Angel Investment Network, the world’s largest online angel investment platform, has launched a new app, enabling investors to access thousands of startup opportunities.
The new app, which is free for investors, provides instant access to AIN’s 40 global neworks. This will enable investors to grow their portfolios through exploring deals, connecting and investing with entrepreneurs.
The app was developed after a rigorous research and a planning process involving input from investors and experts and is available for download from the App Store and Android.
Once logged in investors can: – Browse thousands of investment opportunities from around the world – Choose their own investment criteria to receive targeted dealflow – Shortlist pitches to review later – Connect with exciting startups and scaleups
According to AIN co-founder James Badgett: “At AIN, we understand the value of connections and are always looking for ways to make access to opportunities seamless. We are therefore excited to announce we’ve launched a new app for investors after months of testing. It means investors can explore deals, connect and invest on the move. We look forward to seeing many more business relationships flourish as investors back the great businesses of tomorrow.”
Launched by childhood friends, James Badgett and Mike Lebus in 2005, Angel Investment Network (AIN) is an online platform connecting startups with a global network of angel investors. With 40 networks extending to 90 different countries and nearly 2m users, it is the largest angel investment community in the world. Angel Investment Network has helped tens of thousands of businesses worldwide with investments ranging from £10,000 to £1m.
Companies AIN has raised for include: What3Words, FanBytes, Rosa’s Thai and Kit & Kin.
MAGIC AI, the UK’s first AI personal trainer, is on a mission to combat obesity through its innovative fitness platform. Founded in 2021, the company utilises cutting-edge holographic technology and a wall mirror to create an immersive fitness experience at home. In our latest Behind The Raise interview, co-founder Varun Bhanot shares his personal journey from being overweight to a transformative training experience, which inspired him to democratise personalised training.
He discusses the problem MAGIC AI aims to solve, its appeal to investors, celebrity endorsement, and valuable tips for raising investment. Varun also reveals how he discovered a close-to-home connection in the AIN database.
Tell us about MAGIC AI, and how you came up with the idea?
In my early 20s, I became very overweight. I had developed too much of a fondness for kebabs and whisky and I realised I needed a change. So I went through a personal training experience in London. In about four months, I lost around 25% body fat and got into great shape, something I had never achieved before.
But like so many, I was never into the gym, finding it intimidating and not knowing what to do. During this process, I noticed how old-fashioned personal training was, with a trainer manually counting reps on a clipboard, and I thought of democratising access to personalised training at home. That’s when the idea of using AI and hardware to recreate the one-on-one personal training experience was born. We started building on this idea, and that’s how MAGIC AI took shape.
What is the problem you are looking to solve?
Our mission is to tackle obesity and its associated costs, which amount to around £7bn a year in England. We aim to help people lead healthier, fitter, and longer lives, backed by scientific evidence of the benefits of personalised training.
Our goal is to provide this one-on-one personalised experience, only affordable to some, and make it accessible to everyone. Traditional personal training in London can be costly, ranging from £40 to £100 per hour, limiting accessibility to one person at a time and requiring physical presence.
Our technology changes that by enabling the entire household to train together at a fraction of the cost, around £38 per month. This makes our solution more affordable for one month, than a single hour with a personal trainer.
What attracted investors to your company?
The AI aspect of our company is particularly interesting to investors. We utilise computer vision technologies similar to those found in self-driving cars to understand people’s movements and actions in space. Few companies worldwide are excelling in this intersection of AI, health coaching, and fitness training, making our approach unique and intriguing.
Additionally, the connected fitness market in the UK and Europe is relatively nascent, with only a few strong players like Peloton. Our presence in this space, coupled with the potential for innovative offerings, has attracted interest.
Finally, we have the privilege of working with renowned athletes who are on the platform from cricketing legend Sir Alastair Cook and Strictly’s Katya Jones. Using AI to make it feel like these athletes are coaching users in their living rooms is a compelling proposition that helped jumpstart interest from investors.
Why did you choose to raise via Angel investment Network?
Firstly I’d had a relationship with AIN from my previous company. Given it was our first round of funding, it was the natural place to go.
As an aside, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that my parents had invested in a few companies through AIN over the years. The reason I found out? They were on the newsletter to receive updates about exciting companies raising. This clearly highlights AIN’s extensive reach and a strong network, exactly what it says on the tin!
The Angel Investment Network has proven to be an excellent platform for raising funds, and I have personally recommended it to at least five other founders who have found it helpful as well.
What would be your top tip for anyone raising for the first time?
Ensure all your assets are prepared and readily available. Have your deck, data room, financial model, market resources, and team neatly organised and accessible.
This front-loading of assets will impress potential investors and enable you to respond promptly when they reach out. Be prepared and ready to act.
How do you see AI impacting on your business and product offering in the future?
In the future, we see AI continuing to have a significant impact on our business. We’d like to go deeper into becoming a personalised health coach, looking at the granular details of individual health goals and generating tailor-made programs.
By leveraging data from wearables and other sources, our system would be able to continuously iterate. Then we can start to build a 3D picture of how you’re progressing.
We also see a future where we expand our AI capabilities to cover diverse modalities like yoga, dance, boxing, and pilates, catering to various user preferences and needs. Currently, such AI-based instructions are scarce in these areas, making it a compelling and promising direction to explore.
Are you seeking an alternative funding route for your impact-focused business? Then Considered Capital’s Alternative Funding School could be for you.
In the last of our Inside the Accelerator series we speak with founder Esme Verity, who talks us through the six-week virtual cohort-based programme. Their focus is on providing practical insights and a supportive community, empowering entrepreneurs to navigate the diverse landscape of alternative funding sources.
With over 97% of previous participants recommending the programme, this accelerator is revolutionizing the way startups approach fundraising, breaking away from the conventional VC mould, and encouraging founders to think outside the box for a funding fit that aligns with their values. Read on.
Tell us about your accelerator?
The Alternative Funding School is here to raise funding confidence across the globe. From the seed of a business idea to startups hitting a funding wall, we will help founders navigate the alternative funding landscape regardless of business model or sector. So far, since November 2020 200 founders from over 19 countries have joined our Alt Funding School and 97% would recommend it to a founder friend.
Our six-week virtual cohort-based programme helps impact-focused founders find the right funding fit. We put all the funding opportunities in one place, allowing you to find the best funding route for you and your business. It’s a crash course in raising alternative funding and is perfect for those searching for the right way to fund their business on their terms.
We provide practical, hands-on support for founders raising mission-aligned funding. You’ll be working alongside other founders on the same path and hear from our funding experts live, who’ll show you which alternative path they took and how they succeeded. We’re lifting the veil on where all the alternative funding is and how to access it.
