Tips from the Top: Transitioning from founder to leader, how to be the one in five

In the next of our Tips from the Top series, we speak to Ed Lowther who leads The Soke’s Founders Development Programme, a first-of-its-kind course designed to provide vital knowledge, understanding and skills to founders at the helms of fast growth businesses.

When Harvard Business School spoke to its 141 HBS alumni who led start-ups, they asked: “What does someone who aspires to your role need to know?” The research revealed that of all the possible areas to focus on, there are two essential areas that over 80% of the group unanimously agreed on.

At the outset, a founder needs to assemble a founding team – a series of vital decisions around choosing co-founders, appointing key talent, splitting equity, recruiting advisors, and managing a board. These are all vital, but highly demanding tasks that a founder must achieve alongside building their new business that if not done correctly can lead to early failure, no matter how brilliant the idea. Founders reach these decisions through a combination of instinct, experience and the use of trusted advisors or mentors, in combination with key skill development.

Secondly, for those looking for investment, or looking to invest, a founder needs to foster a critical set of leadership skills needed early on, that in turn helps to attract further investment and support the business on its path to success. What’s clear is that early development of specific leadership skills in communication and conflict management is where a founder can really differentiate themselves.

Whilst many founders may believe that they naturally possess the skills to successfully build their business to success, the reality is that few come to the fundraising table with the array of skills needed to successfully lead an organisation from an idea through the teething stages to growth and finally exit. This is particularly the case when founders are required to run a company not purely to satisfy their own ambition (management, creative, financial, or otherwise), but to meet the expectations of investors and other stakeholders, including staff.

So what steps can founders can take to improve their skills in communication and manage conflict with their co-founders or staff?

  1.  Your business is founded on a great idea – it does not mean all your ideas are great.

In business journals, strategy reports and insight magazines, much is made of creativity being at the heart of business success and growth. Tesla CEO Elon Musk is vocal in encouraging his employees to think creatively, eager for them to predict future trends and allowing them to share their ideas freely, to improve the prospects of the company. The stratospheric growth of Tesla suggests that his approach is bearing fruit.

For those at the beginning of this journey, the thought of fostering creativity can feel like a luxury, alongside all the other business demands. Innovation is however proven to create growth. Businesses at all stages need to remain nimble as their customers’ needs and demands change. How successfully a founder facilitates the communication of ideas around their business and across functions is a marker for future innovation and adaptability for the business idea to survive in the market. 

Create dedicated time for creativity and innovation as part of routine business operations, giving space for open communication between the founder and team members of all functional areas. Foster an environment for the team to be creative and openly communicative, without it all being founder-led, so that ideas are assessed on their own merit, whatever the role of the team member in the company.

  1. Learn to share through building communicative resilience

Once a founder has the fundamentals of their new business in place, the idea is taking hold in the market and revenue is growing, it’s an exhilarating time. Few businesses can grow rapidly through organic growth alone and therefore a founder must also accept the challenge of securing capital through external sources. It can be an exciting but risky time, with a number of factors that can damage a business just as it begins to succeed. Much of the damage comes from the amount of time that is needed, coupled with the energy required to be successful, which takes away a founder’s dedication to their clients. Customers can sense neglect, just at the moment a business wants to secure their lifelong loyalty.

At this moment, a founder will be at their communication limits, often exhausted by the sound of their own voice, as they describe the brilliance of their business, the financial plan and the superb team assembled to make it succeed, to yet another room of potential investors. The key skill to develop here is ‘communicative resilience’, a combination of sustaining a consistent and engaging narrative of the idea, clear understanding of the business strengths and challenges, and a willingness to answer penetrative questions designed to interrogate a founder’s financial shortcomings. This combination tells investors that you can share this with them and make it successful at the same time. 

Be mindful that you communicate the strengths of the business in a way that puts the business idea at its heart and that through additional financial support, this idea will flourish. The moment that investors sense that a founder does not want to share and is more interested in their own success irrespective of the idea, the fight for their funding is lost.

