Navigating a changed landscape: Investor insights for startup success

The last two years have witnessed a radical change in the fundraising ecosystem with startups facing a changed investor mindset against a backdrop of more challenging economic conditions. We recently surveyed investors across our network to discover the lowdown of what investors are looking for and crucially what they aren’t. 

Encouragingly a majority are planning to invest more this year than last highlighting the opportunity for startups. In terms of the present climate, investors are seeking well-capitalised startups with a strong track record. Advice for startups in fundraising includes reducing valuations (49%), planning for longer fundraising periods (44%), and raising smaller rounds (38%). 

With investors applying more stringent criteria and economic conditions shifting, it’s crucial for founders to adapt their strategies to secure the capital needed for growth and success. 

We interviewed seasoned investors across our network to get some valuable advice for startups seeking funding and highlight key considerations in the fundraising process.

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail

Christian Teichmann, Managing Director of Burda Principal Investments, emphasised the importance of preparation in fundraising. According to Teichmann, startups should “have a well thought through equity story with matching and supporting numbers and KPIs.” He also advises founders to “raise more capital than you actually think you need while focusing on building an efficient organisation.”

Bryony Marshall, an angel investor committed to supporting diverse founders also supported this perspective. In the interview, she emphasised the importance of maintaining momentum in the fundraising journey. According to Marshall, startups should “have all materials ready” and create a FAQ knowledge base to address investor inquiries efficiently. She emphasised the significance of “strong storytelling and networking within startup communities.”

Leverage angel investors’ expertise for strategic guidance

Cristina Bullon Gomez, an experienced investor, highlighted the symbiotic relationship between investors and startups. She highlighted the crucial role of capital investment in fostering economic growth, stating, “Angel investors represent the first line that can make or break startups.” Gomez is excited about startups to that focus on sustainability and technology. She urges startups to leverage angel investment for “early-stage funding and strategic guidance.”

In terms if red flags she looks out for she said: “I scrutinize the founders’ ability to be agile, handle criticism, and stay composed during challenging times. Additionally, alignment of expectations among founders and a startup’s scalability are crucial factors.”

Focus on founder traits and market validation

Ben Legg is an angel investor passionate about promising founders and innovative ideas. He underscored the significance of strong attributes in a founding team. Legg looks for traits such as “integrity, insight, rigor, emotional intelligence, teamwork, and resilience” in founders. 

He advised startups to “prioritise market validation” and pivot towards revenue, grants, and angel investors in the current investment climate.

Adaptability and persistence

Conor Sharpe, Co-Founder at CircleRock Capital, acknowledged the challenges startups face in the evolving investment climate. Sharpe advises founders to explore various funding options, stating, “Raising capital is harder than ever, so make sure to consider every last funding option to secure funds for your business.” He also emphasized the need for founders to demonstrate “adaptability, resilience, and market validation” to secure funding successfully.

As startups navigate the complexities of fundraising in today’s climate, the insights shared by experienced investors offer invaluable guidance. Focusing on the financial essentials, preparation, and adaptability, founders can increase their chances of securing funding and driving sustainable growth.

By leveraging angel investors’ expertise, demonstrating positive traits and market validation, startups can thrive amidst evolving challenges and emerge as leaders in their respective industries. The message is clear. Embrace the changed landscape and win the hearts and minds of investors.


Startup essentials: How to structure your cap table

Over the next few months, with the assistance of our expert partners, we will explore the essential factors that all startups seeking funding need to consider. This will include organising your finances, conducting due diligence, and implementing growth hacking strategies.

First up, Guy Kaufman, Startup Lead at Vestd. He gives us the lowdown on understanding cap tables, a visual representation of your company’s ownership that becomes more crucial and complicated as your startup grows.

New businesses pop up every day, many with their eyes on the prize of a lucrative exit. Even in uncertain economic times, we’ve seen companies like Loom, Uber, and Airbnb rise to the top.

But before you dream big, let’s take a look at the basics, like effectively managing equity. This is a crucial task that sets the stage for long-term success.

You’ve likely come across the term “cap table” already. Let’s unpack why your cap table matters, how to structure one, and the common pitfalls to avoid.

Understanding cap tables

A capitalisation table, or cap table, serves as a visual representation of a company’s ownership structure, detailing shareholders, their share types, associated rights, privileges, and vesting schedules. While initially straightforward, keep in mind that your cap table will grow in complexity as you attract investment and advisors. You might also want to incentivise employees with equity.

Structuring your cap table

As well as listing shareholders names and details, you’ll need to note:

  • Their share total count
  • Share type
  • The nominal value of each share class
  • Price per share
  • Liquidity preferences
  • Debt (like convertible notes)
  • Valuation (pre and post-money)
Managing your cap table

Your cap table isn’t high maintenance now, but as your startup grows, it will demand more of your attention. You can grab a free cap table template here to make sure you start as you mean to go on.

Spreadsheet hell

Relying on manual methods, such as Excel, is risky. Human error is one thing, but a seemingly insignificant rounding error could cost you dearly later. Those pesky decimals matter. 

Having a digital cap table is by far the easiest way to avoid these pitfalls and ensure 100% accuracy. But if you do use a spreadsheet (and seriously, I’d advise against it, it will get messy), be sure to revisit it regularly.

Nominee structures

Investors appreciate a clean and tidy cap table. So if over time yours becomes a bit unruly, consider using a nominee structure. This allows you to make use of the ability to separate legal and beneficial ownership. 

All that means in practice is that instead of having the names of all shareholders on your cap table, you can just have one name which represents a group of shareholders.

Common pitfalls

Here are the top cap table mistakes I see that can cause serious headaches, and how to avoid them.

Steer clear of dead equity

If there’s a lot of ‘dead equity’ in a cap table – as in shareholders who have a significant stake but are no longer aligned with the company’s goals (or remotely involved) – that’s a red flag for investors.

Dead equity can make getting business-critical decisions over the line difficult. You want everybody on your cap table, past and present, to add value, so choose who gets to be on it wisely!

Vesting is best

Startup life isn’t for everybody; plans and personal circumstances change, and disagreements can do irreparable damage to once positive partnerships.

We hear so many stories of co-founders bailing out early with more equity than they arguably deserve due to the absence of formal agreements and vesting schedules, leading to unresolved ownership issues, a lot of stress and nervous investors.

That’s why founder vesting is essential (as a precaution).

You can design equity structures where shares are earned only when milestones are hit. This helps maintain a fair, equitable ownership structure, fostering trust and commitment among your team. And it’ll help you to not become an unfortunate statistic. 

High-resolution fundraising fails

Using convertible notes and Advance subscription agreements is great for getting capital in the door quickly, but can be like navigating treacherous waters. 

Without proper planning, you could miscalculate share dilution. And too many notes, or poorly structured notes, could come back to bite you later.

You won’t often see convertible notes in a cap table until they’re converted from debt to shares. If you do decide to use them, don’t forget about them! Forecast what your cap table will look like when any convertible notes convert.

Ultimately, you want to present the most accurate representation of your company’s ownership structure when in talks with investors.

Again, a digital cap table that records all of this could save you a lot of bother.

Poorly managed employee equity

Forward-thinking investors expect to see a proportion of equity set aside for employees as they recognise its role in motivating teams to do great things. All it takes is a bit of thought, a bit of planning and a tool to do the heavy lifting.

However mismanaging employees’ share options can lead to discontent among the team, causing them to leave with unearned rewards, or worse, raise a legal dispute. 

To keep your team onside, handle their equity with care. And seriously consider signing up to a share scheme platform so they can see their options vest over time – make their equity rewards feel more real.

Cap tables provide clarity on ownership, guide strategic decisions, and foster trust. So don’t take yours for granted! 

Guy Kaufman is Startup Lead at Vestd. Vestd is the UK’s most powerful share scheme and equity management platform

Looking for investment opportunities? Join us at angel investment network, where global investors meet the great businesses of tomorrow.


Global Investor Survey: Positive impact driving decisions while over valuations most common startup mistake

A new survey conducted among global investors by Angel Investment Network has shed light on the preferences, motivations, and advice from angel investors. 

It reveals angel investors are more motivated by positive impact than ever before while financial fundamentals are crucial, with over valuations revealed as the biggest startup mistake.

Angel Investment Network surveyed investors across our global network to take the temperature of investors in 2024. The key findings include:

Investment patterns

A majority of investors had invested in 10 or fewer businesses, with 28% investing in under 5 and 30% investing in 6-10. Positive impact emerged as a crucial factor influencing investment decisions, with 72% of respondents expressing some degree of agreement with its importance. For many, investing isn’t just about financial gain; it’s about catalysing change and leaving a lasting imprint on the world.

The primary motivations for becoming an angel investor included the potential for high returns (61%), portfolio diversification (40%), access to innovation (39%), hands on involvement in early-stage companies (34%) and the opportunity to assist others (33%).

Startup traits and mistakes

The common traits of successful startup founders that investors backed were a clear value proposition (77%),  passion and commitment (57%), strong value and mission (57%),  and  strong leadership (46%).The most common mistakes made by startups during fundraising included overvaluing the company (31.3%) and inadequate market research (17.9%).

