used to work for the UK’s medicines regulator (the Department of Health) and noticed a big gap in the market for timely medicines information, e.g. drug safety alerts & recalls, clinical trial results & opportunities.

    I also suffer from Diabetes, as does my mother, and our research showed that 46% of the UK’s population (29 million people) take at least 1 repeat prescription for a chronic condition. It’s not all elderly people either, as 50% of women in their 40s do so.
  1. How did you get your first customer?

    We haven’t yet, already we have many friends and family who take regular medicines lined up to try the app. It’s completely free to use and has a very engaging ‘Twitter’ style interface, so why not give it a go?!
  1. We knew we were onto something when?

    When we realised the Total Addressable Market and Serviceable Obtainable Markets were huge; many people use Google (over 1 billion health related searches a day, but results include ads, links to blogs) and even social media for important medicines info, but that could contain wrong or misleading results; no one helps people by linking them to patient support group charities for help;

    No one provides personalised, relevant, trusted medicines & conditions info via easy to understand push alerts. I have used our product in testing to warn me against drinking grapefruit juice with one of my medicines as it’s extremely dangerous!   
  1. Our business model:

    1. We launch with our consumer App called Medsii (Medicines information for me), which will collect 1st party data on users in a GDPR compliant way (side effects, locations, medicines/conditions liked, followed, shared, saved) and which already has its own data, e.g. clinical trial results.
    2. We augment this 1st party data with 3rd party data.
    3. Our data platform runs machine-learning algos to identify patterns and predict future events, e.g. the probability of a drug that has passed a phase 1 clinical trial eventually being approved, and roughly when.
    4. We sell this data-as-a service to businesses, e.g. pharmaceuticals, insurance, financial analysts even companies like Unilever and Chanel (who will be interested in the skin condition data insight we’ve collected). Note that we also monetise our consumer App (subscriptions, in-app purchases and advertising (no drug ads though!).
  1. Our most effective marketing channel has been:

    Without a doubt, Facebook. Not only are billions of a target customers there, but we can micro-target them with custom and lookalike audiences and even better, they have people who walk you through how to do it really well! (Fiverr also has some great marketers on there).

    LinkedIn is really good for engaging with business people (for our B2B products) and Twitter is great for linking up with angel and VC investors, all over the world!
  1. What we look for when recruiting:

    Passion, integrity, evidence of continuous learning (even following people on Twitter to learn more about a particular subject), desire to help other people less fortunate and ideally EVIDENCE that they’ve actually done it (e.g. volunteering to help the elderly or doing a fun run to raise money for breast cancer etc).. We run a very flat organisation and we were all virtual even before Coronavirus hit! 
  1. The biggest mistake that I’ve made is:

    So many really. I guess my biggest was in my  first startup in San Francisco: We had a great product but I didn’t think about our go-to-market and distribution strategy, i.e. how to get and increase traction (users, usage) for our online gaming products.
  1. We think that there’s growth in this sector because:

    Even before coronavirus hit, more and more people were taking repeat medicines for chronic conditions and with people living longer, this means several decades. There has also been a large theme about fake news on social media, where millions get their medicines info from.

    But now with Coronavirus, people more than ever before want trusted, timely medicines and medical conditions information that is relevant & readable (unlike the patient information leaflets that come with their pills!).

Keen to hear more?

If you would like to see what other companies are up to on Angel Investment Network, or are interested in raising funding yourself, you can find your local network here.

Featured

Behind the Raise with flypop

Nino Judge, CEO of Flypop shares his advice for entrepreneurs about how he used Angel Investment Network to get his airline off the ground.

Tell us about flypop: The ‘pop’osition

flypop is a new British low-cost airline providing non-stop direct flights between the UK (London Stansted) and second cities of South Asia, starting with India, targeting the South Asian market in the UK, Europe and North America and their visiting friends & relatives (VFR).

flypop is also committed to protecting the planet by being the first and only fully carbon neutral airline in the world by carbon offsetting each passenger that travels with us.

flypop: It’s just good business.

Why did you decide to raise investment?

We needed a small amount of working capital for 2019 to help raise the larger amount for our Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Air Operator Certificate (AOC). Aviation is a highly regulated industry, and as such our first step is to apply to the CAA for our AOC. In order to do so, a minimum amount of capitalisation is required, which in our case was £6m in equity capital.    

How did your first external raise come about?

We, the directors, bootstrapped initially to purchase data, finish the business plan and design the website. However, it became evident we needed to achieve even more KPIs before the main equity raise of £6m.

We decided to raise another £80,000 to get us through Financial Year 2019/2020 and put a larger management team in place, get premises for the management team to meet regularly, develop a promo video for investors to understand our unique low-cost product and lastly have a reservation site showing this product is ready to generate revenue!

What attracted investors to your company?

Our USP of focusing on low-cost non-stop travel for the Indian & South Asian VFR market resonated with the millions of future passengers who would use our service.

Our competitive advantage is offering the lowest fares flying non-stop to the second cites of India (& South Asia) avoiding the potentially infected hubs and getting our passengers “home” to where they want to go in the shortest possible time.

We focus on the resilient VFR market segment that always needs to fly home. This segment has always recovered first from any recession returning to high load factors.

For the first time since 9/11 it was an advantage to start operations as a new airline rather than be a debt laden legacy airline.

My biggest fundraising mistake was… 

Not raising enough as building a company always takes longer and costs more. We ended up incurring unexpected costs including paying consultants to perfect the business plan. Good people cost money. Third party validation reports, marketing campaigns & events to raise funds, Legal & IT costs.

It always takes longer as the holiday seasons get in the way. With Easter, Summer, Ramadan, Christmas and New Year, nearly 4 months out of 12 are go slow or closed months. Let’s not forget our unexpected Covid -19 virus!

Why did you choose to use Angel Investment Network?

We wanted to work with a partner that had great global investor reach, reasonable costs with a professional and friendly support team. With AIN we received 30 enquiries within 14 days, and we closed within the month and could have raised 5 times as much.

Keen to hear more?

If you would like to see what other companies are up to on Angel Investment Network, or are interested in raising funding yourself, you can find your local network here.

Featured

#SixtySecondStartup

Ruari Fairbairns is the CEO and Co-founder at One Year No Beer (OYNB), a platform focused on changing people’s relationship with alcohol.

What does your company do?

OYNB is a global alcohol prevention program, aimed at anyone drinking more than three glasses of wine a week. Our mission is to help people change their relationship with alcohol which leads on to most of them, fundamentally transforming their lives.

We are developing technology that will enable members to connect over the common goal of changing behaviour, such as caffeine, sugar, gambling, social media, ultimately empowering people to live life better. 

Why did you set up this company?

For years I worked in the city as a successful oil broker in London. That’s where two worlds collided, partying and being successful, and the more I partied the more successful I was.

After a few years of this lifestyle, I started to experience a number of health problems, IBS, anxiety, dry skin. I got introduced to something called Headspace and I started meditating on the train to and from work, and this is when I realised that alcohol was causing me more trouble than good. I approached my boss and said that I was thinking about taking a break from booze and he said that this would be committing commercial suicide!

Six months later I finally plucked up the courage to do it and when I finally did, I was blown away with the benefits – I got fitter, faster, healthier, a better husband, a better dad. I grew my oil broking business and reduced costs by 30%. My IBS and dry skin disappeared and there was no area of my life that didn’t improve.

I wanted to make people understand how big these benefits are, so I decided to create a challenge, and in 2016, we launched One Year No Beer, a 90-day challenge, and gave it away. It rapidly went viral and in the first year we got over 20,000 signups. This is how One Year No Beer was born.

How did you get your first customer? 