  1. Conflict is inevitable – fail to prepare for it, prepare to fail.

It’s likely that as a founder builds their team, they have been successful in recruiting a diverse team, all with unique skills and often varied or differing opinions. In fact, this diversity is often a key ingredient for driving a business forward as these individuals bring perspectives to the founder that they would not otherwise have seen, helping them grow the business successfully.

The differences in this team that exist through individual variances of cultural background, learning styles, personality and many more factors besides, overlaid with managerial expectations, accountability issues and communication styles, will inevitably lead to conflict. And at this point, the founder needs to establish a pathway that is neither a hierarchy of opinions, where ‘I win because I’m more senior,’ or that a conflict is simply ignored.  Without establishing this early on, conflicts cannot be resolved satisfactorily and can lead to increased stress and decreased performance in the team, which will impact business growth. 

Plan to navigate conflict by setting out a framework for all employees to identify and resolve issues between each other, building a culture that celebrates diverse perspectives with a way to manage the conflict that this diversity can bring. It will help shape the best outcomes for the business and build genuine trust and respect between team members, managers, and the founder.

#SixtySecondStartUp with Society

Up next for #SixtySecondStartUp we have Matthew Billington, Co-founder of Society. Matthew noticed that student usage of Facebook was falling off a cliff and set up a startup to help student societies manage their members with their own branded apps.

What does Society do?

Society is your own branded community app in an instant. With over 1,700 clubs with group chats in over 217 Universities in the UK and worldwide, Society is now the fastest growing app at University for clubs and societies.

App features include push notifications direct to all your members for instant alerts and updates for events and announcements. It has your club’s calendar of events, an instant searchable network, personal profiles, direct messaging, group chats, free e-tickets and much, much more. And, it’s completely free for students. 

The Society App

Why did you set up Society?

When I entered my 4th year as a dental student at King’s College London, I soon discovered that being elected President of the KCL Dental Society of 800 members came with its fair share of problems. Engagement was falling and falling, Facebook was becoming increasingly outdated especially with freshers. Year on year, we were seeing a progressive decline in engagement with university students.

With popular event booking platforms such as Eventbrite and Fatsoma, having high transaction fees, I wanted to create a platform with the lowest possible ticket transaction fees for students, whilst remaining free for free events. WhatsApp groups were also a terrible way to manage a society and events. 

How did you get your first customer?

After engaging with Presidents from other dental schools I soon discovered that nearly every new President of a university society is in the same boat, re-creating the wheel, each and every year.

I originally came up with the idea of the Dental Society app to have a profound and positive impact on committees and society members at all 16 dental schools. Helping committees to save time through automating event management, certificates, ticketing/e-tickets for events, whilst having the committee displayed and available for all members to directly contact through the chat. 

We knew we were onto something when?

Suddenly, the Presidents of King’s College London Medical Student Association wanted to use the Dental Society app. Then 18 months ago when the app was re-engineered and relaunched as “Society” for all student clubs, Aston’s African Caribbean Society wanted to use the app. That’s when we experienced exceptional growth from 12 clubs to 800 clubs to now over 1700 clubs in the last 18 months.

Our business model:

Society co-founders chose pre-monetisation to maximise and prioritise viral growth without friction. Over the next 12 months, we are proving multiple revenue streams to find optimal ways of aligning monetisation with viral growth.

Our most effective marketing channel has been:

Word-of-mouth with students. The new academic year saw more than two hundred Society Ambassadors attend Freshers Fairs at Universities across the UK to promote the Society app to clubs, societies and students. All ambassadors wore the Society hoodie while spreading the word about the features and benefits of the app. The awareness campaign was a huge success.

Society Brand Ambassadors

What we look for when recruiting:

Insanely great people with ideas and raw talent, passion and energy that don’t need to be managed. They have to believe in the Society app, our vision and be fun. 