Current investment climate

In the present investment climate, investors are seeking well-capitalised startups with a strong track record. Advice for startups in fundraising includes reducing valuations (49%), planning for longer fundraising periods (44%), and raising smaller rounds (38%). From lowering valuations to planning for prolonged fundraising periods, the advice is clear: tread cautiously and be prepared for the long haul.

Red flags and communication preferences

Red flags for investors researching startups included inexperienced teams, flagged by 63% of investors, no clear path to profitability (62%), no proven business model (46%) andnot having finances in order (44%). Investors preferred regular communication with founders, with a monthly cadence being the most popular choice (53%).

Over the next few weeks we will be digging further into the results and dozens of in person interviews we have conducted with investors to provide our playbook for successfully raising investment in 2024.

Looking for investment opportunities? Join us at angel investment network, where global investors meet the great businesses of tomorrow.


AIN urges UK Government to reverse forthcoming changes to definition of High Net Worth (HNW) individuals for investment eligibility

Together with hundreds of other angel investors, founders, and tech industry leaders, AIN has signed an open letter to the Chancellor, presenting a case for reversing the forthcoming changes to the definition of High Net Worth (HNW) individuals for investment eligibility.

At Angel Investment Network, we are committed to democratising the startup ecosystem, connecting the world to enable investors to back the great businesses of tomorrow.

In order to ensure those connections can flow freely, it is imperative to reduce barriers for startups to raise funding and for investors to access deals and invest.

If the proposed changes to the definition of High Net Worth individuals goes ahead, after January 31 there will be a 60% + reduction in the number of women able to invest on the basis of income in the UK. This will disproportionately impact female investors, already woefully underrepresented, significantly.

And what research was done to determine that people with net assets of £430,000 or an income of £170,000 are able to make informed business decisions? Surely there are much better alternatives that would be more inclusive, such as a suitability questionnaire to ascertain whether someone should be eligible, based on their understanding of the investment process and the risks involved.

900+ founders and investors have now signed an open letter calling on the Chancellor to reverse the changes, which they say are “anathema to the trailblazing startup ecosystem that has been built today”. 

The startup ecosystem will be hit hard with female and underrepresented founders will be hardest. Diversity is crucial for a thriving startup ecosystem. It drives innovation, expands market understanding, enhances problem-solving capabilities, increases resilience, and contributes to positive social impact. 

Different perspectives lead to a broader range of ideas and approaches, resulting in more robust and innovative problem-solving strategies. Angel investing risks becoming an elite-only activity, undoing huge amounts of good work to address this gap.

Fundamentally this will harm early-stage businesses who play a vital role in the UK economy and are the dominant creators of new jobs. The government should be doing everything in their power to encourage investments into startups, not putting up more barriers.

Mike Lebus + James Badgett, co-founders Angel Investment Network


Founder mental health: Interview with Dan Kirby

In the latest article in our Founder Mental Health series, AIN sits down with seasoned entrepreneur Dan Kirby, the exited founder of renowned digital agency The Tech Dept, and host of the widely acclaimed business podcast, “Honey I Blew Up the Business.” 

Dan is the founder of the new wellness program ‘Founders Are Mental’ and in this revealing and honest interview he talks to AIN about the intricacies of his entrepreneurial path — from immense success to burnout to now finding new balance and prioritising mental health. 

In addressing the lessons he has learned he has some invaluable practical advice he can offer about how we can all support our mental wellness while running a business. Why we all need to find ‘a good groove’.

Can you elaborate on how success contributed to your mental health challenges and the impact it had on your wellbeing?

Success, accolades, and awards often act as a veil, concealing underlying issues. Like – why are you so driven to prove yourself in the first place?! I was proud to launch a start up, the Tech Dept and build it up into a globally renowned agency helping companies build tech products, working with world class companies like NBC Universal and Microsoft and creating BBC Children in Need’s fundraising platform.

Despite external achievements, I realised I wasn’t attuned to my body’s signals and wasn’t aware of bad habits – which in hindsight were completely obvious. I faced repeated burnouts, I was diagnosed with clinical depression, and had a significant problem in 2017 – when we nearly lost the business (and I nearly lost my marriage). 

I call this 2017 experience “the blow up”! 

This turning point at age 45 when everything unraveled. It was a reckoning, a realisation that the way I was achieving success came at too high a price, and I needed to change. Success can be deceiving; it masked unhealthy patterns in my life – what I would now call a “bad groove”. This undermined every area of my life – especially my mental state.

How did your personal struggles impact your role as a founder and leader, and what toll did it take on your business?

My personal struggles took a severe toll on my role as a founder and leader. My bad groove affected the business. I wasn’t checked in, drank excessively (because we were hosting events and winning awards), neglected my mental health. I became suboptimal, and the business suffered. It took a significant toll on my family, marriage, and professional life. It was a stark reminder that your individual well-being is intrinsically tied to the success and health of the business.

What lessons have you learned, and how did you transform personally and professionally after the blow-up in 2017?

The blow-up in 2017 was a catalyst for a profound reset. A personal and professional transformation. Confronting my ego, I recognised the paradox of success a startup founder. While it gave me the freedom, motivation and drive to succeed it also meant I didn’t know when to stop and listen to the quiet voice in my head telling me to slow down.

Confronting my demons, controlling bad mental grooves, and prioritising self-awareness became unavoidable. The journey was painful yet necessary. It totally changed my approach to business and life. Looking back, it was a blessing. 

Can you shed more light on the founder’s paradox and the importance of mental wellness in entrepreneurship, especially considering the uncertainty and pressure?

Founders crave freedom – but this freedom comes with uncertainty. However, uncertainty triggers fear, stress, and chronic stress, harming mental health – and physical health (your immune system). Handling uncertainty is crucial; it’s the yin of the yang of freedom. The key is working on how you handle uncertainty to maintain mental well-being.

You need to become at peace with uncertainty being the only certainty of startup life. To do this requires you to understand and confront your ego – your identity – as a founder. Success amplifies both positive and negative mental aspects, leading to unique challenges and making mental wellness harder to sustain. 

Recognising this paradox early – being aware of it – and proactively addressing your awareness is the hidden key for your mental health. If you want a better chance to  thrive in the roller coaster ride of launching a business – I suggest working on your awareness.

In fact the real work is on building what I call your “awareness muscle”. The awareness of your mental health, and emotional health. Often you can simply let thoughts and emotions take you down a dead end. Worrying about things. Or shouting at the intern! 

Becoming more aware – and strenthening that with daily practice you can simply observe any negative thoughts and emotions – and let them drift away. 80% of the drama you feel is just your imagination.

How do you reflect on your entrepreneurial journey now, and what advice do you have for fellow founders in prioritising mental wellness?

My advice to fellow founders is very simple—prioritise your own self care. If you are broken the business breaks. Full stop. You can – and often have to – grind it out. But that only lasts so long, and entrepreneurship is a long game.

Mental wellness is a balance of elements – which is what I learnt in The Blow Up of 2017. This is what I call The Groove. What is your Groove? Your day to day patterns and habits. Are they good or bad?

And you know the answer! If you are drinking 10 coffees a day and never exercising – you do not need a nutritionist and a personal trainer to tell you to tweak your habits. 

Be open to learn  from mistakes, share experiences openly, and embrace the inevitable uncertainty and change that comes with entrepreneurship. Don’t think you already know the answer. I didn’t. 

Maybe you are the problem. In my experience, I was the problem. And the only person I have 100% control over. 

Design your mental groove consciously, confront your demons, and seek support from communities like Founders Are Mental. Mental wellness isn’t just a component of success; it’s the foundation that sustains and propels entrepreneurs forward.

Your focus in the Founders Mental program is accountability and community. Why is the best way of supporting entrepreneurs?

Mental health and wellbeing is often seen as something “nice to have”. But making personal change is hard. We believe that to truly serve founders we need to give them tough love. So Founders are Mental isn’t just about content to learn in a  workshop. It’s a community that sustains change through ongoing accountability. 

The program recognises that the real product is the actioning of good habits – a ‘good groove’. Accountability through extreme ownership and community act as the pillars, mirroring the concept of a personal trainer for mental wellness. 

Having peers who hold you to commitments is instrumental. We aim to create an environment where entrepreneurs can share experiences, be real, and collectively navigate the challenges of entrepreneurship. But sometimes you don’t need sympathy, you need a kick up the arse! Someone to hold you accountable to what you said you would do – and you KNOW is the right thing for you to do (eg go to bed earlier). 

Our monthly walkss, called FAMstep, involve a casual, agenda-free walk in nature in my home in The Peak District – or around central London. It provides an opportunity for like-minded founders to connect, support each other, and take a break from the screens! Plus have some jam roly poly

You mentioned the concept of extreme ownership. How does this apply to founders and their mental well being?

Extreme ownership for founders extends beyond business decisions; it encompasses responsibility for mental well being. Acknowledging that, as a founder, you are in charge of your mental state is fundamental. 

The buck stops with you in the business, and it stops with you in your health and wellbeing too.

It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle, but taking care of your mental health is a crucial aspect of being a successful entrepreneur. Extreme ownership translates into a proactive approach—recognising when adjustments are needed, seeking support, and making intentional choices for sustained mental well-being.

You’ve talked about designing your mental groove consciously. Can you explain what a good groove looks like for a founder’s mental well-being?

