Behind The Raise with Ziglu

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

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

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

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

Why did you decide to raise investment?

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

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

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

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

What attracted investors to your company?

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

My biggest fundraising mistake was…

Worrying too much about the aesthetics of the pitch deck.

Why did you choose to use Angel Investment Network?

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

What has the funding enabled?

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

Keen to hear more?

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

Research & Development Relief: An Overview for Startups 

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

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

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

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

Does Your Business Qualify?

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

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

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

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

Eligible Costs 

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

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

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

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

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

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

R&D Tax Credit Cap 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#SixtySecondStartup You’ve Got This

  1. What does your company do?

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

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

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

  1. Why did you set up this company?

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

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

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

  1. How did you get your first customer? 

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

  1. We knew we were onto something when? 

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

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

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

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

  1. Our business model: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Start-up Buzz

If there is one positive from the pandemic, it has been the sheer volume of innovation and exciting businesses that are forming and growing as a result, as markets shift and new trends emerge. 

Each month we’ll select a few start-ups that we see as particularly exciting and worth a further look. Here are some of the current highlights: 

Zero Carbon Farms

Farming needs to evolve. Urbanization, population growth and climate change demand it.

Food supply challenges are well documented – Covid-19 has seen empty supermarket shelves and highlighted the need for secure supply chains, awareness of the damage of pesticides and GMO crops is growing, and extreme weather events are making food production more unreliable. 

Enter Zero Carbon Food (ZCF), a cutting edge AgTech company that builds and operates controlled environment farms, providing a future-proof and sustainable solution for growing. This innovative method allows them to use less water, less space and run on 100% renewable energy. Their first farm? It’s 13 storeys below London in a WW2 air raid shelter.

ZCF supplies brands nationwide including M&S, Tesco Whole Foods and is discussing an international licensing agreement. 

ZCF Pitch

Anatome 

Anatome is an innovative healthcare brand, founded by an exited entrepreneur. Built on the founder’s passion for apothecaries of old and combining it with cutting edge science. It’s already on track to turnover £1.3 million and is playing in the global wellness market,with a total size of $7.2 trillion. 

It’s a digital first platform focused on online sales, but also leveraging real world stores to activate customers in premium locations, including Marylebone, Chelsea and Islington.

On top of this it’s FDA approved, has margins in excess of 70% and has developed partnerships with the Hug group and Space NK.  

Anatome Pitch

ClearWaste

ClearWaste is the first platform of it’s kind offering a price comparison site for household waste – it’s effectively Money Supermarket for household waste. 

Founded by a former EY Entrepreneur of the year, the business has gained traction by helping citizens report where rubbish has been illegally left, and councils link it back to the culprit. Each month ClearWaste submits thousands of reports to local communities. 

ClearWaste has over 500 certified waste removal companies on it’s platform, has hit the top 10 on the Apple app store and is projecting £729k revenue this year. 

ClearWaste Pitch

The AIN Book Club ‘Book of The Month’ – ‘The Interaction Field’

Our book of the month is ‘The Interaction Field’. The Revolutionary New Way to Create Shared Value for Businesses, Customers, and Society by the founder and chief executive of business and brand transformation firm Vivaldi, Erich Joachimsthaler.

The focus of the book is the need for companies to revolutionise how they create value to remain relevant in today’s world. A distinguished business academic and business leader, Joachimsthaler believes we are witnessing the birth of a new type of company that he describes as an ‘interaction field’ company.

These are companies that thrive on the participation in value creation by many different groups: from customers, suppliers, partners, and other stakeholders, but even competitors, observers, independent researchers, and government agencies. Companies that achieve this are able to create an unstoppable momentum and growth called ‘velocity’.

Joachimsthaler considers the different types of value creation that have until now dominated. For decades, it was ‘value-chain companies.’ He describes them as ‘structured as a hierarchy they organized its key activities along the value chain from sourcing to design, manufacturing, marketing, and sales and were optimized on a pipeline.’

Over the past couple of decades we have seen the advent of ‘the platform economy’. from Facebook to Amazon to Netflix, these digitally driven, asset light, and quick to grow companies have disrupted the game. They have made founders very rich and inspired the hopes of startup founders everywhere to set up and monetise new platforms.

Joachimsthaler argues in many ways the value-chain company and the platform company are more similar than you might think. ‘They are both highly transactional. They are focused on a specific exchange, which is typically the provision of a product for money.’