The biggest mistake that I’ve made is:

Not immediately realising the full potential of the Society app as an instant community app for absolutely everyone in the world. ESN UK is set to digitise the student exchange experience with their new Society App partnership. Formally the Erasmus Student Network, ESN is the largest student-led organisation in the world in over 1,000 Higher Education Institutions in 42 countries.

Together with Society App, ESN UK are launching a new app specifically for their members to help them to develop skills to a higher proficiency. As seen in The Daily Telegraph, the ESN partnership presents a global opportunity for the Society app and is one of the pathways to having a world-wide presence in 2022 with student brand ambassadors in every country.

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

Significant traction has been made in the new academic year post covid lock downs. In the last 90 days, clubs have doubled and grown by 100% across 1,700+ Clubs, now also with 1,700+ Group Chats. Memberships have grown by 130% and engagement has grown by 700%. Over £50,000 has been collected via Society Pay, the in-app payment gateway. This exceptional growth since launch only 18 months ago, means the Society app has already cornered 13% UK market share and is expected to double in 2022.

The app’s success reflects UK University only, excluding parallel, international and enterprise markets. There’s still time to invest in the Society app (EIS approved) this year to support the team growth of student brand ambassadors and react native developers, which will allow greater scale and global ambitions to be achieved. 

We worked with AIN because:

AIN was highly recommended and we found AIN to be one of the best ways to reach and communicate with potential investors.

Keen to hear more?

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

#SixtySecondStartUp with Alpaca Coffee

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

  1. What does Alpaca Coffee do?

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Why did you set up Alpaca Coffee?

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

  1. How did you get your first customer? 

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

Alpaca Coffee

  1. We knew we were onto something when? 

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

  1. Our business model: 

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

  1. Our most effective marketing channel has been: 

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

  1. What we look for when recruiting:

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

Coffee?

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

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

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

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

  1. We worked with AIN because:

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

Keen to hear more?

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

#SixtySecondStartUp with IBS Coach

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

  1. What does your company do?

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

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

  1. Why did you set up this company?

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

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

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

  1. We knew we were onto something when? 

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

  1. Our business model: 

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

  1. Our most effective marketing channel has been: 

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

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

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

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

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

  1. We worked with AIN because:

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

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

Keen to hear more?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BehindTheRaise with Paperclip

Rich Wooley is the CEO and founder of Paperclip, a challenger marketplace taking on eBay. Rich shares lessons from his fundraising in #BehindTheRaise: What’s the biggest thing he thinks investors look for? What would he do differently if he did it all again? And well, does AIN really work?

Tell us about what got you into start ups:

I’ve always had an entrepreneurial mindset – my first business was at school selling Big Red chewing gum that I imported from the US, it certainly made me more money than my paper round!

At university, my housemate, Alan, (later, co-founder) and I made good money importing clothes from the US and selling them on eBay, and we saw an opportunity there for a challenger marketplace to take on eBay’s monopoly. We shelved the idea at the time, and both went into our respective management consulting careers – but eventually I thought that if I didn’t do something entrepreneurial soon, I might never, so I took a career break and started attending startup events in London like AngelHack and London Startup Weekend. I pitched Paperclip, we came second place, and we got to work.

Why did you decide to raise investment?

Being a marketplace, we realized that we’d need to go for a few years without any discernible revenue, and so we sought investment to fund the runway. Not only this, but we wanted to get a strong network of investors onboard that could add value on the journey – introductions for commercial partnerships and to other investors, and so on.

Marketplaces are always tricky, and it can take a while until the critical mass of buyers and sellers and unit economics start to take shape. However, when they do get it right, they have the power to influence people’s everyday lives – which is something that excites me a lot. Platforms like Amazon, JustEat, Uber, Deliveroo, and Depop are a testament to that – they provide value to millions of people, and have made massive returns for their investors, but they were cash hungry at the start and required significant investment to get to that scale – we are no different in that regard.

