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Sixty Second Startups – FastWater Dispenser

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

What does your company do?

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

Fast Water Dispensers Product Demo

Why did you set up this company?


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

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

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

The key to our success will be:


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

Our most effective marketing channel will be:

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

What we look for when recruiting:

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

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

The biggest mistake that I’ve made is:

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

We worked with AIN because:

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

How has coronavirus impacted your business and your fundraising plans?

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

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

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

Keen to hear more?

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

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Digesting 2020

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

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

Change = business opportunity

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

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

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

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

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

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

Talent 

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

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

Efficiency

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

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

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

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

Investor Outlook 

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

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

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

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

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

See you in 2021.

Featured

#Behindtheraise with aisle 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Featured

Agile Funding can help you raise fast

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

When funding goes Agile

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

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

Making the most of the Christmas rush…

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

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

What is agile fundraising?

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

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

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

Advanced Subscription Agreement (ASA)

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

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

Instant Investment

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

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

You can read our comprehensive agile fundraising guide here

Is agile fundraising right for me?

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

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

  1. You’ve found your first investor…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summary

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

SeedLegals

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

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#Behindtheraise with Occuity

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

Tell us about Occuity?

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

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

What is your background?

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

How did the idea for the device come about?

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


How did you recruit the team?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why did you choose to use Angel Investment Network?

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

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Angel Investment Network reports impressive annual growth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what can we expect from the Xoogler Demo Day?

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

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

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

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

Are there any common themes for the companies attending? 

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

How does Google support Xoogler startups?

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

How would you describe the characteristics of a Xoogler?

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

What type of investors are you expecting?

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

Have there been exciting successes from previous years?

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

How has Covid affected the demo day?

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

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

Are there any practical takeaways for our entrepreneurs? 

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

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

Always assume best intent.

Anything else?

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

Featured

Founder Market Fit & what it means for early stage planning

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

Understanding The Shift 

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

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

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

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

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

Why This Shift Is Occurring Now?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How This Shift Might Affect Early Stage Funding?

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

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

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

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

How Do You Assess Where You Are On This Shift?

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

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

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

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

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

Featured

7 software due diligence considerations

By Roger Planes, CEO Silicon Rhino

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

Documentation

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

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

Roadmap

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

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

Resourcing

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


Leveraging third party systems

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

Customer Data

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

Architecture

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

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

Disaster Recovery

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

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

Next Steps

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

Featured

Looking back to help you launch forward


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TIP 1: PROJECTION

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

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

Image © Propelia Ltd 2020

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

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

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

TIP 2: PLANNING

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

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

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

TIP 3:  PROOF

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

These questions are:

Question 1  

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

Question 2

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


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

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

Dan Simmons // Founder – Propelia – September 2020


Featured

What is a Portfolio Career anyway?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you have a portfolio career?

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

What’s driving the ‘movement’?

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

Do you see members with the entrepreneur community?

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

How about the investment community?

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

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

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

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

What are the biggest advantages of having a portfolio career?

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

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

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

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

How can people get involved?

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

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

Sign up here.

Featured

#BehindtheRaise with BorrowMyDoggy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Featured

#BehindtheRaise with WeCoffee

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

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

Benjamin Carew, Co-Founder of WeCoffee

Tell us about WeCoffee:

WeCoffee was created to make working from anywhere something anyone could enjoy. 

By curating  a distributed network of free and unique workspaces and a community you can cowork with online and in real life, we believe we are well on the way to achieving this. 

Why did you decide to raise investment?

We decided to raise investment so that we could bring our unique and exciting model for coworking to the whole world. Something that mine and my business partner’s lifetime savings wouldn’t quite allow, at least at the speed with which we want to do it. 

People often ask why the speed and scale matters and for us we see a window of opportunity, while the world’s ways of working are changing, to allow a better social norm. 

We believe for too long the standards have been set by employers with outdated policies, or more recently landlords hijacking the term coworking only to supply fixed office space as a service. 

We want to make sure that the future of work will give power and choice back to the worker, ensuring a happier and more productive worklife. 

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

I’m going to be cheeky here and give a few:

  • Angel investors are people not ATMs, understand them and make them feel confident and safe with you by treating them how you would like to be
  • Be firm on your timeline, if you don’t have one set one 
  • Don’t be shy to check they actually want to invest, not just introduce you
  • Treat it as near to a full time job as you can. Maybe 50% off the time, as yes you need to run a business. 
  • As soon as you have a yes, add them to the term sheet. Its less scary to follow someone else
  • If VCs keep being really nice but don’t invest your probably too early. Save yourself the time and build more traction and try and do an Angel round or friends and family
  • Be flexible in what your raising, if you get half can you make a business or the next step? If double what would you do? 
  • Don’t be scared to say no. We met one total **** who was incredibly aggressive, wanted to force a board member who was an ex-founder removed from the company by their shareholders for negligence, thought WeWork’s IPO would go through and that only 8 banks failed in the 2008 crisis. We were very happy to not molly his coddle 
  • Lastly join WeCoffee as there are lots of us on or who have been on this journey. We are more than happy to help one another avod the ****, find the right investors and generally navigate the startup world. 

What attracted investors to your company?

You would probably have to ask them, but I think a big part of it was the total and utter passion that is born out of us as a team. We clearly know and love what we do, so if you believe in the idea that we won’t all work in an office 5 days a week, there is no better horse to back. 

My biggest fundraising mistake was…

It took me some time to realise that I needed to run it like any other business activity, as a structured process. I spent months pitching at intermittent events and meetings waiting for my angel to land in lap not realising what I was doing was practising.

I was at the wrong events, with no real investors; and worse meetings with the wrong people who were more interested in introductions than investing. 

Once I sat down, opened the round in SeedLegals, got all my deliverables in place, built a sales funnel and set a firm date to close the round then I was well on the way. 

Why did you choose to use Angel Investment Network?

I used AIN as it came across to meet my target investors (angels), as it had a wealth of investors that I could filter for by sector. Insanely helpful! 

If it wasn’t for you Angel Investment Network we wouldn’t have raised as much as we did.

Keen to hear more?

Try out one of WeCoffee’s online networking events to meet ‘creatives, marketing gurus, product creators, free thinkers, entrepreneurstech geeks, doers and dreamers’.

Sign up here for a 100% discount, i.e free entry.

Featured

#SixtySecondStartUp with Pharma Sentinel

We caught up with Rav Roberts, CEO of Pharma Sentinel to hear his plans for their new ‘Medsii’ app, which makes it easy to discover if your medicines have unsafe side effects, give allergic reactions or have been recalled for safety reasons.

Rav Roberts, CEO, Pharma Sentinel
  1. What does your company do?

    Pharmasentinel.com is a pioneering B2C2B healthtech, leveraging AI to provide our users with trusted, timely and tailored medicines and medical conditions (mental health, diabetes, skin conditions) news, information, alerts and related content such as video podcasts, live streaming.

    We also give 10% of our profits to patient-support charities such as Bipolar UK & the British Menopause Society, as chosen by our users. We launch with our consumer app called Medsii (medicines information for me) in 4 weeks time, yikes!
  1. Why did you set up this company?

    Our Chief Scientific Officer Nasir (a Co-Founder) used to work for the UK’s medicines regulator (the Department of Health) and noticed a big gap in the market for timely medicines information, e.g. drug safety alerts & recalls, clinical trial results & opportunities.

    I also suffer from Diabetes, as does my mother, and our research showed that 46% of the UK’s population (29 million people) take at least 1 repeat prescription for a chronic condition. It’s not all elderly people either, as 50% of women in their 40s do so.
  1. How did you get your first customer?

    We haven’t yet, already we have many friends and family who take regular medicines lined up to try the app. It’s completely free to use and has a very engaging ‘Twitter’ style interface, so why not give it a go?!
  1. We knew we were onto something when?

    When we realised the Total Addressable Market and Serviceable Obtainable Markets were huge; many people use Google (over 1 billion health related searches a day, but results include ads, links to blogs) and even social media for important medicines info, but that could contain wrong or misleading results; no one helps people by linking them to patient support group charities for help;

    No one provides personalised, relevant, trusted medicines & conditions info via easy to understand push alerts. I have used our product in testing to warn me against drinking grapefruit juice with one of my medicines as it’s extremely dangerous!   
  1. Our business model:

    1. We launch with our consumer App called Medsii (Medicines information for me), which will collect 1st party data on users in a GDPR compliant way (side effects, locations, medicines/conditions liked, followed, shared, saved) and which already has its own data, e.g. clinical trial results.
    2. We augment this 1st party data with 3rd party data.
    3. Our data platform runs machine-learning algos to identify patterns and predict future events, e.g. the probability of a drug that has passed a phase 1 clinical trial eventually being approved, and roughly when.
    4. We sell this data-as-a service to businesses, e.g. pharmaceuticals, insurance, financial analysts even companies like Unilever and Chanel (who will be interested in the skin condition data insight we’ve collected). Note that we also monetise our consumer App (subscriptions, in-app purchases and advertising (no drug ads though!).
  1. Our most effective marketing channel has been:

    Without a doubt, Facebook. Not only are billions of a target customers there, but we can micro-target them with custom and lookalike audiences and even better, they have people who walk you through how to do it really well! (Fiverr also has some great marketers on there).