In our first year, when we set up the free challenge and promoted it via social media, we got over 20,000 members. It was only then that we realised what a huge impact we were having. One Year No Beer was having a positive effect on people’s lives but also on their wallets.

Our research with Stirling University verified that if we were to convert our business into a paid-for model – that people would actually be more likely to not only commit, but also to stick to the challenge. This was because generally, if you have skin in the game, you actually apply yourself – so we reinvested and relaunched as a paid for model in 2017.

We knew we were onto something when? 

In that same year (2017), I sent a tweet to a journalist and off the back of it we got a 10 minute feature on BBC World news in over 200 countries. That single BBC broadcast generated £70,000 of revenue for the business in 10 days so we quickly learnt that the success of One Year No Beer was going to be down to exposure.

In 2018 we launched our book. It went to number one in its category on Amazon and in that same year, we sent out an email to all of our members telling them that we were thinking about crowdfunding in six months’ time. After sending that email, I expected to come into a couple of replies but instead, I opened up my email the following morning to find 74 emails with people offering to invest and we raised £1.1M in just five weeks from our members alone.

Our business model: 

In a little over four years, we’ve created and grown an online business that has attracted customers from across the globe. Turning over £2.7M per year and supporting over 70,000 members in 90 countries across the world, and the business continues to witness 300% growth YoY.

We want to flip the drinking model on its head. From one of admitting you have a problem and having to go to a church or community hall and sit in a circle and talk about being stigmatised for the rest of your life, to one of positive change. We want all of our members to be able to say that they are out there, living a better life, proud of their life choices.

We are now the leader in preventative behaviour change, and our plan is now to diversify into lots of other behaviour change models, not just alcohol. We’ve realised that when people change their relationship with a negative behaviour like alcohol, they build self-worth. It’s that self-worth that creates the platform for them to further change other areas of their lives, so we are now diversifying into other vertical markets such as caffeine, sugar, porn, gambling and drugs.

Our most effective marketing channel has been: 

We use Social Ads widely but our most effective channels have been the extensive publicity we have received as well as word of mouth from our customers. 

What we look for when recruiting:

We have an incredible team who not only love what they do, but they also care deeply about the impact they are having on the lives of people who follow our challenges and remain part of our online community. It takes a very unique person to work as part of the One Year No Beer team because they have to be able to deal with emotions and difficult situations each and every day.

Not only do they have to be able to do this, but they also need to be able to think like marketeers and successful business people, in addition to all of the other elements of their specific job roles and I will always be truly grateful for each and every one of they as they are responsible for making our company the community that it is today.

The biggest mistake that I’ve made is:

I can’t wait to write my book – I’m going to call it the 1001 Things Not to Do in Business. These things have cost me an absolute fortune, after all this is my 6th start-up! The biggest lesson that I have learnt since being in business is: Surround yourself with good people who compliment your weaknesses – for me there are so many, so I need a big team!!! Jokes aside, we can’t all be good at everything so build a team that compliments you and you’ll go far!

We think that there’s growth in this sector because:

The research that we conducted with Stirling University in 2017, showed that 93% of people had a drink when they didn’t want to, and 84% had experienced bullying from friends to drink alcohol, so we know that peer pressure surrounds our cultural relationship with alcohol. We want to challenge these cultural norms and help people to make better life choices. That is the fundamental principle of One Year No Beer. There are 2 billion people in the world who drink alcohol, and around 1 billion drink hazardously – all of whom are our target market.

We worked with AIN because:

We’ve previously raised very successfully from our own network and members. With our current raise we wanted to bring on investment from new sources but from people who share our vision. Angel Investment Network allows us to search investors and grow our presence further. 

Keen to hear more?

If you would like to see what other companies are up to on Angel Investment Network, or are interested in raising funding yourself, you can find your local network here.

Featured

YouTube karaoke channel Sing King raises £550,000 via Angel Investment Network

The world’s leading online Karaoke channel, Sing King, recently raised £550,000 via Angel Investment Network (AIN). Sing King offers high quality karaoke content via its YouTube channel and has over 90 million views per month. The seed-funding raise took just seven weeks on the platform, with the original £400k target notably achieved within 4 days. The money raised is being used for launching standalone apps across IOS & Android as well as a web platform.

Founded in 2014 by Chris Michael, it is the only karaoke channel YouTube allows to operate due to licensing restrictions normally in place. The channel is run by a team of six full time staff from London. The business is approaching 7.5 million subscribers and has more than 2,300 songs, with dozens more added weekly.

Discussing the raise, Xavier Ballester, Director of AIN’s broking division said: “Sing King’s revenues are starting to be very impressive. They hit 7 million subscribers as we were working on the raise. The numbers speak for themselves and there was plenty of interest from our investor database, who saw the huge potential for the business.”

According to Jordan Gross, Sing King CEO: “Music has the power to transform lives and the beauty of karaoke is that it transcends age, language and culture. We have an opportunity to deliver world-class karaoke on a bigger scale. With our round complete thanks to Angel Investment Network, we will make karaoke more accessible than ever before. This includes mobile, TV and web – transforming moments of time into moments of joy, wherever and whenever.”

News of the raise generated a lot of media interest, including EU Startups, MusicAlly, Techround and Bdaily.

Featured

Startups & Covid-19

This week we spoke to Harun,  the Co-founder & COO of Glorifyapp.com about the effects of Covid-19 on Glorify. Glorify is a Saas design tool created specifically for eCommerce entrepreneurs. It eliminates the need for professional designers, making it easy for anyone to design product imagery and marketing content for their e-commerce business in just a few clicks.

Our interview with Harun:

How has the coronavirus impacted your business?

Glorify is performing very well despite the coronavirus outbreak. Our greatest asset is that our company has a solid runway and therefore, all our key players have remained intact and have been working harder than ever to grow the business. 

From February 2020 – to March 2020, we’ve had a whopping  358% growth in our user subscription numbers. This clearly reflects the fact that businesses need a Saas product such as Glorify, in order to propel their own businesses at a time where most are losing money quite drastically. 

Furthermore, with the vast majority of countries on lockdown, the need for online shopping has grown tremendously. This has created a massive requirement for more eCommerce businesses to spring up to fulfil this demand. Glorify offers these businesses an affordable platform to create all the design and marketing material that they need to keep their businesses afloat. 

Have you had to pivot your business and if so?

We haven’t had to pivot the business, however, we have offered a 60% discount on our annual plans to ensure that we are affordable and considerate towards businesses that we know are struggling during this period. 

Have you been engaged in a fundraise during this time?

We started to fundraise just two weeks before the outbreak began in London. We are still reaching out to investors to secure our first round of investment. If we have to, we will bring Glorify in front of 100’s of investors to eventually find that outstanding investor to partner with. 

How has this been impacted and are you adjusting your plans?

We understand that most investors will be a lot more cautious in their decisions at this current moment. However, we feel it’s important to let investors know that we are a thriving and growing business, we have a winning team and a superior product despite the current difficulties.

We also feel that it’s important to make the first point of contact with investors regardless of time and circumstance, because it will take a number of contacts before the investment round will be close. 

What message would you have for investors?

Our message to investors is that Glorify is a highly investable organisation, particularly due to the massive surge in eCommerce businesses. With the Covid-19 pandemic, more and more people are turning to online shopping which creates the need for more eCommerce businesses. And for an eCommerce store to do well, they need to have high performing ads, a trustworthy brand, a website/online store with images that represent their products authentically and attractively. These businesses most likely cannot afford the high paid services of professional graphic designers, and so Glorify is the answer to their design and marketing needs. 

We are also confident that once the pandemic ceases, online shopping will remain as popular as it is now, purely due to the ease of just clicking what you desire and having it delivered to your doorstep. 

How are you coping with lockdown? What is your strategy?