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

It’s always tricky at the start.  Your personal network can help a lot at that time – my first investors were a friend from university, a family friend, and my old boss! But other than that, seek investors that add value in the right areas -speak with founders that have exited similar or complementary types of businesses.

Any government support such as grants can help a lot to get momentum going, and speaking to pre-seed funds that can match fund will help things significantly: if you have an offer on the table for match-funding (e.g if you raise £100k then the fund will match that with £100k), then it helps things along significantly.

I’d suggest not being too inflexible on your valuation, but be wary of adapting your investment terms to something you’re not comfortable with, such as giving away too much control or appointing directors that don’t share your vision, or that might become an issue later down the line. The right kind of investors can make your journey far smoother, the wrong type can make it hell.

What attracted investors to your company?

I think investors like the concept of what we’re trying to solve and the novel way that we are approaching it – it helps that the secondhand goods market is massive and also set to expand 500% over the next 5 years – and so the potential is huge. However, at the start, investors are mostly investing in the actual team – and having a strong team really helped with that.

We were fortunate enough to get some high profile investors onboard at seed stage, such as  David Buttress,  co-founder and former CEO of JustEat and Hayley Parsons, the founder and former CEO of GoCompare. Most people in the UK would have either seen or used their platforms, and so it added some credibility to our cause.

Rich Wooley, CEO, Paperclip


My biggest fundraising mistake was…

Probably the biggest fundraising mistake I made was not pushing back on some of the investment agreement terms in our first VC raise. There are a bunch of reporting, corporate governance and approval processes that I have to go through. For example, I need to gain approval for spending over £5,000 on something, or hiring someone with a salary of over £35,000. 

These terms ultimately do benefit and protect our shareholders, so they’re not all bad – but for the stage we’re at, they can be slightly onerous; they  can slow things down at times or take me valuable time to report.

Why did you choose to use Angel Investment Network?

Over the years, I had heard of Angel Investment Network, but I never wanted to pay for it!  Then one day at the Natwest Accelerator, two of the founders I was mentoring came over and told me they’d raised over £250k each on the platform, and so I signed up right away.

I’ve also tried other platforms, both UK and US focused, and have never had the same level of success on them. It’s clear to me that Angel Investment Network has the largest and most active pool of angel investors in the UK – perhaps in the world; I’ve met some incredible people and received investment from all over the world; Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Africa – the list goes on.

What has the funding enabled?

Investment has made a huge difference to the talent we have brought onboard, and the build phase that we’re in. Some of our investors have made valuable introductions, and so it has had a massive impact on our business. Going forwards, I can see that the investor base that we have will be able to provide us even more value as we grow.

Keen to hear more?

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

Four benefits of backing more diverse startup founders

The worldwide startup ecosystem is well established and growing strongly in many different territories. The success of Angel Investment Network in creating more connections between founders and investors globally is testament to that. However, while investment in startups has rebounded strongly after the worst of the pandemic, we can also follow this with an increase in funding for diverse startup founders. Why does this matter? Well, it’s not just about having better representation for the sake of it, important though this is, it actually also makes better sense commercially.

In the UK while just 5% of founding teams have two female founders, research has also shown that only 1% of venture-funded startups have black founders. It’s a similar picture in the USA, where according to Crunchbase, black startup entrepreneurs still received only a tiny fraction — 1.2 percent — of the $147 billion in venture capital invested in U.S. startups through the first half of the year.  To disrupt this, here are four reasons why we need to boost investment into more diverse founders.