    LinkedIn is really good for engaging with business people (for our B2B products) and Twitter is great for linking up with angel and VC investors, all over the world!
  1. What we look for when recruiting:

    Passion, integrity, evidence of continuous learning (even following people on Twitter to learn more about a particular subject), desire to help other people less fortunate and ideally EVIDENCE that they’ve actually done it (e.g. volunteering to help the elderly or doing a fun run to raise money for breast cancer etc).. We run a very flat organisation and we were all virtual even before Coronavirus hit! 
  1. The biggest mistake that I’ve made is:

    So many really. I guess my biggest was in my  first startup in San Francisco: We had a great product but I didn’t think about our go-to-market and distribution strategy, i.e. how to get and increase traction (users, usage) for our online gaming products.
  1. We think that there’s growth in this sector because:

    Even before coronavirus hit, more and more people were taking repeat medicines for chronic conditions and with people living longer, this means several decades. There has also been a large theme about fake news on social media, where millions get their medicines info from.

    But now with Coronavirus, people more than ever before want trusted, timely medicines and medical conditions information that is relevant & readable (unlike the patient information leaflets that come with their pills!).

Keen to hear more?

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

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Behind the Raise with flypop

Nino Judge, CEO of Flypop shares his advice for entrepreneurs about how he used Angel Investment Network to get his airline off the ground.

Tell us about flypop: The ‘pop’osition

flypop is a new British low-cost airline providing non-stop direct flights between the UK (London Stansted) and second cities of South Asia, starting with India, targeting the South Asian market in the UK, Europe and North America and their visiting friends & relatives (VFR).

flypop is also committed to protecting the planet by being the first and only fully carbon neutral airline in the world by carbon offsetting each passenger that travels with us.

flypop: It’s just good business.

Why did you decide to raise investment?

We needed a small amount of working capital for 2019 to help raise the larger amount for our Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Air Operator Certificate (AOC). Aviation is a highly regulated industry, and as such our first step is to apply to the CAA for our AOC. In order to do so, a minimum amount of capitalisation is required, which in our case was £6m in equity capital.    

How did your first external raise come about?

We, the directors, bootstrapped initially to purchase data, finish the business plan and design the website. However, it became evident we needed to achieve even more KPIs before the main equity raise of £6m.

We decided to raise another £80,000 to get us through Financial Year 2019/2020 and put a larger management team in place, get premises for the management team to meet regularly, develop a promo video for investors to understand our unique low-cost product and lastly have a reservation site showing this product is ready to generate revenue!

What attracted investors to your company?

Our USP of focusing on low-cost non-stop travel for the Indian & South Asian VFR market resonated with the millions of future passengers who would use our service.

Our competitive advantage is offering the lowest fares flying non-stop to the second cites of India (& South Asia) avoiding the potentially infected hubs and getting our passengers “home” to where they want to go in the shortest possible time.

We focus on the resilient VFR market segment that always needs to fly home. This segment has always recovered first from any recession returning to high load factors.

For the first time since 9/11 it was an advantage to start operations as a new airline rather than be a debt laden legacy airline.

My biggest fundraising mistake was… 

Not raising enough as building a company always takes longer and costs more. We ended up incurring unexpected costs including paying consultants to perfect the business plan. Good people cost money. Third party validation reports, marketing campaigns & events to raise funds, Legal & IT costs.

It always takes longer as the holiday seasons get in the way. With Easter, Summer, Ramadan, Christmas and New Year, nearly 4 months out of 12 are go slow or closed months. Let’s not forget our unexpected Covid -19 virus!

Why did you choose to use Angel Investment Network?

We wanted to work with a partner that had great global investor reach, reasonable costs with a professional and friendly support team. With AIN we received 30 enquiries within 14 days, and we closed within the month and could have raised 5 times as much.

Keen to hear more?

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

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#SixtySecondStartup

Ruari Fairbairns is the CEO and Co-founder at One Year No Beer (OYNB), a platform focused on changing people’s relationship with alcohol.

What does your company do?

OYNB is a global alcohol prevention program, aimed at anyone drinking more than three glasses of wine a week. Our mission is to help people change their relationship with alcohol which leads on to most of them, fundamentally transforming their lives.

We are developing technology that will enable members to connect over the common goal of changing behaviour, such as caffeine, sugar, gambling, social media, ultimately empowering people to live life better. 

Why did you set up this company?

For years I worked in the city as a successful oil broker in London. That’s where two worlds collided, partying and being successful, and the more I partied the more successful I was.

After a few years of this lifestyle, I started to experience a number of health problems, IBS, anxiety, dry skin. I got introduced to something called Headspace and I started meditating on the train to and from work, and this is when I realised that alcohol was causing me more trouble than good. I approached my boss and said that I was thinking about taking a break from booze and he said that this would be committing commercial suicide!

Six months later I finally plucked up the courage to do it and when I finally did, I was blown away with the benefits – I got fitter, faster, healthier, a better husband, a better dad. I grew my oil broking business and reduced costs by 30%. My IBS and dry skin disappeared and there was no area of my life that didn’t improve.

I wanted to make people understand how big these benefits are, so I decided to create a challenge, and in 2016, we launched One Year No Beer, a 90-day challenge, and gave it away. It rapidly went viral and in the first year we got over 20,000 signups. This is how One Year No Beer was born.

How did you get your first customer? 

In our first year, when we set up the free challenge and promoted it via social media, we got over 20,000 members. It was only then that we realised what a huge impact we were having. One Year No Beer was having a positive effect on people’s lives but also on their wallets.

Our research with Stirling University verified that if we were to convert our business into a paid-for model – that people would actually be more likely to not only commit, but also to stick to the challenge. This was because generally, if you have skin in the game, you actually apply yourself – so we reinvested and relaunched as a paid for model in 2017.

We knew we were onto something when? 

In that same year (2017), I sent a tweet to a journalist and off the back of it we got a 10 minute feature on BBC World news in over 200 countries. That single BBC broadcast generated £70,000 of revenue for the business in 10 days so we quickly learnt that the success of One Year No Beer was going to be down to exposure.

In 2018 we launched our book. It went to number one in its category on Amazon and in that same year, we sent out an email to all of our members telling them that we were thinking about crowdfunding in six months’ time. After sending that email, I expected to come into a couple of replies but instead, I opened up my email the following morning to find 74 emails with people offering to invest and we raised £1.1M in just five weeks from our members alone.

Our business model: 

In a little over four years, we’ve created and grown an online business that has attracted customers from across the globe. Turning over £2.7M per year and supporting over 70,000 members in 90 countries across the world, and the business continues to witness 300% growth YoY.

We want to flip the drinking model on its head. From one of admitting you have a problem and having to go to a church or community hall and sit in a circle and talk about being stigmatised for the rest of your life, to one of positive change. We want all of our members to be able to say that they are out there, living a better life, proud of their life choices.

We are now the leader in preventative behaviour change, and our plan is now to diversify into lots of other behaviour change models, not just alcohol. We’ve realised that when people change their relationship with a negative behaviour like alcohol, they build self-worth. It’s that self-worth that creates the platform for them to further change other areas of their lives, so we are now diversifying into other vertical markets such as caffeine, sugar, porn, gambling and drugs.

Our most effective marketing channel has been: 

We use Social Ads widely but our most effective channels have been the extensive publicity we have received as well as word of mouth from our customers. 

What we look for when recruiting:

We have an incredible team who not only love what they do, but they also care deeply about the impact they are having on the lives of people who follow our challenges and remain part of our online community. It takes a very unique person to work as part of the One Year No Beer team because they have to be able to deal with emotions and difficult situations each and every day.

Not only do they have to be able to do this, but they also need to be able to think like marketeers and successful business people, in addition to all of the other elements of their specific job roles and I will always be truly grateful for each and every one of they as they are responsible for making our company the community that it is today.

The biggest mistake that I’ve made is:

I can’t wait to write my book – I’m going to call it the 1001 Things Not to Do in Business. These things have cost me an absolute fortune, after all this is my 6th start-up! The biggest lesson that I have learnt since being in business is: Surround yourself with good people who compliment your weaknesses – for me there are so many, so I need a big team!!! Jokes aside, we can’t all be good at everything so build a team that compliments you and you’ll go far!

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

The research that we conducted with Stirling University in 2017, showed that 93% of people had a drink when they didn’t want to, and 84% had experienced bullying from friends to drink alcohol, so we know that peer pressure surrounds our cultural relationship with alcohol. We want to challenge these cultural norms and help people to make better life choices. That is the fundamental principle of One Year No Beer. There are 2 billion people in the world who drink alcohol, and around 1 billion drink hazardously – all of whom are our target market.

We worked with AIN because:

We’ve previously raised very successfully from our own network and members. With our current raise we wanted to bring on investment from new sources but from people who share our vision. Angel Investment Network allows us to search investors and grow our presence further. 

Keen to hear more?

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

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YouTube karaoke channel Sing King raises £550,000 via Angel Investment Network

The world’s leading online Karaoke channel, Sing King, recently raised £550,000 via Angel Investment Network (AIN). Sing King offers high quality karaoke content via its YouTube channel and has over 90 million views per month. The seed-funding raise took just seven weeks on the platform, with the original £400k target notably achieved within 4 days. The money raised is being used for launching standalone apps across IOS & Android as well as a web platform.

Founded in 2014 by Chris Michael, it is the only karaoke channel YouTube allows to operate due to licensing restrictions normally in place. The channel is run by a team of six full time staff from London. The business is approaching 7.5 million subscribers and has more than 2,300 songs, with dozens more added weekly.

