An Introduction to Litigation Funding

Out investment series continues with an exploration of litigation funding, with a guest post from Sophie Liu at Axia Funding:

AxiaFunder is an online litigation funding platform that connects investors with pre-vetted commercial litigation opportunities that we believe have the potential to generate attractive risk-adjusted returns. We are specifically targeting cases on the lower end of the legal market which, in our view, has been underserved by existing funders. 

To date, AxiaFunder raised £2,387,843 for 14 commercial cases, of which six have already reached a positive resolution, generating a 12-94% return to our case investors each over a period of 2-15 months (with an average IRR of 48%). The remaining 8 cases are currently ongoing. There are no losses to date. *

What is Litigation Funding?

Litigation funding is where a third-party agrees to finance the legal costs of a dispute in return for a share of the proceeds that would be eventually recovered by the funded party. Litigation funding is typically provided on a non-recourse basis, meaning the funded party has no obligation to repay the funder in the event the case is unsuccessful.  

What are the benefits of litigation funding as a new investment asset? 

Litigation funding can potentially generate significant returns to case investors. It is common for investors of a winning case to expect to double, triple or quadruple their initial investment.* This asset also has zero correlation with the fluctuations in the broader economy and other assets. In addition, each case is almost entirely uncorrelated with each other. Thus, this offers further diversification. 

What are the impacts of post Covid-19 economic environment on litigation investment? 

In contrast to other investment opportunities (such as equities or real estate), litigation investment has zero correlation with the fluctuations in the broader economy and other assets. This makes it a compelling investment in current economic environment plagued by volatility and ongoing uncertainty over the end of the Covid-19 pandemic. In addition, litigation itself is expected to increase during an economic recession due to a sharp increase in a number of business insolvency related claims.

What are the social benefits of litigation funding? 

Litigation funding helps to level the playing field by offering access to justice for those who need it the most. The litigation process is well known to be an expensive and often lengthy exercise with the final legal costs being uncertain. SMEs or individuals who enter contractual agreements with large companies often find themselves exposed to additional commercial risk due to the prohibitive cost of protecting their legal interests. Litigation funding offers claimants a means of pursuing a viable claim while preserving liquidity and minimising risk. 

Can you give any examples of your funded cases? 

• An unfair minority shareholder prejudice petition, where the defendant, the majority shareholder and a director of a company, allegedly diverted economic value from the claimant, a minority shareholder, who was instrumental in developing the business. This case has resolved successfully generating a 33.1% return to investors in 14 months.*

• An insurance claim by the builder, whose development was subjected to an arson attack, against both the insurance company for unreasonably seeking to avoid settling the client’s claim on its insurance policy, and the insurance broker for the non-disclosure of information on the basis of which the policy has been voided. This case has resolved successfully generating a 11.8% return to investors in 2 months.*


How do you select litigation cases? 

Cases have to satisfy the following criteria:

• Legal merit: The legal merits of the claimant’s case must be strong. Typically, independent legal counsel will have endorsed the case with a high probability of success.

• ATE insurance policy: Each case must have an ATE insurance policy in place. It protects AxiaFunder’s case investors from adverse cost risk and helps to eliminate low quality cases.

 • Case economics: The estimated damages normally have to be at least 5x the estimated costs of pursuing the case to trial. 

• Enforceability: There must be clear evidence that the defendant has the financial resources to pay the damages and that any court judgement can be enforced.

• Experienced legal team: AxiaFunder will only fund cases for which the claimant’s legal team are clearly competent and have in-depth experience in the relevant area. 

• Alignment of interest: The claimant and his legal team should share some downside risk in the event the case loses. 

Other considerations include regulation, security for costs, pricing, and funding strategy to trial.


What are the risks of investing in litigation cases and how to mitigate them?

Litigation funding is typically provided on a non-recourse basis. As a result, an investor stands to lose all or most of their original investment if the case is unsuccessful. However, the downside risk of losing the entire investment can be significantly reduced by investing in a portfolio of litigation cases. This is illustrated in the article Single case versus portfolio litigation funding.

There is also a risk of having to pay the other side’s costs in the event the losing party themselves lacks the capital to cover these costs. The adverse cost risk can be mitigated by having After-The-Event (ATE) insurance policy in place. It provides protection against the liability to pay the other side’s costs in the event the case is unsuccessful. 

How to invest with AxiaFunder?

Investors need to register on the AxiaFunder platform and complete the onboarding process which involves completing identity checks and passing the investor suitability test. Once these steps are complete, investors are ready to invest. 

Past performance is not indicative of future results & Capital at risk. Returns are not guaranteed

An Investor’s Guide to Key Startup Metrics

Angel investors generally invest early in a startup’s life, meaning that if they identify successful investments, there is potential for huge returns. One of the key steps for angels to assess investment opportunities is looking at metrics and benchmarking against other similar companies. 

To be clear, every sector, and indeed every startup, will have different relevant metrics, but these should be of use as a starting point:

Churn rate 

A company’s churn rate is the percentage of customers that cancel in a given period. It’s of particular importance, in that acquiring new customers is typically considerably more expensive than acquiring new customers. 

Furthermore, if a company has a high churn rate, it can be a sign that there are issues with the product, or potentially that the service does not provide long term value for the customer. 

Liquidity on the Balance Sheet

Looking at a company’s balance sheet to determine the spending power of a company gives a number of important insights: how long the company can cover expenses and continue to operate, a company that is overextended, for example, may give cause for concern about their management style, consequently having an impact on whether you wish to invest. 

Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR)

Particularly relevant to subscription businesses that will have new customers signing up, as well as existing customers cancelling (churning). MRR gives you an effective way of evaluating the growth of a company and projecting ahead. 