My team and I are coping well with the lockdown. We are all geared towards facing any problem that comes our way with positivity and determination, and to make something good out of a bad situation. 

The co-founders of Glorify have two mandatory meetings each week (apart from the several other calls over the week). These are scheduled on Mondays and Thursdays. The meeting on Monday covers mostly the expectations of team members and what goals and deliverables each department is expected to fulfil. 

On Tuesdays, we have team meetings with the heads of each department and discuss the work they’ve completed the previous week, and then outline the goals of the upcoming week.

The heads of the department then in turn, have meetings with their relevant sub teams to ensure that there is 100% alignment and coordination. 

We use Slack for communication throughout the week and everyone has been responsive, communicative and on top of their game. In fact, most of us even work on weekends!

Is there anything your business is doing to help in your community or with the wider crisis?

Yes. Since our launch in September 2019, we have been involved in charitable ventures. We have offered donations to various organisations such as drop of life, save the children, little hearts, Oxfam International and more. We have also offered free Glorify accounts to registered charities such as Child Aid Gambia and the Namaste Welfare Trust. 

We are now shifting our focus to Covid-19 related charities and have reached out to our Glorify community to suggest charities that we can donate to. More on this here.

What do you think about the measures that have been introduced by the Chancellor?

It is indeed reassuring to see the Chancellor announcement to help and support small to  large businesses across all industries. He promises to make available an initial £330 billion of guarantees – equivalent to 15% of UK GDP. 

I think the real challenge will be to ensure that those who need it most receive such funding easily and quickly. Otherwise, many business owners will end up losing everything they have worked so hard for. 

What else do you think the Government should do?

I believe that the government needs to pay attention to the strat-up spaces as much as  the large companies. Big companies no doubt need help at this moment. Airlines, for example, are severely hurting and looking for a bailout. Hotels, cruise ships, national foodservice chains, manufacturers, and more may find themselves in line, too. Assistance should, and likely will, be given.

Startups may be small companies but they can play a significant role in economic growth. They create more jobs which means more employment, and more employment means an improved economy. Not only that, startups can also contribute to economic dynamism by spurring innovation and injecting competition.

What advice would you give to other startups at this time?

Improvise! We understand that not all businesses can thrive at a time like this, but it’s crucial that start ups come up with coping strategies. Remember, Covid-19 will pass. And when it does, it’s important that you come out of this pandemic ahead of the game, and not remain buried under it.

If you have the resources, try to invest in essential and fast moving products that you are certain will sell. If you are not, we would advise you to come up with coping strategies such as using relevant ebook lead magnets, offering giveaways that would be useful during a lockdown, create content strategy around the current hot topic as Glorify has done here.

Regardless of what you choose to do, Glorify is here to help you out. We are offering our annual plans at a whopping 60% discount purely because we understand that businesses are running on low fuel during this unfortunate time.

For more tips on dealing with the impacts of coronavirus, visit our Startup Survival Guide.

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Startups & Covid-19

This we spoke to Chantal, the Founder of the music licensing for performance sports platform ClickNClear, to find out how Covid-19 is effecting her business.

Our interview with Chantal:

How has coronavirus impacted your business?

It has certainly affected our market (we license music to performance sports) and slowed a few things down but it has not drastically impacted our business yet. We are still early stage and technically pre-revenue and were planning on launching in the summer. It may delay our launch slightly but we do not see it drastically affecting when we will be revenue generating. Sports events will happen again, it’s just a question of when so we just need to be as prepared as possible.

Have you had to pivot your business and if so how?

To some degree, yes. We are a music tech company licensing music to performance sports teams. We have been in beta for the last year and are planning on doing a launch this summer. All events have been cancelled however and whilst that would seem like the end of the world for a business like ours, we actually see it as an opportunity.

We have been busy focussing on our technology and continuing to sign more deals with music industry labels and publishers so when we are ready to launch, we have the best tech and the best music possible. Now that sports teams are closed for training, sports federations and coaches have the time to engage in conversation, browse ClicknClear and think about their music for next season. Instead of attending events and meeting people, we can focus this time on building education around music licensing and closing deals with international and national sports federations which will help us generate revenue as soon as events start up again.

Have you been engaged in a fundraise during this time?

We had just started a new fundraise when COVID19 hit and have seen a slow down in response and interest. Many are looking after existing portfolio companies and are less interested in investing in new companies especially if they are in a market that has been negatively affected. 

How has this been impacted and are you adjusting your plans?

There’s a lot of uncertainty right now so we have been re-thinking our raise and ways we can continue for longer without additional funding or ways we could close less funding now, with a potential bigger raise once this is all under control.

Another consideration for us is that we are a global company. We work with national federations all around the world and each of them will go in and out of lockdown at different times. We are keeping up to date with all the latest news and keeping conversations going with those federations so we are in the best position possible.

What message would you have for investors?

The time to explore and start conversations is now. Most people have more time. Some of us are still very busy but if we start conversations now, you can learn how founders operate and react to some of the most difficult challenges. It is possibly the best test of the capability of a founder(s) and should mean that an investor can become much more comfortable with their investment and more understanding of the businesses plan. 

We are open to having initial conversations and keeping potentially interested parties up to date as things progress.

How are you coping with lockdown? What is your strategy?

We all remotely work so we’ve been fairly accustomed to lockdown for a while! It hasn’t affected us too much at all. It’s actually been really nice to not be on an aeroplane every couple weeks and spend some much needed time to focus on new ideas and projects we’ve been wanting to do. We are a small team but this has essentially increased our resources! We can get more done, we are becoming even better at communication and are getting creative with solutions to challenges.

Is there anything your business is doing to help in your community or with the wider crisis?

We have been thinking of some potential ways to help but given we are still pre-launch, we are still building some of our community. We have been putting out themed positive playlists of music to help support people but are really focussed on building all of our educational material covering music licensing so coaches have additional resources and understanding of it.

What advice would you give to other startups at this time?

These are challenging times for us all. Some will make it but others won’t and we can’t be too hard on ourselves for something that is out of our control.

You have to focus on the small things that you can control in your business – scale back expenditure if you need to, ask yourself the difficult questions, have a plan a, b c, d and more! Be ready to adapt to anything that comes your way and try and remain positive but accept that you will have bad days and know what they will pass. 

For more tips on dealing with the impacts of coronavirus, visit our Startup Survival Guide.

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#SixtySecondStartup

This week we spoke to Sara, Co-founder of On Good Authority – a premium outdoor lifestyle brand with sustainability at its heart. In the middle of fundraising before Covid-19 struck, Sara spoke to us about how they have had to change their business plans and why shopping sustainably is more important than ever.

Co-founders Sara & Hannah

Our interview with Sara:

What does your company do?

On Good Authority is a premium outdoor lifestyle brand that merges contemporary styling with waterproof technology using recycled fabrics and non-toxic water repellency techniques. We bridge the gap between fashion and function in a truly conscious way.

Why did you set up this company?

We felt frustrated at the compromise between style and practically in women’s rainwear. 

How did you get your first customer?  

Like many startups, our first customer was a friend who experienced the same challenge and had been looking for a stylish waterproof for years.

We knew we were onto something when? 

When we started speaking to our friends and wider circles. We realised it wasn’t just us that shared this frustration and with our relevant industry backgrounds it occurred to us that it was a problem we could actually solve.

Our business model: 

We are primarily a D2C fashion brand supported by wholesale partnerships.

Our most effective marketing channel has been:  

Speaking directly to our audience, whether that’s organically through our social media channels, at Pop-Up events or with carefully curated influencers with shared vision, style and values.

The biggest mistake that I’ve made is: 

Maybe being a bit too conscientious and trademarking our name quite early on in the overall process to then re-brand and change our name! 