A good mental groove for a founder involves recognising factors that contribute to positive mental bandwidth and eliminating those that deplete it. It’s about consciously designing your environment, routines, and habits to maintain mental balance. 

If excessive coffee or lack of sleep affects your mental state negatively, understanding and managing these factors become essential. Designing your groove is an ongoing process of self-awareness, ensuring that your entrepreneurial journey is not only successful but sustainable and fulfilling.

As I showed in my story – there is no point “winning” the game of Founder. And then losing the game of Life.

Finally, what advice would you give founders about navigating the multitude of advice available, and how can they trust their intuition in decision-making?

In my podcast Honey I Blew Up The Business I interview top entrepreneurs. People with OBE’s and proper multi-million exits. I often ask the question: ‘what advice should entrepreneurs ignore…”. And 80% of the responses say: “Ignore other people’s advice”

Then they quickly follow up with: “and listen to your gut, your intuition”

 No advice is universally applicable. Every founder and business is unique, and trusting your intuition is paramount. The quiet voice within knows what’s best for you and your business. Journaling and self-awareness practices help you connect with that inner voice. 

Navigating the sea of advice involves recognising that external guidance can only go so far; ultimately, the decision-making power lies within the founder. Trusting your gut, listening to your intuition, and staying attuned to your unique journey are critical components of successful and authentic entrepreneurship.

If you want to know how to be able to hear your intuition. When you get up in the morning, before you look at your phone or laptop, get a pad and a pen and write out all the shite in your head. Once you have done that, ask yourself what to do. Write it down. Then just have the courage to do it. 

Dan Kirby has founded Founders Are Mental (FAM), a coaching community for entrepreneurs. The course helps entrepreneurs define and follow through on the good habits they know they need to do in just a few hours a month.

Entrepreneurs can join fellow Mental Founders and learn a new way to be a successful founder – a Good Mental Founder. It is free to joining their monthly picnic walks – FAMstep – held in central London and the Peak District: www.foundersaremental.com/famstep 


Regenerative AgriTech: Seeding a greener future

In an era where environmental sustainability and food security are paramount, the world of agriculture is undergoing a profound transformation. Regenerative AgriTech, a groundbreaking approach that combines cutting-edge technology with ecological wisdom, is at the forefront of this change. As the world grapples with the challenges of traditional farming, Regenerative AgriTech offers innovative solutions that are capturing the attention of both investors and eco-conscious farmers. 

In our latest sector focus article Olivia Sibony, AIN’s Head of Impact and founder of Impact Amplified, explores the reasons for the rising interest in regenerative agricultural technology, the hurdles that this sector must overcome, the promising investor opportunities, and the trailblazing companies leading the way in this transformative field.

What is regenerative AgriTech?

Regenerative AgriTech is a farming and land management approach that enhances ecosystems and food production sustainability through technology. It prioritises soil health, biodiversity, and carbon sequestration by minimising soil disturbance, using cover crops, crop rotation, and livestock integration. 

This practice emulates natural ecological processes to build resilient and productive agricultural systems, addressing climate change, biodiversity, and food security while preserving the environment. Technology plays a pivotal role in optimising resource management, improving efficiency, and supporting data-driven decision-making for eco-conscious farmers.

What are the reasons for the rising interest in agricultural  technology?

Agriculture is a significant contributor to global carbon emissions, accounting for 30% of emissions, 70% of water usage, and almost 90% of deforestation. While the population continues to grow, traditional farming methods yield less. 

Climate change effects, including unpredictable weather patterns and declining pollinators, further exacerbate the situation. Although technology can’t replace the need for human sustenance, it offers opportunities to disrupt and transform the agriculture system, addressing this substantial market’s challenges.

What challenges does agritech need to overcome and what barriers still exist?

Agriculture is an industry steeped in tradition, which has traditionally been slow to change. In addition, many parts of the system are interconnected, which makes it hard for people to adopt change. 

But if we compare it to the banking system, which is heavily regulated, we have nonetheless seen innovative players disrupting the banking system and reaping huge rewards. Similarly the agritech sector is seeing a growth in ambitious entrepreneurs using new technologies that offer new opportunities to transform the food industry. 

What is the investor opportunity?

The investor opportunity is huge. The global regenerative agriculture market size was valued at USD 9.08 billion in 2022 and is expected to reach USD 31.88 billion by 2031, at a CAGR of 15.17% during the forecast period.The market is driven by a number of factors, including:

  • Increasing awareness of the benefits of regenerative agriculture, such as improved soil health, water quality, and biodiversity
  • Rising demand for sustainable and ethical food products
  • Government support for regenerative agriculture initiatives
  • Technological advancements in regenerative agriculture practices

North America is the largest market for regenerative agriculture, followed by Europe and Asia Pacific.

AI and new technologies help better understand health soil management and crop health to increase yields, machines are able to turn air into water to reduce water usage. Within the gates of the farm itself, a huge array of innovations are transforming the industry, and this is just the beginning. 

The regenerative agriculture market is still in its early stages of development, but it is growing rapidly. As more and more people become aware of the benefits of regenerative agriculture, it is likely to become increasingly mainstream. It is the perfect time for investors to get on board.

Which companies are doing interesting things in this space?

Biohm is a regenerative biotech company, pioneering innovative solutions. They convert organic waste into insulation materials using mycelium for the construction industry, all while being carbon-positive and manufacturing locally.  

Additionally, they produce waterproof sports clothing and harness mycelium and bacteria for energy production. Their four strains of mycelium are capable of degrading plastics, such as Polyurethane (PU), Polyethylene (PE), Polystyrene (PS), and Polyester (PET), breaking them down into sugars, benign hydrocarbons, and carbon dioxide. Mycelium consumes the sugars and hydrocarbons, while photosynthesizing organisms transform the carbon dioxide into oxygen.

All of their technologies take their roots from regenerative agriculture practices.

Smart Oasis Farm use precision agriculture in disused containers to create food in urban environments.This innovative approach guarantees yields, low energy and minimal food miles. It was created by a Ukrainian farmer, with part of the funds going to fund more production in Ukraine.

Bio Natural Solutions converts organic waste into a spray that extends the shelf life of fresh produce, reducing the reliance on plastic packaging and chemical sprays. This innovative biotechnology benefits the global export of perishable goods like avocados and mangoes, effectively curbing food waste while reusing organic materials.

Join the world’s largest angel investment network, where global investors meet the great businesses of tomorrow.


Meet The Investor: Bryony Marshall

In our latest Meet The Investor interview we speak to experienced angel investor Bryony Marshall. She discusses why the present investing climate is a return to ‘normal’, the common mistakes startups make in their fundraising journey and how to avoid them. Plus the importance of networking and community and why we need to first understand the barriers to diversity in the startup ecosystem before we can look at solutions.

Why did you become an angel investor?

For me, angel investing is a way to directly support innovative ideas and help amazing founders on their mission to change the world. As an angel investor you are usually some of the first funding into a start up, and I am using that opportunity to ensure funding reaches a diverse founders. 

What are the most exciting sectors gaining your interest at the moment?

I have always been interested in healthtech and am always excited by new developments in this space because of the direct impact on the quality of people’s lives.

How should startups approach fundraising in the present climate?

The last few years were an abnormality, and we are now returning to normal.  Investors got so focused on growth they momentarily forgot about fundamentals like a path to profitability. When cash is no longer easy to come by, needing to constantly raise to grow starts to look like quite a risky strategy.  From the startup’s perspective they also need to de risk their futures by ensuring they raise enough to give sufficient runway to reach a meaningful milestone before they need to raise again.

What is the most common mistake startups make in their fundraising journey?

Losing momentum in the fundraising process.  Ideally startups should have mapped out the steps in their process and have all materials ready at the outset.  New questions that come up should be answered and added to a FAQ knowledge base.  Every meeting should build on the previous and finish with an ask or action.

What are the common traits of the successful startups you have supported?

Single mindedness of the founders, when you know they’ll do anything to succeed and won’t take no for an answer.  Also, being strong storytellers, this is important for getting everyone on board from investors, to key hires, to customers.

If you could offer just one piece of advice to a young startup, what would it be?

Talk to other startups, find networks and communities where you can learn from other’s experiences.  As an angel investor, being part of the Alma Angels community is invaluable to me for all the same reasons.

Are you positive or negative about the UK retaining its place as a key startup hub?

I lean towards optimism, while acknowledging that the challenges have increased, mainly due to economic conditions. I believe we can continue to attract talent, foster innovation, and maintain a supportive environment for startups, but this requires more acute attention than it did previously.

Founding teams and indeed investors still have a very low representation of women or indeed ethnic diversity. How can this be improved to ensure we truly democratise the ecosystem?

We talk about the ‘barriers to women’ or ‘barriers to diversity’, while these barriers exist, how can we be surprised that we have low representation?  In many cases these barriers haven’t even been properly identified, so we don’t even know what needs to change.  Or worse, they are and the change is dismissed as being in some way unworkable by those who benefit from the status quo.  This is just step one, with the barriers gone, we can then look at how to attract, promote and retain.

Join the world’s largest angel investment network, where global investors meet the great businesses of tomorrow.

How To Avoid The Dark Side Of Success – 5 key take outs

In a recent webinar we had a great hour discussing “How To Avoid The Dark Side Of Success” with Dan Kirby, exited Tech founder and the founder of Founders Are Mental (FAM), a coaching community for entrepreneurs. The course helps entrepreneurs define and follow through on the good habits they know they need to do in just a few hours a month.