MRR is calculated by multiplying the number of customers on a monthly subscription by Average Revenue Per User. 

Customer Acquisition Cost 

Customer acquisition cost (CAC) is the cost to acquire a new customer. Typically for new companies this will be high, as they only have limited insights as to how to target their customer and have yet to fully optimise their conversion funnel. 

However as they start to scale, there will be a competing factor, as you start to bid for more traffic in auctions on platforms such as Facebook and Google Ads, it will become more expensive on a per user basis to get more users. 

EBITDA

EBITDA is defined as earnings, before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation are subtracted. EBITDA is a profitability metric that strips out expenses that might obscure how a company is actually performing and therefore gives a cleaner interpretation of how a company is actually performing.

A higher EBITDA margin (EBITDA divided by total revenue) indicates a more financially stable company with lower risk.  

Customer Lifetime Value (CLTV)

By measuring customer lifetime value (CLTV) in relation to customer acquisition cost (CAC), you can estimate the length of time it takes to recoup an investment to acquire a new customer. 

Customer lifetime value is calculated by taking the average purchase value and multiplying it by the average number of purchases that the company in question obtains. 

A predictive customer lifetime value model will take account of the fact that customers’ future behaviour might change, i.e their purchasing may become more frequent in the future due to certain factors.  

Break-even 

Getting to break-even is the point where total revenue reaches total costs. When a startup reaches break-even point, any money earnt above that is profit. As such, the startup becomes less reliant on raising future investment to keep growing. From an investment perspective, if the company is likely to achieve break even quickly, then it has the effect of de-risking the investment.  

Net Promoter Score (NPS)

Net Promoter Score is a measure of the overall customer experience. NPS is calculated by asking ‘On a scale of 0-to-10, how likely is it that you would recommend our service to a friend or colleague?’. Customer that score a 9 or 10 are classified ‘promoters’, those that score 0-6 are classified detractors. NPS is the total number percentage of promoters – the total percentage of detractors.

NPS provides an insight into how happy customers and is therefore a leading metric that can be used to understand the potential for revenue and value capture in the future.

Keen to hear more 

As your investment journey continues, you will become more familiar with the investment metrics that you should pay close attention to. If you are looking to learn more about investing, you can read our investing guides here.

How to become an Angel Investor

2021 saw a record number of investors join Angel Investment Network. We expect to see the trend continue into 2022, with both established investors and new investors joining the platform. 

If you are thinking about taking the plunge for the first time and getting involved in backing some of the great businesses of tomorrow, here’s our guide for getting started:

What is an Angel Investor?

An angel investor is an individual who backs one of a startup’s first rounds of funding, investing their own money, rather than a venture capitalist (VC) that invests pooled funds at a later stage.

The term ‘angel’ apparently originally came from Broadway theatre, where wealthy individuals gave money to help bring the theatrical productions to life. 

Why should you become an Angel Investor?

Backing startups whilst high risk, opens you up to much higher potential returns than traditional forms of investments. In some countries, governments also provide tax breaks to investors that back startups. 

Who can become an Angel Investor?

In the UK, to qualify as an angel investor, you will need to meet the criteria of either a self-certified sophisticated investor or a high net worth investor:  

Self-Certified Sophisticated Investors 

Self-certified sophisticated investors need to broadly meet at least one of the following criteria:

– Have been a member of an angel network for at least 6 months;  

– Made two investments in an unlisted company in the last two years, this could for example include on crowdfunding platforms;

– Work or have worked in the last 2 years in private equity, or providing finance for small and medium enterprises; 

– Be a director of a company, or have been in the last 2 years with annual turnover of at least £1 million.

High Net Worth Individual 

Achieving high net worth individual status broadly means that you have a salary in excess of £100,000, or net assets excluding property of over £250,000.  

US – Accredited Investors 

In the US, angel investors are normally (but not always) individuals who have accredited investor status. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) defines an ‘accredited investor’ as one with a new worth of $1million in assets, excluding personal residence, or having earned $200k income for the two previous years, or $300k for married couples. 

How much do you need to invest? 

Whilst startup ticket size varies hugely, a typical amount that an angel investor might invest is between £10k and £50k in the UK, and $25k to $100k in the US.

Should I diversify?  

Many investors aim to diversify their investments by building a portfolio with 10+ investments, in the hope that a few successes will counter any companies that are unsuccessful, leading to a positive Internal Rate of Return (IRR) on their portfolio. 

How do you get started? 

On the Angel Investment Network platform you can set preferences for the kind of deals that you are interested in and get relevant opportunities sent to you, or use the search facility to find deals worldwide. 

Providing you either meet the criteria of a self certified investor or a high net worth individual, you can sign up as an investor on Angel Investment Network here

Cleantech energy company eleXsys Energy raises £640,000 through AIN

eleXsysEnergy has raised £640,000 through Angel Investment Network, the world’s largest online angel investment platform. eleXsys Energy has developed a unique, international award-winning, enabling technology that will drive the transition of global energy grids to a clean energy future. The eleXsys® technology enables large commercial and industrial rooftops to become grid-connected, solar power plants. eleXsys® is the critical enabling technology being installed to build the IKEA eleXsys Microgrid at IKEA Adelaide, which will become 100% powered by renewable generation by 2025.

The raise took four months and was part of a larger £5m funding raise, including a Series A round of  £3.55m, with the funds allowing the business to continue its investment as it rapidly grows its global reach. eleXsys Energy’s innovative technology unlocks the full potential of electricity networks to host multiple times more clean, distributed energy without expensive network infrastructure upgrades. By providing services that enable a two-way flow of electricity on grids, the platform supports the most efficient, low-cost means of delivering clean distributed solar or wind energy.