  1. It can lead to new business opportunities
    Many diverse business startups can offer products targeting diverse consumers uncatered for currently in the market. However, if the investors themselves are not more diverse, they may not have the same understanding of the market to know where the opportunities are. This is a challenge many female founders also face. For example, we can purchase most groceries online except ethnic food – which you still have to visit your local market, small grocer or if you’re lucky, there will be a small selection in the supermarket however, it’s unlikely you can order online. As this is a minority need many would struggle to get backing from a British bank however, Mariam Jimoh founded Oja, developed an app that delivers ethnic produce from local groceries to customers’ doorsteps. After much hard work, she was successful in finding funding. As one of only a handful of success stories here, we know there are many other missed opportunities to serve a potential market of many millions.
  1.  New markets can develop and thrive
    New markets thrive on having dynamic businesses and competition. However if certain businesses are unable to grow, their products or services remain in need and the circulation of money in the economy then shrinks. We can create opportunities to serve different markets, have more alternative viewpoints in the business decision and drive forward education and revenue based around new business variations which cater for wider groups. Let’s also remember these are emerging and growing markets too, so there are fantastic opportunities for investors with the right foresight.    
  1. More diverse teams do better
    Just as in nature, having diversity is key to the health of ecosystems, the same applies to diverse teams in startups and wider existing businesses. Research has shown that companies with diverse management teams are more innovative and have 19% higher revenue. In many of the fastest growing sectors such as tech, this growth is key to success. So diversity is not just about a tick box activity, it’s about the make up of high performing teams, who are going to positively impact the bottom line. The reverse is also true. The more we can represent the whole of the country and their different needs, the better solutions we can develop and ensure new markets can flourish
  1. Backing more diverse founders across the globe can help tackle some of our greatest challenges
    Of course while it is important to look at backing more diverse founders at home, we also need to look at more diversity in funding globally. So much capital is concentrated on a few established, wealthy hubs. However, having more underrepresented founders across the globe we can also potentially have new insights and ideas for tackling many of mankind’s most pressing problems. People on the ground in countries most impacted by climate change may well have some more untapped and innovative solutions, but often they need the contacts and capital to turn their idea into reality. By looking at ways we can boost nascent startup ecosystems in developing countries, we will be in a better place to address many of the problems threatening the planet with sustainability based solutions which could become hugely profitable.

So where to start? The first thing we need to do is look at how we can support micro-enterprises. They are on the very first rung of the startup ladder and the more of these we can support, the more chance of startups on a pathway to Series A and even Unicorn status can emerge. This is why Ace Entrepreneurs has created our first micro funding program for the diverse community. While we have seen a huge democratisation of startup funding in the past few years, we now need to complete the journey and make sure a truly diverse startup ecosystem can flourish.

By Nadine Campbell, entrepreneur and founder of Ace Entrepreneurs. The ACE Entrepreneurs Investment Program has been launched to tackle a funding gap for black-owned businesses. 

#StartUpBuzz

Here’s our pick of companies raising investment on Angel Investment Network at the moment. 

From launching podcasts, to helping you select the most appropriate emobility solution, or a modular sofa that will actually fit through the front door, these are the startups that are solving meaningful problems with capable teams, and a clear route to market. 

Auddy 

Whilst starting a podcast may seem deceptively easy, actually launching it successfully, building a user base, maintaining growth and monetising it, are a lot easier said than done. That’s where Auddy comes into help. 

Auddy is one of the UK’s leading podcast publishers. Using cutting-edge data and analytics, they make the business of podcasts hassle-free. They work with top creators to produce and market premium shows before distributing them to all major platforms. They then provide advertising and sponsorship sales, paying properly meaningful royalties back to the creators.

Controlling the end-to-end process means they can also produce private shows for corporate’s internal employees or leading branded content for a company’s content strategy. These are high margin jobs and provide a diversified revenue stream beyond pure consumer publishing.

Key Facts

Founder has numerous IPOs and exits, including for Virgin

B2B clients including Vodafone and Open University 

Acquired leading UK branded podcast publisher – Radio Wolfgang

‘Auddy has an incredible team behind it, driving a sophisticated business model in what is a rapidly expanding market space. We were hooked from the off and we think it’s an exciting opportunity for the network!’ – Sam Louis 

Find out more about Auddy here.