Discussing the raise, Xavier Ballester, Director of AIN’s broking division said: “Sing King’s revenues are starting to be very impressive. They hit 7 million subscribers as we were working on the raise. The numbers speak for themselves and there was plenty of interest from our investor database, who saw the huge potential for the business.”

According to Jordan Gross, Sing King CEO: “Music has the power to transform lives and the beauty of karaoke is that it transcends age, language and culture. We have an opportunity to deliver world-class karaoke on a bigger scale. With our round complete thanks to Angel Investment Network, we will make karaoke more accessible than ever before. This includes mobile, TV and web – transforming moments of time into moments of joy, wherever and whenever.”

News of the raise generated a lot of media interest, including EU Startups, MusicAlly, Techround and Bdaily.

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Startups & Covid-19

This week we spoke to Harun,  the Co-founder & COO of Glorifyapp.com about the effects of Covid-19 on Glorify. Glorify is a Saas design tool created specifically for eCommerce entrepreneurs. It eliminates the need for professional designers, making it easy for anyone to design product imagery and marketing content for their e-commerce business in just a few clicks.

Our interview with Harun:

How has the coronavirus impacted your business?

Glorify is performing very well despite the coronavirus outbreak. Our greatest asset is that our company has a solid runway and therefore, all our key players have remained intact and have been working harder than ever to grow the business. 

From February 2020 – to March 2020, we’ve had a whopping  358% growth in our user subscription numbers. This clearly reflects the fact that businesses need a Saas product such as Glorify, in order to propel their own businesses at a time where most are losing money quite drastically. 

Furthermore, with the vast majority of countries on lockdown, the need for online shopping has grown tremendously. This has created a massive requirement for more eCommerce businesses to spring up to fulfil this demand. Glorify offers these businesses an affordable platform to create all the design and marketing material that they need to keep their businesses afloat. 

Have you had to pivot your business and if so?

We haven’t had to pivot the business, however, we have offered a 60% discount on our annual plans to ensure that we are affordable and considerate towards businesses that we know are struggling during this period. 

Have you been engaged in a fundraise during this time?

We started to fundraise just two weeks before the outbreak began in London. We are still reaching out to investors to secure our first round of investment. If we have to, we will bring Glorify in front of 100’s of investors to eventually find that outstanding investor to partner with. 

How has this been impacted and are you adjusting your plans?

We understand that most investors will be a lot more cautious in their decisions at this current moment. However, we feel it’s important to let investors know that we are a thriving and growing business, we have a winning team and a superior product despite the current difficulties.

We also feel that it’s important to make the first point of contact with investors regardless of time and circumstance, because it will take a number of contacts before the investment round will be close. 

What message would you have for investors?

Our message to investors is that Glorify is a highly investable organisation, particularly due to the massive surge in eCommerce businesses. With the Covid-19 pandemic, more and more people are turning to online shopping which creates the need for more eCommerce businesses. And for an eCommerce store to do well, they need to have high performing ads, a trustworthy brand, a website/online store with images that represent their products authentically and attractively. These businesses most likely cannot afford the high paid services of professional graphic designers, and so Glorify is the answer to their design and marketing needs. 

We are also confident that once the pandemic ceases, online shopping will remain as popular as it is now, purely due to the ease of just clicking what you desire and having it delivered to your doorstep. 

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

My team and I are coping well with the lockdown. We are all geared towards facing any problem that comes our way with positivity and determination, and to make something good out of a bad situation. 

The co-founders of Glorify have two mandatory meetings each week (apart from the several other calls over the week). These are scheduled on Mondays and Thursdays. The meeting on Monday covers mostly the expectations of team members and what goals and deliverables each department is expected to fulfil. 

On Tuesdays, we have team meetings with the heads of each department and discuss the work they’ve completed the previous week, and then outline the goals of the upcoming week.

The heads of the department then in turn, have meetings with their relevant sub teams to ensure that there is 100% alignment and coordination. 

We use Slack for communication throughout the week and everyone has been responsive, communicative and on top of their game. In fact, most of us even work on weekends!

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

Yes. Since our launch in September 2019, we have been involved in charitable ventures. We have offered donations to various organisations such as drop of life, save the children, little hearts, Oxfam International and more. We have also offered free Glorify accounts to registered charities such as Child Aid Gambia and the Namaste Welfare Trust. 

We are now shifting our focus to Covid-19 related charities and have reached out to our Glorify community to suggest charities that we can donate to. More on this here.

What do you think about the measures that have been introduced by the Chancellor?

It is indeed reassuring to see the Chancellor announcement to help and support small to  large businesses across all industries. He promises to make available an initial £330 billion of guarantees – equivalent to 15% of UK GDP. 

I think the real challenge will be to ensure that those who need it most receive such funding easily and quickly. Otherwise, many business owners will end up losing everything they have worked so hard for. 

What else do you think the Government should do?

I believe that the government needs to pay attention to the strat-up spaces as much as  the large companies. Big companies no doubt need help at this moment. Airlines, for example, are severely hurting and looking for a bailout. Hotels, cruise ships, national foodservice chains, manufacturers, and more may find themselves in line, too. Assistance should, and likely will, be given.

Startups may be small companies but they can play a significant role in economic growth. They create more jobs which means more employment, and more employment means an improved economy. Not only that, startups can also contribute to economic dynamism by spurring innovation and injecting competition.

What advice would you give to other startups at this time?

Improvise! We understand that not all businesses can thrive at a time like this, but it’s crucial that start ups come up with coping strategies. Remember, Covid-19 will pass. And when it does, it’s important that you come out of this pandemic ahead of the game, and not remain buried under it.

If you have the resources, try to invest in essential and fast moving products that you are certain will sell. If you are not, we would advise you to come up with coping strategies such as using relevant ebook lead magnets, offering giveaways that would be useful during a lockdown, create content strategy around the current hot topic as Glorify has done here.

Regardless of what you choose to do, Glorify is here to help you out. We are offering our annual plans at a whopping 60% discount purely because we understand that businesses are running on low fuel during this unfortunate time.

For more tips on dealing with the impacts of coronavirus, visit our Startup Survival Guide.

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Startups & Covid-19

This we spoke to Chantal, the Founder of the music licensing for performance sports platform ClickNClear, to find out how Covid-19 is effecting her business.

Our interview with Chantal:

How has coronavirus impacted your business?

It has certainly affected our market (we license music to performance sports) and slowed a few things down but it has not drastically impacted our business yet. We are still early stage and technically pre-revenue and were planning on launching in the summer. It may delay our launch slightly but we do not see it drastically affecting when we will be revenue generating. Sports events will happen again, it’s just a question of when so we just need to be as prepared as possible.

Have you had to pivot your business and if so how?

To some degree, yes. We are a music tech company licensing music to performance sports teams. We have been in beta for the last year and are planning on doing a launch this summer. All events have been cancelled however and whilst that would seem like the end of the world for a business like ours, we actually see it as an opportunity.

We have been busy focussing on our technology and continuing to sign more deals with music industry labels and publishers so when we are ready to launch, we have the best tech and the best music possible. Now that sports teams are closed for training, sports federations and coaches have the time to engage in conversation, browse ClicknClear and think about their music for next season. Instead of attending events and meeting people, we can focus this time on building education around music licensing and closing deals with international and national sports federations which will help us generate revenue as soon as events start up again.

Have you been engaged in a fundraise during this time?

We had just started a new fundraise when COVID19 hit and have seen a slow down in response and interest. Many are looking after existing portfolio companies and are less interested in investing in new companies especially if they are in a market that has been negatively affected. 

How has this been impacted and are you adjusting your plans?

There’s a lot of uncertainty right now so we have been re-thinking our raise and ways we can continue for longer without additional funding or ways we could close less funding now, with a potential bigger raise once this is all under control.

Another consideration for us is that we are a global company. We work with national federations all around the world and each of them will go in and out of lockdown at different times. We are keeping up to date with all the latest news and keeping conversations going with those federations so we are in the best position possible.

What message would you have for investors?

The time to explore and start conversations is now. Most people have more time. Some of us are still very busy but if we start conversations now, you can learn how founders operate and react to some of the most difficult challenges. It is possibly the best test of the capability of a founder(s) and should mean that an investor can become much more comfortable with their investment and more understanding of the businesses plan. 

We are open to having initial conversations and keeping potentially interested parties up to date as things progress.

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

We all remotely work so we’ve been fairly accustomed to lockdown for a while! It hasn’t affected us too much at all. It’s actually been really nice to not be on an aeroplane every couple weeks and spend some much needed time to focus on new ideas and projects we’ve been wanting to do. We are a small team but this has essentially increased our resources! We can get more done, we are becoming even better at communication and are getting creative with solutions to challenges.

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

We have been thinking of some potential ways to help but given we are still pre-launch, we are still building some of our community. We have been putting out themed positive playlists of music to help support people but are really focussed on building all of our educational material covering music licensing so coaches have additional resources and understanding of it.

What advice would you give to other startups at this time?

These are challenging times for us all. Some will make it but others won’t and we can’t be too hard on ourselves for something that is out of our control.

You have to focus on the small things that you can control in your business – scale back expenditure if you need to, ask yourself the difficult questions, have a plan a, b c, d and more! Be ready to adapt to anything that comes your way and try and remain positive but accept that you will have bad days and know what they will pass. 

For more tips on dealing with the impacts of coronavirus, visit our Startup Survival Guide.

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#SixtySecondStartup

This week we spoke to Sara, Co-founder of On Good Authority – a premium outdoor lifestyle brand with sustainability at its heart. In the middle of fundraising before Covid-19 struck, Sara spoke to us about how they have had to change their business plans and why shopping sustainably is more important than ever.