The company originated in Australia but has now reorganised and is headquartered in London. This is eleXsys Energy’s first raise overseas and marks a significant step for the company.  The company has over 270 customers including 11 industrial rooftops across schools and government, agricultural and commercial buildings. The raise will allow the business to continue to invest in its technology as it rapidly grows its global reach.

According to Richard Romanowski, co-founder and Executive Director, of eleXsys: “We are delighted to have completed a successful round of fundraising with Angel Investment Network. Our technology is critical for the transition to clean energy – one of the world’s most pressing challenges. Funding from investors across the world confirms the transglobal appetite for investment opportunities in new cleantech solutions, aiming to tackle global carbon reduction targets. We are a rapidly growing business and with the capital raised, we will be able to further drive our strategic plans for expansion and deliver on our goals for our new and existing investors.”

According to Sam Louis, Head of Consultancy at Angel Investment Network: “We are excited to be working with eleXsys Energy in this period of significant growth for the company. This raise ensured that eleXsys secured the backing of strategic and experienced investors as they expand their global reach and make their mark on international markets. Our passion-driven investors want to support businesses that solve real problems and there’s arguably few greater problems to solve than how to dramatically scale the move to clean energy.”

News of the raise has been covered in the media both in the UK and internationally including: UKTN, TechLoop Europe , UK Tech Investment News, Growth Business, Eminetra and 24htech Asia

Predictions for impact investing in 2021

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

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

A rise in interest in impact-focused startups


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

The establishment of more metrics for the measurement of ESG

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

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

Increasing cross-border collaboration


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

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

How to close your funding round before the end of 2020

We’re very excited to announce the first edition in our series of guest articles from our partners SeedLegals. SeedLegals automates the legals to help companies close funding rounds faster, and hire, manage and allocate equity to their team.

CCO Adam Blair explains legal considerations to help you close your fundraise before 2020 is out:

And just like that, it’s almost the end of 2020! We hope you’ve had a successful year up until this point, considering the year it’s been…

At SeedLegals, many founders we speak to are now thinking about how to scale their business in 2021, and beyond. And what’s the best way to scale? Securing funds so your business can grow. 

With the end of the year fast approaching, you’ll want to be getting everything sorted before the Christmas break, so here’s what you need to know… 

Seasonality in UK fundraising

At SeedLegals, we’ve observed three main spikes in the fundraising calendar:

  1. The first, perhaps unsurprisingly, is the end of the tax year (April 5th), and particularly for SEIS and EIS rounds. The reason for this is investors are keen to get deals closed to ensure that they receive maximum tax relief in the current tax year.
  1. The following is the run-up to the summer holiday season. Traditionally (at least prior to Covid-19), many investors use August to pack up and take some time off. If a deal isn’t done by the end of July it won’t be closed until September (or even later), hence the pre-holiday rush. 
  1. And lastly, the run up to Christmas. This can be a frantic time of year for both investors and founders, with lots of fundraising activity and investment. There’s nothing quite like getting a deal closed and all the paperwork done before the festive break! 

This is great news for founders, particularly this year as a result of the pandemic. Deal volumes were lower than usual earlier in the year, and we are now seeing a significant uptick in activity from investors to make up for this. 

SEIS/EIS

Over 30,000 UK companies have now received investment over £20 billion since the introduction of the EIS Scheme in 1993 (HMRC). In the 18/19 tax year alone, funding via the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) and Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS) totalled over £1.8bn. 

The SEIS/EIS schemes allow investors to claim tax relief on the money they are investing into your company. Investors are able to claim Income Tax relief at 50% for SEIS investments, up to £100,000 each tax year, and 30% for EIS (max £1m). 

It’s worth noting that SEIS/EIS allowance can be claimed for both this tax year OR the prior tax year (known as carry-back). If, for example, your investor invested £50,000 SEIS/EIS in this tax year (2020-21 tax year), they can claim income tax relief against their tax payable for this tax year OR they can carry back to the previous tax year (2019-20).

SEIS/EIS Advance Assurance 

As a founder, the first step when fundraising is typically to apply for SEIS/EIS Advance Assurance. Many investors will only consider investing in a company that’s received SEIS/EIS Advance Assurance, as this gives them confirmation that they will receive tax relief on any potential investment. 

To get approval for your company, you’ll need to line up one or two initial investors to add to your application to demonstrate interest, and then you can apply. 

If you’d like to find out more about SEIS/EIS, you can read more here.

The importance of the Term Sheet

Once you have investors interested and committed to investing in your business – you’ll need to send them a summary of investment terms – called a Term Sheet. 

Term Sheets are where a large amount of negotiation can happen as they include details on the valuation, but also things like vesting schedules, reporting requirements and even founder salaries. 

What we often see at SeedLegals is once a founder has the first signature on the Term Sheet, it’s generally easier to get subsequent investors on board and close the round. 

SeedLegals data shows that on average companies close their funding round approximately 30 days after unlocking their term sheet. 

Advanced Subscription Agreement

An Advanced Subscription Agreement can be issued to new investors at any time and allows investors to subscribe for shares in an upcoming funding round, in exchange for giving you money now. 

In these cases, no valuation is set. Instead, your investors will receive their shares (generally at a discount) when you close your next funding round. 

An Advanced Subscription Agreement is a carefully worded, easy to understand document which complies with SEIS and EIS legislation – read all about it here.

Instant Investment

Instant Investment allows you to close a small (or smaller) funding round, raising only what you need or just the investment you’re able to get right now, and then top that up anytime, within limits agreed in the initial funding round.

Let’s say you want to raise £500K but you only have £300K of investors lined up. Rather than spending weeks or months finding the remaining £200K, you can close the round now, but set the deal terms to allow you to top up another £200K anytime within the next 12 months (for example), at the same or higher valuation, with no further investor consents needed.