His belief is we are moving on from the ‘platform’ economy and instead nascent firms should focus on building a new kind of company, an ‘interaction field’ company. These new companies which include Tesla and Alibaba, facilitate, and benefit from interactions and data exchanges among multiple people and groups–from customers and stakeholders.

But also from those you wouldn’t expect to be in the mix, like suppliers, software developers, regulators, and even competitors. Everyone in the field works together to solve big, industry-wide, or complex and unpredictable societal problems.

Furthermore by participating in these interconnected groups, interaction field companies can achieve a kind of unstoppable momentum and wild expansion ‘velocity’. He writes ‘It is a new form of multidimensional, constantly accelerating, explosive and smart growth that goes far beyond the traditional measures of sales increase, profit, or market capitalization.’

He also considers the four steps needed if a company is to become an interaction field company. These are:

1. Framing: It solves new problems and intractable challenges for multiple participants

Joachimsthaler argues that platforms and digital ecosystems typically focus on solving narrow or existing problems, challenges or pain points for customers. For example Uber and Lyft remove frictions of hiring a taxi or airbnb for having somewhere to stay without paying hotel prices.

Interaction field companies frame the challenges they are solving in a much more comprehensive way. These businesses solve complex challenges for customers, for an entire industry or even society. For example, Tesla solves for a lot more than just electric cars as a replacement of gasoline-powered cars. It solves for autonomous driving, lower CO2 emission, better utilization, lower cost of ownership of a car, traffic congestion, and so much more. 


2. Designing: It creates shared value by designing for interactions, not just transactions

 Platforms and digital ecosystems tend to be highly transactional business models. Ie. Airbnb between hosts and travelers, and Amazon between buyers and sellers. Because platforms or ecosystems are transactional, they typically benefit from the volume of transactions which generates learning and network effects. Interaction field companies however are not transactional, but rather interactional. Interactions are built on collaboration, engagement and participation. Interaction field companies focus on the quality and value of interactions as much as on the volume of interactions.

For example Alibaba is not in the business of disrupting small retailers. They are in the business of making them efficient, removing frictions and enabling them to sell more.

3. Building: It is built to be open and comprehensive by deeply integrating into the lives of participants 

Interaction field companies are inclusive and compete in a world without walls. This is contrary to digital ecosystems and the current discussion around “ecosystem competition,” the notion that ecosystems compete against each other and you must decide which ecosystem to join if you can’t build your own. Companies should be wiser and reconsider the focus on extracting value through competition.

An interaction field company designs the interactions, architecture and governance in such a way that it solves problems and challenges of customers and many participants – including competitors who participate in other ecosystems.


4. Sharing: It is built to share out value with the participants in the interaction field

The goal of the interaction field company is to solve for problems and challenges in the nucleus, the ecosystem and in the overall market. The goal is not just to solve for the cheapest ride or the fastest grocery delivery, but rather to enable fair value distribution. As one leading platform academic, Marshall van Alstyne says, a situation where you create more value than you take.

Given the huge challenges created by the pandemic, this call for companies to focus on interconnectedness and solve deep rooted global problems has particular resonance. As he concludes: ‘Given the fragility of the planet and our global interdependence, interaction fields are the future, not only of business, but of the world.

SixtySecondStartUp with HyperionDev

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


What does your company do?

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

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

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

Why did you set up this company?

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

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

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

How did you get your first customer? 

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

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

We knew we were onto something when? 

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

Our business model: 

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

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

Our most effective marketing channel has been: 

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

What we look for when recruiting:

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

The biggest mistake that I’ve made is:

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

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

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

We worked with AIN because:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keen to hear more?

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

Behind The Raise with LifeSaver

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

Tell us about Lifesaver:

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

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

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

Why did you decide to raise investment?

To scale. 

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

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

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

What attracted investors to your company?

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

My biggest fundraising mistake was…

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

Why did you choose to use Angel Investment Network?

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

Keen to hear more?

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

Making It with Julian Seydoux

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keen to hear more?

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

#SixtySecondStartup with Halal Fresh

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

  1. What does your company do?

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

  1. Why did you set up this company? 

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

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

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

  1. How did you get your first customer? 

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

  1. We knew we were onto something when? 

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

  1. Our business model:

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

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

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

  1. What we look for when recruiting: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keen to hear more?

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

Behind The Raise with Pharma Sentinel

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

Tell us about Pharma Sentinel: 

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

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

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

Why did you decide to raise investment? 

2 reasons

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

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

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

Persist

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

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

What attracted investors to your company?

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

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

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

My biggest fundraising mistake was…

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

Why did you choose to use Angel Investment Network? 

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