Here are the top 5 tips:

1) Reality bites 

There is a big difference between the entrepreneurial life you are sold (ie independence and freedom) and the life you end up having (never switching off, tied to the business.

2) The Two Immutable Founder-Truths

We ALL are looking up towards the top of a mountain. And we ALL have a groove – our patterns and habits – whether we are aware of them or not. The Groove you are in will dictate whether you get up the mountain (or fall off it.)

3) The Awareness Muscle

You are made of 3 parts: Your Body (your emotions), Your Mind (your thoughts), Your Awareness (all of your emotions and your thoughts). But your Awareness is often weak (you eat the doughnut, then later regret it). But you can strengthen your Awareness like you would your Body or Mind – your “Awareness Muscle”.

4) Your Hamster Wheel 

Unexpected events, unkind comments, bad news – can create a reaction. There is a stimulus. Then a response. Reactivity creates more reactivity. You get stressed, shout, then have to make up for the shouting – and still deal with the problem. This is The Hamster Wheel of Reactivity – working on your Awareness will stop it. Don’t react, act.

5) You have the power

“𝘍𝘰𝘳𝘤𝘦𝘴 𝘣𝘦𝘺𝘰𝘯𝘥 𝘺𝘰𝘶𝘳 𝘤𝘰𝘯𝘵𝘳𝘰𝘭 𝘤𝘢𝘯 𝘵𝘢𝘬𝘦 𝘢𝘸𝘢𝘺 𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘳𝘺𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘱𝘰𝘴𝘴𝘦𝘴𝘴 𝘦𝘹𝘤𝘦𝘱𝘵 𝘰𝘯𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘨, 𝘺𝘰𝘶𝘳 𝘧𝘳𝘦𝘦𝘥𝘰𝘮 𝘵𝘰 𝘤𝘩𝘰𝘰𝘴𝘦 𝘩𝘰𝘸 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘸𝘪𝘭𝘭 𝘳𝘦𝘴𝘱𝘰𝘯𝘥 𝘵𝘰 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘴𝘪𝘵𝘶𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯”. ~Viktor Frankl, Austrian psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, devoted his life to exploring the meaning of life and its links to happiness. 

The question is: How? The solution lies in developing a heightened sense of awareness and strengthening our “Awareness Muscle”.

Entrepreneurs can join fellow Mental Founders and learn a new way to be a successful founder – a Good Mental Founder. It is free to joining their monthly picnic walks – FAMstep – held in central London and the Peak District: www.foundersaremental.com/famstep

Meet the Investor: Christian Teichmann

In our latest Meet The Investor interview we speak to Christian Teichmann, Managing Director of Burda Principal Investments. Christian is a venture capitalist driven by curiosity and a daily quest for the “next big thing'” in the competitive world of fundraising.

He talks to AIN about the exciting sectors gaining his interest, the common mistakes founders make, how preparation is key and why startups should raise more capital than they think they need.

Why did you become an investor?

I am a highly curious person and, as a VC investor, I have the opportunity to come across the next big thing every day. It excites me every morning to think about what will succeed, what constitutes a business and what is merely a feature.

Once you’ve invested in a company, the great part is working with the founders. It’s about building their business in alignment with the initial thesis we formulated together at the beginning. And last but not least: generating a return for our investors. It’s what drives us every day.

What are the most exciting sectors gaining your interest at the moment?

It’s certainly AI right now, but beyond that, fintech in Southeast Asia, space data combined with AI and machine learning. Additionally energy and innovative materials are sectors we’re keeping a close eye on.

How should startups and scale ups approach fundraising in the present climate?

Not any different than in the past! They should have a well thought through equity story with matching and supporting numbers and KPIs. I also expect high but feasible goals and a well rehearsed presentation. Another aspect that is always relevant is that they, the founders, really need to make the time and space for the investor meetings.

What is the most common mistake young businesses make in their fundraising journey?

Two things come to mind: The first is not being well prepared. The second is not being ambitious enough and not raising enough money.

What are the common traits of the successful business founders you have supported?

They try to be “cheap”, meaning they try to build successful businesses with very lean organisations.

What are the most important factors for you in deciding which companies to back?

When we invest in a company, it’s the completeness and track record of the team that’s important. We also look at earned trading and their focus on building a business with a clear differentiation that sets them apart.

If you could offer just one piece of advice to a young startup, what would it be?

My advice would be: Raise more capital than you actually think you need while focusing on building an efficient organisation.

Burda is hosting an innovation conference, taking place in Munich from 11-13 January. Under the theme Dare to KnowDLD Munich 24 invites business leaders, technology experts, world-renowned scientists, critical thinkers, inventive entrepreneurs, and inspired creators to Munich to tackle the most important questions of our time. From AI to immersive realities to robotics.

Join the world’s largest angel investment network, where global investors meet the great businesses of tomorrow.

Meet the Investor: Cristina Bullon Gomez

In our latest Meet the Investor interview, we meet Cristina Bullon Gomez, a seasoned investor with a passion for nurturing and advising startups. She discusses the symbiotic relationship between investors and startups that fuels economic growth, the red flags she watches out for when investing in startups and how startups should tackle fundraising today. Plus her thoughts on why we need societal change to truly democratise the startup ecosystem.

Why did you become an angel investor?

After many years working alongside startups, I recognize the vital role of capital investments. This not only benefits investors in achieving ROI but is equally crucial for startups to foster growth and expansion. This symbiotic relationship is fundamental to any economy, providing markets with new and reliable ideas.

What are the key benefits of being an angel investor?

Being an angel investor allows me to actively engage with startups; I serve as an advisor to many of the startups I’ve invested in.

What are the most exciting sectors gaining your interest at the moment? 

Sustainability and technology.

What do you think are the benefits to startups of angel investment, versus other forms of funding?

Angel investors represent the first line that can make or break startups. We bear the responsibility to meticulously analyse, invest, and drive the right solutions and ideas, making us essential to the ecosystem.

What red flags do you look out for when researching startups?

I scrutinize the founders’ ability to be agile, handle criticism, and stay composed during challenging times. Additionally, alignment of expectations among founders and a startup’s scalability are crucial factors.

We are in a very different investment climate. How should startups approach fundraising today that is different from previous years?

Startups must be aware of increased interest rates leading to a decrease in risk appetite. Understanding macroeconomic trends and targeting the right investors based on company fit is essential. Researching the investment landscape and focusing on initial traction and strategy are key components for success.

What are the common traits of the successful startups you have supported?

Successful startups exhibit traits such as focus, patience, determination, and agility to pivot based on real market behaviour. They understand the importance of timing, partnerships, and assembling the right team. Efficient corporate structures and processes, though tedious, are crucial for long-term success.

If you could offer just one piece of advice to a young startup, what would it be?

Follow your gut and learn to say no. Trust your instincts amid the multitude of opinions in the investment industry. Focus on calculated risks, avoid spreading too thin, and prioritize tasks at different stages of your start-up journey.

Founding teams and indeed investors still have a very low representation of women or indeed ethnic diversity. How can this be improved to ensure we truly democratise the ecosystem?

Addressing this issue requires a deeper societal change. We need to restructure social and economic perceptions of women, allowing them more freedom of choice without structural consequences. Early financial literacy and education are essential to encourage women to take informed risks and participate in a broader range of opportunities.

Join the world’s largest angel investment network, where global investors meet the great businesses of tomorrow.

Meet the Investor: Ben Legg

In our latest “Meet The Investor” interview, we speak with Ben Legg, an angel investor and startup founder driven by a passion for promising founders and innovative ideas. Ben believes in the long-term benefits of angel investing, from gaining insights into fresh ideas to building wealth for retirement and the “warm, fuzzy feeling” of truly making a difference.

He shares his views on the exciting sectors gaining his interest, offers valuable advice for startups raising in the present climate, and explains why the mentoring power of angel investors is a formidable quality that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Why did you become an angel investor?

I have been mentoring founders for 15+ years. Now and again I would be mentoring a really promising one, and after a few months would think ‘I really believe in this founder, team and business’, so six years ago I started to invest in 1-2 companies per year.  

What are the key benefits of being an angel investor?

Being an angel investor gives me three benefits:

  1. Insight. It’s really interesting to be exposed to so many fresh ideas
  2. Pension. This is my way of building long-term wealth for my retirement.
  3. Warm, fuzzy feeling. It just feels good to help entrepreneurs who want to make the world a better place. 
What are the most exciting sectors gaining your interest at the moment?

Firstly, I am always focused on the future of work, plus related areas (e.g. adult education). That is where I am building my own startup – The Portfolio Collective, which helps professionals understand, launch, manage and grow successful portfolio careers.

Secondly, as a former army officer seeing the world become so much more dangerous, I feel compelled to support startups in defence and security technology. Part of my portfolio career involves working with GALLOS Technologies, in which we both invest in and build companies focused on improving our security with new technologies. 

Thirdly, I find any startup that builds more interactivity interesting. Another hat I wear is heading Europe for GFR Fund, a Silicon Valley VC focused on gaming, AR, VR, the metaverse and any consumer technology that is deeply interactive. 

What do you think are the benefits to startups of angel investment, versus other forms of funding?