Electric Rider


In big cities, suddenly electric mobility solutions are appearing everywhere. Electric Rider is an online marketplace selling emobility solutions from ebikes to escooters, even electric unicycles. 

The trend for the electric revolution appears to be getting strong momentum, buoyed in part by London and other major cities introducing low emission zones.

Electric Rider makes it easy to find the most appropriate electric mobility solution for the user – with a ‘help me choose’ solution finder, as well as flexible payment options. 

Key Facts

The emobility market is forecast to grow at 20% year on year

Electric Rider achieved £1million gross revenue with 30% margin in first 18 months

Over 55 brands in stock and growing

‘Impossible to ignore what they have achieved in such a short space of time. Along with the current move towards electric transportation in cities it was a company that I really wanted to help raise.’ – Xavier Ballester

Find out more about Electric Rider here.

Cozmo

Ever ordered a sofa with a long lead time only to find it didn’t fit through the door? Or pulled a muscle in your back trying to lug a sofa up the stairs? Cozmo is a new type of sofa company, reinventing what sofa purchasing should look like – modular and delivered in a box. It’s also a sustainable solution, allowing easy changes to both configuration and also its design with changeable top covers.  

Key Facts

The emobility market is forecast to grow at 20% year on year

Electric Rider achieved £1million gross revenue with 30% margin in first 18 months

Over 55 brands in stock and growing

Find out more about Cozmo here.

Keen to hear more?

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

Tips from the top: Raising investment

In our recent survey of startups in the UK and USA raising investment was raised as the number one challenge they faced, emerging from the pandemic. In the first of our new series of expert advice articles, David Pattison, experienced angel investor and leading media agency PHD founder, gives his top tips for those raising investment for the first time.

I have spent a lot of time chairing/advising young businesses and founders on how to approach fundraising. I always advice my clients to get involved with CNAPP security, as it is one of the most trending and useful security tactics.

It has always struck me that, at the very point when young businesses and their founders are looking for funding, you are at your most inexperienced and vulnerable. You are often in a negotiation dealing with very experienced deal makers. This negotiation is often pivotal to the future of your business. One bad clause signed up to in an early negotiation can magnify in size as time and fundraising rounds go on.

What can you do to try and even up the negotiation?

Before you start remember these three things:Investors only care about one thing and that is their money. In the case of Venture Capital and Private Equity that is how they are measured. They have clients who fund their funds and financial success is how they are judged and how they can then raise more funds. They want you to make money for them.

Raising money is hard. Right now there is a lot of money in the investment market, but you have to have a good business and a really strong offering to raise money. Young businesses seem to be lulled into believing there is a money tree at the bottom of the garden that just needs a shake. There really isn’t.

Raising money is really distracting. It takes focus away from the business and most companies suffer a slight drop in performance through this process. Just at the point where it’s not wanted. Share the load around and take advice from trusted sources.

Once you have got your head around that, what else can you do before and during the process?

Here are five of the many things you should do:

1. BE THE BEST BUSINESS YOU CAN BE

It sounds obvious I know, but investors are looking harder and deeper into prospective investments. You will need to present yourselves as the best business you can be. Showing that you understand all aspects of your company and your markets.

You need to be a well balanced and appropriately experienced team with a shared view of the future. Have a proof of concept (does it work?), ideally some revenue (is someone prepared to buy it?) and will they buy it more than once. A good understanding of the competitive set. If appropriate some IP protections. Most importantly that you are in control of the finances of the business and have good quality finance resource.

If some of these points describe your business, then you are well prepared for the questions the prospective investor will expect you to answer.

2. do not get close to running out of money

Never leave it too late to raise funds. Investors will sense if you are running out of money and will try and delay the completion so that they can ‘chip’ the deal just before closure.