What do you mean by ‘feel good fundraising”?
For the last five years, I’ve been working with thousands of founders to connect them to the right sources of funding and support. I found early on that when founders aren’t shown all the funding options available; they can quickly hit a brick wall with their business. This can create a blocker, not only to the business moving forward but to a founder’s confidence.
So I built Considered Capital to support founders to feel more confident and to think outside the box when going after what they need to build a successful business. Raising money can feel like a long, complicated slog. But with education and a community of brilliant minds and supportive energy, founders feel like they’re in this together and reinforce one another’s confidence.
So far, we’ve empowered thousands of founders to think beyond VC style funding and consider other funding routes. Our mission is to open up alternative funding and the world of funding options available for startups, founders and socially-led businesses. We are determined to challenge the notion that Venture Capital is the only way to fund your business and teach everyone to find a funding fit that aligns with their values and to feel confident to go and get it.
What is the selection process for startups joining the program?
We only run one cohort a year, and each cohort is carefully curated to ensure there is synergy among the founders. Therefore, we only have founders/people running businesses inside the school and have a carefully designed recruitment process.
The first step for any founder interested in participating is to complete our application form, where we ask you more about your business, your stage and why you’re interested in participating. If you’re accepted, you’ll then receive an email inviting you to join the cohort.
What is the duration of the program?
Our school has been shaped with busy founders in mind. Over six weeks, you’ll invest two to three hours of your time per week and learn everything you need to know about raising alternative funding.
What is the structure of the program and what do you provide in terms of resources and support for startups?
Our six-week alternative funding school is a crash course in raising alternative funding. This includes:
1) Funding Knowledge
Six weekly live sessions where you can ask questions directly to me and our funding experts. Available both live and on-demand
Lifetime access to a library of video content featuring me and other expert speakers on wide-ranging funding topics.
A selection of practical worksheets, tools & guides, including a Global Funding Directory that will save you hours of work
Case studies of innovative companies and their financing structures
Weekly exercises to hold you accountable and turn thought into action
Discounts on selected specialist services and fundraising platforms
2) Online Community
Our exclusive community where you can meet, ask questions and share knowledge with supportive and likeminded social entrepreneurs
An online digital space built just for your cohort
Self-organised pods based on similar interests for peer learning, brainstorming and accountability.
An active alumni community of 150 founders who meet monthly
Startups should join my accelerator because…
We welcome anyone and everyone from all walks of life who want to find the right funding fit. Whether you’re new to fundraising or have already raised some initial investment, we have something for you.
We have condensed hundreds of hours of research and thousands of pounds of consulting time into a 6-week course. If you’re considering fundraising in the next 6-12 months and think that venture capital isn’t right for you, this will be the best investment you’ll make.
In this guest post Adah Paris, chair of Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England provides insight into how founders can manage workplace wellbeing.
Whether you are a founder or investor it is vital to think about the mental health and wellbeing of everyone involved, including yourselves. The emotional and physical demands of leading a startup require a laser sharp focus on wellbeing.
At MHFA England®, we know productivity and wellbeing fuel each other. We believe organisations of all shapes and sizes, including startups, can purposefully design wellbeing into their business model. As founders and investors, you have an unrivalled opportunity to ensure inclusion, wellbeing and high performance go hand in hand.
Deloitte research showed that employers who invest in mental health make an average return of £5.30 for every £1 spent. Investing in mental health isn’t just about being a good leader or supporting your employees – it’s about protecting your bottom line.
My top tips for supporting yours and your people’s wellbeing to create psychologically safe environments where everyone feels seen, heard and valued, are:
1)Model positive behaviour
As part of our Mental Health First Aid training, we teach learners to be mindful of people’s stress containers i.e. the lower a person’s vulnerability to stress, the bigger their container is. The size of the container is down to lots of factors, including difficult experiences. The more of these issues there are, the smaller the container will be, so it will overflow more quickly than for someone who has a larger container and is therefore able to cope with stress. When the container overflows, difficulties can develop.
This model can be used to check in on our own wellbeing and help us to think about useful coping strategies. For example, making time for self-care, getting rest and asking for help. On the other hand, unhelpful coping mechanisms such as working excessively long hours, self-medicating with drugs or alcohol and not getting enough sleep can become additional stressors to fill the container and block the tap.
Asking for help should be one of the easiest steps to take but often, it can be the hardest. As a founder, you won’t always have access to a formalised HR function, let alone an Employee Assistance Programme. Reaching out to your network, seeking a mentor and being open and honest with family and friends, are all important ways to ensure that your stress container doesn’t overflow. By sharing your concerns, you are also showing that you find certain situations challenging and that it is ok to ask for help.
2) Enable everyone to bring their whole self to work
My Whole Self is MHFA England’s campaign for workplace culture change. We want organisations to empower employees to bring their whole self to work – background, sexuality, religion, gender, health or mental health. By bringing together diversity and inclusion with health and wellbeing, we can drive positive transformation in workplace mental health and performance.
Employees, no matter the size of the business, need to be empowered to bring their whole selves to work and must have support from senior management to do this. This is especially important in startups, as employees are often in smaller teams and know each other well. This brings lots of benefits and can help create psychological safety but, assuming that good working relationships will develop naturally is not enough.
Given how much value managers deliver to organisations in building cultures that support wellbeing and performance, it is important that they have the right tools, time and training to do the job of managing well. We have produced a Manager’s Toolkit which includes resources that equip managers with the confidence to support the mental health of themselves and their teams – and boost productivity.
3) Take the time to talk
Whether you have five, ten or 50 staff, make the time to talk and check in with your team. This can be done both formally and informally, to understand more about what is working well and what isn’t. With the right support, we can all be having constructive, empathetic, and sometimes lifesaving conversations in what many might think are ‘just’ catchups. You can download our free one to one meeting template to help guide you in these conversations.
We know that work ‘done well’ is good for our mental health and that wellbeing and productivity fuel one and other. Focusing on making everyone feel supported and part of a wellbeing strategy that has a razor-sharp focus on building a positive and inclusive working culture is vital to ensure a startups future success.
Adah Paris is the chair of MHFA England. For more information on their workplace wellbeing strategy and bespoke consultancy and training visit the MHFA England website.
Adah has over 20 years of experience in transforming cultures to nurture decentralised humanity-centred innovation environments. She has worked with businesses and individuals in advertising, education, entertainment, entrepreneurship, marketing, media, and technology start-ups.