Co-founders Sara & Hannah

Our interview with Sara:

What does your company do?

On Good Authority is a premium outdoor lifestyle brand that merges contemporary styling with waterproof technology using recycled fabrics and non-toxic water repellency techniques. We bridge the gap between fashion and function in a truly conscious way.

Why did you set up this company?

We felt frustrated at the compromise between style and practically in women’s rainwear. 

How did you get your first customer?  

Like many startups, our first customer was a friend who experienced the same challenge and had been looking for a stylish waterproof for years.

We knew we were onto something when? 

When we started speaking to our friends and wider circles. We realised it wasn’t just us that shared this frustration and with our relevant industry backgrounds it occurred to us that it was a problem we could actually solve.

Our business model: 

We are primarily a D2C fashion brand supported by wholesale partnerships.

Our most effective marketing channel has been:  

Speaking directly to our audience, whether that’s organically through our social media channels, at Pop-Up events or with carefully curated influencers with shared vision, style and values.

The biggest mistake that I’ve made is: 

Maybe being a bit too conscientious and trademarking our name quite early on in the overall process to then re-brand and change our name! 

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

We’re at the forefront of an emerging global movement where consumers are demanding sustainable product and conscious lifestyles. It’s not a fad, it’s here to stay because we have to make fundamental changes in the way we live and consume if we are going to secure a future for our planet and the next generations.

Has Covid-19 had any impact on your fundraising plans? And if so, how are you adapting? 

We were in the midst of fundraising when Covid-19 hit the UK. It soon became apparent that investors were unlikely to take risks on new business startups, as they may need to step in and financially support those already within their portfolio. So with this in mind, we decided to put our fundraising efforts on hold.

We are now taking the opportunity to hone our proposition even further and reframe our business plan so that we can relaunch in summer 2021 in tandem with the UK music festival season. We believe (hope) that by then the economy should have settled and people will be extremely keen to get outside and party come rain or shine!

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

Right now, we are focusing on keeping engaged with our audience and using our platform to continue to raise awareness about the importance of shopping sustainably. Now more than ever, we are becoming aware of the importance of conscious living. From the way we eat, to how we travel and to how much clothing we consume. It feels like the perfect opportunity to continue to spread this message so that when we come out the other side, we carry forward these new learnt behaviours and consume more responsibly.

We are also keeping in regular contact with our family and friends including those that we have met along our start-up journey. It’s not an easy time but knowing that we are all in it together and that we can all play our part in supporting key workers by staying at home is what keeps us going. We are so grateful for modern technology allowing us to get creative with video calls and virtual house parties!

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

We are using our social platform to share positive and motivational news to help spread a feeling of community. For every sale we make, we are donating £5 towards our nominated charity: RCN Foundation. This is to support the nurses who are so bravely working tirelessly on the front line supporting our nation through this very difficult time.

For more tips on dealing with the impacts of coronavirus, visit our Startup Survival Guide.

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Startups & Covid-19

This week we spoke to Rob Pringle the Co-Founder of Kinsume about how they are adapting to the effects of Covid-19.

Kinsume offers unlimited scalability to influencers’ work by enabling them to earn money from recommending their favourite products to their followers and friends. Operating in ecommerce and online shopping, they have had to change their approach to counter the fall in usage that they have experienced.

Our interview with Rob:

How has coronavirus impacted your business?

As we operate in ecommerce and online shopping, we’ve seen a significant fall in usage and sales through our platform. This is exacerbated by the nature of the products we mostly deal with: fashion, beauty products, makeup – mostly non-essential items purchased after recommendation from influencers and content creators.

Have you had to pivot your business and, if so, how?

We haven’t had to make a full pivot, but we’ve angled our crosshairs towards industries and products we already work with that are more robust (and even performing abnormally well) in the current global market climate, such as sports equipment and health supplements.

We’re now taking this time to take a step back from the sales end and implement a complete UX/UI overhaul of our platform, ready for when the market is more fruitful.

Have you been engaged in a fundraise during this time?

Prior to the pandemic and international lockdowns, we had already closed a round of funding, however we’ve secured additional emergency capital from our investors in case we need it to extend our runway if the situation persists.

How has this been impacted and are you adjusting your plans?

We have had to make slight adjustments in securing backup funding and changing our budget to suit the current circumstances.

What message would you have for investors?

Sit tight. As the world panics, you should remain calm and trust in your investments – this is a long game after all. Offering support and demonstrating your confidence in founders you’ve backed will be an exceptional motivator and pay dividends.

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

Our team, spread out over the UK, mostly work from home anyway so this is not much of a curve ball for us in that regard. Optimism and a positive outlook are key here – this is perhaps a once in a lifetime chance for self-improvement. Being stuck indoors for the majority of each day has turned me to pursuits I’d never given much of a chance to such as yoga. I’ve also increased my weekly reading to 2 books per week and have kept in regular contact with friends and family which I otherwise might not have done.

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

Currently our CSR program is planting trees in sub-Saharan African countries to help the environment and the communities there. We’re now exploring options for temporarily suspending this program and redirecting contributions to help produce PPE for NHS workers.

What do you think about the measures that have been introduced by the Chancellor?

A good start but certainly needs some fine tuning and improvements, I’ve noticed some adjustments have already been implemented.

What else do you think the Government should do?

That depends on the timeline of the situation and the measures that will warrant. I expect even more funding in the form of soft loans, as well as easing/extending existing loan repayments for SMEs will become necessary.

What advice would you give to other startups at this time?

Seize this time as an opportunity. It has been noted that 2009, the year after a global economic crisis, was the best year to launch a $1B unicorn. Now is the time to throw everything you have at your startup (you’re not exactly going out for dinner or socialising anytime soon!), as others slack and slow down, you should take the chance to surge ahead. By the time the economy takes off, your preparatory work has been done, the market fit proven and you’ll fly faster than you otherwise would.

For more tips on dealing with the impacts of coronavirus, visit our Startup Survival Guide.

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#SixtySecondStartup

Our latest #SixtySecondStartup is with Demos Co-founder of Blazon, a new social media service for startups. We spoke to him about why they set up the company, how they started to grow it and what effects Covid-19 has been having on their business.

Co-Founders Nargis and Demos

Our interview with Demos:

What does your company do?

We are a social media services company to help startups be more active on social media channels with a low cost and flexible solution.

Why did you set up this company?

We were frustrated with the types of social media agencies out there not catering for startups. Solutions were expensive and not adaptive to the constant changes in a startup. We know what it’s like to build a startup and we want to champion startups in any way possible to give them a greater chance of success.

How did you get your first customer? 

While at an event trying to build another startup our first customer asked us who actually did our social media. When we told them, we did it all ourselves, they asked for our help because they loved our content. That was the catalyst to start a new service targeting startups just like them.

We knew we were onto something when:

We started asking startups if a service like this was available would they use it. When they said yes and then signed up when it was available, three of them in just two weeks we knew we were onto something.

Our business model: 

Startups £150 per month for us to post across their social media platforms regularly, engaging with their followers and producing 1 x blog per month for them.

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

Social media is used by almost half of the planet. Many people often look to social media to validate a business or support them if they are customers. In order for that to happen a startups content has to be interesting and engaging for followers. There are so many startups who just do not have the time to get involved in the engagement as they are busy building their startup.

How has coronavirus impacted your business?

As our business is all about other startups, we’re governed pretty much by their business activity during this time. Some of our clients, particularly those based in countries or localities worse hit by the virus, have understandably slowed down their efforts during this time, so we’ve been making sure their social media reflects that and is kept managed despite everything else – but there are other founders we work with who have flourished despite the crisis and their startups are continuing to gain traction and grow. We’re flexible in everything that we do for our clients, so we’ve altered our business accordingly during this time – offering support and guidance to those startups who need it and reacting to the requirements we’re faced with.

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

We’re actually really grateful that we’ve been able to trade at all during this time, as we realise not every business has been so fortunate. Our team work remotely anyway, so social distancing hasn’t affected us in that respect (plus we’re already firm friends with Zoom and other work-from-home resources!), plus working with startups at different stages in different sectors means we’re already used to adapting to different circumstances. Lockdown for our team has involved various strategies, depending on the client we work for and events going on.

So, whether that’s creating new content for social media, filming new videos to offer advice and support to the community, writing blog articles on current trending topics, strategising new ideas for when ‘normal life’ resumes or anything else that’s required of us – we’ve been non-stop! Lockdown has its fair amount of challenges as both our co-founders are working parents, but we’ve been able to support each other and our team and make the most of the situation in hand.

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

Most of our time ordinarily is spent chatting with other founders, and during this time that hasn’t changed. We still talk to startups, about everything to do with their journey – their concerns, their challenges, their triumphs, etc. But we’ve enjoyed, particularly more so now, being able to offer them advice, tips or find ways to connect them with people within our network. Some people just need a sounding board, and founders are no different – talking through a situation with someone who just “gets it” can often give rise to new ideas or help solve problems. 

Our regular features, #startupshoutout and #just50, create opportunities for us to champion startups and give them a bit of free promo on our social media pages – and during this time, we’ve tried to ramp that up. It’s hard for some businesses to attract those customers when so much has shut down, so anything we can do to give them a voice, we’re more than happy to do so. The most recent feature we posted was a link to the Save Our Startups petition that is challenging the UK Government to support and save startups from collapse. It’s important to get startup businesses thinking as a community and helping each other – it’s the only way you can grow and economy to flourish.