This enables you to close the commitments that you have now, with the flexibility to continue raising in the new year, or maybe even during the next peak in the fundraising calendar…

So, there are a number of strategies that can be used to allow you to take in investment before the end of the year. Which are you going to choose?

About SeedLegals

We’re the operating system for your company, and we’ve already transformed the way more than 15,000 UK and French startups run their businesses.

Want to find out more? Head to SeedLegals or book a call with one of the SeedLegals experts, who will be happy to walk you through the best option for you.

AIN’s Olivia Sibony named one of the UK’s top 10 Women entrepreneurs

Olivia Sibony, CEO of SeedTribe and Angel Investment Network’s Head of Impact Investing has been named one of the UK’s top 10 Women Entrepreneurs. 

The accolade came from Business Game Changer Magazine in its annual showcase of The UK’s Top game-changing Women Entrepreneurs. The UK’s Top Ten Women Entrepreneurs recognises the outstanding contribution made by individual UK business women. This contribution is either to their businesses, their local communities or by inspiring and mentoring other entrepreneurs. 

Olivia was recognised for three key reasons. These were:

– Founding and exiting her business, GrubClub, selling to EatWith, feeding tens of thousands of diners through hundreds of chefs, one of whom went on to earn a Michelin Star.

– Founding and launching SeedTribe. The UK’s central hub for Impact Entrepreneurs, supporting and connecting hundreds of entrepreneurs, encouraging using profit for purpose.

– Launching the Female Founders Hub for Angel Investment Network, responding to data that showed just 1 in 10 of our investors are women and a low percentage of female founder teams. She was recognised for ‘empowering thousands of women to gain confidence in becoming active investors and using their skills and money to help shape the world’.

According to Olivia: “I am honoured to have received this accolade. My success is in huge part thanks to the incredible network of entrepreneurs, colleagues and supporters with whom I’ve worked closely all these years. I look forward to continuing this work supporting female founders, as well as entrepreneurs running inspiring businesses that are able to align profit and purpose in order to address some of the world’s most pressing social and environmental challenges.”

How to Make a Smart Angel Investment

This interview with Mike Lebus, founder and managing director of Angel Investment Network, was originally published in Sifted. You can read the full article on ‘How to Make a Smart Angel Investment’ with views from other industry leaders here.

Mike Lebus, angel investor & co-founder Angel Investment Network

Mike Lebus (UK)

Mike Lebus is co-founder Angel Investment Network, a platform catering to 205,000+ angels which has backed the likes of bed mattress startup Simba, geocoding business What3Words and kids media company SuperAwesome.

An angel investor for 6 years. 

Number of personal investments: I try to make two personal investments a year. Through the venture division of the company (me and three others), we have a stake in over a hundred companies.

Average cheque size: I normally invest £10-25k.

The biggest misconception about angel investing is… that investors should be based in startup hubs like Silicon Valley and London. Online platforms and digital networks now allow investors to find great deal flow wherever they are based.

Do… take the time to meet and get to the know the founding team. When you invest in early stage projects the idea takes second place to the team. This is because the idea will have to change and evolve to be a success; and it’s the team who are responsible for doing that!

“Investors don’t have to be based in startup hubs like Silicon Valley and London.”

Don’t… invest in only one company. No matter how good the opportunity looks, there are so many unknowns when it comes to early stage investment. It’s a much better strategy to invest smaller in more businesses.

The biggest mistake I made was… to miss out on a great opportunity because I failed to build a good relationship with the team. In the early discussions I should have focused on getting to know them, their vision and their processes; instead, I was too blinkered on the valuation and deal terms. It ended up being a waste of everyone’s time. The company went on to do very well!

My personal top tip is to… manage your expectations. If you’re obsessed with returns and timescales, you’ll end up being a burden on your portfolio companies. If you relax and trust the team to execute on their vision, then you can focus on finding meaningful ways to help them with your experience and connections.

My most recent investment was in… Sweatcoin, an app that tracks your outdoor steps and rewards you with digital currency. It’s been the fastest growing health and fitness app in history in every country it’s launched in on the App Store. I know the founder well, so knew how talented he was. I also loved the company’s innovative approach to incentivising people to become more active and get healthier.

Sweatcoin tracks & verifies your outdoor steps using your phone’s accelerometers and GPS location. Those steps get converted into our currency — Sweatcoins.

The deal I regret missing out on is… Funding Circle. We helped them with funding very early on, but I chose not to invest personally. Their IPO last year valued them at £1.5 billion!

If I could change one thing about the European angel scene it would be…More government incentives to encourage more people to invest into startups. The UK have the SEIS and EIS schemes, which have really helped stimulate early-stage investment. I think more European countries should introduce similar incentives.

TechRound Interview with Seedtribe CEO Olivia Sibony

This interview with Olivia Sibony was originally published in TechRound on 21st May 2019.

We caught up with Liv Sibony, the CEO of Seedtribe, a community hub for entrepreneurs, investors and change-makers interested in impact entrepreneurship and using business as a force for good.

Tell us a bit about your career…

I started out at Goldman Sachs before leaving to launch a foodtech startup called Grub Club. It was a platform for connecting diners with unique dining experiences. We sold to Eatwith in 2017.

I was only too aware, from my experiences at Grub Club, of the challenges entrepreneurs face in raising funds and I had always had a passion for seeing how business could be used as force for good, so I then joined Angel Investment Network (having raised money for Grub Club through them) to launch and grow their impact-focussed platform, SeedTribe.

I am also a board member of UCL’s Fast Forward 2030, which aims to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs to launch businesses that address the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

UN sustainable development goals millennial angel investor technology investors olivia sibony interview
The 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

How did the idea for Seedtribe come about?