In 2019, she was recognised as one of TED Talks Global Emerging Innovators. In 2018, she was recognised as one of the UK’s Top 100 Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) Leaders in Technology.
Adah takes a philosophical and anthropological approach to technology, merging logic and creativity to design immersive storytelling, learning and development environments.
Fundraising in 2023 is tough. With a re-evaluation of so many businesses and investors being far more cautious about deploying capital, startups need to change their strategy to succeed. However, with 15 years of experience in helping startups raise investment one thing I know is how adept startups are at adjusting strategies in the face of ever-changing market dynamics.
Based on hundreds of conversations over the past few months, I believe there are five Ps of impressing angel investors in the present climate. Follow these and you will significantly enhance your chances of securing funding for your startup.
In a world where investors are bombarded with pitches, it is crucial to make yours stand out from the crowd. Start with a blank piece of paper and distill your pitch into a concise paragraph. Ensure that your pitch clearly articulates the problem your startup aims to solve and how your solution stands out.
If you think of some of the best businesses out there they can be so simply distilled in a few words. For example geocoding system What3Words, who we helped on their initial fundraise – ‘the simplest way to talk about location’ or Monzo ‘Your money made easy’. Always go for the short to grab the investor’s attention.
Once you have the opportunity to present your pitch to investors, it’s time to create an impactful pitch deck. Your pitch deck should have a clear narrative that captivates the investors’ attention. Focus on highlighting the core product and its unique selling points compared to competitors. Additionally, aim to keep your pitch deck concise, ideally limiting it to around 10 slides. Remember, if your pitch extends beyond twenty minutes, investors may lose interest.
Having worked with Fourth Wall who are the producers of the hit kids’ cartoon “Milo the Cat”, they were clear on the size of the market, the traction they had achieved so far and comparable success stories on the same channel such as Peppa Pig in a clearly laid out and attractive deck. This really won over investors.
In today’s market climate, evidence of traction is paramount. Investors want to see that your startup has already achieved some level of success and has a clear pathway to further growth. It is essential to demonstrate tangible metrics, such as user acquisition, revenue, or partnerships, that validate your startup’s potential. Furthermore, highlight the relevant experience and expertise that you and your founding team possess within the industry, as it adds credibility to your venture.
A great recent example we worked with would be energy efficiency platform BOLDR. In a beautifully laid out pitch deck focusing on striking visuals and standout numbers they demonstrated rapid early growth in just a few months of trading, good profit margins and a runway to expansion. The founding team had years of relevant experience in the Internet of Things and they boast a strong advisory team. This is the proof investors are looking for in today’s market.
As businesses reassess their plans and funding options, it is crucial to set realistic valuations. What might have been an 8x valuation last year may only be a 5x valuation now. Investors appreciate valuations that are grounded in factual analysis rather than inflated expectations.
By adopting a rational approach to valuing your startup, you are more likely to attract prospective investors who recognize the true potential of your business.
Investors seek founders who are deeply passionate and committed to their startup’s success. They want to see that you and your team are willing to work tirelessly, make sacrifices, and persevere through challenges. Displaying genuine enthusiasm for your venture can be infectious and inspire confidence in investors. Let your passion shine through in your interactions and demonstrate your unwavering dedication to achieving your startup’s goals.
In summary, impressing angel investors revolves around the five Ps: pitch, presentation, proof, price, and passion. – Craft a compelling pitch that clearly conveys the problem and solution. – Create a captivating presentation that highlights your core product and its differentiation. – Provide concrete proof of traction and outline the experience of your team. – Make sure you establish a realistic price in your valuation that aligns with market conditions. – Finally, showcase your passion and commitment to your startup. By focusing on these aspects, you will significantly enhance your chances of successfully raising funds.
Best of luck with your fundraising endeavours!
Xavier Ballester, Director of Brokerage, Angel Investment Network
For startups navigating the investment landscape, finding the right support and connections can be a game-changer. Enter Hotbed, the virtual accelerator redefining the startup landscape by fostering inclusivity, empowering founders, and building a thriving community.
Since its launch in May ’22, Hotbed has been a guiding light for over 400 pre-seed and seed stage startups, providing them with invaluable resources, mentorship, and connections to fuel their growth. In the next in our Inside the Accelerator series we speak to co-founders Perdie Alder and Margaret Anne Coyle, as they share the core principles of Hotbed, its focus on breaking down barriers, driving diversity and inclusion, tailoring programmes and the power of community. Could they be your new BFF?
Tell us about your accelerator?
Hotbed is the place where ambitious startups go to grow. We’re a virtual accelerator for founders worldwide. Since our launch (May ‘22), we’ve supported 400+ fundraising pre-seed and seed stage startups via three programmes. We also host events throughout the year, like Founders Camp, a free, one day mini summit which has featured speakers like Chris Sheldrick (Founder, What3Words), Nic Cary (Founder, Blockchain.com), and Rachel Carrell, (Founder, Koru Kids).
Our programmes provide 6-10 weeks of support for pre-seed and seed stage founders as they prepare for and progress through their funding round. By the end of the programme, founders have learned first hand from 20 or so “been there, done that” founders, targeted investors, and industry experts. Founders are then encouraged to spend time outside workshops speaking to their target users, so they can focus on building towards product-market fit.
To keep founders accountable, they identify a North Star Metric (i.e. revenue, daily active users, or acquisition) to focus on throughout the programme, and they report on the growth weekly. The startups that demonstrate the most growth then go on to pitch at our Demo Day and Investor Intro events.
What is the selection process for startups joining the program?
Our ethos is that access to community, content and connections should be for everyone, regardless of their background or where they live. Our cohorts are large (75 startups and up), and as long as startups hit a minimum criteria, they can access the programme. Throughout the 6-10 weeks founders are in cohorts, we take weekly growth updates from them, and the founders that demonstrate the most growth are then selected to attend our final Demo Day and Investor Intro events.
What is the duration of the program?
We run programmes every quarter that run from 6-10 weeks. Although all programmes are focused on fundraising founders, each cohort has a slightly different focus, depending on the feedback we get from founders, or challenge areas we see in the ecosystem. We’ve run programmes for women-led startups, seed stage startups, and beta testing startups. Our current programme is for fundraising SaaS startups.
What is the structure of the program and what do you provide in terms of resources and support for startups?
We design programmes to be ‘low intensity, high reward’. We understand that founders need to spend time building their businesses, so our content is delivered virtually, over 3 hours a week, by the people founders want access to; ‘been there, done that’ scaleup leaders, investors, and experts.