For more tips on dealing with the impacts of coronavirus, visit our Startup Survival Guide.

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Startups & Covid-19

In this blog series we are speaking to founders of startups to find out how coronavirus has effected their business, how they have adapted, and any tips they have to help others cope with these challenges. If you are struggling to adapt or looking for some advice, make sure to have a read of our interviews.

Our first interview is with Edward Upton, Founder and CEO of Littledata, which is an ecommerce analytics app and Google Analytics consultants for Shopify and Shopify Plus.

How has coronavirus impacted your business?

Luckily for us the impact has been mainly positive. We work as a globally dispersed team in normal times, so operations have not been disrupted. We saw a slight uptick in churn as smaller clients reacted quickly to slash costs, but our sales cycle for larger clients has been accelerated: people working from home have more time to take sales calls!

Have you had to pivot your business and if so how?

The core need – helping ecommerce companies get a complete view of the customer lifecycle – is more pressing than ever, as every retailer switches their focus to online sales. So there’s no need to pivot, but we have scaled back hiring plans as we push for breakeven later this year.

Have you been engaged in a fundraise during this time?

Yes – our fundraising strategy had been to raise little and often as our recurring revenue and valuation increased, and with hindsight that was always at risk to a big change in investor sentiment. We closed the latest round this week.

How has this been impacted and are you adjusting your plans?

Unfortunately we saw a number of new investors pull out of the process in March. The reasons given were a combination of wanting to keep cash for funding calls from their portfolio, a reluctance to sell their public equities at a big discount to fund our company and a general uncertainty about startup survival in the downturn. We’re very grateful for a few of our current angels who actually offered to double down and invest more than initially planned.

So we’ve closed a smaller amount than we’d planned, but we can adjust our burn rate to compensate for that – and carry on fundraising later in 2020.

What message would you have for investors?

Now’s the time to back startups! Huge global disruption will lead to acceleration of long-term trends such as the shift to online sales and marketing, and the automation of knowledge-intensive processes. Startups with a quick route to profitability and a robust business model will grow faster than before.

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

Most of the team work from home normally, so there hasn’t been major disruption. We’ve been turning the video on more often for internal calls – it’s just nice to see another human sometimes –  and been buoyed by some funny memes on our #random Slack channel. I’ve also encouraged the team to get outside and take exercise where they can. Sitting in front of a laptop all day is not good for anyone, and we all need to stay fit and healthy in mind and body.

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

We’ve been involved in a cross-agency initiative https://offline2on.com/ to help retailers that need to switch to online trading fast to survive. I truly believe local small businesses are the foundation of our liberal democracy, and they all need a way to keep trading and keep afloat during the lockdown. We’ve been giving free advice on tactics for trading in the crisis, and extended free trials of Littledata’s software to assist with measuring their website performance.

What do you think about the measures that have been introduced by the Chancellor?

The job protection scheme to pay for furloughed staff, and parity for the self-employed with small businesses, is the most helpful measure. I do worry about the bureaucracy of claiming back the money from HMRC – and whether launching a new IT system for HMRC to make the payments is possible within a month – but it is a bold and inclusive initiative.

Unfortunately the offer for government backed loans to SMEs is less useful. This is channeled through high street bank lenders, who still apply deeply risk-averse lending criteria – and are asking for personal guarantees from directors, even when the government is underwriting 80% of the risk. Last time I tried to tap bank funding the loan assessor didn’t even understand the economics of a SaaS business, so I won’t be wasting time on applying for now.

What else do you think the Government should do?

I am a libertarian, and I believe people’s liberty to move, socialise and shop should only be restricted in extreme circumstances. I see the UK government had no choice but to restrict movement but before this lockdown is extended again I’d like to see an open debate on weighing the massive costs to national health and wealth of restricting everyone against the assistance to the small percent of people getting hospitalised from this virus.

What advice would you give to other startups at this time?

Persevere and adapt where necessary. Startups thrive on disruption, and economic shocks like this bring huge disruption which smaller, nimble companies can exploit. Funding will be difficult in the short term, so get creative on ways to fund your growth: prepayments from customers, loans from friends and family or cutting costs.

For software companies, the main problems in many sectors have been the war for talent (and huge salary inflation for developers) and rising customer acquisition costs. Hiring and marketing should get a lot easier as big companies scale back, as long as you’re still around to take advantage.

For more tips on dealing with the impacts of coronavirus, visit our Startup Survival Guide.

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The Coronavirus Startup Survival Hub

The Coronavirus has already had a huge impact, and no doubt is affecting the way that you go about your day to day life.

At the Angel Investment Network, as of Tuesday, we have all started working remotely. One of the things that has been on all our minds is how we can best look after our entrepreneurs who have put so much on the line to make their business happen, and are now finding their businesses under real pressure.

Next week, we plan to introduce our Coronavirus Start up Survival Hub, full of practical tips – from accessing emergency funding to minimising business expenditure and applying for grants. In the mean time, we thought that these resources could be of use:

* Times are about to become tough. How can you manage your costs and get ready for a fall in sales? This guide from Seqouia Capital will help founders plan for the Coronavirus.
* Remember that there will be winners and losers. Look at the predictions here, but also keep in mind that there will be opportunities when things pass.
* Look after your mental health: the meditation app, Calm, is offering free mediation videos.

Finally, our upcoming Angel Investment Network and friends event, is becoming a virtual event. More details to follow shortly.

Above all, stay safe – although times are tough, this will pass.

Onwards.

Drummond & The Angel Investment Network Team

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Four questions for female founders launching a business

Our Head of Growth and entrepreneur Ching-Yun Huang was invited onto a Female Founders’ panel at the Curtain Hotel last week in advance of International Women’s Day. Here she shares some key learnings.

It was a pleasure to be invited on to a panel with other female entrepreneurs at the Curtain Hotel recently to share our experiences of starting a business. It was a lively debate and discussion as we all had different experiences that we could bring to light. There were four key questions that came up from the audience, that I wanted to address.

1. Are you taken as seriously being a woman?
Does being a woman impact what you want to be able to achieve as an entrepreneur? The view that some expressed was that you are at a disadvantage because you might not be taken as seriously, with a lack of investors willing to back you. Although it is true there are less female founders, my personal view is that we could be in danger of creating a barrier that might be more psychological. I think if you have a good business case your gender shouldn’t matter and you should have the confidence to articulate your vision. However everybody’s experiences are different. 

2. What sort of support networks should you create?
What sort of support network should you put together to ensure you get the backing you need? One view is that in order to get a better support network, you should only have a women focused network. It is true that any entrepreneur needs to build a good support network. I would argue as a budding entrepreneur you should look to the groups and people that are going to best support you as your key priority. This shouldn’t be just down to gender, but who will take you to that next level. Be ruthless in this.

3. When do you need investment?
When it comes to funding and investment, the audience was split between two groups. People who felt ready to scale their business, and a bigger group who want stability to start their business. I think any entrepreneur should think long and hard about what they need the finance for. For me personally I am looking at bootstrapping my business as far as I can without trying to get outside influence. However there is an extent to which women are perhaps more risk-averse, which is a barrier to having more women entrepreneurs. It’s hard to make the transition into a more uncertain world.

4. Do you need a background in tech to launch a tech business? 
Lots of people in the room expressed an interest in starting a tech business. A popular question was whether you needed to have studied tech. I studied literature and had nothing to do with tech. However I do think having a working knowledge is important, so i picked up computer languages and some other skills. For my business, I found a co-founder who is a developer. A complementary skill set is a winning combination in starting a business.

Ching’s is developing a dating app called The Moment  

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#SixtySecondStartup

This week’s #SixtySecondStartup is with Giuliano, the Co-founder of Get Groomed. He started Get Groomed with his Co-founder Sabrina after moving to London and realising how inconvenient it was to get an appointment at a barber shop. Spotting a gap in the market, he started Get Groomed which allows people to book a barber to their home or office. Since starting 2 years ago, Get Groomed has now rolled out across London.

Giuliano and Sabrina, Co-founders of Get Groomed

Our interview with Giuliano:

What does your company do?

We connect mobile barbers with customer. Customers can book barbers to come to their home, office, a hotel or where ever they may be. We also provide male beauty services for weddings and events. 

Why did you set up this company?

When I arrived in London, I tried out different barber shops and salons and noticed some issues with them. Most shops are only open between 10am-5pm, making it difficult for customers to find the time to go. If they go at the weekend, there is often a long waiting time. I also found it difficult to know if a barber would be any good and able to do the hairstyle I was after. My Co-founder Sabrina mentioned that there are apps for women to book hair appointments, however we realised that there was a gap in the market for men. We built a prototype, hired a few barbers and found customers very quickly.

We knew we were on to something when:

A few months after we started, we got approached by a famous Fintech startup to provide male beauty services at one of their events. This was despite us having no marketing budget, and not sending a single email or doing any cold calls. It showed us that there was demand at a corporate level.

Our business model:

Our business model is commission-based. It helps us to keep working hard to connect barbers with customers: the more money they make, the more money we make.

The biggest mistake I’ve made is:

Establishing a strategy to increase revenue at all costs. It might be attractive for people who can burn a lot of money each month, but it is not sustainable over the long term. We believe in lean ways to improve the business: we are now profitable every month and we are growing every month.

We think there’s growth in this sector because:

One word: convenience. We have a lot of customers contacting us because they can’t find the time to go to a salon or it’s inconvenient for them to go as they have caring duties or are ill. In the same way that there was a boom in food delivery services in the last decade, customers are looking for on-demand, high quality male beauty and grooming services from the comfort of their own home.