Seedtribe started out as a hybrid angel investment/crowdfunding platform with two complementary aims:

The first was to support impactful businesses and find them funding.

The second was to encourage non-traditional investors (including women and younger people) to back startups by simplifying the investment process and allowing them to invest smaller amounts.

We ran it like this for around a year and helped some awesome companies including:

  • Advanced Sustainable Developments, launching the first complete circular economy solution for food grade plastic recycling in the UK.
  • Airex, an alternative to traditional air floor insulation reducing unwanted heat loss by regulating air flow.
  • Hopes Initiative which maps, analyses, and optimises the energy consumption of businesses, managing energy expenditure, consumption and impact on the environment..

But we soon realised that we could do so much more to make our own impact and help the eco-system develop.

So, what is Seedtribe now?

Seedtribe is a community platform to connect entrepreneurs, investors, policymakers, jobseekers and volunteers and together inspire, create and support businesses for a brighter future.

We basically try to support the business-for-good eco-system by bringing together all the right people into events, online discussions, fundraising campaigns and educational workshops.

The new Seedtribe homepage coming soon…

What’s the mission?

We want to be the glue that brings the best, most talented, driven, passionate people together to be the change we all need to see in the world. We are the go-to place where impactful entrepreneurs connect with an invaluable network that help them scale.

Collaboration is the most powerful tool we have for inspiring and empowering change. At Seedtribe, we enable collaboration between individuals, startups, corporates and governments to create a better world.

By connecting the dots, we help each party or person find the right way to contribute. That way, we can get beyond all the noise and bluster, and allow everyone to take meaningful and positive action.

Our system will allow everyone to contribute positive action according to their experience, values and competencies.

What challenges do you face?

Despite reaching a market cap of $500bn and growing five-fold since 2013, the impact space is still in its infancy.

Some people still confuse investing in impact/business-for-good/profit-with-purpose with philanthropy. Even though this could not be further from the truth. ‘Impact’ business do not seek to achieve an environmental/social purpose at the expense of profit, but rather, the purpose and profit-creation are intertwined.

What’s your vision for the future?

I want to see more businesses working as a force for good. At the moment, investment is 100% tied to the idea of only caring about a financial return.

I wish we could see a paradigm shift where we feel more engaged in investing in the future, so that we can make more long-term, sustainable decisions that don’t just revolve around our personal financial returns.

If everyone were encouraged to see investment as the “triple bottom line”, companies would be incentivised to act in the interest of people and planet, we would see less short-termism, and I also think it might engage more people in the world of investing, as they’d see how it relates to their own values and future, not just a return in the next 12 months.

Where can people find out more?

We are currently rebuilding the Seedtribe site to create more of a community focus and attract users beyond just investors and entrepreneurs. They can visit the existing version at www.seedtribe.com and help us shape it at by answering this questionnaire.  I’m also always open to chat so they can connect with me on LinkedIn too!

Everything you need to know about Fundraising for your Manufacturing Business

Fundraising is rarely easy. But the challenges faced vary between industries. The manufacturing sector, in particular, has its own pathways and hurdles to be navigated when it comes to fundraising.

Below, I cover the sources of finance available for manufacturing businesses and offer advice on which to choose for your business.

Why the right finance is so important for manufacturing businesses

Figures reported in January 2018 show that 17,243 UK companies entered insolvency – a 4.2% increase from the year before. It’s no secret that the first few years of a business are a critical time for its survival. The survival rate of business to year 5 is 44.1%.
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“The UK is a great place to start a business, but survival rates are low. The recession has had an unsteadying effect on small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and we need to work hard to rebuild their confidence.”

David Swigciski, Head of Corporate, DAS UK Group

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The reasons that a business fails range from product failure, lack of market understanding and too much competition, through to the complexity of tax systems and too much red tape.

Financial planning is perhaps the biggest reason, especially for companies more than a year or two old. Without a stream of cash to sustain itself, a business will die very quickly. Lack of funding, late payments, increased business rates and maintaining your cash flow all contrive to limit the cash available.

When is the right time for a business to borrow?

The life cycle of a business needs cash injections at many stages, including:

• Expansion into new products or markets
• Fulfilling new orders above usual production demand
• Sourcing new suppliers
• Increasing inventory volumes to reduce costs
• Bridging a late payment from a large customer that is in financial difficulty

A good financial model for cash flow forecasting will highlight when your business may need more cash to continue to operate and understanding your working capital cycle is a vital part of this model.

The Working Capital Cycle Explained

The Working Capital Cycle (WCC) is the length of time it takes to convert net working capital (assets and liabilities) into cash in the bank.

If a business has a short WCC then it quickly releases cash from its production cycle which is then free to either reinvest or to purchase more materials. As a result, the business will require less funding.

If a business has a long WCC, then capital is ‘trapped’ in the working capital process and is not free to use. Businesses in this position are more likely to need funding and finance.

A business will try to reduce its WCC to as few days as possible, usually by increasing the payment terms with their suppliers and reducing the time to collect what it’s owed by its customers. Other ways to reduce the gap include streamlining processes, reducing manufacturing times and decreasing the sales cycle.

Understanding the WCC of a business is essential to plan for stability. As any CEO will tell you, the ability to weather all storms is the key to business success.

Once a business is aware of where the financial ‘gaps’ are to be bridged, it can then implement funding to ensure a healthy cash flow is available at all times in order to continue operating. This can range from organising a working overdraft, invoice financing or a short-term bridging loan for growth periods, for example when completing either a new order or launching a new product.

With this knowledge, a business owner can then look for sources of funding to support the business and to keep a healthy cash flow.

How to Choose a Finance Option

First, look for any government funding and loans that are either a non-repayable grant or a low-cost loan. These are regulated by specific guidelines and are often regionally based.