Alongside the content, the three highlights we always get from founders are:
1 – The daily OKR discipline
2 – The quality and transparency of our speakers
3 – The community within the cohort
Founders often don’t know what ‘good’ looks like or what they’re being benchmarked against when they’re pitching to investors. Part of what we do at Hotbed is help founders understand more about the ecosystem they’re operating in, so they know where to position themselves to have the strongest chance of success. We do this by interviewing successful founders, investors and domain experts about the importance of growth metrics, what to measure, and best practice for achieving growth targets.
As we continue running programmes, we’re going to focus even more on making our benchmark growth data available to cohort members to keep them on track.
We often hear from founders that they join the programme for the content and access to investors, then stay for the community. Founders in our cohort are incredibly supportive of each other, and we’ve seen many startups use each other’s services, offer introductions to their personal networks and go above and beyond when a founder asks for help. We love this unique part of Hotbed, and it’s really a testament to the types of people who join our community.
What is the equity model for the accelerator program?
At Hotbed, all programmes are free to founders. We’re making plans to be able to financially support startups in our community and as such we ask all cohort members to sign a Warrant that gives us the option to invest up to £100k in their startup in the future with a 10% discount. If we don’t invest, we don’t take any equity.
Despite progress in recent years, women-led startups face challenges accessing funding. How crucial a role do accelerators play in supporting and promoting diversity and Inclusivity in the startup ecosystem?
Underrepresented founders, and women in particular have a propensity for under-selling themselves, which historically has translated to them raising less money, or setting lower valuations. Accelerator programmes like Hotbed gives these founders access to data and support from fellow founders so they can be more confident in where their strengths are, and how they’re positioned against peers.
Sometimes it’s as simple as knowing how much the average fundraise is for a particular industry or business model. It could be understanding what a typical valuation looks like for a business like theirs. It also comes down to what ‘good’ growth looks like. If founders understand what growth metrics investors are seeing across pitch decks, they know what they need to work on and when’s right for them to approach investors confident about their business, their numbers and their growth.
Startups should join my accelerator because…
Hotbed is run by founders, for founders. We’re a grassroots accelerator, and are passionate about supporting startups and creating an ecosystem that we want to see in the future. One that is equitable and supports ambitious and talented founders to grow, even if the odds seem stacked against them due to their background, network, or location. We’re also founders ourselves, with over 7 years of experience in the ecosystem. We know what you need to know and the people you need to know. Plus, our alumni love what we do.
Welcome to the first of our new mini-series ‘Inside the Accelerator’. The series will showcase and delve deep into some of the exciting and diverse accelerator programs leading the way in their respective fields. This is part of our commitment to using our platform as a means of supporting the startup ecosystem beyond funding alone.
We aim to educate founders on navigating the landscape and growing in a more challenging climate. On behalf of our members, we’re looking forward to exploring the benefits and challenges of joining accelerator programs, as well as the impact that accelerators have on the startup ecosystem.
In the first in the series we shine a spotlight on Unrest. Led by Orr Vinegold and Anas Hassan, Unrest is a mission-driven startup accelerator and the only one in Europe solely focused on consumer-impact businesses. Guided by its three pillars of impact, resilience and diversity, Unrest focuses on consumer businesses because of its belief in ‘the collective power we all have in driving shifts towards a fairer inclusive economy.’
In this interview, we delve into the selection process, program structure, and the pillars that guide Unrest’s approach, as well as the invaluable resources and support it offers to start-ups. If you’re an impact-driven founder seeking the next step in your start-up journey, Unrest might just be the accelerator for you.
Tell us about your accelerator?
Unrest is Europe’s only accelerator for consumer impact businesses. We support founders of pre-seed and seed stage start-ups ready to re-imagine what business can do for the planet and people. Our companies are at the forefront of innovation and change, creating supportive cultures to grow and succeed. These companies are the future, and together, we will launch the most successful of them.
What is the selection process for startups joining the program?
The first step for start-ups interested in joining the Unrest programme is to upload a pitch deck on our website. We invite start-ups who we think could be a good fit for the programme to an online interview with members of our team.
The objective of this interview is to learn more about the start-up and founder(s), and to answer any questions from founders about Unrest. We then invite selected start-ups to a Discovery Day, where they can meet more of the Unrest team, as well as other founders who have applied to the programme.
The final step in the process is a selection committee that reviews all applications who have made it to this stage, and makes decisions about who to invite to join the programme.
What is the duration of the program?
The Unrest programme takes place over 4 months. The Spring/Summer programme typically runs from March to July, and the Autumn/Winter programme generally runs from September to January.
What is the structure of the program and what do you provide in terms of resources and support for startups?
We provide a 4 month programme focusing on 4 key pillars: branding and marketing, fundraising, impact and community. We partner with world-class experts, including organisations such as Uncommon Creative Studio, BCorp, Seedrs and many others. We also provide customised 121 support for our cohort founders with weekly office hours, executive coaching and mentoring.
What is the equity model for the accelerator program?
We take 2% equity in our cohort companies (capped at £33K worth of equity). This ensures that our incentives are aligned – we succeed if our start-ups do. It is also a realistic approach given the cash challenges of early stage start-ups.
You are guided by your three pillars of impact, resilience and diversity. Why did you choose them?
Before launching the Unrest accelerator programme, we carried out a lot of desk research and spoke to many start-up founders as well as leaders of existing incubator and accelerator programmes. As a result we identified impact, resilience and diversity as three key drivers of sustainable success.
There is a sound business case behind this approach. Mission driven companies typically grow 2.5 times more than companies without a strong impact mission at their core. Diverse teams deliver 2.3 times more value than non-diverse teams. And the share price of companies with engaging, resilient cultures is 65% higher than for other companies.
One example of our commitment to supporting a more diverse start-up landscape is Unrest North, our programme for under-represented founders based in the North of England.
Aside from the business case for our approach, it’s also the right thing to do. The world is changing. Consumers, founders and employees are all increasingly demanding a new way of doing business. One that demands profit, not at the cost of people and planet, but in support of it.
Startups should join my accelerator because…
Unrest is Europe’s only accelerator for consumer impact businesses. We offer a unique 4 month programme together with world class partners. We have supported 47 start-ups so far, with well over 90% of them still going strong. Between them, our start-ups have raised over £7m in funding. We can help impact-driven founders take the next step in their start-up business journey.
Unrest have a forthcoming Demo day on 5th July which is an opportunity for you to hear from founders on the Unrest Programme as they share the fire that drives them, their vision for a fairer, cleaner, healthier, more diverse world and what they’re doing to make it a reality.