We worked with AIN because:

We have been running our platform for 2 years and we are operating across London. So we are confident that this is the right time to scale-up and expand to more cities in the UK. We are looking to partner with forward-thinking investors who share our vision and AIN is one of the best tools to connect with those kind of partners.

Get started today and view pitches from entrepreneurs around the world.

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#SixtySecondStartup

In this week’s #SixtySecondStartup, we spoke to Will Ross who is the Founder of Tendo, a skills passport for frontline workers. Will started Tendo to make frontline work more secure for employees and to make it easier for companies to hire, retain and train their workforce.

Our interview with Will:

What does your company do?

Tendo allows frontline workers to generate workplace credentials while they do their jobs, building a verified, portable history of skills and hours at the end of each week.

Why did you set up this company?

We started Tendo to make frontline work more certain. For the worker, this means improving their long-term economic security. For the business, certainty comes through having a loyal, dependable workforce and an ability to encourage employees to learn new skills.

What is your business model?

We bill businesses on a per user basis. This monthly charge is a way to offset the cost of workforce churn.

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

Frontline workers remain offline. By bringing them online, visibility of supply provides a major step forwards. We also consider this workforce to contain a massive amount of untapped operational and creative potential – we aim to empower.

How did you get your first customer?

By building a feature that removed an administrative overhead for a training provider.

We knew we were onto something when:

When employees indicated that they would be motivated by having a trusted way to generate and retain a record of their work reputation.

Our most effective marketing channel has been: 

Going to events where we can speak directly with decision makers.

The biggest mistake that I’ve made is: 

Spending time marketing to cities where Tendo can’t have a repeatable physical presence.

What we look for when recruiting: 

A willingness to experiment and an inclination to speak more in terms of immediate actions than long-term plans.

We worked with AIN because:

Angel Investment Network provide a clear way to signal company type to a list of investors, ensuring that angels can search for early stage companies where they can significantly influence growth.

Get started today and view pitches from a huge range of entrepreneurs around the world.

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Behind the Raise

Welcome to the first of our Behind the Raise blog series! We know how difficult fundraising can be, so these interviews offer some tips, advice and insight into what has worked for different entrepreneurs.

For our inaugural interview, we are delighted to be speaking to Andrea Armanni, Co-founder of Mammalo. Mammalo is transforming the service industry by making it easy and quick for people to book the services they need. Through Mammalo, people are paired up with local professionals, making it hassle free to get the boiler repaired, hire a photographer or source a makeup artist.

Tell us about Mammalo:

Mammalo is a marketplace for on-demand local services delivered at home, where people can find and book anything they need from a painter to a hairdresser. With over 3 million people moving to cities every week, finding trustworthy experts in large urban areas has become much harder and very time consuming. Mammalo’s mission is to connect those in need with the right people that can help, and is set to become the go-to website where people can find any service they need, delivered to their door.

Why did you decide to raise investment?

Without funding the vast majority of startups will die. A startup usually means a company that is built to grow fast, and fast growing startups usually need to burn cash to sustain their growth prior to reaching profitability. In our case, we raised a friends and family round in the beginning of 2018 which allowed us to launch our first MVP in November 2018 and work towards finding the right product market fit. In less than 3 months, we managed to gain over 1500 users. We needed more liquidity to invest in marketing and tech development, so we decided to start working towards our first seed round.

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

It may sound obvious now, but one thing that we learnt whilst raising our first seed round is to be “Investment ready”. For some founders it’s enough to have a story and a reputation to raise funds, but for most it requires much more. Angels invest when they believe in the idea they hear, in the founders’ ability to realise its vision and in the market opportunity. When, as a founder, you are ready to tell this story, and bring some proof of customer adoption, you are ready to raise money.

What attracted investors to your company?

I believe what really helped us was getting the right launch strategy in place and the first 400 users within our first month. Then, a solid data vault with a detailed business plan, financial forecast and investment deck.

Andrea, Co-founder of Mammalo

My biggest fundraising mistake was…

Our biggest fundraising mistake was undoubtedly underestimating the amount of time and effort that was going to go into the fundraise process. Since we started working on it, we spent nearly 6 months on the fundraise trail before completing all the legals and receiving the investment.

Why did you choose to use Angel Investment Network?

We came across Angel Investment Network through a friend of ours at Y Combinator SUS as we were about to launch our crowdfunding campaign. As for every business looking to raise their first seed round, finding the right angel investors can be challenging and time consuming. Angel Investment Network was a great opportunity to gain exposure from the largest angel investment community in the world. Our pitch was posted to over 200,000 investors and remained live over a 2 month period in which we had a chance to talk to multiple investors and present them our vision and future objectives.

To find more fundraising tips, visit our learn section.

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#SixtySecondStartup

Our latest #sixtysecondstartup interview is with Greg Geny, Co-founder and CEO of BeRightBack (BRB). Fed up of spending so much time planning weekend breaks, he decided to create the world’s first travel subscription service to make booking short trips easy. Through BRB, customers get 3 trips every year to surprise European destinations, making travel fun and stress free.

Our interview with Greg:

What does your company do?

BRB is the world’s first travel subscription service. We offer customers 3 trips per year to surprise European destinations for a fixed monthly fee.

Why did you set up this company?

BRB came from very personal pain points. I did a lot of travelling in my 20s and early 30s and a few years back I realised that I was spending more and more time researching and booking my weekend breaks. The root cause of this comes from the fact that the onus is still on the customer to do all the heavy lifting and as the market has become more and more fragmented, this research process is now taking on average 10 hours and is spread across 4-8 weeks. So not only do customers need to spend hours researching their next break, but by the time they are ready to book, flight and hotel prices have gone up. This did not feel like a very customer-centric approach to travel. 

What is your business model?

We are a subscription based model delivering 3 trips per year to surprise European destinations, for a fixed monthly fee. We leverage data to tailor the breaks to the exact preferences of our customers. Customers can also purchase additional services.

How did you get your first customer?

We ran Facebook and Instagram ads and got 3 customers on our first day. Whilst social media advertising remains a strong channel for us, we are now building our brand across a range of channels – from social, SEM and content creators to large partnerships. The latter will allow us to leverage synergies between BRB and established audiences in other verticals such as financial services, telcos, travel or media. 

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

The market has grown 29% since 2012 and is set to grow further over the next 5 years. At the same time, Millennials and Gen Z have very different expectations from previous generations. They love travelling (particularly city breaks), they value convenience and they want a personalised service. BRB meets the needs of this new generation by turning travel into a lifestyle. 

We knew we were onto something when:

We got picked up by major media publications – the Telegraph, the Guardian, Lonely Planet, SKIFT, CNBC and more and started seeing the traction behind the business. We’re grown 350% this year alone. 

The biggest mistake that I’ve made is: 

Not starting the business sooner, although I believe that timing is everything and now is the perfect time for BRB to disrupt the industry.

We worked with AIN because:

We wanted to tap into an existing network of investors to support our fundraising efforts.

Get started today and view pitches from a huge range of entrepreneurs around the world.

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Tech leads but stunning rise in interest for sustainable businesses, finds Angel Investment Network report

Angel Investment Network has revealed its latest ‘State of the Angel Investment Nation’ findings. It is based on the data of our UK registered businesses looking for funding and the keyword searches of investors.

Investor keyword searches
‘Technology’ was the top search term used in 2019, based on investor keyword searches. This was followed by ‘property’ with ‘mobile’ the third most popular. ‘Robotics’ climbed six places year on year to now be the fourth most requested search term. Meanwhile ‘electronics’ is up by nine places on the list to number six.

With climate change centre stage in Davos last week, there also has been a stunning rise in interest for sustainable businesses. Searches for ‘Renewables’ have rocketed by 34 places to be the 14th most searched for term. Meanwhile ‘greentech’, unheard of even a couple of years ago, is now the 19th most popular keyword, up from 47th last year. Environmental leapt 56 places up the rankings to be the 25th most searched for term.

Pitch ideas
For entrepreneurs, property is the most popular sector for pitch ideas. Entertainment and leisure is the second, followed by technology. Overall there were 10% more pitches over the past 12 months from startups looking to attract investors.

According to AIN co-founder Mike Lebus: “Startups are the lifeblood of the UK economy and despite a turbulent year politically, there has been no slowdown in activity. Investor interest remains focused on technology and the cutting edge applications that are possible through it, including mobile and robotics. However property, one of mankind’s oldest profit generators, continues to drive the interest of investors and is now our top sector for pitches.”

He continued: “The growth in interest in impact related terms is remarkable and we are witnessing a seachange in investor attitudes as it has so quickly shot to the top of the news and business agenda. It is the reason we launched our spin off SeedTribe to help support entrepreneurs who put sustainability at the heart of their business model.” 

The report also reveals some discrepancy between startup ideas and investor interest. While fashion and beauty remains the fourth most popular category for pitch ideas, it is just 17th on the list for investors. ‘Inventions’ as a search term fell by seven places from seventh to fifteenth most searched term. Meanwhile ‘Gadgets’ also fell by 15 places to number 32 as investors instead look for more tech and software based ideas.

Entrepreneurial hotspots
AIN has also revealed the UK’s top entrepreneurial hot spots. London remains responsible for 37% of all pitch ideas, although its market share was slightly down. The South East is second in the list with the North West number three, up 10% year on year. There has also been impressive growth in other parts of the country. There was 25% growth in pitch ideas in the West Midlands, with East Anglia up 26%.