As the CEO and cofounder of The Portfolio Collective, I have raised £1.3m from 200+ angel investors in our community. These investors believe deeply in our team and mission, which itself is very rewarding.

On top of that, they are all community members, power users and major referrers of new members, ensuring that we always have a steady stream of new members and feedback on what we are doing well, and where we need to improve things.

What red flags do you look out for when researching startups? 

The reality is that when I invest, I am investing in the founders more than the strategy, as the strategy will likely change. I look for the following in founders:

  • Integrity – one whiff of dishonesty – or flakiness – and I’m out.
  • Insight fresh insights on their industry that others haven’t developed (or can’t act on) plus deep curiousity and the ability to ‘outthink’ competitors over a sustained period of time.
  • Rigour – proven passion for, and ability to, build new things – products, teams, services etc. They need to be able to turn slides into real world momentum. 
  • EQ – deep self awareness, listening skills and proven ability to assemble and work with a team with diverse skills and personalities. 
  • Cofounder Teamwork – do the cofounders work well with each other? Do they have different, but complementary, skills? Do they support AND challenge each other?
  • Resilience – a proven work ethic and ability to overcome adversity. No ‘lifestyle founders’ for me.
We are in a very different investment climate. How should startups approach fundraising in the present climate that is different from previous years?

VCs have a lot less money to deploy now, and every investor of every type now expects a faster route to profitability. So no-one should plan on an easy raise with a pitch that doesn’t have a tangible plan to get to profitability fast.

For most startups at the moment, revenue, grants, angels and family offices are a better place to look than VCs, so focus more time there. And make sure you have proof points regarding market size, pricing, cost levels and customer likelihood to pay. 

What is the most common mistake startups make in their fundraising journey?

The most common is starting too late – it always takes longer than expected. The second is raising in rounds. The most successful raising I am seeing at the moment is ‘always on’ raising, typically via an ASA (UK) or SAFE (US). That way you don’t need to hit a fundraising target, but can raise as you gain traction.

If you could offer just one piece of advice to a young startup, what would it be?

Find 3-5 great mentors or advisors, with complementary skills,  and tie them in early. Give them about 5% of the company between them – either in stock options, or if early enough include them in the founders agreement (with clawbacks in case it doesn’t work out). These people will support you, challenge you and help you with fundraising, partnerships, talent acquisition and much more.

Are you positive or negative about the UK retaining its place as a key startup hub?

I am very positive. Within Europe, the UK still has by far the deepest pool of investment capital, entrepreneurial talent, top universities and supporting organisations. 

Founding teams and indeed investors still have a very low representation of women or indeed ethnic diversity. How can this be improved to ensure we truly democratise the ecosystem? 

There is no quick fix here. We need a 360 approach in which we showcase role models, train aspiring entrepreneurs, connect founders with capital, then support those founders on their journeys. 

Join the world’s largest angel investment network, where global investors meet the great businesses of tomorrow.

Meet the Investor: Conor Sharpe

Last year, we introduced a new content series spotlighting our inspiring and diverse network of investors. All leading the way in their respective fields. 

Fast forward to 2023, a very different climate compared to last year, with its own set of challenges. Founders are navigating through a highly competitive landscape, with investors applying more stringent criteria for precious funding.

Against this backdrop we are pleased to announce the launch of Series 2, as we aim to address these challenges and continue our mission of connecting ambitious entrepreneurs with investors.

In our first interview, experienced angel investor, Conor Sharpe, Co-Founder at CircleRock Capital delves into his motivations in becoming an investor.

He offers invaluable advice for startups seeking success in a different climate, highlights strategies to save precious time in fundraising and shares his unwavering confidence in the UK retaining its place as a startup powerhouse. It’s time to meet the investor…  

Why did you become an angel investor?

My motivation to become an angel investor was two-fold: to meet incredible people with huge entrepreneurial ambition and learn from them, and to capitalise on the potential for high returns.

What are the key benefits of being an angel investor?

The key benefits are the continuous learning opportunities, the opportunity of a large financial outcome, very attractive tax reliefs, and enabling investment portfolio diversification!

What do you think are the benefits to startups of angel investment, versus other forms of funding?

There are many benefits including access to patient and flexible capital, and the ability to leverage an angel’s valuable network.

What red flags do you look out for when researching startups?

Red flags I look out for include high employee turnover, founders who don’t have a good grasp on their metrics, and a lack of market validation.

We are in a very different investment climate. How should startups approach fundraising in 2023 that is different from previous years?

Raising capital is harder than ever, so make sure to consider every last funding option to secure funds for your business. Knowing the key metrics of your business is also vital – consider using a solution like Scaleup Finance’s CFO-as-a-Service to stay on top of them!

What is the most common mistake startups make in their fundraising journey?

It’s amazing how few founders have a well-organised data room! Many startups waste time on their initial fundraise talking to VCs – they would be far better off targeting value-add angels.

What are the common traits of the successful startups you have supported?

I have now professionalised my angel investing by forming a leading syndicate called CircleRock Capital – we believe all the startups we have backed have the ability to be the leading company in the world at what they do. A common trait we see is that the very best founders have an understated confidence in the inevitability of their success.

What do you think the Government could do to help support the startup ecosystem?

I think the Government do an incredible job in assisting startups – they have shown a willingness to listen and make changes to policy and increase tax relief limits where necessary. A continued focus on underrepresented founders would be welcome.

Are you positive or negative about the UK retaining its place as a key startup hub?

Extremely positive! The unique melting pot of diverse cultures that is found in the UK will ensure this. 

Join the world’s largest angel investment network, where global angel investors meet the great businesses of tomorrow.

Angel Investment Network launches new investor focused app

Angel Investment Network, the world’s largest online angel investment platform, has launched a new app, enabling investors to access thousands of startup opportunities.

The new app, which is free for investors, provides instant access to AIN’s 40 global neworks. This will  enable investors to grow their portfolios through exploring deals, connecting and investing with entrepreneurs.

The app was developed after a rigorous research and a planning process involving input from investors and experts and is available for download from the App Store and Android

Once logged in investors can:
– Browse thousands of investment opportunities from around the world
– Choose their own investment criteria to receive targeted dealflow
– Shortlist pitches to review later
– Connect with exciting startups and scaleups

According to AIN co-founder James Badgett: “At AIN, we understand the value of connections and are always looking for ways to make access to opportunities seamless. We are therefore excited to announce we’ve launched a new app for investors after months of testing. It means investors can explore deals, connect and invest on the move. We look forward to seeing many more business relationships flourish as investors back the great businesses of tomorrow.”

Launched by childhood friends, James Badgett and Mike Lebus in 2005, Angel Investment Network (AIN) is an online platform connecting startups with a global network of angel investors. With 40 networks extending to 90 different countries and nearly 2m users, it is the largest angel investment community in the world. Angel Investment Network has helped tens of thousands of businesses worldwide with investments ranging from £10,000 to £1m. 

Companies AIN has raised for include: What3Words, FanBytes, Rosa’s Thai and Kit & Kin.

Looking for investment opportunities? Join us at angel investment network, where global investors meet the great businesses of tomorrow.

Generative AI: Revolutionising industries and investment opportunities

Generative AI, once a niche topic, has rapidly become a global conversation, even being used in a slanging match between rivals in the US Presidential Election. Its promise is to revolutionise industries and reshape the way we interact with technology.

In our latest Sector Focus article, Christian Teichmann, CEO of Burda Principal Investments (BPI), provides insights into what Generative AI means, the reasons behind its surge in interest, the challenges it faces, and the enticing investor opportunity.

What is generative AI?

AI is a broad term that refers to software or hardware exhibiting behaviours, which appear intelligent, whereas modern AI is mostly focused on a set of techniques called Machine Learning (ML). This enables software programmes to learn through training, instead of being explicitly programmed with rules. Thus far, machine learning was primarily deployed to make predictions.

Generative AI refers to a new wave of ML models – most prominently transformer-based large language models (LLMs) – that are able to create original content in response to natural language prompts. They enable machines to produce text, code, or conduct other creative tasks.

What are the reasons for the rising interest in generative AI?

Another highly exciting feature of these most recent models – besides their ability to not only make predictions but generate original content – is their flexibility driven by scale. While earlier generations of AI systems were mostly good for one specific purpose, newer models can be reassigned from one type of problem to another, closing in on Artificial General Intelligence (AGI). These models are also called “Foundation Models” and promise huge economic potential as general-purpose technologies. We have come to believe that AI will trigger the next wave, i.e. the third wave, of 21st century digital tech innovation, after mobile internet and cloud computing.

What barriers does generative AI need to overcome?

We are at the beginning of the Generative AI journey and foundation models are still in their infancy. The question of what this new platform will look like and who its gatekeepers will be cannot be answered yet.

However, for Generative AI to sustain its promise beyond the initial hype, there are some fundamental challenges to be solved both on the foundation model layer and on the application layer. On the foundation model layer, questions around output explainability, data privacy and copyright concerns need to be answered. On the application layer, startups still need to find innovative ways to derive real and sustainable customer value from the capabilities of generative models. Another challenge for startups is the importance of data and the capital, when it comes to building defendable products in this space; here, large incumbent companies typically have an advantage over young companies.

What is the investor opportunity?