In our latest Behind The Raise interview we interview Nick Torday, co-founder of Bower Collective, a sustainable consumer technology business dedicated to combatting the global plastic waste crisis. Bower Collective aims to create a more sustainable world by eliminating plastic waste through the delivery of a wide range of award-winning natural household products in BowerPack™, their unique reusable packaging system. Nick discusses their mission-driven approach, the growth they have seen and scale of the investment opportunity, how they have coped with global supply chain challenges and his top tips for raising investment.
Tell us about Bower Collective and how you came up with the idea?
I used to run a tech business that specialised in working with social and environmental impact organisations, like the UN, Greenpeace, WWF, etc – some years ago we did a major campaign on marine plastic waste which ignited my passion in this problem space.
I then got together with my old friend Marcus, who had recently sold his successful bio-packaging business to a FTSE 100 company and was looking for his next challenge. We both share a passion for purpose-led business and put our heads together to come up with a transformational and scalable business that would directly address the plastic waste crisis.
That’s how Bower Collective came to life in late 2019, with a clear mission to eliminate plastic waste and create a more sustainable world. Bower is a sustainable consumer technology business that delivers a wide range of award-winning natural household products in BowerPack™, our unique reusable packaging system.
What is the problem you are looking to solve?
The plastic waste crisis is one of the defining environmental challenges of our time. Globally 1 million tonnes a day of plastic waste are generated and the $1 trillion dollar consumer goods industry plays a major part in this and also in global carbon emissions.
We believe there is a better way to provide consumers with everyday products, which is why we are at the forefront of the reuse and refill revolution. Our unique BowerPack™ system is a market leading innovation that has already saved over 44,000kgs of plastic from landfill, incineration and the natural environment.
With over 95,000 customers and a YOY growth rate of 234%, we’ve had a fantastic first couple of years in proving that we are delivering an outstanding service and solution to the problem we aimed to address.
What initially attracted investors to your company?
Most of our investors were attracted by our central promise – driving sustainable innovation in the consumer goods category. This is a market which is worth over £155bn in the UK and Europe alone, so the potential for scale and impact at scale is considerable. Also our core model is defensible, it would be very hard for the big CPG businesses to retrofit reusable packaging systems into their huge and complex supply systems.
The Bower proposition and experience has always resonated strongly with our lead investors and all our angels too, nearly all of whom are also happy customers!
Finally, as founders we had credible track records within the sustainable business space having between us scaled and exited impact businesses prior to launching Bower. We also have very complementary skills across technology, product and leadership.
What are you looking to do with the investment this time?
This funding round is for two investment areas specifically:
1) to support our expansion into retail and hire in specialist sales / account management leads 2) to double down on our investment into automation of our BowerPack reuse and refill system.
Why did you raise via Angel Investment Network?
We were introduced to AIN through our original pre-seed investors at Founders Factory. We’ve always believed in a strategic mix of capital between corporate venture, VC and private angel investment. We had a great experience with AIN in a previous round, so have come back to work with them again this time out!
How have you coped with the volatility of global supply chains over the last couple of years?
It’s certainly had its challenges, not least when we launched in January 2020 and then covid lockdown hit us barely 2 months later. Two things happened – first, our sales demand exploded, second, our access to product and componentry became a nightmare! Little known fact that 80% of the world’s dispenser pumps are manufactured in Northern Italy which was the first region in Europe to lock down, so getting the parts we needed was really tough.
However, we have been relatively well protected as we have a deliberately localised and low carbon supply chain, with over 85% of our products manufactured here in the UK, so Brexit and other international freight challenges have had little impact on us thankfully.
What is your top tip for anyone raising investment for the first time?
My top tip is to have complete clarity of message and proposition and to stick to your strategy when speaking with investors. It can be very tempting to keep tweaking and adjusting your thinking and message based on feedback – if you stay true to your vision it will be much more effective. Remember that you will get rejection, that is part of the process, but you have to stick to your core mission and vision principles to win through.
What additional factors do impact-led startups need to be aware of when fund raising?
There are two areas to consider. One – you have to ensure you are speaking with the right investors, if they are vaguely interested in ESG as a box-ticking exercise, is their passion for your purpose really there? Two, credibility – we are a fully certified B Corp and Certified Carbon Neutral – it is a lot of hard work to achieve and maintain these certifications, you need to be transparent and effective at communicating your impact.
Fusion technology holds the key to unlocking a clean energy revolution by replicating the energy generation process of stars right here on Earth. With the world’s continuing reliance on carbon-creating fossil fuels, the urgent need for sustainable alternatives has never been greater. This is where fusion steps in, offering both an investor opportunity and the potential for game-changing startups to address critical energy transition needs.
In our latest Sector Focus article Dr Melanie Windridge, world renowned physicist, CEO and founder of Fusion Energy Insights gives us the low down…
What is fusion technology?
In a nutshell, fusion technology aims to replicate the energy generation process of stars here on Earth for clean energy production.
Creating a controlled fusion reaction involves generating extreme conditions similar to those in stars, such as temperatures of hundreds of millions of degrees. This can be achieved using methods like lasers or high magnetic fields. The technology encompasses various complex systems, including machines like Tokamak (a magnetic machine) or laser fusion devices. Additionally, there are supporting technologies like gyrotrons, neutral beam injectors, and cryogenic gases that are crucial for building a fusion power plant.
What are the reasons for the rising interest in fusion technology?
The increasing interest in fusion technology can be attributed to several key factors. Firstly, the field of fusion science has matured over the years, with significant progress in understanding the physics and different approaches to fusion. While challenges remain, the knowledge base is substantial.
Secondly, advancements in enabling technologies have emerged, presenting new possibilities for fusion. Innovations such as high-temperature superconductors, improved lasers, high-performance computing, and advanced manufacturing have positively influenced fusion research and development. These technologies enhance the efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and feasibility of fusion power plants.
Thirdly, the pressing concerns of climate change and energy security have propelled the drive towards clean energy solutions like fusion. Governments now prioritize sustainable alternatives to combat climate change and ensure a stable energy supply. This shift in focus has generated a stronger mandate for exploring fusion technology. We have this vision of a better future and that drives, I think, the vast majority of people who are working in fusion.
Additionally, the fourth factor contributing to the rising interest in fusion technology is increased private investment. The involvement of private companies and investors brings additional resources, expertise, and motivation to advance fusion research and move closer to commercialization.
Collectively, the convergence of mature science, enabling technologies, environmental imperatives, and private investment has fostered a heightened enthusiasm and momentum in the field of fusion technology. Its time has come.
What challenges does fusion technology need to overcome and what barriers still exist?