The Top 10 Sectors for Pitches:

  • Property
  • Entertainment & leisure
  • Technology
  • Fashion & Beauty
  • Food & Beverage
  • Software
  • Hospitality, Restaurants & Bars
  • Retail
  • Business Services
  • Education & Training

The Top Keywords for Investors:

  • Technology
  • Property
  • Mobile
  • Robotics
  • Software
  • Electronics
  • Computers
  • Products
  • Residential property
  • Finance

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

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



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#SixtySecondStartup

This month our sixty second interview is with Firdaus Mogul, Founder of Check An Invoice. Check An Invoice uses AI and machine learning to identify invoice fraud. Firdaus set up this business after one of his friends was a victim of invoice fraud and he realised that there were no products addressing this problem.

Our interview with Firdaus:

What does your company do?

We identify and prevent invoice fraud using the latest advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Why did you set up this company?

When I ran my own B2B payment business, which I sold in June 2019, many of our customers spoke about instances of invoice fraud. On researching, we could not find any companies that offered solutions to this problem. So we decided to launch our own SaaS application that addresses the needs of both small and large businesses.

We knew we were onto something when:

Every prospect we met and investor we spoke to started complementing our market positioning and how the product is addressing an unsolved need.

How did you get your first customer?

Like all startups, our first customer was an acquaintance, who found the solution very helpful for his business as it reduced the manual workload of checking the invoices

Our most effective marketing channel has been:

Forming partnerships with accountancy firms, FinTechs and banks. These partners then offer our solution to small and large companies as a value added service on top of what they already offer.

The biggest mistake that I’ve made is: 

Assuming that there was already a good understanding of invoice fraud among SMEs. Although our research suggested that over 50% of SMEs are affected invoice fraud, when we went out and spoke to people, we discovered that awareness levels were relatively low.

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

Invoice fraud results in over $26bn of losses worldwide (Source FBI) yet, there are very few solutions which address this issue. Our platform operates globally giving us the ideal first mover advantage.

We worked with AIN because:

We worked with AIN because they have the largest and most engaged network of angels.

Get started today and view pitches from a huge range of entrepreneurs around the world.

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The Angel Investment Network’s ‘Pitch and Pint’

The last year has been an important one for the Angel Investment Network – we turned 15 and welcomed new team members, growing the team significantly with a third of our London team joining towards the end of the year. 

Whilst 2019 has been a record year for the Angel Investment Network for helping start ups successfully fundraise, we certainly think there are areas that we can still improve. 

Over the years, we have built up strong expertise about what startups need to achieve to maximise their chances of success. 

  • What does an optimal team look like? What advisers should I bring to my business and how much equity should I give them?
  • When are you ready to raise a Seed round? 
  • How do you make sure you are speaking to the right investors and stop wasting time? 

But as the Angel Investment Network community has grown, we realised there was more knowledge and expertise held amongst our founders, our entrepreneurs. 

And we decided that the time was right to start making the most of that. 

So 2020 will be the year that, as well as making hundreds of thousands of connections online, we will start to connect more and people offline too. 

Join us for the inaugural Angel Investment Network, Pitch and Pint, at the Duke on the Green in Parsons Green.

Learn about how to improve your pitch. Meet the team and learn from the entrepreneurial community. 

Sign up to the Angel Investment Network’s Pitch and Pint.

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SeedTribe relaunches as ‘UK impact hub’ – powering profit-with-purpose driven businesses

Ethical investment platform SeedTribe has relaunched as a new UK-focused impact hub. The platform connects startups with individuals, corporates and governments interested in helping profit-with-purpose businesses. SeedTribe’s new remit includes mentoring, networking and recruitment, as well as investment.

SeedTribe uses the UN Sustainable Development Goals (“SDGs”)  as its impact framework with all businesses on the platform at Stage 1, raising up to £1M and driving revenue. Businesses that appear on the platform are heavily vetted so only the most inspiring are selected. Businesses are featured free of charge, but have the option to buy “add-ons”. These include helping with their fundraise, advertising a job to the network or showcasing an event. 

New content

New content includes spotlight interviews with founders, advice and guidance for startups who need support. There are also events, opportunities and a free match-up service enabling individuals to connect with businesses. Following extensive research and discussions with the network SeedTribe has identified five key areas of focus. These are:

1.     Mentors/Advisors
2.     Corporates giving financial or in-kind support in line with their values and fields of expertise
3.     Recruitment opportunities
4.     Interesting events they can attend
5.     Investment or other types of funding

Businesses winning investment and support

Businesses on the SeedTribe platform winning investment and support include: Teysha Technologies, a natural polycarbonate platform creating fully biodegradable substitutes for plastics and PinPoint who use data science to detect the early signs of cancer.

The site is powered by Angel Investment Network – the world’s largest online angel investment platform, with a global network of more than 1 million entrepreneurs and 200,000 investors.

Olivia Sibony is the CEO of SeedTribe and she was recently named one of the UK’s Top 10 Women Entrepreneurs for her work on SeedTribe.

She said: “Our entire ethos is using business as a force for good, meaning profit and purpose need to be interlinked. Over the past 18 months I have been approached by so many people who believe in our mission and want to help in ways beyond simply funding.” 

She continued: “Our community is dedicated to finding solutions to the world’s most intractable problems, helping impact-driven entrepreneurs  meet the people and institutions who can teach, support and fund their ventures. We believe in the power of collaboration and together we can empower business to be used as a force for good and transform our world.

Olivia is urging anyone keen to help SeedTribe’s mission to reach out. Please visit seedtribe.com for more information.

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Angel Investment Network celebrates 15th anniversary

From a vision of opening up the closed world of angel investment to an expanding global network of a million users

AIN London team

From a proposal for a rabbit mashing factory in Russia to successfully funding What3Words, Angel Investment Network (AIN) co-founders Mike Lebus and James Badgett have seen it all. It has now been 15 years since our co-founders and childhood friends formed AIN, now the world’s largest online angel network. What started in the early days of the internet as two friends having a vision of an interconnected network of angel investors and startups has led to a platform now spanning 90 countries and more than a million users. Meanwhile the team is now 25 strong with team members in the UK, USA, Mexico, Spain and Nepal.

Our co-founders in earlier times…

Living and breathing the startup world since the early noughties, the team has successfully raised funds for standout companies like What3Words, Novastone and Rosa’s Thai. In the last few years the company has been developing at a breakneck pace with the launch of two spin-off brands, SeedTribe, a community for impact-focused businesses, and BrickTribe, which connects investors and lenders with property developers with proven track records. 

In the last year alone, AIN has received over 100,000 pitches from entrepreneurs across the globe, with the figure doubling over the last two years. Alongside existing markets there has been a rapid growth of startups coming from emerging markets. Meanwhile investors registering on the site have surged nearly 40% year on year, now standing at more than 200,000 registered business angels. 

Alongside the online platform, AIN also runs a successful broking division, which has seen exceptional growth in the past 12 months. AIN has been involved in several significant raises in 2019, including eco-friendly baby product business Kit & Kin, fully customisable bio-polymer plastic company Teysha, and Pin Point, a data science offering early cancer detection.

Our co-founders James Badgett and Mike Lebus today

Speaking about the anniversary James Badgett said:
“When we first set up, no one looked for investment online. Most investment came through personal connections, which not everyone has access to. We saw that good ideas weren’t getting the funding they deserved, because entrepreneurs’ access to angels outside their immediate circles was severely restricted. We imagined a platform which gave all entrepreneurs access to a national and international network of investors; and, of course, the only way to do that was online. It is remarkable to see how it has grown and we are proud of AIN’s place at the epicentre of the startup scene in the UK and now spanning the globe.”


Mike Lebus said:
“When we set up AIN, angel groups tended to be focused on a regional basis. Applying to them, following up, getting feedback, arranging meetings, etc was fairly laborious. We had the idea of creating a portal to streamline the whole process for entrepreneurs and investors. I feel immensely proud to have helped brilliant companies like Sweatcoin and What3words on their journey to huge success. However, of course there are no guarantees of funding and the startup idea needs to capture the imagination of any potential investors. Over time you do get a sense of what will work and what will sadly remain a pipe dream. We launched the broking division to apply our team’s expertise of selecting high quality dealflow and to help our investors identify the best prospects.

With AIN now having a footprint in every continent (except Antarctica where unsurprisingly there doesn’t seem to be much demand), we can’t wait to see where we’ll be 15 years from now! Happy anniversary AIN.


 

Sector focus: Medtech market

This is the first of our new series focusing on sectors gaining interest and investment from angel investors. This month we take a look at the rapidly growing medtech market. This is a sector that has been thrust into the spotlight this year due to COVID and a worldwide focus on healthcare. More startups than ever are winning investment and developing solutions to mankind’s most serious problems. In fact it has seen the fastest growth in keyword searches from our investor database. AIN’s Ed Stephens takes a deeper look.

Size of MedTech market
The total global medical technology industry is estimated to be £457bn (Statista)

Number of companies
32,000 medical technology companies in Europe – 95% of which are SMEs.

Description
Medical technologies are products, services or solutions used to save and improve people’s lives. Startups in the sector have products and services to help with prevention, diagnosis and cure.

The three main categories of medical technologies are:
Medical devices (MDs)
Products, services or solutions that prevent, diagnose, monitor, treat and care for human beings by physical means.
In vitro diagnostics (IVDs)
Non-invasive tests to determine the status of one’s health and diagnose illnesses.
Digital health
The new suite of tools as well as services, using information and communication technologies (ICTs) to improve prevention, diagnosis, treatment, monitoring and management of health, both physical and mental and lifestyle.