So far, most VC-backed companies within the Gen AI landscape are either active at the core infrastructure layer or providing horizontal applications across industries. Most funding allocated on the application layer is being invested in horizontal use cases that address various industries with function-specific generative capabilities (e.g. customer support or sales communication). In some of the more obvious segments we already identify a very high number of early-stage startups (e.g. up to 140 for text generation for marketing purposes).

For the future, we expect more Generative AI applications to emerge for domain-specific use cases as the core infrastructure platform matures. The reasons for this assumption are the following: Tackling of industry-specific challenges and access to unique proprietary data.

Vertical-specific products will be better equipped to leverage domain-specific datasets to create or finetune more precise and defendable models. Additionally, companies focused on specific verticals or domains may be more able to come up with novel and unique user interfaces between customers and models to solve industry-specific challenges. These user-interfaces don’t need to be as flexible as those for horizontal use cases that serve multiple industries, further raising barriers of entry. However, the addressable market size of vertical applications is likely to be scrutinised, due to their narrower focus.

Which companies are doing interesting things in this space?

On the foundation model layer, Aleph Alpha has built some unique capabilities (e.g. explainability) into their large language model Luminous, which is the only European large language model operating at scale. On the application layer, we see more and more interesting cases of vertical use cases emerging. For example, Harvey or Casetext in the Legal Vertical or Genei and Scispace in the Education Vertical.

Tell us about your forthcoming DLD AI Summit?

DLD (Digital, Life, Design) is the international conference and innovation platform of Hubert Burda Media and BPI is a long-term partner of DLD. On September 7th, the first ever DLD AI Summit is taking place in Munich and BPI is co-hosting the conference alongside other partners. The DLD AI Summit will address AI´s technological evolution and its impact on all areas of life. The topic will be discussed on an interdisciplinary level, and we are looking forward to high-level speakers on the panel, such as Jonas Andrulis, Founder and CEO of Aleph Alpha, Dex Hunter-Torricke, Head of Global Communications and Marketing at DeepMind, Mark Surman, President of the Mozilla Foundation and Thomas Saueressig, Member of the Executive Board of SAP.

About BPI

BPI provides long term growth equity for fast growing digital technology companies, primarily investing in platforms & marketplaces, fintech, B2B SaaS, digital networks, cybersecurity, AI, food tech and commerce-enabling tech.

There will be a livestream of the DLD AI Summit: https://dld-conference.com/

Join the world’s largest angel investment network, where global angel investors meet the great businesses of tomorrow.

Behind the Raise with MAGIC AI

MAGIC AI, the UK’s first AI personal trainer, is on a mission to combat obesity through its innovative fitness platform. Founded in 2021, the company utilises cutting-edge holographic technology and a wall mirror to create an immersive fitness experience at home.

In our latest Behind The Raise interview, co-founder Varun Bhanot shares his personal journey from being overweight to a transformative training experience, which inspired him to democratise personalised training. 

He discusses the problem MAGIC AI aims to solve, its appeal to investors, celebrity endorsement, and valuable tips for raising investment. Varun also reveals how he discovered a close-to-home connection in the AIN database.

Tell us about MAGIC AI, and how you came up with the idea?

In my early 20s, I became very overweight. I had developed too much of a fondness for kebabs and whisky and I realised I needed a change. So I went through a personal training experience in London. In about four months, I lost around 25% body fat and got into great shape, something I had never achieved before. 

But like so many, I was never into the gym, finding it intimidating and not knowing what to do. During this process, I noticed how old-fashioned personal training was, with a trainer manually counting reps on a clipboard, and I thought of democratising access to personalised training at home. That’s when the idea of using AI and hardware to recreate the one-on-one personal training experience was born. We started building on this idea, and that’s how MAGIC AI took shape.

What is the problem you are looking to solve?

Our mission is to tackle obesity and its associated costs, which amount to around £7bn a year in England. We aim to help people lead healthier, fitter, and longer lives, backed by scientific evidence of the benefits of personalised training. 

Our goal is to provide this one-on-one personalised experience, only affordable to some, and make it accessible to everyone. Traditional personal training in London can be costly, ranging from £40 to £100 per hour, limiting accessibility to one person at a time and requiring physical presence.

Our technology changes that by enabling the entire household to train together at a fraction of the cost, around £38 per month. This makes our solution more affordable for one month, than a single hour with a personal trainer.

What attracted investors to your company?

The AI aspect of our company is particularly interesting to investors. We utilise computer vision technologies similar to those found in self-driving cars to understand people’s movements and actions in space. Few companies worldwide are excelling in this intersection of AI, health coaching, and fitness training, making our approach unique and intriguing.

Additionally, the connected fitness market in the UK and Europe is relatively nascent, with only a few strong players like Peloton. Our presence in this space, coupled with the potential for innovative offerings, has attracted interest.

Finally, we have the privilege of working with renowned athletes who are on the platform from cricketing legend Sir Alastair Cook and Strictly’s Katya Jones.
Using AI to make it feel like these athletes are coaching users in their living rooms is a compelling proposition that helped jumpstart interest from investors.

Why did you choose to raise via Angel investment Network?

Firstly I’d had a relationship with AIN from my previous company. Given it was our first round of funding, it was the natural place to go. 

As an aside, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that my parents had invested in a few companies through AIN over the years. The reason I found out? They were on the newsletter to receive updates about exciting companies raising. This clearly highlights AIN’s extensive reach and a strong network, exactly what it says on the tin!

The Angel Investment Network has proven to be an excellent platform for raising funds, and I have personally recommended it to at least five other founders who have found it helpful as well.

What would be your top tip for anyone raising for the first time?

Ensure all your assets are prepared and readily available. Have your deck, data room, financial model, market resources, and team neatly organised and accessible. 

This front-loading of assets will impress potential investors and enable you to respond promptly when they reach out. Be prepared and ready to act.

How do you see AI impacting on your business and product offering in the future?

In the future, we see AI continuing to have a significant impact on our business. We’d like to go deeper into becoming a personalised health coach, looking at the granular details of individual health goals and generating tailor-made programs. 

By leveraging data from wearables and other sources, our system would be able to continuously iterate. Then we can start to build a 3D picture of how you’re progressing.

We also see a future where we expand our AI capabilities to cover diverse modalities like yoga, dance, boxing, and pilates, catering to various user preferences and needs. Currently, such AI-based instructions are scarce in these areas, making it a compelling and promising direction to explore.

If you’re looking for an angel investor to help fund your business, then the Angel Investment Network can help. Sign up to pitch your business to investors all over the world 

Inside the Accelerator : Considered Capital

Are you seeking an alternative funding route for your impact-focused business? Then Considered Capital’s Alternative Funding School could be for you. 

In the last of our Inside the Accelerator series we speak with founder Esme Verity, who talks us through the six-week virtual cohort-based programme. Their focus is on providing practical insights and a supportive community, empowering entrepreneurs to navigate the diverse landscape of alternative funding sources. 

With over 97% of previous participants recommending the programme, this accelerator is revolutionizing the way startups approach fundraising, breaking away from the conventional VC mould, and encouraging founders to think outside the box for a funding fit that aligns with their values. Read on.

Tell us about your accelerator?

The Alternative Funding School is here to raise funding confidence across the globe. From the seed of a business idea to startups hitting a funding wall, we will help founders navigate the alternative funding landscape regardless of business model or sector. So far, since November 2020 200 founders from over 19 countries have joined our Alt Funding School and 97% would recommend it to a founder friend. 

Our six-week virtual cohort-based programme helps impact-focused founders find the right funding fit. We put all the funding opportunities in one place, allowing you to find the best funding route for you and your business. It’s a crash course in raising alternative funding and is perfect for those searching for the right way to fund their business on their terms. 

We provide practical, hands-on support for founders raising mission-aligned funding. You’ll be working alongside other founders on the same path and hear from our funding experts live, who’ll show you which alternative path they took and how they succeeded. We’re lifting the veil on where all the alternative funding is and how to access it.

What do you mean by ‘feel good fundraising”?

For the last five years, I’ve been working with thousands of founders to connect them to the right sources of funding and support. I found early on that when founders aren’t shown all the funding options available; they can quickly hit a brick wall with their business. This can create a blocker, not only to the business moving forward but to a founder’s confidence.

So I built Considered Capital to support founders to feel more confident and to think outside the box when going after what they need to build a successful business. Raising money can feel like a long, complicated slog. But with education and a community of brilliant minds and supportive energy, founders feel like they’re in this together and reinforce one another’s confidence. 

So far, we’ve empowered thousands of founders to think beyond VC style funding and consider other funding routes. Our mission is to open up alternative funding and the world of funding options available for startups, founders and socially-led businesses. We are determined to challenge the notion that Venture Capital is the only way to fund your business and teach everyone to find a funding fit that aligns with their values and to feel confident to go and get it.

What is the selection process for startups joining the program?

We only run one cohort a year, and each cohort is carefully curated to ensure there is synergy among the founders. Therefore, we only have founders/people running businesses inside the school and have a carefully designed recruitment process. 

The first step for any founder interested in participating is to complete our application form, where we ask you more about your business, your stage and why you’re interested in participating. If you’re accepted, you’ll then receive an email inviting you to join the cohort. 

What is the duration of the program? 

Our school has been shaped with busy founders in mind. Over six weeks, you’ll invest two to three hours of your time per week and learn everything you need to know about raising alternative funding. 