The transition from fusion science to commercial implementation poses significant challenges. Key obstacles include demonstrating the science of fusion reactions in various approaches and engineering practical power plants. Material selection is crucial due to extreme temperatures and high magnetic fields, while managing the damaging effects of high-energy neutrons.
The creation of tritium, a vital fusion fuel, within the machine itself requires further research. Overcoming these challenges necessitates advancements in material science, tritium breeding, and engineering. While private companies aim for electricity generation by the early 2030s, addressing these barriers is essential for the viability, safety, and economic feasibility of fusion power plants.
In the current economic climate, investors are increasingly seeking proven returns on investment, presenting additional challenges. When it comes to fusion technology, it is crucial to adopt a long-term perspective. Although fusion is undoubtedly the future, there is a shorter-term investment challenge compared to a year ago—ironically due to an energy crisis caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which further underlines the need for a clean sustainable energy source like fusion.
What is the investor opportunity?
Fusion technology presents a significant investor opportunity due to the ongoing reliance on fossil fuels in the global energy mix. Despite efforts to achieve net-zero targets, a substantial amount of fossil fuel is projected to remain in the energy mix by 2050. This “hard to decarbonize” segment includes industries like cement and steel production, shipping, aviation, desalination, and other processes requiring large amounts of heat.
Fusion technology offers potential solutions by generating both electricity and heat, making it applicable to these challenging sectors. Furthermore, fusion’s ability to produce hydrogen, synthetic fuels, provide district heating, and propulsion further expands its potential applications. As a long-term solution, fusion has the capacity to eliminate fossil fuels altogether and contribute to maintaining a sustainable zero-carbon future. The scale of this opportunity is enormous, representing trillions of dollars and addressing critical energy transition needs.
Which companies are doing interesting things in this space?
In the UK, the main fusion companies are First Light Fusion and Tokamak Energy, both based in Oxfordshire.
First Light Fusion is working on an inertial fusion approach similar to laser fusion, but instead of using lasers to trigger the fusion reactions (via implosion of a tiny fuel pellet) they use a one-sided projectile impact. This simplifies the power plant design. Much of the company’s intellectual property is in the design of the target, which takes the one-sided impact shock and bends it to compress the fuel from all sides while also amplifying the compression.
Tokamak Energy is working on a spherical tokamak concept with high temperature superconducting magnets. The tokamak design is one of the most mature fusion concepts—a ring-doughnut shaped chamber surrounded by strong magnets that trap the hot fusion fuel away from the walls. The “spherical” tokamak is a squashed-up variation that is more efficient, and high temperature superconductors make higher magnetic fields than other materials, which make a more effective trap for the fuel and enables smaller designs of power plant.
Aside from fusion developers, there are also supply chain and enabling technology companies.
Kyoto Fusioneering is a spin-out from Kyoto University in Japan that is developing various high performance technologies required for a commercial fusion power plant. It sees itself as an enabler for the fusion industry and, as well as international contracts and collaborations, is forging relationships with Japan’s industrial organizations as part of its supply chain and aiming to contribute towards the evolution of a new high-tech fusion industry.
Then there’s my company, Fusion Energy Insights. We help people keep up to date with developments in the growing fusion industry so that they can see opportunities emerging for their business. With all the news and developments happening in fusion (scientific, financial and political), and the information available from disparate sources, we do the work of curating it all for busy professionals, providing updates and insights. We provide a free newsletter and blogs to all; extended updates and deep-dive Q&A events for members; and Fusion Advisory Services to investors looking for specialist information.
About the author Dr Melanie Windridge is a specialist in fusion energy who helps people see the value, opportunities and excitement of fusion. Melanie is the founder and CEO of Fusion Energy Insights, which keeps people up to date with developments in the growing fusion industry. She has a PhD in plasma physics (fusion energy) from Imperial College London, where she remains an Academic Visitor, and she sits on the Advisory Boards of the UK Fusion Cluster and US non-profit Energy for the Common Good. Melanie was previously UK Director of the Fusion Industry Association. In 2022 she was elected a Fellow of the Clean Growth Leadership Network. Melanie is the author of Aurora: In Search of the Northern Lights and Star Chambers: the race for fusion power, as well as writing for Forbes online.
Arrears, an innovative startup specialising in AI-driven global payments and finance operations, has been named as AIN’s Startup of the Month. The pioneering debt collection platform developed by Arrears leverages advanced AI technology to streamline and enhance the debt collection process for SMEs across the USA.
It was selected from close to 150,000 startups currently raising on the platform with AIN’s expert panel of judges praising the business for ‘effectively utilising innovation to solve a real-world problem.’
It is also witnessing substantial interest from investors. Arrears’ solution tackles the pervasive issue of late payments, which amounts to trillions of dollars in the United States alone. The startup addresses this challenge by offering a cloud-based solution that grants SMEs access to enterprise-grade software and seamless integration with OpenAI’s GPT-4 technology.
Startup of the Month is an initiative from AIN to champion and celebrate businesses on the platform with great potential and to help raise their profile. In showcasing these startups, AIN’s aim is to highlight the qualities of investable businesses to inspire and educate others. The team at AIN were impressed with Arrears’ utilisation of innovation, product-market fit, and potential for scalability.
According to Arrears founder and CEO Trent McKendrick: “We are delighted to be recognised by Angel Investment Network. Our platform enables efficient debt collection at scale, eliminating the need for a labor-intensive workforce or complex integration. In a short period, we have witnessed significant investor interest in our mission to drive positive change in the debt collection industry. Initially managing just over $20 million of accounts receivable on our platform, we have seen this number double in the past two weeks alone. We’re actively engaging with more investors to highlight the growing demand of our business and our revolutionary platform.”
Olivia Sibony, Head of Impact at Angel Investment Network, shares her insights on how impact-led startups can navigate the current investment landscape.
Investor interest in impact-focused startups has grown in recent years. According to research by Dealroom, impact startups are now worth a combined $2.3T. At the same time we are seeing a new tougher investment climate, with angel investors far more cautious about deploying capital. Q1 was the slowest quarter for startup investment since 2020.
For impact-led startups where profitability is balanced with making a difference, this can make fundraising a tough and challenging endeavour. Especially in a climate of higher interest rates and ongoing inflation.
While the short term picture is tough, impact led startups need to focus on the long term, something they are naturally good at! The changing profile of investors should be one source of comfort. More than 4,000 investors have become signatories of the Principles of Responsible Investing (UNPRI), a United Nations’ supported organisation. This is responsible for more than $120 trillion US in assets under their management. The UNPRI has a commitment to “incorporate ESG issues into investment analysis and decision-making processes.”