Failing this, you then need to look at equity or debt options…but which one?

debt vs equity angel investment netowrk manufacturing
Ask yourself the following questions:

1. How much money do you need?
Debt finance is suitable for anything between a few thousand to millions of pounds – dependent on finding a willing lender. Equity finance is usually from tens of thousands up to tens of millions and many VCs will only consider investing large sums.

2. Are you prepared to give away equity and a share of your business?
This is a clear choice between equity and debt. You will also have to consider how much equity you’re prepared to give away if you choose to go down an investment route, and if you have debt you can also consolidate this using a debtconsolidation.com debt management online.

3. What are your growth ambitions?
An equity investor is predominantly motivated by aggressive growth, for a return on their investment. A lender such as a bank is only concerned with their capital being repaid and growth is generally not an issue.

4. How long do you need the money for?
For a short-term cash injection, debt finance is the most suitable. If you have long-term needs, then equity investment could be a better option.

5. Do I need support?
An angel investor will also act as a mentor and can have significant input into helping you start up and grow a business. If you have a great product or a proven business but need help to take things to the next level, then an angel could be the best option for you.

It is worth noting that equity finance is a more expensive way to borrow money, but the investor is taking most of the risk. Debt finance means that you keep control of your business – and at a lesser cost – but most of the risk is yours.
Manufacturing fundraising angel investment network

What do I need to prepare to apply for funding?

1. Evaluate your business to understand what it requires

2. Draw up a business plan to clearly outline your strategy for growth and how you will use the required funding

3. Use research to show that your plan is realistic and achievable. Know your business, the market and your figures inside out.

4. Get advice on the application process, especially if you’re seeking equity investment. Speak to an adviser who can help you prepare your plan and who can give you advice on how to apply and pitch.

Sources of Finance for Manufacturing Businesses

Government Grants and Regional Agencies
The government has a variety of schemes, grants and funding options for businesses at every stage, from startup to innovation and exporting, and every business should review what funding and support is available. This type of funding is focused mainly on small businesses but not exclusively.

Grants and schemes are all subject to strict criteria and some are match-funded, which means the business must either self-fund or find external funding to match the grant on offer.

Funding support is available for businesses around the UK, with a variety of grants and loans on offer, all with specific regional criteria. Grants are constantly changing; therefore, it’s best to review what’s currently available here.

• For business innovation, Innovate UK has a series of competitions to fund between £25k and £10m for a product development project.

UK Export Finance can offer advice and support to businesses who are exporting, usually though underwriting loans and finance.

Business Finance Partnership helps small to medium-sized businesses find finance from private sector investors.

The Prince’s Trust has helped small businesses and entrepreneurs under the age of 30 since 1983. They offer mentoring, grants and loans.

For more info, I wrote a separate post on grants here.

Startup Loans

For a new manufacturing business struggling to get finance, the government-backed Startup Loans can offer a personal and unsecured loan of up to £25k. The benefit of this loan is that you do not need any assets to secure funding but the individual is personally liable for the loan and not the business.

To be eligible to apply you must be:

• Unable to have secured funding from elsewhere
• Your business is less than two years old and is based in the UK
• You are 18 or older and a UK resident, with the right to work in the UK

If there are multiple partners, each person can apply for a loan of £25k up to a maximum of £100k investment in one business. The loan is to be repaid over one to five years at 6 percent.

With the funding, a business also receives one year of mentoring and support to prepare a business plan.

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“Bank Loans and commercial mortgages are the fourth most popular form of external finance among UK SMEs”

British Business Bank Analysis, SME Finance Monitor

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Bank Business Loan

For an established business with a trading history, a bank loan is one of the most popular choices for securing finance.

Your options are based on the credit history of the business (including the business owners’) and whether you have any assets that you can offer as security. Property is usually the bank’s first consideration for security but machinery and equipment may be considered.

The business must prove that it can afford to repay the loan.

The other option, of an unsecured loan, will usually require a personal guarantee from the owner or directors of the business and will be subject to higher interest rates.

The benefit of a business loan is that you retain control of your business and can arrange funds quickly.

For a manufacturing business, a close relationship with their bank is essential to support their financial plans and to facilitate expansion and growth. Business loans are suitable for buying equipment, machinery or to fund the development and launch of a new product.

Bank Overdrafts

Another option for established businesses to support cash flow is a working capital overdraft with the bank. 16% of SMEs use an overdraft.

An overdraft is not a loan but is a means to both facilitate growth and to manage cash flow. An overdraft is expected to be used to bridge gaps on a monthly basis with the account being in credit for part of the month.

Overdrafts tend to have high interest rates but this is only paid on the overdrawn balance and so offers a flexible solution on a short-term basis to bridge gaps. There will also be an arrangement fee to pay.

Venture Capital (VC)

One of the most popular ways to fund a start-up or a business in its early stages, that has aspirations to scale quickly.

A VC is a fund of investors who are motivated to make an above-average return on their investment and in return they’re prepared to take a risk on early-stage, unproven businesses. They do factor that a certain percentage of their investments will fail but the ones that succeed can deliver massive returns.

The VC is focused on investing in a business that has long-term growth potential and will require a significant percentage stake in the business to reflect the risk that they’re taking. They expect to hold an interest in the business for five to seven years before they see a return.

Investment is delivered in a series of ‘rounds’, beginning with the seed round to test a proof of concept and then ‘series A’ onwards will be large cash injections to allow the business to scale.

A VC is not only looking for a strong business plan, they’re also concerned with the founders and the management team, and are investing in their ability to quickly scale and grow their business, as much as the business idea itself.

Venture capital investment can be used by a manufacturing company that has a new product to launch and expand into new territories or on a worldwide scale but in return, they will have to give away an equity stake in the business.