What is the structure of the program and what do you provide in terms of resources and support for startups?

Our six-week alternative funding school is a crash course in raising alternative funding. This includes:

1) Funding Knowledge 

  • Six weekly live sessions where you can ask questions directly to me and our funding experts. Available both live and on-demand
  • Lifetime access to a library of video content featuring me and other expert speakers on wide-ranging funding topics.
  • A selection of practical worksheets, tools & guides, including a Global Funding Directory that will save you hours of work
  • Case studies of innovative companies and their financing structures
  • Weekly exercises to hold you accountable and turn thought into action
  • Discounts on selected specialist services and fundraising platforms 

2) Online Community

  • Our exclusive community where you can meet, ask questions and share knowledge with supportive and likeminded social entrepreneurs
  • An online digital space built just for your cohort 
  • Self-organised pods based on similar interests for peer learning, brainstorming and accountability.
  • An active alumni community of 150 founders who meet monthly
Startups should join my accelerator because…

We welcome anyone and everyone from all walks of life who want to find the right funding fit. Whether you’re new to fundraising or have already raised some initial investment, we have something for you.

We have condensed hundreds of hours of research and thousands of pounds of consulting time into a 6-week course. If you’re considering fundraising in the next 6-12 months and think that venture capital isn’t right for you, this will be the best investment you’ll make. 

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How founders can manage workplace wellbeing

In this guest post Adah Paris, chair of Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England provides insight into how founders can manage workplace wellbeing.

Whether you are a founder or investor it is vital to think about the mental health and wellbeing of everyone involved, including yourselves. The emotional and physical demands of leading a startup require a laser sharp focus on wellbeing.

At MHFA England®, we know productivity and wellbeing fuel each other. We believe organisations of all shapes and sizes, including startups, can purposefully design wellbeing into their business model. As founders and investors, you have an unrivalled opportunity to ensure inclusion, wellbeing and high performance go hand in hand. 

Deloitte research showed that employers who invest in mental health make an average return of £5.30 for every £1 spent. Investing in mental health isn’t just about being a good leader or supporting your employees – it’s about protecting your bottom line.   

My top tips for supporting yours and your people’s wellbeing to create psychologically safe environments where everyone feels seen, heard and valued, are:

1) Model positive behaviour

As part of our Mental Health First Aid training, we teach learners to be mindful of people’s stress containers i.e. the lower a person’s vulnerability to stress, the bigger their container is. The size of the container is down to lots of factors, including difficult experiences. The more of these issues there are, the smaller the container will be, so it will overflow more quickly than for someone who has a larger container and is therefore able to cope with stress. When the container overflows, difficulties can develop.

This model can be used to check in on our own wellbeing and help us to think about useful coping strategies. For example, making time for self-care, getting rest and asking for help. On the other hand, unhelpful coping mechanisms such as working excessively long hours, self-medicating with drugs or alcohol and not getting enough sleep can become additional stressors to fill the container and block the tap.   

Asking for help should be one of the easiest steps to take but often, it can be the hardest. As a founder, you won’t always have access to a formalised HR function, let alone an Employee Assistance Programme. Reaching out to your network, seeking a mentor and being open and honest with family and friends, are all important ways to ensure that your stress container doesn’t overflow. By sharing your concerns, you are also showing that you find certain situations challenging and that it is ok to ask for help.

2) Enable everyone to bring their whole self to work   

My Whole Self is MHFA England’s campaign for workplace culture change. We want organisations to empower employees to bring their whole self to work – background, sexuality, religion, gender, health or mental health. By bringing together diversity and inclusion with health and wellbeing, we can drive positive transformation in workplace mental health and performance.

Employees, no matter the size of the business, need to be empowered to bring their whole selves to work and must have support from senior management to do this. This is especially important in startups, as employees are often in smaller teams and know each other well. This brings lots of benefits and can help create psychological safety but, assuming that good working relationships will develop naturally is not enough. 

Given how much value managers deliver to organisations in building cultures that support wellbeing and performance, it is important that they have the right tools, time and training to do the job of managing well. We have produced a Manager’s Toolkit which includes resources that equip managers with the confidence to support the mental health of themselves and their teams – and boost productivity.

3) Take the time to talk

Whether you have five, ten or 50 staff, make the time to talk and check in with your team. This can be done both formally and informally, to understand more about what is working well and what isn’t.  With the right support, we can all be having constructive, empathetic, and sometimes lifesaving conversations in what many might think are ‘just’ catchups. You can download our free one to one meeting template to help guide you in these conversations.  

We know that work ‘done well’ is good for our mental health and that wellbeing and productivity fuel one and other. Focusing on making everyone feel supported and part of a wellbeing strategy that has a razor-sharp focus on building a positive and inclusive working culture is vital to ensure a startups future success. 

Adah Paris is the chair of MHFA England. For more information on their workplace wellbeing strategy and bespoke consultancy and training visit the MHFA England website.   

Adah has over 20 years of experience in transforming cultures to nurture decentralised humanity-centred innovation environments. She has worked with businesses and individuals in advertising, education, entertainment, entrepreneurship, marketing, media, and technology start-ups.

In 2019, she was recognised as one of TED Talks Global Emerging Innovators. In 2018, she was recognised as one of the UK’s Top 100 Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) Leaders in Technology.

Adah takes a philosophical and anthropological approach to technology, merging logic and creativity to design immersive storytelling, learning and development environments.

Impressing angel investors: The five Ps

In our latest fundraising top tips article Xavier Ballester, Director of Brokerage at Angel Investment Network, gives us the lowdown on the 5 Ps of impressing angel investors.

Fundraising in 2023 is tough. With a re-evaluation of so many businesses and investors being far more cautious about deploying capital, startups need to change their strategy to succeed. However, with 15 years of experience in helping startups raise investment one thing I know is how adept startups are at adjusting strategies in the face of ever-changing market dynamics. 

Based on hundreds of conversations over the past few months, I believe there are five Ps of impressing angel investors in the present climate. Follow these and you will significantly enhance your chances of securing funding for your startup.

1) Pitch

In a world where investors are bombarded with pitches, it is crucial to make yours stand out from the crowd. Start with a blank piece of paper and distill your pitch into a concise paragraph. Ensure that your pitch clearly articulates the problem your startup aims to solve and how your solution stands out. 

If you think of some of the best businesses out there they can be so simply distilled in a few words. For example geocoding system What3Words, who we helped on their initial fundraise – ‘the simplest way to talk about location’ or Monzo ‘Your money made easy’. Always go for the short to grab the investor’s attention.

2) Presentation

Once you have the opportunity to present your pitch to investors, it’s time to create an impactful pitch deck. Your pitch deck should have a clear narrative that captivates the investors’ attention. Focus on highlighting the core product and its unique selling points compared to competitors. Additionally, aim to keep your pitch deck concise, ideally limiting it to around 10 slides. Remember, if your pitch extends beyond twenty minutes, investors may lose interest. 

Having worked with Fourth Wall who are the producers of the hit kids’ cartoon “Milo the Cat”, they were clear on the size of the market, the traction they had achieved so far and comparable success stories on the same channel such as Peppa Pig in a clearly laid out and attractive deck. This really won over investors.

3) Proof

In today’s market climate, evidence of traction is paramount. Investors want to see that your startup has already achieved some level of success and has a clear pathway to further growth. It is essential to demonstrate tangible metrics, such as user acquisition, revenue, or partnerships, that validate your startup’s potential. Furthermore, highlight the relevant experience and expertise that you and your founding team possess within the industry, as it adds credibility to your venture. 

A great recent example we worked with would be energy efficiency platform BOLDR. In a beautifully laid out pitch deck focusing on striking visuals and standout numbers they demonstrated rapid early growth in just a few months of trading, good profit margins and a runway to expansion. The founding team had years of relevant experience in the Internet of Things and they boast a strong advisory team. This is the proof investors are looking for in today’s market.

4) Price

As businesses reassess their plans and funding options, it is crucial to set realistic valuations. What might have been an 8x valuation last year may only be a 5x valuation now. Investors appreciate valuations that are grounded in factual analysis rather than inflated expectations. 

By adopting a rational approach to valuing your startup, you are more likely to attract prospective investors who recognize the true potential of your business.

5) Passion

Investors seek founders who are deeply passionate and committed to their startup’s success. They want to see that you and your team are willing to work tirelessly, make sacrifices, and persevere through challenges. Displaying genuine enthusiasm for your venture can be infectious and inspire confidence in investors. Let your passion shine through in your interactions and demonstrate your unwavering dedication to achieving your startup’s goals.

In summary, impressing angel investors revolves around the five Ps: pitch, presentation, proof, price, and passion.
– Craft a compelling pitch that clearly conveys the problem and solution.
– Create a captivating presentation that highlights your core product and its differentiation. 
– Provide concrete proof of traction and outline the experience of your team.
– Make sure you establish a realistic price in your valuation that aligns with market conditions.
– Finally, showcase your passion and commitment to your startup. By focusing on these aspects, you will significantly enhance your chances of successfully raising funds. 

Best of luck with your fundraising endeavours!