So impact-led startups should take heart and have a laser-like focus on the key factors that could win over investors. Having helped hundreds of impact-led startups raise investment I think there are five key factors that should be considered.
1) Profit should be paramount
One of the key reasons impact led startups fall down as often as profit can sometimes come across as an afterthought. In order to be able to make the change you want to see in the world, a business model needs to be able to scale and win the backing of investors. Therefore the potential for profitability needs to be paramount. Investors will need to see how they can make a viable return even if they are also motivated by other factors. By having this front and centre of your proposition will ensure your pitch and proposal can stand out.
A great example is Beyond Meat, the Los Angeles–based producer of plant-based meat substitutes founded in 2009 by Ethan Brown. The company’s initial products were launched in the United States in 2012 and just seven years later, the company went public in 2019, becoming the first plant-based meat company to do so. They tackle the challenge of meat consumption, one of the largest contributors to carbon dioxide, but also were able to demonstrate to investors the huge global opportunity in meat substitute products. The early investors were smart to back it.
At an earlier stage is Twin Science, an award winning education company that develops children’s STEM skills for sustainability, with both physical kits and a digital app as monthly subscriptions to schools as well as families. A clear profitable pathway is baked into their model with ongoing subscription revenue. They are achieving this while boosting the next generations’ science skills and potential to build a sustainable future.
2) Don’t be afraid to make the case for ‘patient capital’
However at the same time you should feel emboldened to make the case for the sustainability of the long term, versus the traditional hockey stick growth that could be at the expense of environmental concerns. Indeed perhaps the downturn in tech valuations could be the right moment for a re-evaluation of how we assign value? After all Unicorn births are at their lowest level for 6 years.
In this new model, profitability is still central, but the growth trajectory would look very different in the future. Impact founders are likely affecting systemic change at a fundamental level and this requires a new way of working that is more collaborative and non-linear. In the long term, this makes a business more agile and able to navigate uncertainty, thus making it a more attractive investment with ‘patient capital’.
3) Make sure you can measure the impact
Investors are now becoming increasingly wary of claims not backed up by evidence. Whilst in the past ‘self certifying’ enabled many companies to commit a lot of ‘green washing’, the move to more recognised standards is moving apace. The “Big Four” accounting firms — Deloitte, PwC, EY, and KPMG now have a new reporting framework for environmental, social, and governance standards (ESGs).
Sustainable Development Goals are a good framework for understanding where the focus is needed to address the world’s biggest social and environmental challenges. But it’s not a measurement tool. Start-ups such as Vested Impact are bringing together Big Data, automation and qualitative input to create holistic impact measurement tools for companies.
When you talk about metrics to investors, make sure to put equal weighting on your impact metrics as your financial ones. Investors will want to see clear evidence of how your startup is measuring up in the claims you are making about the impact you have.
4) Ensure your processes are as purposeful as your business model
It is critical to avoid having good intentions being let down by a flaw in your operations and processes. One that could be quickly exposed by a knowledgeable investor. This involves a rigorous assessment of your supply chain to ensure there are no loose links that could shatter your credentials. Investors, alongside conscious and well informed consumers will be able to shine a light on anything that doesn’t add up.
Think through the end to end life cycle of a product or service. For example, it is not enough to merely produce solar panels if they are not produced in a way that is in itself carbon-efficient or that they might end up unrecyclable. if you run a mental health app, what are your people policies like around recruiting, benefits and inclusivity?
Similarly if you create sustainable building materials that use a Circular Economy model, are the machines you use to transform your materials energy-efficient? Are you paying a fair price for your materials and paying your suppliers in good time and are you treating your employees well?
5) What collaborations can help you grow?
Impact founders are often tackling the “wicked problems” which are particularly challenging to address. And doing it alone is just not an option. Impact founders would benefit from thinking outside the box in a non-linear way: thinking about the system they operate within, what other organisations, entrepreneurs, groups or movements also care about this? It is a fundamental move from competitive advantage to ‘collaborative advantage’.
Are they maybe in a different industry, contributing to the same big challenge from a different angle? Think of all the different stakeholders who care about the same broader challenge and how you could join forces with them, whether as a one-off or bigger collaboration, to get more traction, kudos/reputation and find new ways to move the dial. This could delay the need for immediate investment and indeed put you in a stronger position to get investment as a result.
The need for impact-driven startups to win financial backing for their problem-solving innovation has never been greater. With the right approach they can win the backing of investors and ensure profit and purpose can walk hand in hand.
In a more competitive funding landscape, angel investors are critically evaluating startups with a more ruthless lens than ever. It is crucial that founders don’t get their fundraise off to a false start by having something that is a fundamental red flag for a potential investor. Understanding and addressing these common concerns can significantly boost a startup’s chances of securing funding.
We spoke to angel investors and experts on our network to get their take. From a lack of passion and commitment to inadequate industry knowledge, we delve into the key indicators that may raise doubts in the minds of angel investors.
1. Lack of passion and commitment
Angel investors want to see founders who are deeply passionate about their business idea and are committed to making it a success. If a founder appears disinterested, lacks conviction, or demonstrates a lack of dedication, it can raise concerns.
According to Xavier Ballester, Director at Angel Investment Network’s Startup and Property Divisions: “Investors want founders that are passionate and committed to their startup. This comes through so clearly from the investors I speak to and is more critical than ever in today’s tougher funding landscape. Investors want to see that the founders they back are willing to work hard, make sacrifices, and persist through challenges.”
2. Inadequate industry knowledge
Investors expect founders to possess a deep understanding of their target industry and market. If a founder demonstrates a lack of knowledge about key industry trends, competitors, or customer needs, it may raise doubts about their ability to navigate and succeed in the market.
According to experienced investor Noel Duigan: “The lack of experience of the founders, or their team is the main red flag for me. Often you are investing in the founders rather than the company. If the founders don’t have any skin in the game, that’s pause for consideration.”
3. Not having your finances in order
Founders asking for too much money can be a red flag for investors. Similarly overly optimistic or unrealistic financial projections can also set alarm bells ringing. If the numbers don’t align with industry benchmarks or seem too inflated without a clear justification, it may indicate a lack of understanding or a willingness to mislead.
According to Ballester: “It it really important to be realistic about valuations, particularly in the present climate. Many businesses are now needing to re-evaluate their plans and potential funding pathways. What was 8x last year may now only be 5x. It is vital valuations are rooted in fact, not fantasy. You will be far more likely to gain the interest of prospective investors with this approach.”