On the platform
In the past year, searches for biotech on the AIN platform have increased by 97%.
Meanwhile searches for Healthcare/ health have rocketed by 86%.

What are the reasons for its huge success in the past year?

There are three key factors worth examining:

  1. The impact of the pandemic
    Firstly and most obviously, the worldwide pandemic has meant health has been pushed front and centre of people’s minds. When we think of our own well being, we now think of it in a broader sense. The pandemic has also been particularly problematic for those with underlying health conditions, raising a universal awareness of our own personal resilience, immunity and wellness. The pandemic has made us question medical regulation and legislature in a race to develop a vaccine and drugs to treat it. However, it has also made us think more about our general health with a renewed focus on the mental health fallout from months under lockdown. This topic is now a key part of the national conversation too and thus a ‘holistic’ look at health, it’s maintenance and/or deterioration.
  1. The explosion of big data
    This has also been coupled with a rapid and continuous explosion of big data and patient datasets which has of course been a  game changer for healthcare/medtech, particularly in the field of preventative medicine. We now know if we are theoretically able to get our hands on a big enough and robust enough data set for a given illness, we can make significant steps towards diagnosing it more effectively (with the caveat that our understanding of the causes isn’t too siloed). By looking at the data of millions of people worldwide with a similar risk profile we can predict someone’s likely susceptibility to that particular disease and develop treatments and solutions that may even be personalised to their demographic or patient profile. Which is another step towards the holy grail of personalised preventative medicine.
  1. Agile startups
    Agile startups are of course helping to drive this market forward, pushing innovation and continually getting the bureaucracies in healthcare to ask if there are new ways of doing things. It has been heartening to see the increased level of interest shown by the NHS in innovation. Their clinical entrepreneurship programme goes from strength to strength and there is talk of a £5m fund to support seedstage medtech companies. In the past routes to market were cumbersome and often controlled by large medtech/pharma companies. 

A draw for these startup founders and their investors is the ‘mission’. Clearly there are few greater missions than solving complex healthcare issues. Also embedded within medtech is the idea of global scalability due to the universal nature of human fragility, meaning the rewards for success are considerable. Naturally a continued dialogue needs to be maintained to ensure progress doesn’t come at the expense of ethics but the future’s looking bright in this country for healthcare. We face a unique set of pressures through socialised healthcare that create an environment ripe for technology export.

What types of companies are we seeing developing solutions in this sector?

Key players in the sector focus on either ‘longevity’ solutions, technologies that improve health, nutrition and ‘healthspan’ or solutions to medical diagnosis and downstream disease prevention or cure. Diagnostics companies are being well received on the AIN platform and Onsite health and mental health platforms are also in demand, businesses that typically have a B2B component. With models like this it seems the discussion around physical and mental health is inching ever closer. I haven’t seen anything that has a clear grasp on this yet but there are some interesting recombinations of datasets to explore this. The issue you have in a capitalist environment is companies can often compete in siloes e.g. one company to collect DNA data, one to collect blood samples, another to collect stool samples and the final one to collect patient mental health records. Unless the patient has access to all of these services and has a willingness to allow all the organisations to freely integrate and share data then building up a cohesive picture will remain evasive. One might say we are still in ‘investigatory mode’.

What are investors saying about this as a category?

It excites them but they are naturally wary as it is that much more involved and really does require a degree of specialism that other market sectors don’t. In a winner takes all market you have to be more aware of the competition and the market forces and regulation at play.  It has gone from lab based discoveries, pharmaceutical and surgical instruments into the realm of technology, data and AI. As a sector it is enmeshed with the future. This really is the most exciting element for anyone to be involved with – curing mankind’s most fundamental weaknesses. 2020 has brought home our susceptibility and weakness to disease despite our unparalleled technological ascendency. Medical companies battling to come up with vaccines or provide drugs for treatment have become household names. 

What are the fundamentals you look for in a med tech business?

The team seems to remain one of the most crucial elements. Investors will look to back the best in a field. Experts ultimately form an essential part of the social proofing of a business and their knowledge is and remains a huge component of the diligence that needs to be undertaken. You need to be able to trust in their domain expertise and real world experience of the problems they are solving. You also ideally want the business to be close to commercialisation – and to have gone through regulatory approval, which is a big barrier to realising potential. Typically early stage medtech investments will carry higher valuations due to the team strength, IP developed and often the value of non-dilutive R&D grants taken on. 

case studies


Occuity

Disease screening and diagnostics startup Occuity recently raised £1m and generated huge interest from investors. Occuity’s meters work by shining light into the eye and analysing the return signal. This enables chronic health conditions such as diabetes and Alzheimer’s Disease to be monitored. With hundreds of millions worldwide suffering from diabetes this has huge potential. Crucially in today’s world it can also be delivered at a social distance.

PinPoint


Another hugely exciting company who raised on the platform in the past year is PinPoint. PinPoint has developed a Test that uses AI/Machine Learning to rapidly ‘rule out’ cancer from a simple blood sample, and may be used for all cancer types. The potential for the business is simply enormous. Founder Giles Tully pointed out at the time that PinPoint had already achieved nearly 25% rule out, which in 2019 would have given over 500,000 patients peace of mind in a few days instead of worrying for a few weeks and saved the NHS over £150m.

Hexarad


Another company aiming to support the NHS with a different model is Hexarad. This doctor founded company helps support the severely under resourced radiology sector with access to a mobile team of fully accredited UK NHS consultants. 

From redundancy to start up success: aisle 3 raises £200,000 with support from AIN

The founders of ecommerce startup aisle 3 have bounced back after being made redundant at the start of the pandemic to successfully raise £200,000 for their new ecommerce venture, supported by Angel Investment Network.

aisle 3 is a new marketplace providing choice and control for shoppers across the globe, who are able to select from 600 retailers on the platform. By deploying Machine Learning and AI algorithms, they aggregate retailer offers and rich product information so shoppers are presented with all of their buying options on a single screen. It took the business three months to raise the funds after two thirds of the founding team were made redundant at the start of the first lockdown and created the new business. 

Founded in March, aisle 3 gives shoppers the complete view of all of their buying options so that they can make purchase decisions based on their personal values such as price, delivery, locality, sustainability or brand loyalty.  The team has developed their proprietary web crawler, feed processor, laravel site, serverless infrastructure and multiple product aggregation algorithms from scratch. The funds at this stage are primarily directed towards advancing the brand’s product and tech build.

The founding team of Thomas J. Vosper, James Valbuena and Justin Thomas have 30+ years of collective ecommerce experience at some of the biggest names including– Amazon, Tesco, Lastminute, VASHI. In a short space of time they have grown to serve 2,000 organic shoppers each day, 600 signed retailers, and 20 Digital Agencies with more than a million products and 3 launch categories – Trainers, Toys and Baby products rolling out over the next few weeks.

According to co-founder Thomas J. Vosper: “We’re obsessed with shoppers getting their best deal – whatever that means to them. We’ll achieve this by solving two fundamental issues in online shopping. Firstly, we want to give shoppers the complete view of all of their buying options so that they can make purchase decisions based on their values. Secondly, we’ll make it easier for shoppers to find new products whilst, in parallel, leveraging our two-sided marketplace to act as a conversion enabler to close the gap between shoppers and retailers with significant revenue upside and ability to scale.”

He continued: “Like so many others, I faced adversity in the pandemic. However being made redundant gave me the chance to realise my ambition to create my own business taking the learnings from 14 years in online retail and support of an incredible network of industry advisors and investors to create something better. We are delighted that investors on the Angel Investment Network platform bought into our vision and I hope our success will inspire others to think there is light at the end of the tunnel during tough times.”

Silicon Roundabout’s Mustafa Shreet on connecting startups with tech talent

In the latest Startup Microdose podcast AIN’s Global Head of Brokerage Edward Stephens chats to Silicon Roundabout’s Head of Community Mustafa Shreet. Silicon Roundabout is the leading UK community connecting startups with tech talent.

The Silicon Roundabout team are developers themselves and have attracted some of the UK’s best technologists to build their community. They have already helped the likes of Monzo and Treatwell find new employees.

Shreet discusses Silicon Roundabout’s journey over the past ten years. What started as a tech community meet up for developers to discuss opportunities, has grown to now have a community of 15,000 people. As well as matching startups with the right talent to help them survive and thrive, they host hackathons, Tech Talks and a variety of different events. 

Shreet says: “Silicon Roundabout is a community. It’s not just connecting startups with people, it’s about connecting them with the community.” 

Shreet discusses the fact a lot of startups have traditionally had bad experience with traditional recruiters and so are turned off by the whole process. He says: “Many developers have negative feelings toward recruiters. Most recruiters don’t have the specialist knowledge.” 

Shreet lays out a lot of the things that are going wrong. He says: “The challenge for startups is how to translate on paper what you are doing and ensure it appeals to developers. And decide who to approach.”

Angel Investment Network is partnering with Silicon Roundabout to help connect our community of startups find the talent you need. You can find out more at the interim landing page

Startup Microdose is one of the country’s leading startup business podcasts. It is hosted by Ed Stephens and Electric car subscription company Elmo co-founder Oliver Jones. It features conversations with people startups can learn from with guests are at the forefront of their fields with practical wisdom to impart on entrepreneurship and beyond. Check out the interview below.