We think that there’s growth in this sector because: 

We’re at the forefront of an emerging global movement where consumers are demanding sustainable product and conscious lifestyles. It’s not a fad, it’s here to stay because we have to make fundamental changes in the way we live and consume if we are going to secure a future for our planet and the next generations.

Has Covid-19 had any impact on your fundraising plans? And if so, how are you adapting? 

We were in the midst of fundraising when Covid-19 hit the UK. It soon became apparent that investors were unlikely to take risks on new business startups, as they may need to step in and financially support those already within their portfolio. So with this in mind, we decided to put our fundraising efforts on hold.

We are now taking the opportunity to hone our proposition even further and reframe our business plan so that we can relaunch in summer 2021 in tandem with the UK music festival season. We believe (hope) that by then the economy should have settled and people will be extremely keen to get outside and party come rain or shine!

How are you coping with lockdown? What is your strategy?

Right now, we are focusing on keeping engaged with our audience and using our platform to continue to raise awareness about the importance of shopping sustainably. Now more than ever, we are becoming aware of the importance of conscious living. From the way we eat, to how we travel and to how much clothing we consume. It feels like the perfect opportunity to continue to spread this message so that when we come out the other side, we carry forward these new learnt behaviours and consume more responsibly.

We are also keeping in regular contact with our family and friends including those that we have met along our start-up journey. It’s not an easy time but knowing that we are all in it together and that we can all play our part in supporting key workers by staying at home is what keeps us going. We are so grateful for modern technology allowing us to get creative with video calls and virtual house parties!

Is there anything your business is doing to help in your community or with the wider crisis?

We are using our social platform to share positive and motivational news to help spread a feeling of community. For every sale we make, we are donating £5 towards our nominated charity: RCN Foundation. This is to support the nurses who are so bravely working tirelessly on the front line supporting our nation through this very difficult time.

For more tips on dealing with the impacts of coronavirus, visit our Startup Survival Guide.

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Startups & Covid-19

This week we spoke to Rob Pringle the Co-Founder of Kinsume about how they are adapting to the effects of Covid-19.

Kinsume offers unlimited scalability to influencers’ work by enabling them to earn money from recommending their favourite products to their followers and friends. Operating in ecommerce and online shopping, they have had to change their approach to counter the fall in usage that they have experienced.

Our interview with Rob:

How has coronavirus impacted your business?

As we operate in ecommerce and online shopping, we’ve seen a significant fall in usage and sales through our platform. This is exacerbated by the nature of the products we mostly deal with: fashion, beauty products, makeup – mostly non-essential items purchased after recommendation from influencers and content creators.

Have you had to pivot your business and, if so, how?

We haven’t had to make a full pivot, but we’ve angled our crosshairs towards industries and products we already work with that are more robust (and even performing abnormally well) in the current global market climate, such as sports equipment and health supplements.

We’re now taking this time to take a step back from the sales end and implement a complete UX/UI overhaul of our platform, ready for when the market is more fruitful.

Have you been engaged in a fundraise during this time?

Prior to the pandemic and international lockdowns, we had already closed a round of funding, however we’ve secured additional emergency capital from our investors in case we need it to extend our runway if the situation persists.

How has this been impacted and are you adjusting your plans?

We have had to make slight adjustments in securing backup funding and changing our budget to suit the current circumstances.

What message would you have for investors?

Sit tight. As the world panics, you should remain calm and trust in your investments – this is a long game after all. Offering support and demonstrating your confidence in founders you’ve backed will be an exceptional motivator and pay dividends.

How are you coping with lockdown? What is your strategy?

Our team, spread out over the UK, mostly work from home anyway so this is not much of a curve ball for us in that regard. Optimism and a positive outlook are key here – this is perhaps a once in a lifetime chance for self-improvement. Being stuck indoors for the majority of each day has turned me to pursuits I’d never given much of a chance to such as yoga. I’ve also increased my weekly reading to 2 books per week and have kept in regular contact with friends and family which I otherwise might not have done.

Is there anything your business is doing to help in your community or with the wider crisis?

Currently our CSR program is planting trees in sub-Saharan African countries to help the environment and the communities there. We’re now exploring options for temporarily suspending this program and redirecting contributions to help produce PPE for NHS workers.

What do you think about the measures that have been introduced by the Chancellor?

A good start but certainly needs some fine tuning and improvements, I’ve noticed some adjustments have already been implemented.

What else do you think the Government should do?

That depends on the timeline of the situation and the measures that will warrant. I expect even more funding in the form of soft loans, as well as easing/extending existing loan repayments for SMEs will become necessary.

What advice would you give to other startups at this time?

Seize this time as an opportunity. It has been noted that 2009, the year after a global economic crisis, was the best year to launch a $1B unicorn. Now is the time to throw everything you have at your startup (you’re not exactly going out for dinner or socialising anytime soon!), as others slack and slow down, you should take the chance to surge ahead. By the time the economy takes off, your preparatory work has been done, the market fit proven and you’ll fly faster than you otherwise would.

For more tips on dealing with the impacts of coronavirus, visit our Startup Survival Guide.

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#SixtySecondStartup

Our latest #SixtySecondStartup is with Demos Co-founder of Blazon, a new social media service for startups. We spoke to him about why they set up the company, how they started to grow it and what effects Covid-19 has been having on their business.

Co-Founders Nargis and Demos

Our interview with Demos:

What does your company do?

We are a social media services company to help startups be more active on social media channels with a low cost and flexible solution.

Why did you set up this company?

We were frustrated with the types of social media agencies out there not catering for startups. Solutions were expensive and not adaptive to the constant changes in a startup. We know what it’s like to build a startup and we want to champion startups in any way possible to give them a greater chance of success.

How did you get your first customer? 

While at an event trying to build another startup our first customer asked us who actually did our social media. When we told them, we did it all ourselves, they asked for our help because they loved our content. That was the catalyst to start a new service targeting startups just like them.

We knew we were onto something when:

We started asking startups if a service like this was available would they use it. When they said yes and then signed up when it was available, three of them in just two weeks we knew we were onto something.

Our business model: 

Startups £150 per month for us to post across their social media platforms regularly, engaging with their followers and producing 1 x blog per month for them.

We think that there’s growth in this sector because:

Social media is used by almost half of the planet. Many people often look to social media to validate a business or support them if they are customers. In order for that to happen a startups content has to be interesting and engaging for followers. There are so many startups who just do not have the time to get involved in the engagement as they are busy building their startup.

How has coronavirus impacted your business?

As our business is all about other startups, we’re governed pretty much by their business activity during this time. Some of our clients, particularly those based in countries or localities worse hit by the virus, have understandably slowed down their efforts during this time, so we’ve been making sure their social media reflects that and is kept managed despite everything else – but there are other founders we work with who have flourished despite the crisis and their startups are continuing to gain traction and grow. We’re flexible in everything that we do for our clients, so we’ve altered our business accordingly during this time – offering support and guidance to those startups who need it and reacting to the requirements we’re faced with.

How are you coping with lockdown? What is your strategy?

We’re actually really grateful that we’ve been able to trade at all during this time, as we realise not every business has been so fortunate. Our team work remotely anyway, so social distancing hasn’t affected us in that respect (plus we’re already firm friends with Zoom and other work-from-home resources!), plus working with startups at different stages in different sectors means we’re already used to adapting to different circumstances. Lockdown for our team has involved various strategies, depending on the client we work for and events going on.

So, whether that’s creating new content for social media, filming new videos to offer advice and support to the community, writing blog articles on current trending topics, strategising new ideas for when ‘normal life’ resumes or anything else that’s required of us – we’ve been non-stop! Lockdown has its fair amount of challenges as both our co-founders are working parents, but we’ve been able to support each other and our team and make the most of the situation in hand.