Xavier Ballester, Director of Brokerage, Angel Investment Network

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Inside the Accelerator: Hotbed

For startups navigating the investment landscape, finding the right support and connections can be a game-changer. Enter Hotbed, the virtual accelerator redefining the startup landscape by fostering inclusivity, empowering founders, and building a thriving community. 

Since its launch in May ’22, Hotbed has been a guiding light for over 400 pre-seed and seed stage startups, providing them with invaluable resources, mentorship, and connections to fuel their growth. In the next in our Inside the Accelerator series we speak to co-founders Perdie Alder and Margaret Anne Coyle, as they share the core principles  of Hotbed, its focus on breaking down barriers, driving diversity and inclusion, tailoring programmes and the power of community. Could they be your new BFF?

Tell us about your accelerator?

Hotbed is the place where ambitious startups go to grow. We’re a virtual accelerator for founders worldwide. Since our launch (May ‘22), we’ve supported 400+ fundraising pre-seed and seed stage startups via three programmes. We also host events throughout the year, like Founders Camp, a free, one day mini summit which has featured speakers like Chris Sheldrick (Founder, What3Words), Nic Cary (Founder, Blockchain.com), and Rachel Carrell, (Founder, Koru Kids). 

Our programmes provide 6-10 weeks of support for pre-seed and seed stage founders as they prepare for and progress through their funding round. By the end of the programme, founders have learned first hand from 20 or so “been there, done that” founders, targeted investors, and industry experts. Founders are then encouraged to spend time outside workshops speaking to their target users, so they can focus on building towards product-market fit. 

To keep founders accountable, they identify a North Star Metric (i.e. revenue, daily active users, or acquisition) to focus on throughout the programme, and they report on the growth weekly. The startups that demonstrate the most growth then go on to pitch at our Demo Day and Investor Intro events.

What is the selection process for startups joining the program?

Our ethos is that access to community, content and connections should be for everyone, regardless of their background or where they live. Our cohorts are large (75 startups and up), and as long as startups hit a minimum criteria, they can access the programme.  Throughout the 6-10 weeks founders are in cohorts, we take weekly growth updates from them, and the founders that demonstrate the most growth are then selected to attend our final Demo Day and Investor Intro events.

What is the duration of the program? 

We run programmes every quarter that run from 6-10 weeks. Although all programmes are focused on fundraising founders, each cohort has a slightly different focus, depending on the feedback we get from founders, or challenge areas we see in the ecosystem.  We’ve run programmes for women-led startups, seed stage startups, and beta testing startups. Our current programme is for fundraising SaaS startups.

What is the structure of the program and what do you provide in terms of resources and support for startups?

We design programmes to be ‘low intensity, high reward’. We understand that founders need to spend time building their businesses, so our content is delivered virtually, over 3 hours a week, by the people founders want access to; ‘been there, done that’ scaleup leaders, investors, and experts.

Alongside the content, the three highlights we always get from founders are:

1 – The daily OKR discipline

2 – The quality and transparency of our speakers

3 – The community within the cohort

Founders often don’t know what ‘good’ looks like or what they’re being benchmarked against when they’re pitching to investors. Part of what we do at Hotbed is help founders understand more about the ecosystem they’re operating in, so they know where to position themselves to have the strongest chance of success. We do this by interviewing successful founders, investors and domain experts about the importance of growth metrics, what to measure, and best practice for achieving growth targets.

As we continue running programmes, we’re going to focus even more on making our benchmark growth data available to cohort members to keep them on track.

We often hear from founders that they join the programme for the content and access to investors, then stay for the community. Founders in our cohort are incredibly supportive of each other, and we’ve seen many startups use each other’s services, offer introductions to their personal networks and go above and beyond when a founder asks for help. We love this unique part of Hotbed, and it’s really a testament to the types of people who join our community.

What is the equity model for the accelerator program?

At Hotbed, all programmes are free to founders. We’re making plans to be able to financially support startups in our community and as such we ask all cohort members to sign a Warrant that gives us the option to invest up to £100k in their startup in the future with a 10% discount. If we don’t invest, we don’t take any equity.

Despite progress in recent years, women-led startups face challenges accessing funding.  How crucial a role do accelerators play in supporting and promoting diversity and Inclusivity in the startup ecosystem?

Underrepresented founders, and women in particular have a propensity for under-selling themselves, which historically has translated to them raising less money, or setting lower valuations. Accelerator programmes like Hotbed gives these founders access to data and support from fellow founders so they can be more confident in where their strengths are, and how they’re positioned against peers. 

Sometimes it’s as simple as knowing how much the average fundraise is for a particular industry or business model. It could be understanding what a typical valuation looks like for a business like theirs. It also comes down to what ‘good’ growth looks like. If founders understand what growth metrics investors are seeing across pitch decks, they know what they need to work on and when’s right for them to approach investors confident about their business, their numbers and their growth. 

Startups should join my accelerator because…

Hotbed is run by founders, for founders. We’re a grassroots accelerator, and are passionate about supporting startups and creating an ecosystem that we want to see in the future. One that is equitable and supports ambitious and talented founders to grow, even if the odds seem stacked against them due to their background, network, or location. We’re also founders ourselves, with over 7 years of experience in the ecosystem. We know what you need to know and the people you need to know. Plus, our alumni love what we do.

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Inside The Accelerator: Unrest

Welcome to the first of our new mini-series ‘Inside the Accelerator’. The series will showcase and delve deep into some of the exciting and diverse accelerator programs leading the way in their respective fields. This is part of our commitment to using our platform as a means of supporting the startup ecosystem beyond funding alone.

We aim to educate founders on navigating the landscape and growing in a more challenging climate. On behalf of our members, we’re looking forward to exploring the benefits and challenges of joining accelerator programs, as well as the impact that accelerators have on the startup ecosystem.

In the first in the series we shine a spotlight on Unrest. Led by Orr Vinegold and Anas Hassan, Unrest is a mission-driven startup accelerator and the only one in Europe solely focused on consumer-impact businesses. Guided by its three pillars of impact, resilience and diversity, Unrest focuses on consumer businesses because of its belief in ‘the collective power we all have in driving shifts towards a fairer inclusive economy.’

In this interview, we delve into the selection process, program structure, and the pillars that guide Unrest’s approach, as well as the invaluable resources and support it offers to start-ups. If you’re an impact-driven founder seeking the next step in your start-up journey, Unrest might just be the accelerator for you.

Tell us about your accelerator?

Unrest is Europe’s only accelerator for consumer impact businesses. We support founders of pre-seed and seed stage start-ups ready to re-imagine what business can do for the planet and people. Our companies are at the forefront of innovation and change, creating supportive cultures to grow and succeed. These companies are the future, and together, we will launch the most successful of them. 

What is the selection process for startups joining the program?

The first step for start-ups interested in joining the Unrest programme is to upload a pitch deck on our website. We invite start-ups who we think could be a good fit for the programme to an online interview with members of our team.

The objective of this interview is to learn more about the start-up and founder(s), and to answer any questions from founders about Unrest. We then invite selected start-ups to a Discovery Day, where they can meet more of the Unrest team, as well as other founders who have applied to the programme.

The final step in the process is a selection committee that reviews all applications who have made it to this stage, and makes decisions about who to invite to join the programme.

What is the duration of the program? 

The Unrest programme takes place over 4 months. The Spring/Summer programme typically runs from March to July, and the Autumn/Winter programme generally runs from September to January. 

What is the structure of the program and what do you provide in terms of resources and support for startups?

We provide a 4 month programme focusing on 4 key pillars: branding and marketing, fundraising, impact and community. We partner with world-class experts, including organisations such as Uncommon Creative Studio, BCorp, Seedrs and many others. We also provide customised 121 support for our cohort founders with weekly office hours, executive coaching and mentoring. 

What is the equity model for the accelerator program?

We take 2% equity in our cohort companies (capped at £33K worth of equity). This ensures that our incentives are aligned – we succeed if our start-ups do. It is also a realistic approach given the cash challenges of early stage start-ups.

You are guided by your three pillars of impact, resilience and diversity. Why did you choose them?

Before launching the Unrest accelerator programme, we carried out a lot of desk research and spoke to many start-up founders as well as leaders of existing incubator and accelerator programmes. As a result we identified impact, resilience and diversity as three key drivers of sustainable success. 

There is a sound business case behind this approach. Mission driven companies typically grow 2.5 times more than companies without a strong impact mission at their core. Diverse teams deliver 2.3 times more value than non-diverse teams. And the share price of companies with engaging, resilient cultures is 65% higher than for other companies.

One example of our commitment to supporting a more diverse start-up landscape is Unrest North, our programme for under-represented founders based in the North of England. 

Aside from the business case for our approach, it’s also the right thing to do. The world is changing. Consumers, founders and employees are all increasingly demanding a new way of doing business. One that demands profit, not at the cost of people and planet, but in support of it. 

Startups should join my accelerator because…

Unrest is Europe’s only accelerator for consumer impact businesses. We offer a unique 4 month programme together with world class partners. We have supported 47 start-ups so far, with well over 90% of them still going strong. Between them, our start-ups have raised over £7m in funding. We can help impact-driven founders take the next step in their start-up business journey.

Unrest have a forthcoming Demo day on 5th July which is an opportunity for you to hear from founders on the Unrest Programme as they share the fire that drives them, their vision for a fairer, cleaner, healthier, more diverse world and what they’re doing to make it a reality.

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