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“VC is an incredible partnership between financial professionals and founders. Many VCs are often ex-entrepreneurs, so their advice can be invaluable.”

David Mott, Chairman, Venture Capital Committee, BVCA

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Private Equity (PE)

Where a VC is focused on early stage investment in a business, PE is a medium to long-term finance option. It’s more relevant for a proven business that wants to grow or move to the next level and which needs help to achieve that.

The PE investment comes from individuals or specific private equity businesses, rather than funds made up of investors looking to speculate.

The PE investor will take a significant share of the business, often taking control. For this reason, this source of finance is relevant for owners who feel they have taken the business as far as they can and who now need help to achieve the next level, and are willing to relinquish control in return for this. Or, they may want to retire or step down from running the business and instead, retain a minority stake.

For a manufacturing business, growth could represent developing new and existing products, reducing costs and streamlining processes for more profitability and expanding into new markets.

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“You build relationships in Private Equity over three or four years. So, if you’re thinking of retiring and there’s no obvious succession plan, Private Equity makes your exit easier.”

Tim Hames, Director General, BVCA

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Angel Investment

Angel investment is finance provided by private, high-net worth individuals.

An angel investor usually has substantial business experience, with the knowledge and contacts to help other businesses succeed. They often take a hands-on approach and have significant input into the business. A strong working relationship is essential between an angel investor and the business owner they invest in.

Our service at Angel Investment Network is to connect entrepreneurs with our network of 180,000 angels investors worldwide.

A manufacturing business that has developed a new product would benefit from angel investment or a startup that needs the expertise of an experienced business owner to mentor them.

Expansion Capital

Once a business is established and has proven its success, it will want to grow. Rather than relinquishing control with private equity funding, expansion capital can be a partner to help the business achieve its goals by having the ability to inject funds at each growth stage with subsequent investments.

Expansion capital tends to be for higher amounts, such as £1-20m and an investor will expect a 10-30% stake of the business in return.

For a manufacturing business, expansion capital can be applied to the production of new products, entering new territories or even the strategic acquisition of another company (for either their manufacturing capability or even the intellectual property of another product).

Asset Finance

For an established business that has a trading history and which can show assets (that have value) on the balance sheet, finance secured on those assets can be an option to raise funding for growth, without giving away equity.

Banks often require a security guarantee for a loan but are restrictive in what they accept as security – usually only property. An asset finance lender will accept a wider range of security such as, the debtor book, machinery, equipment and stock. In some instances, intellectual property rights or patents can be used.

Traditionally, asset finance was considered a ‘last option’ to raise funding but has become more popular for any business that needs to quickly raise cash.

Leasing and Hire Purchase

A form of asset finance that is so popular in the UK with small to medium businesses that it’s second only in use to overdrafts.

The difference is:
Leasing means you pay a ‘rental’ on the item that you require, such as a van or a piece of machinery. At the end of the rental period the item is returned.
Hire purchase is an agreement to buy an asset over an agreed period of instalment payments. This means the business has the equipment it needs immediately without a large upfront investment and keeps the item once it’s paid for.

For a manufacturing business that needs to invest in a new fleet of delivery vehicles or production equipment this is an option to quickly put in place what is needed. Ideal for start-ups and growth periods.

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“It does the job that businesses need it to, allowing them to get the asset on board quickly and simply so they can start using it within their business.”

Sam Dring, Senior Product Manager, Asset Finance, Lloyds Banking Group

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Invoice Financing

Also known as factoring, invoice financing is a way to reduce the working capital cycle by releasing the value of an invoice as soon as it’s issued to the customer.
An established business will need a trading history and payment terms of less than 90 days on their invoices. They will also need to show that their customers are reliable payers.

An invoice financing lender will lend up to 90 percent of the value of the invoice and then manage the payment recovery from the customer. The cost of the financing is a percentage of each invoice.

Especially relevant to manufacturing businesses who want to reduce a long working capital cycle, release finance out of the cycle quickly and manage their cash flow more efficiently.
The business owner has access to cash and retains control of the company without relinquishing equity.

Summary

It’s very rare that a business is so cash positive from the outset that funding is never needed. Even cash positive businesses often need external finance to accelerate growth and scale quickly.

Fundraising is, therefore, a bridge that almost all business owners face. Making the right choice for your business will save you time, stress and money; and could, ultimately, be the difference between success and failure.

Thanks to Sage for allowing us to use and share their original copy and images. You can view the original post here

SeedTribe & Angel Investment Network make waves in the Press

The team at Angel Investment Network and SeedTribe have received a lot of positive press coverage recently including the Financial Times, the Guardian and BBC Radio 4.

It’s always rewarding to get public attention for your hard work. But more importantly, it’s great that our message is reaching a wider audience. Especially those people we can potentially help to find funding or great investment opportunities!

The most recent publications build a nice picture of what we are trying to accomplish over the coming months.

The focus falls, in particular, on our mission to drive positive change in the world. We are trying to increase the accessibility of the early-stage investment space, opening it up to a more diverse spectrum of investors (women and younger investors in particular). And we are helping ‘impact’ entrepreneurs get the right sort of investment for their projects.

Raconteur: Angel Investment Network & SeedTribe advocate a change in attitude towards Plastic Use

oliver jones olivia sibony plastic raconteur press
David Attenborough’s Blue Planet and the more recent BBC film “Drowning in Plastic” have brought the plastic epidemic to a global audience.

Universal horror has propelled action and a number of entrepreneurs have come forward with innovative solutions to the problem. One of these, Ahmed Detta, is currently fundraising for his recycling solution on SeedTribe.

In the midst of this backlash against plastic, we felt it important to make the point that plastic is an awesome resource with so many applications –

the real problem is not plastic, but our attitude towards it.