Leave yourself plenty of time. Never underestimate how long it takes to raise money, allow 6-9 months if you are looking for serious money. Try to give yourselves options. Taking money from the least worst option is never good.

3. RUN YOUR BUSINESS AS IF YOU ARE ALWAYS ABOUT TO ENTER DUE DILIGENCE

Prepare, prepare, prepare. It sounds obvious but make sure you know your business and your market better than anyone. Do not take fundraising lightly. In the digital age it is easy to set up a data room that has all the company data in one place. Have good governance in place. Get the financials and the legals in order. Remember that DD is not a one-way street when you are raising funds then check out the potential investors.

4. be clear on what you want to achieve

This works in two ways. Firstly, be clear amongst the team on what you want for the business moving forward. Are you all aligned on the future strategy and exit points? Mixed messages to investors don’t travel well.

Secondly, when the time comes to raise the money be very clear to the investors what the money is for and what success looks like. Not many investors want to fund cash shortfalls and saving the business, and if they do it usually comes at a massive cost to you. They are called investors for a reason.

5. beware of deal fatigue

When you are in the fundraising process be aware of deal fatigue. Investors, and particularly the institutional investors rely on you running out of steam. If your chosen investor is a significant shareholder, they will be a big part of your business life. You don’t have to love them but make sure you respect them and their motives.

Very often management get to a stage in the process where they just want it done. They agree to a deal without looking at every last detail. This is where investors can add the hidden clauses that bite you in the future. Stay attentive and on the way through make sure you share out the workload amongst the team.

One final piece of advice. Everyone I speak to who is involved in fundraising says the same thing, ‘get the best lawyer you can afford’. Don’t be afraid to upgrade as you go through the investment stages. A good lawyer should be seen as an investment and not a cost. They will also do a lot of the legwork on the legal documents for you and keep you focussed and avoid a lot of the pitfalls.

As I said right at the start of this, fundraising is not easy, and you should take all the constructive help you can find. I have been involved in a lot of fundraising.

If this blog has been of any help, then you might be interested in reading my book: The Money Train: 10 Things young businesses need to know about investors. It’s a guide to preparing for the investment process from seed capital to Series A, with lots of real-world examples. Whatever route you take to raise funds I wish you good luck and success.

David Pattison has had a long and illustrious career in the advertising industry and as an angel investor. He co-founded PHD in 1990 and more recently he has been involved in a number of startups in a range of industries including, marketing, publishing, construction, motorsport, AdTech, MarTech, FinTech, production and broadcasting. He was recently announced chairman of Conversational media platform Octaive.

#SixtySecondStartUp with Cancha

For this edition of #SixtySecondStartUp we have Jack Oswald, founder of Cancha, he shares how his experience as a professional tennis player led him to set up Cancha – unique tennis bags designed from the ground up:

  1. What does your company do?

Cancha is a customizable sports and travel bag brand. Our bags feature a unique modular design, which allows different accessories to be mounted and detached from each other in a matter of seconds, allowing users to tailor their bag to their favourite activities and daily routine

Cancha Bags are also made from an abrasion-resistant, high-tenacity nylon, and incorporate the latest advancements in textile manufacturing processes, such as laser-cut fabrics, heat-bonded zips and RF Welded construction. Cancha launched during the pandemic of 2020, and has since seen a strong uptake among sporting and outdoor enthusiasts looking for an innovative and durable way to travel with their gear.

Jack Oswald - Cancha
Jack Oswald, Founder of Cancha
  1. Why did you set up this company?

    As a professional tennis player traveling around the world for over a decade on the circuit, I became frustrated with the tennis and travel bags out there for sport and active-minded people. I saw the need for a better tennis bag; One that could adapt for the next trip or activity and durable enough to keep up with an active, travel-hungry lifestyle. 