Is there anything your business is doing to help in your community or with the wider crisis?

Most of our time ordinarily is spent chatting with other founders, and during this time that hasn’t changed. We still talk to startups, about everything to do with their journey – their concerns, their challenges, their triumphs, etc. But we’ve enjoyed, particularly more so now, being able to offer them advice, tips or find ways to connect them with people within our network. Some people just need a sounding board, and founders are no different – talking through a situation with someone who just “gets it” can often give rise to new ideas or help solve problems. 

Our regular features, #startupshoutout and #just50, create opportunities for us to champion startups and give them a bit of free promo on our social media pages – and during this time, we’ve tried to ramp that up. It’s hard for some businesses to attract those customers when so much has shut down, so anything we can do to give them a voice, we’re more than happy to do so. The most recent feature we posted was a link to the Save Our Startups petition that is challenging the UK Government to support and save startups from collapse. It’s important to get startup businesses thinking as a community and helping each other – it’s the only way you can grow and economy to flourish.

For more tips on dealing with the impacts of coronavirus, visit our Startup Survival Guide.

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Startups & Covid-19

In this blog series we are speaking to founders of startups to find out how coronavirus has effected their business, how they have adapted, and any tips they have to help others cope with these challenges. If you are struggling to adapt or looking for some advice, make sure to have a read of our interviews.

Our first interview is with Edward Upton, Founder and CEO of Littledata, which is an ecommerce analytics app and Google Analytics consultants for Shopify and Shopify Plus.

How has coronavirus impacted your business?

Luckily for us the impact has been mainly positive. We work as a globally dispersed team in normal times, so operations have not been disrupted. We saw a slight uptick in churn as smaller clients reacted quickly to slash costs, but our sales cycle for larger clients has been accelerated: people working from home have more time to take sales calls!

Have you had to pivot your business and if so how?

The core need – helping ecommerce companies get a complete view of the customer lifecycle – is more pressing than ever, as every retailer switches their focus to online sales. So there’s no need to pivot, but we have scaled back hiring plans as we push for breakeven later this year.

Have you been engaged in a fundraise during this time?

Yes – our fundraising strategy had been to raise little and often as our recurring revenue and valuation increased, and with hindsight that was always at risk to a big change in investor sentiment. We closed the latest round this week.

How has this been impacted and are you adjusting your plans?

Unfortunately we saw a number of new investors pull out of the process in March. The reasons given were a combination of wanting to keep cash for funding calls from their portfolio, a reluctance to sell their public equities at a big discount to fund our company and a general uncertainty about startup survival in the downturn. We’re very grateful for a few of our current angels who actually offered to double down and invest more than initially planned.

So we’ve closed a smaller amount than we’d planned, but we can adjust our burn rate to compensate for that – and carry on fundraising later in 2020.

What message would you have for investors?

Now’s the time to back startups! Huge global disruption will lead to acceleration of long-term trends such as the shift to online sales and marketing, and the automation of knowledge-intensive processes. Startups with a quick route to profitability and a robust business model will grow faster than before.

How are you coping with lockdown? What is your strategy?

Most of the team work from home normally, so there hasn’t been major disruption. We’ve been turning the video on more often for internal calls – it’s just nice to see another human sometimes –  and been buoyed by some funny memes on our #random Slack channel. I’ve also encouraged the team to get outside and take exercise where they can. Sitting in front of a laptop all day is not good for anyone, and we all need to stay fit and healthy in mind and body.

Is there anything your business is doing to help in your community or with the wider crisis?

We’ve been involved in a cross-agency initiative https://offline2on.com/ to help retailers that need to switch to online trading fast to survive. I truly believe local small businesses are the foundation of our liberal democracy, and they all need a way to keep trading and keep afloat during the lockdown. We’ve been giving free advice on tactics for trading in the crisis, and extended free trials of Littledata’s software to assist with measuring their website performance.

What do you think about the measures that have been introduced by the Chancellor?

The job protection scheme to pay for furloughed staff, and parity for the self-employed with small businesses, is the most helpful measure. I do worry about the bureaucracy of claiming back the money from HMRC – and whether launching a new IT system for HMRC to make the payments is possible within a month – but it is a bold and inclusive initiative.

Unfortunately the offer for government backed loans to SMEs is less useful. This is channeled through high street bank lenders, who still apply deeply risk-averse lending criteria – and are asking for personal guarantees from directors, even when the government is underwriting 80% of the risk. Last time I tried to tap bank funding the loan assessor didn’t even understand the economics of a SaaS business, so I won’t be wasting time on applying for now.

What else do you think the Government should do?

I am a libertarian, and I believe people’s liberty to move, socialise and shop should only be restricted in extreme circumstances. I see the UK government had no choice but to restrict movement but before this lockdown is extended again I’d like to see an open debate on weighing the massive costs to national health and wealth of restricting everyone against the assistance to the small percent of people getting hospitalised from this virus.

What advice would you give to other startups at this time?

Persevere and adapt where necessary. Startups thrive on disruption, and economic shocks like this bring huge disruption which smaller, nimble companies can exploit. Funding will be difficult in the short term, so get creative on ways to fund your growth: prepayments from customers, loans from friends and family or cutting costs.

For software companies, the main problems in many sectors have been the war for talent (and huge salary inflation for developers) and rising customer acquisition costs. Hiring and marketing should get a lot easier as big companies scale back, as long as you’re still around to take advantage.

For more tips on dealing with the impacts of coronavirus, visit our Startup Survival Guide.

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The Coronavirus Startup Survival Hub

The Coronavirus has already had a huge impact, and no doubt is affecting the way that you go about your day to day life.

At the Angel Investment Network, as of Tuesday, we have all started working remotely. One of the things that has been on all our minds is how we can best look after our entrepreneurs who have put so much on the line to make their business happen, and are now finding their businesses under real pressure.

Next week, we plan to introduce our Coronavirus Start up Survival Hub, full of practical tips – from accessing emergency funding to minimising business expenditure and applying for grants. In the mean time, we thought that these resources could be of use:

* Times are about to become tough. How can you manage your costs and get ready for a fall in sales? This guide from Seqouia Capital will help founders plan for the Coronavirus.
* Remember that there will be winners and losers. Look at the predictions here, but also keep in mind that there will be opportunities when things pass.
* Look after your mental health: the meditation app, Calm, is offering free mediation videos.

Finally, our upcoming Angel Investment Network and friends event, is becoming a virtual event. More details to follow shortly.

Above all, stay safe – although times are tough, this will pass.

Onwards.

Drummond & The Angel Investment Network Team

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Four questions for female founders launching a business

Our Head of Growth and entrepreneur Ching-Yun Huang was invited onto a Female Founders’ panel at the Curtain Hotel last week in advance of International Women’s Day. Here she shares some key learnings.

It was a pleasure to be invited on to a panel with other female entrepreneurs at the Curtain Hotel recently to share our experiences of starting a business. It was a lively debate and discussion as we all had different experiences that we could bring to light. There were four key questions that came up from the audience, that I wanted to address.

1. Are you taken as seriously being a woman?
Does being a woman impact what you want to be able to achieve as an entrepreneur? The view that some expressed was that you are at a disadvantage because you might not be taken as seriously, with a lack of investors willing to back you. Although it is true there are less female founders, my personal view is that we could be in danger of creating a barrier that might be more psychological. I think if you have a good business case your gender shouldn’t matter and you should have the confidence to articulate your vision. However everybody’s experiences are different. 