Raconteur picked up and published our argument – you can read it in full here

Financial Times: Angel Investment Network & SeedTribe support Impact Ventures

This September, the FT produced a special report on the ‘Impact Investing’ movement.

Regarding SeedTribe as one of the companies at the forefront of enabling the growth of this promising space, they included an interview with SeedTribe’s Head of Crowdfunding, Olivia Sibony.

olivia sibony seedtribe financial times press
Liv gives her thoughts on the important role companies like SeedTribe have to play in empowering impact entrepreneurs to enact positive and sustainable change in the world.

Read Liv’s interview in the special report here

The Guardian: Angel Investment Network & SeedTribe support Women Investors

Liv gave another interview with the Guardian, this one focused on the importance of encouraging more women investors and how the rise of the impact space could play a key part in bringing about this change.

olivia sibony seedtribe guardian press
Read ‘The Rise of the Female Investor’ interview here

Angel News: Angel Investment Network & SeedTribe support Millennial Investors

I wrote a comment piece for Angel News which ties in with Liv’s argument for women investors and the impact sector.

My thoughts centred on how younger generations of investors are motivated by conscience as well as the desire for wealth generation. I argue that companies like SeedTribe should do everything we can to harness this for the good of impact projects and the future of the planet.

Check out my two cents here

(Or if you don’t want to register on Angel News, I posted the article in a previous blog post.)

The Value of Press Coverage

This press coverage is all very flattering. But what has been most encouraging is its reception throughout the entrepreneurial and investment communities. Inbound LinkedIn requests are resulting in a number of exciting partnerships as people buy into what we are trying to do.

If you’re interested in this space as a potential partner, entrepreneur or investor, please do get in touch:

liv@seedtribe.com or oliver@angelinvestmentnetwork.co.uk

Infographic – The Q2 2013 Halo Report on US Angel Investing

The Angel Resource Institute (ARI), Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) and CB Insights have released the Q2 2013 Halo Report, a national survey of angel group investment activity, which finds median angel round sizes down to $590K per deal, median pre-money valuations remaining stable at $2.5M and 74% of deals are syndicated. When angels co-invest with other types of investors the median deal size is $1.95M.

US angel investment continues to be dispersed nationwide and the most active angel groups in the quarter are:

•           Central Texas Angel Network

•           Golden Seeds

•           Desert Angels

•           Dingman Center Angels

•           Tech Coast Angels

•           Alliance of Angels

•           Houston Angel Network

•           Launchpad Venture Group

•           New York Angels

•           Sand Hill Angels

For the first time, the report separates Texas, which has 11% of angel group deals in Q2, behind California, New England and the Southeast.  New England-based angel groups closed deals worth slightly more than deals in California in Q2. The sectors getting funding remain concentrated in Internet, healthcare and mobile, with 71% of completed Q2 deals and 79% of Q2 dollars in these categories.

“Clearly, angel groups are successfully syndicating opportunities, ” said Rob Wiltbank, Vice Chairman of Research, Angel Resource Institute.  “Syndication remains highly concentrated geographically, as with formal venture capital, but with growing online angel activity, it will be interesting to see how this changes in the future.”

Halo Report Q2 2013 Highlights:

Round Sizes

Median angel round sizes were flat year-over-year, but dipped to $590K in Q2, from $700K in Q1 and after three quarters of growth. When angel groups co-invest with other types of investors, the median round size is trending up to $1.95M in Q2 from $1.4M in Q1. Seventy-four percent of angel group deals are syndicated.

Valuations

Pre-money valuations in early stage companies remain steady at $2.5M, but they are creeping downward, with both the high and low end of the distribution declining.

Locations

Seventy-two percent of deals were completed in the angel groups’ home state in Q2, dipping slightly from Q1, but remaining fairly consistent over the course of the prior year.

Geography

Seventy percent of angel group deals in Q2 were completed outside California and New England, although 36% of dollars are invested in these regions, which is a nearly ten point gain over the prior quarter and year. California led in number of deals, with 17% share of angel group investments, but was edged out slightly by New England in the total dollars invested during the quarter.

Sectors

Together, Internet, healthcare and mobile companies completed 71% of angel group deals and received 79% of angel group dollars, an increase from Q1 and the prior year.

Video – Bill Reichert: The Art of Angel Investing

There’s a lot of common wisdom regarding what it takes to be a successful investor. But most of that common wisdom is wrong when it comes to angel investing. Investing in startups is very different than picking stocks, & you better know the difference before you jump onto the angel cloud. In this presentation, Bill Reichert discusses the Top Ten Myths of Angel Investing.

Chart: What’s Happening with Angel Investing

Last year, the dollar value of angel investments increased 11.7 percent from a recent low of $18 billion (measured in 2010 dollars) the year before, according to analysis by University of New Hampshire’s Center for Venture Research (CVR). While this increase marks the first rise in angel dollars invested in real dollar terms since 2006, the amount put into companies in 2010 remains below that in every year from 2003 through 2007. In 2010, the amount invested by angels was only 5.6 percent higher in real dollar terms than that supplied in 2002.

The trends are very different for the number of companies financed by business angels. Despite a slight dip between 2007 and 2008, the CVR reports a consistent increase in the number of angel-backed companies. Between 2002 and 2010, the number of companies financed by business angels rose 71.9 percent, according to the University of New Hampshire research group.

The result of these divergent trends is a steep drop in the size of the average angel investment from $528,000 in 2002 to $325,000 in 2010 (in real dollars).

Why angels dropped the average size of their investments 38 percent in real dollar terms between 2002 and 2010 remains an important unanswered question. Any thoughts?

Source: Created from data from the Center for Venture Research.

From Small Business Trends