However, I soon became aware of the wider demand for durable, highly customizable sports bags that could adapt to each individual’s daily routines.  So I teamed up with my friend, who is a world-class soft goods designer, to develop a modular system that would allow a backpack, tennis bag, wet-dry clothes bag and shoulder travel bag (our first range of products) to attach and detach with relative ease. 

This took much longer to develop than originally planned – our 6-month schedule starting in early 2018 ended up taking almost 3 years! We refined and refined the designs, tested them among top tennis players, travelers and anyone who would be willing to try the bags out. We went through over 50 prototypes, all painstakingly built by hand in our small workshop. Eventually, after countless hiccups along the way, we were confident that our bags were ready for the wide world. 

  1. How did you get your first customer? 

I remember very clearly; It was in November of last year. The first batch of bags had landed in the UK and we had just launched the site. A lovely lady in London was our first customer, who bought a bundle of the Backpack and the Wet-Dry Bag attachment. I couldn’t believe my eyes when the order confirmation appeared in my inbox. I think we have never packaged up an order so carefully!

However, the hunger for more sales very quickly grows, and the desire to improve the customer experience starts to becom a bit of an obsession – whether that’s improving our website and social media touchpoints, responding fast enough to customer queries and, of course, continually finding ways to innovate the products themselves!

  1. We knew we were onto something when? 

The first few sales are always a bit of a novelty, but when the consistency of sales kicks in, that’s when you start to believe you have got something. Retailers actually wanting to stock the bags was also a huge confidence booster for us. I remember sending out samples to stores and just being petrified that they would hate the design, or that they would simply say that they didn’t believe there was a market for our products. When we started to get into some stores and have their validity and backing behind our products, things really started to kick off for us. 

  1. Our business model: 

Our bags are currently manufactured in Asia and then shipped off to the UK from there, where we fulfil our orders internationally. We make a large part of our revenue through ecommerce sales on our online store, but partnering with both online and brick-and-mortar retailers has given us the stability to grow.. 

  1. Our most effective marketing channel has been: 

Media outreach. With eCommerce being a big part of our business, we have to mix a wide range of marketing channels into our strategy. However, being able to spread the word on the Story behind them brand, my background as a tennis player and the need we are filling, we have really been able to connect with our customers. I often get customers emailing after their order saying they heard me on some such podcast and the story alone swayed them to buy our products. It’s one of the most overjoying moments when you hear from people all over the world that they identify with our background, our mission and reason for being. This is why media outreach has been so successful for us, as it has allowed both Cancha and myself, as the founder, to get our message across in a sincere and personal way.

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

Committing too early (financially and mentally) to a project. We launched our crowdfunding campaign in December of 2019, when our product wasn’t near enough to a  production-ready stage. My own desire to get Cancha’s offering out there made us rush our marketing strategy and meant that backers of our campaign had to wait substantially longer than forecast to receive their Cancha Bags. This is something I think that founders tend to struggle with in general; their passion, desire and determination to achieve their goals sometimes overtakes their company’s progress. While this characteristics is extremely useful, (crucial in fact), sometimes it can cause a company to pull the gun too soon, when it would have been more beneficial to build strength a little longer. 

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

Times are changing, and we’re changing with the times. Cancha is not just about designing innovative and sustainable soft a products for consumers. We’re also committed to creating a sustainable and highly technical manufacturing service for western athleisure brands. The reality is that shipping products 3,000+ miles from outsourced production or assembly sites in lower cost nations has been the go-to strategy for western brands for some time now. However, we are seeing a substantial shift in the business environment, both among customers and brands for closer proximity of manufacturing and more responsive business models. We want to be a leader in driving this trend, providing more responsible methods to drive innovation and customer experience in the textiles and soft goods industry. 

  1. We worked with AIN because:

We’re looking to bring some forward thinking, ambitious individuals into the project. We’re looking not just additional capital, but also for expertise in retail and production to help propel Cancha in this direction. AIN’s comprehensive network of investors across a wide range of backgrounds and industries made them the obvious choice to share our project.

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.