2. What sort of support networks should you create?
What sort of support network should you put together to ensure you get the backing you need? One view is that in order to get a better support network, you should only have a women focused network. It is true that any entrepreneur needs to build a good support network. I would argue as a budding entrepreneur you should look to the groups and people that are going to best support you as your key priority. This shouldn’t be just down to gender, but who will take you to that next level. Be ruthless in this.

3. When do you need investment?
When it comes to funding and investment, the audience was split between two groups. People who felt ready to scale their business, and a bigger group who want stability to start their business. I think any entrepreneur should think long and hard about what they need the finance for. For me personally I am looking at bootstrapping my business as far as I can without trying to get outside influence. However there is an extent to which women are perhaps more risk-averse, which is a barrier to having more women entrepreneurs. It’s hard to make the transition into a more uncertain world.

4. Do you need a background in tech to launch a tech business? 
Lots of people in the room expressed an interest in starting a tech business. A popular question was whether you needed to have studied tech. I studied literature and had nothing to do with tech. However I do think having a working knowledge is important, so i picked up computer languages and some other skills. For my business, I found a co-founder who is a developer. A complementary skill set is a winning combination in starting a business.

Ching’s is developing a dating app called The Moment  

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#SixtySecondStartup

This week’s #SixtySecondStartup is with Giuliano, the Co-founder of Get Groomed. He started Get Groomed with his Co-founder Sabrina after moving to London and realising how inconvenient it was to get an appointment at a barber shop. Spotting a gap in the market, he started Get Groomed which allows people to book a barber to their home or office. Since starting 2 years ago, Get Groomed has now rolled out across London.

Giuliano and Sabrina, Co-founders of Get Groomed

Our interview with Giuliano:

What does your company do?

We connect mobile barbers with customer. Customers can book barbers to come to their home, office, a hotel or where ever they may be. We also provide male beauty services for weddings and events. 

Why did you set up this company?

When I arrived in London, I tried out different barber shops and salons and noticed some issues with them. Most shops are only open between 10am-5pm, making it difficult for customers to find the time to go. If they go at the weekend, there is often a long waiting time. I also found it difficult to know if a barber would be any good and able to do the hairstyle I was after. My Co-founder Sabrina mentioned that there are apps for women to book hair appointments, however we realised that there was a gap in the market for men. We built a prototype, hired a few barbers and found customers very quickly.

We knew we were on to something when:

A few months after we started, we got approached by a famous Fintech startup to provide male beauty services at one of their events. This was despite us having no marketing budget, and not sending a single email or doing any cold calls. It showed us that there was demand at a corporate level.

Our business model:

Our business model is commission-based. It helps us to keep working hard to connect barbers with customers: the more money they make, the more money we make.

The biggest mistake I’ve made is:

Establishing a strategy to increase revenue at all costs. It might be attractive for people who can burn a lot of money each month, but it is not sustainable over the long term. We believe in lean ways to improve the business: we are now profitable every month and we are growing every month.

We think there’s growth in this sector because:

One word: convenience. We have a lot of customers contacting us because they can’t find the time to go to a salon or it’s inconvenient for them to go as they have caring duties or are ill. In the same way that there was a boom in food delivery services in the last decade, customers are looking for on-demand, high quality male beauty and grooming services from the comfort of their own home.

We worked with AIN because:

We have been running our platform for 2 years and we are operating across London. So we are confident that this is the right time to scale-up and expand to more cities in the UK. We are looking to partner with forward-thinking investors who share our vision and AIN is one of the best tools to connect with those kind of partners.

Get started today and view pitches from entrepreneurs around the world.

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#SixtySecondStartup

In this week’s #SixtySecondStartup, we spoke to Will Ross who is the Founder of Tendo, a skills passport for frontline workers. Will started Tendo to make frontline work more secure for employees and to make it easier for companies to hire, retain and train their workforce.

Our interview with Will:

What does your company do?

Tendo allows frontline workers to generate workplace credentials while they do their jobs, building a verified, portable history of skills and hours at the end of each week.

Why did you set up this company?

We started Tendo to make frontline work more certain. For the worker, this means improving their long-term economic security. For the business, certainty comes through having a loyal, dependable workforce and an ability to encourage employees to learn new skills.

What is your business model?

We bill businesses on a per user basis. This monthly charge is a way to offset the cost of workforce churn.

We think that there’s growth in this sector because: 

Frontline workers remain offline. By bringing them online, visibility of supply provides a major step forwards. We also consider this workforce to contain a massive amount of untapped operational and creative potential – we aim to empower.

How did you get your first customer?

By building a feature that removed an administrative overhead for a training provider.

We knew we were onto something when:

When employees indicated that they would be motivated by having a trusted way to generate and retain a record of their work reputation.

Our most effective marketing channel has been: 

Going to events where we can speak directly with decision makers.

The biggest mistake that I’ve made is: 

Spending time marketing to cities where Tendo can’t have a repeatable physical presence.

What we look for when recruiting: 

A willingness to experiment and an inclination to speak more in terms of immediate actions than long-term plans.

We worked with AIN because:

Angel Investment Network provide a clear way to signal company type to a list of investors, ensuring that angels can search for early stage companies where they can significantly influence growth.

Get started today and view pitches from a huge range of entrepreneurs around the world.

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Behind the Raise

Welcome to the first of our Behind the Raise blog series! We know how difficult fundraising can be, so these interviews offer some tips, advice and insight into what has worked for different entrepreneurs.

For our inaugural interview, we are delighted to be speaking to Andrea Armanni, Co-founder of Mammalo. Mammalo is transforming the service industry by making it easy and quick for people to book the services they need. Through Mammalo, people are paired up with local professionals, making it hassle free to get the boiler repaired, hire a photographer or source a makeup artist.

Tell us about Mammalo:

Mammalo is a marketplace for on-demand local services delivered at home, where people can find and book anything they need from a painter to a hairdresser. With over 3 million people moving to cities every week, finding trustworthy experts in large urban areas has become much harder and very time consuming. Mammalo’s mission is to connect those in need with the right people that can help, and is set to become the go-to website where people can find any service they need, delivered to their door.

Why did you decide to raise investment?

Without funding the vast majority of startups will die. A startup usually means a company that is built to grow fast, and fast growing startups usually need to burn cash to sustain their growth prior to reaching profitability. In our case, we raised a friends and family round in the beginning of 2018 which allowed us to launch our first MVP in November 2018 and work towards finding the right product market fit. In less than 3 months, we managed to gain over 1500 users. We needed more liquidity to invest in marketing and tech development, so we decided to start working towards our first seed round.

What is your top tip for anyone raising investment for the first time?

It may sound obvious now, but one thing that we learnt whilst raising our first seed round is to be “Investment ready”. For some founders it’s enough to have a story and a reputation to raise funds, but for most it requires much more. Angels invest when they believe in the idea they hear, in the founders’ ability to realise its vision and in the market opportunity. When, as a founder, you are ready to tell this story, and bring some proof of customer adoption, you are ready to raise money.

What attracted investors to your company?

I believe what really helped us was getting the right launch strategy in place and the first 400 users within our first month. Then, a solid data vault with a detailed business plan, financial forecast and investment deck.

Andrea, Co-founder of Mammalo

My biggest fundraising mistake was…

Our biggest fundraising mistake was undoubtedly underestimating the amount of time and effort that was going to go into the fundraise process. Since we started working on it, we spent nearly 6 months on the fundraise trail before completing all the legals and receiving the investment.

Why did you choose to use Angel Investment Network?

We came across Angel Investment Network through a friend of ours at Y Combinator SUS as we were about to launch our crowdfunding campaign. As for every business looking to raise their first seed round, finding the right angel investors can be challenging and time consuming. Angel Investment Network was a great opportunity to gain exposure from the largest angel investment community in the world. Our pitch was posted to over 200,000 investors and remained live over a 2 month period in which we had a chance to talk to multiple investors and present them our vision and future objectives.

