StartUpBuzz



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

Soupologie

Soupologie

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

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

Key Facts

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

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

– Over 21k+ followers on social media  

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

Find out more about Soupologie here.

Vesta

Vesta

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

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

Key Facts

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

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

– Revenue currently > £20k a month

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

Find out more about Vesta here.

Habitat Learn 

Habitat Learn

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

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

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

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

– An option to get notetakers to take notes remotely. 

Key Facts: 

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

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

– Experienced team founding multiple successful startups 

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

Find out more about Habitat Learn here.

Keen to hear more?

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

#SixtySecondStartUp with Alpaca Coffee

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

  1. What does Alpaca Coffee do?

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Why did you set up Alpaca Coffee?

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

  1. How did you get your first customer? 

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

Alpaca Coffee

  1. We knew we were onto something when? 

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

  1. Our business model: 

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

  1. Our most effective marketing channel has been: 

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

  1. What we look for when recruiting:

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

Coffee?

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

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

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

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

  1. We worked with AIN because:

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

Keen to hear more?

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

Emerging from the pandemic – Startup sentiment in the UK and USA

Angel Investment Network, the world’s largest angel investment platform, surveyed the views of startups in the USA and UK to see how they have responded more than a year and a half after the pandemic first hit. This involved interviews with 1,205 startups in the USA and 667 in the UK. The key findings in the overall report we have published are:

1) Confidence returning
Similar numbers in both territories are now positive about the next 12 months. In the USA 76% of respondents are now confident about the next year, with 72% confident in the UK. However more US startups are very optimistic about the future, 52% against 42% in the UK. This could of course be down to a naturally more upbeat mindset but the research also reveals some particular challenges in the UK – for example the impact of Brexit. Meanwhile 70% of respondents in the USA are confident about the country retaining its status as a ‘startup hub’, versus 65% in the UK.

2) Networking and bootstrapping have been ways of mitigating stalled investment
62% of US startups have seen growth negatively impacted with 59% in the UK negatively impacted. The research also reveals the similar approach to mitigating the impact of stalled investment. The top strategy adopted in both countries was focusing more on networking. Other strategies adopted included delaying launch plans, holding back on marketing and hiring and  bootstrapping businesses as far as possible..

3) Raising investment is biggest challenge goingforward
Raising investment remains the biggest challenge going forward and there is a firm belief in both countries that government has a key role in making the conditions more favourable through tax relief. The report also looked at the biggest bugbears for startup founders. Number one in both countries was investors demanding too much of a stake in the business. Time consuming due diligence was also a pressing concern as were very slow rejections.

As we look forward, startups in the US and UK can be the engine room of economic recovery in both countries – nurturing their growth is vital.

Here is the full report

#SixtySecondStartUp with IBS Coach

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

  1. What does your company do?

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

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

  1. Why did you set up this company?

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

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

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

  1. We knew we were onto something when? 

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

  1. Our business model: 

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

  1. Our most effective marketing channel has been: 

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

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

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

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

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

  1. We worked with AIN because:

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

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

Keen to hear more?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#BehindTheRaise with Euclideon Holographics

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

Tell us about what got you into start ups: 

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

Why did you decide to raise investment?

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

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

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

What attracted investors to your company?

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

My biggest fundraising mistake was…

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

Why did you choose to use Angel Investment Network?

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

What has the funding enabled?

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

Keen to hear more?

Listen to Derek in the extra video for #BehindTheRaise:

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