To find more fundraising tips, visit our learn section.

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#SixtySecondStartup

Our latest #sixtysecondstartup interview is with Greg Geny, Co-founder and CEO of BeRightBack (BRB). Fed up of spending so much time planning weekend breaks, he decided to create the world’s first travel subscription service to make booking short trips easy. Through BRB, customers get 3 trips every year to surprise European destinations, making travel fun and stress free.

Our interview with Greg:

What does your company do?

BRB is the world’s first travel subscription service. We offer customers 3 trips per year to surprise European destinations for a fixed monthly fee.

Why did you set up this company?

BRB came from very personal pain points. I did a lot of travelling in my 20s and early 30s and a few years back I realised that I was spending more and more time researching and booking my weekend breaks. The root cause of this comes from the fact that the onus is still on the customer to do all the heavy lifting and as the market has become more and more fragmented, this research process is now taking on average 10 hours and is spread across 4-8 weeks. So not only do customers need to spend hours researching their next break, but by the time they are ready to book, flight and hotel prices have gone up. This did not feel like a very customer-centric approach to travel. 

What is your business model?

We are a subscription based model delivering 3 trips per year to surprise European destinations, for a fixed monthly fee. We leverage data to tailor the breaks to the exact preferences of our customers. Customers can also purchase additional services.

How did you get your first customer?

We ran Facebook and Instagram ads and got 3 customers on our first day. Whilst social media advertising remains a strong channel for us, we are now building our brand across a range of channels – from social, SEM and content creators to large partnerships. The latter will allow us to leverage synergies between BRB and established audiences in other verticals such as financial services, telcos, travel or media. 

We think that there’s growth in this sector because: 

The market has grown 29% since 2012 and is set to grow further over the next 5 years. At the same time, Millennials and Gen Z have very different expectations from previous generations. They love travelling (particularly city breaks), they value convenience and they want a personalised service. BRB meets the needs of this new generation by turning travel into a lifestyle. 

We knew we were onto something when:

We got picked up by major media publications – the Telegraph, the Guardian, Lonely Planet, SKIFT, CNBC and more and started seeing the traction behind the business. We’re grown 350% this year alone. 

The biggest mistake that I’ve made is: 

Not starting the business sooner, although I believe that timing is everything and now is the perfect time for BRB to disrupt the industry.

We worked with AIN because:

We wanted to tap into an existing network of investors to support our fundraising efforts.

Get started today and view pitches from a huge range of entrepreneurs around the world.

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Tech leads but stunning rise in interest for sustainable businesses, finds Angel Investment Network report

Angel Investment Network has revealed its latest ‘State of the Angel Investment Nation’ findings. It is based on the data of our UK registered businesses looking for funding and the keyword searches of investors.

Investor keyword searches
‘Technology’ was the top search term used in 2019, based on investor keyword searches. This was followed by ‘property’ with ‘mobile’ the third most popular. ‘Robotics’ climbed six places year on year to now be the fourth most requested search term. Meanwhile ‘electronics’ is up by nine places on the list to number six.

With climate change centre stage in Davos last week, there also has been a stunning rise in interest for sustainable businesses. Searches for ‘Renewables’ have rocketed by 34 places to be the 14th most searched for term. Meanwhile ‘greentech’, unheard of even a couple of years ago, is now the 19th most popular keyword, up from 47th last year. Environmental leapt 56 places up the rankings to be the 25th most searched for term.

Pitch ideas
For entrepreneurs, property is the most popular sector for pitch ideas. Entertainment and leisure is the second, followed by technology. Overall there were 10% more pitches over the past 12 months from startups looking to attract investors.

According to AIN co-founder Mike Lebus: “Startups are the lifeblood of the UK economy and despite a turbulent year politically, there has been no slowdown in activity. Investor interest remains focused on technology and the cutting edge applications that are possible through it, including mobile and robotics. However property, one of mankind’s oldest profit generators, continues to drive the interest of investors and is now our top sector for pitches.”

He continued: “The growth in interest in impact related terms is remarkable and we are witnessing a seachange in investor attitudes as it has so quickly shot to the top of the news and business agenda. It is the reason we launched our spin off SeedTribe to help support entrepreneurs who put sustainability at the heart of their business model.” 

The report also reveals some discrepancy between startup ideas and investor interest. While fashion and beauty remains the fourth most popular category for pitch ideas, it is just 17th on the list for investors. ‘Inventions’ as a search term fell by seven places from seventh to fifteenth most searched term. Meanwhile ‘Gadgets’ also fell by 15 places to number 32 as investors instead look for more tech and software based ideas.

Entrepreneurial hotspots
AIN has also revealed the UK’s top entrepreneurial hot spots. London remains responsible for 37% of all pitch ideas, although its market share was slightly down. The South East is second in the list with the North West number three, up 10% year on year. There has also been impressive growth in other parts of the country. There was 25% growth in pitch ideas in the West Midlands, with East Anglia up 26%.

The Top 10 Sectors for Pitches:

  • Property
  • Entertainment & leisure
  • Technology
  • Fashion & Beauty
  • Food & Beverage
  • Software
  • Hospitality, Restaurants & Bars
  • Retail
  • Business Services
  • Education & Training

The Top Keywords for Investors:

  • Technology
  • Property
  • Mobile
  • Robotics
  • Software
  • Electronics
  • Computers
  • Products
  • Residential property
  • Finance

The entrepreneur hotspot list is as follows (based on number of pitches from each region):

  1. London
  2. South East
  3. North West
  4. South West
  5. West Midlands
  6. East Midlands
  7. Scotland
  8. East Anglia
  9. Yorkshire and Humber
  10. North East
  11. Wales
  12. Northern Ireland



Featured

#SixtySecondStartup

This month our sixty second interview is with Firdaus Mogul, Founder of Check An Invoice. Check An Invoice uses AI and machine learning to identify invoice fraud. Firdaus set up this business after one of his friends was a victim of invoice fraud and he realised that there were no products addressing this problem.

Our interview with Firdaus:

What does your company do?

We identify and prevent invoice fraud using the latest advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Why did you set up this company?

When I ran my own B2B payment business, which I sold in June 2019, many of our customers spoke about instances of invoice fraud. On researching, we could not find any companies that offered solutions to this problem. So we decided to launch our own SaaS application that addresses the needs of both small and large businesses.

We knew we were onto something when:

Every prospect we met and investor we spoke to started complementing our market positioning and how the product is addressing an unsolved need.

How did you get your first customer?

Like all startups, our first customer was an acquaintance, who found the solution very helpful for his business as it reduced the manual workload of checking the invoices

Our most effective marketing channel has been:

Forming partnerships with accountancy firms, FinTechs and banks. These partners then offer our solution to small and large companies as a value added service on top of what they already offer.

The biggest mistake that I’ve made is: 

Assuming that there was already a good understanding of invoice fraud among SMEs. Although our research suggested that over 50% of SMEs are affected invoice fraud, when we went out and spoke to people, we discovered that awareness levels were relatively low.

We think that there’s growth in this sector because: 

Invoice fraud results in over $26bn of losses worldwide (Source FBI) yet, there are very few solutions which address this issue. Our platform operates globally giving us the ideal first mover advantage.

We worked with AIN because:

We worked with AIN because they have the largest and most engaged network of angels.

Get started today and view pitches from a huge range of entrepreneurs around the world.

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The Angel Investment Network’s ‘Pitch and Pint’

The last year has been an important one for the Angel Investment Network – we turned 15 and welcomed new team members, growing the team significantly with a third of our London team joining towards the end of the year. 

Whilst 2019 has been a record year for the Angel Investment Network for helping start ups successfully fundraise, we certainly think there are areas that we can still improve. 

Over the years, we have built up strong expertise about what startups need to achieve to maximise their chances of success. 

  • What does an optimal team look like? What advisers should I bring to my business and how much equity should I give them?
  • When are you ready to raise a Seed round? 
  • How do you make sure you are speaking to the right investors and stop wasting time? 

But as the Angel Investment Network community has grown, we realised there was more knowledge and expertise held amongst our founders, our entrepreneurs. 

And we decided that the time was right to start making the most of that. 

So 2020 will be the year that, as well as making hundreds of thousands of connections online, we will start to connect more and people offline too. 

Join us for the inaugural Angel Investment Network, Pitch and Pint, at the Duke on the Green in Parsons Green.

Learn about how to improve your pitch. Meet the team and learn from the entrepreneurial community. 

Sign up to the Angel Investment Network’s Pitch and Pint.

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SeedTribe relaunches as ‘UK impact hub’ – powering profit-with-purpose driven businesses

Ethical investment platform SeedTribe has relaunched as a new UK-focused impact hub. The platform connects startups with individuals, corporates and governments interested in helping profit-with-purpose businesses. SeedTribe’s new remit includes mentoring, networking and recruitment, as well as investment.

SeedTribe uses the UN Sustainable Development Goals (“SDGs”)  as its impact framework with all businesses on the platform at Stage 1, raising up to £1M and driving revenue. Businesses that appear on the platform are heavily vetted so only the most inspiring are selected. Businesses are featured free of charge, but have the option to buy “add-ons”. These include helping with their fundraise, advertising a job to the network or showcasing an event. 

New content

New content includes spotlight interviews with founders, advice and guidance for startups who need support. There are also events, opportunities and a free match-up service enabling individuals to connect with businesses. Following extensive research and discussions with the network SeedTribe has identified five key areas of focus. These are:

1.     Mentors/Advisors
2.     Corporates giving financial or in-kind support in line with their values and fields of expertise
3.     Recruitment opportunities
4.     Interesting events they can attend
5.     Investment or other types of funding

Businesses winning investment and support

Businesses on the SeedTribe platform winning investment and support include: Teysha Technologies, a natural polycarbonate platform creating fully biodegradable substitutes for plastics and PinPoint who use data science to detect the early signs of cancer.

The site is powered by Angel Investment Network – the world’s largest online angel investment platform, with a global network of more than 1 million entrepreneurs and 200,000 investors.

Olivia Sibony is the CEO of SeedTribe and she was recently named one of the UK’s Top 10 Women Entrepreneurs for her work on SeedTribe.

She said: “Our entire ethos is using business as a force for good, meaning profit and purpose need to be interlinked. Over the past 18 months I have been approached by so many people who believe in our mission and want to help in ways beyond simply funding.” 

She continued: “Our community is dedicated to finding solutions to the world’s most intractable problems, helping impact-driven entrepreneurs  meet the people and institutions who can teach, support and fund their ventures. We believe in the power of collaboration and together we can empower business to be used as a force for good and transform our world.

Olivia is urging anyone keen to help SeedTribe’s mission to reach out. Please visit seedtribe.com for more information.

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Angel Investment Network celebrates 15th anniversary

From a vision of opening up the closed world of angel investment to an expanding global network of a million users

AIN London team

From a proposal for a rabbit mashing factory in Russia to successfully funding What3Words, Angel Investment Network (AIN) co-founders Mike Lebus and James Badgett have seen it all. It has now been 15 years since our co-founders and childhood friends formed AIN, now the world’s largest online angel network. What started in the early days of the internet as two friends having a vision of an interconnected network of angel investors and startups has led to a platform now spanning 90 countries and more than a million users. Meanwhile the team is now 25 strong with team members in the UK, USA, Mexico, Spain and Nepal.

Our co-founders in earlier times…

Living and breathing the startup world since the early noughties, the team has successfully raised funds for standout companies like What3Words, Novastone and Rosa’s Thai. In the last few years the company has been developing at a breakneck pace with the launch of two spin-off brands, SeedTribe, a community for impact-focused businesses, and BrickTribe, which connects investors and lenders with property developers with proven track records. 

In the last year alone, AIN has received over 100,000 pitches from entrepreneurs across the globe, with the figure doubling over the last two years. Alongside existing markets there has been a rapid growth of startups coming from emerging markets. Meanwhile investors registering on the site have surged nearly 40% year on year, now standing at more than 200,000 registered business angels. 

Alongside the online platform, AIN also runs a successful broking division, which has seen exceptional growth in the past 12 months. AIN has been involved in several significant raises in 2019, including eco-friendly baby product business Kit & Kin, fully customisable bio-polymer plastic company Teysha, and Pin Point, a data science offering early cancer detection.

Our co-founders James Badgett and Mike Lebus today

Speaking about the anniversary James Badgett said:
“When we first set up, no one looked for investment online. Most investment came through personal connections, which not everyone has access to. We saw that good ideas weren’t getting the funding they deserved, because entrepreneurs’ access to angels outside their immediate circles was severely restricted. We imagined a platform which gave all entrepreneurs access to a national and international network of investors; and, of course, the only way to do that was online. It is remarkable to see how it has grown and we are proud of AIN’s place at the epicentre of the startup scene in the UK and now spanning the globe.”


Mike Lebus said:
“When we set up AIN, angel groups tended to be focused on a regional basis. Applying to them, following up, getting feedback, arranging meetings, etc was fairly laborious. We had the idea of creating a portal to streamline the whole process for entrepreneurs and investors. I feel immensely proud to have helped brilliant companies like Sweatcoin and What3words on their journey to huge success. However, of course there are no guarantees of funding and the startup idea needs to capture the imagination of any potential investors. Over time you do get a sense of what will work and what will sadly remain a pipe dream. We launched the broking division to apply our team’s expertise of selecting high quality dealflow and to help our investors identify the best prospects.

With AIN now having a footprint in every continent (except Antarctica where unsurprisingly there doesn’t seem to be much demand), we can’t wait to see where we’ll be 15 years from now! Happy anniversary AIN.


 

Emerging from the pandemic – Startup sentiment in the UK and USA

Angel Investment Network, the world’s largest angel investment platform, surveyed the views of startups in the USA and UK to see how they have responded more than a year and a half after the pandemic first hit. This involved interviews with 1,205 startups in the USA and 667 in the UK. The key findings in the overall report we have published are:

1) Confidence returning
Similar numbers in both territories are now positive about the next 12 months. In the USA 76% of respondents are now confident about the next year, with 72% confident in the UK. However more US startups are very optimistic about the future, 52% against 42% in the UK. This could of course be down to a naturally more upbeat mindset but the research also reveals some particular challenges in the UK – for example the impact of Brexit. Meanwhile 70% of respondents in the USA are confident about the country retaining its status as a ‘startup hub’, versus 65% in the UK.

2) Networking and bootstrapping have been ways of mitigating stalled investment
62% of US startups have seen growth negatively impacted with 59% in the UK negatively impacted. The research also reveals the similar approach to mitigating the impact of stalled investment. The top strategy adopted in both countries was focusing more on networking. Other strategies adopted included delaying launch plans, holding back on marketing and hiring and  bootstrapping businesses as far as possible..

3) Raising investment is biggest challenge goingforward
Raising investment remains the biggest challenge going forward and there is a firm belief in both countries that government has a key role in making the conditions more favourable through tax relief. The report also looked at the biggest bugbears for startup founders. Number one in both countries was investors demanding too much of a stake in the business. Time consuming due diligence was also a pressing concern as were very slow rejections.

As we look forward, startups in the US and UK can be the engine room of economic recovery in both countries – nurturing their growth is vital.

Here is the full report