According to angel investor and acclaimed author David Pattison: “Some pre investment red flags for me include: When the opening conversation is just about how much and when? Also if a team that is rewarding itself too well on other people’s money.”
4. Lack of traction
Investors look for evidence that the startup’s product or service has market demand and validation. If a founder cannot demonstrate any customer traction, industry interest, positive feedback, or a well-thought-out go-to-market strategy, it may raise concerns about the startup’s potential for success.
Duigan says: “Lack of traction in their space will often mean stalled growth and is a red flag. Have a look at their runway and burn rate, you don’t want it short and wide. That could spell either bad margins or high overheads.”
5. Poor communication skills
Effective communication and active listening are essential qualities for startup founders. If a founder struggles to articulate their ideas clearly both in person and through vital communication tools like the all important pitch deck, this is a big red flag. Similarly if they fail to actively listen to feedback or input from others, or exhibit poor interpersonal skills, it may hinder their ability to build relationships with investors and stakeholders.
According to Marla Shapiro, CEO of HERmesa – a UK based angel syndicate: “Investors want a super clear, concise story that gets us excited to ask more questions and set up the first call. As one of our members says, “pitch decks are meant to be commercials, not novels!”
According to Addy Windsor-Clive, investment manager at Regenerate Ventures: “A pitchdeck that isn’t in a suitable format asking the typical questions a VC would ask is a red flag for me.”
Ultimately people buy people and Shapiro puts it succinctly: “We really try to invest in nice people. We are putting our own money into the business and we are going to be with these founders for the next 3, 5, 7 years. Life is too short to invest in jerks!”
While these red flags can raise concerns, it’s important to stress that they are not necessarily deal-breakers. Founders can address these issues and improve their chances of securing investment by being transparent, receptive to feedback, and continuously learning and improving.
The reality is many won’t learn. But by recognising and proactively addressing any red flags, startup founders can ensure they can have a head start in attracting angel investors. Putting rocket fuel into their fundraising strategy and turning entrepreneurial dreams into reality.
“Never give up” was the message businessman and former jewellery magnate Gerald Ratner delivered at the launch of the Scale Up Awards by Business Leader magazine. AIN were in attendance to watch the launch of the awards with several prominent speakers discussing the challenges and opportunities faced by scaling businesses.
Ratner is the former chief executive officer of the British jewellery company Ratners, who famously demonstrated the power of negative PR when he notoriously made a speech jokingly denigrating two of the company’s products at an Institute of Directors conference.
He detailed his Icarus-like fall from the glittering heights of business leadership that saw the company’s value plummeting by around £500 million after his blunder. He then described the obstacles he faced in launching a new fitness chain and how perseverance saw him through as he went on to sell the business for £3.9m in 2001. Following that he launched an online jewellery business, after he was turned down by 15 banks for funding, before a 16th agreed. He used the example to highlight the need for startups to persevere no matter the odds.
Irene Graham, CEO and a board director of the ScaleUp Institute also spoke at the event. She highlighted the real need for the UK to invest in more scale ups, pointing out that the UK is third in the world for startups but 13th for scale ups. She told the audience “You are the future, we need to get behind you”.
Founder of Business Leader Andrew Scott highlighted that there had been a record number of entries for the awards so far.
The Scale-Up Awards are open to UK based entrepreneurs and trading businesses, celebrating business achievement and growth. There are still time to enter.
When it comes to investing in startups, investors are not only evaluating the potential of the business idea but also the qualities of the founders behind it. Startups can have an innovative product, a large market opportunity, and a sound business plan, but without the right team behind it, success can be elusive. This is even more the case in 2023 with investment more difficult to secure.
Based on several interviews with prominent angel investors, we explore the key traits that investors look for in startup founders. From passion and grit to adaptability and communication skills, we delve into the qualities that can make a startup founder stand out and increase their chances of securing investment.
The life of a startup is exciting but also tough and this past year has seen a combination of challenges. Many tech firms’ valuations have been radically reduced and we have a more difficult funding climate with investors having more strenuous criteria in the startups they back.
Many founders are needing to change plans quickly, look at longer runways andmake really difficult decisions on staffing. All the while working harder than ever to raise funds. This can create real pressure and have a negative impact on mental health.
So how can startups support their mental health during challenging times? We spoke to a leading psychologist working with startups and several successful founders in our network to get their top tips and advice.
In June 2022, MASTER Plant Holdings (“Master Plant” or the “Company”), an emerging force in the European cannabis industry, raised £500,000 in a seed funding round with Angel Investment Network (AIN), the world’s largest online angel investment platform.
Following this investment, Master Plant will aim to licence and redevelop a pharmaceutical distribution facility in Guernsey designed to develop high quality medical cannabis, unique strains and wider products for European distribution.
The European cannabis market is rapidly growing with Germany leading the way. Currently, the market exists via medical channels with limited psychoactive THC quantities (Cannabis Light). In fact, 89% of cannabis use cases involve this product for medicinal and therapeutic purposes. The European market is predicted to reach €13bn by 2027 according to Market Data Forecasts. In comparison, the United States market was estimated at approximately $65bn in sales in 2021, of which $21bn were from legal sources creating $4bn in tax.
After the first £500k round of funding, Master Plant is intent on remaining ahead of the curve. The Company is in the process gaining their cannabis licence for research, development and manufacturing of 300+ strains and formulations on the Island of Guernsey. Already, the company has consolidated decades of research and development into its proprietary cannabis genetics bank. This research will provide diversity in major and minor cannabinoids, as well as other beneficial molecules that will contribute to a vast assortment of future products. The licensed facility is set to distribute high quality medical cannabis, launch unique strains and products and develop deep tech enabled growth.
AIN’s funding will also enable the expansion of Master Plant’s senior team with seasoned experts joining from the North American cannabis industry. The commercial operations of Master Plant and Mee CBD, with groundbreaking water-soluble formulas, will also see wider development.
According to Master Plant CEO, Oliver Osgood: “We are delighted that angel investors have backed Master Plant’s vision as we continue to break new ground in the cannabis industry. As we look forward to the future, we are confident our cannabis licence and market proposition is unique. Combined with our proven track record and global cannabis credentials we are ambitious to become a key player in European cannabis.”Master Plant will aim to launch their next round of Series A funding in 2023. The £2m Series A funding will go towards retrofitting the Guernsey facility and developing commercial operations. Sign up for further updates here.
A pioneering Australian payment platform for hospitality called Payo has been named as AIN’s Startup of the Month. The platform was singled out from close to 150,000 startups currently raising on the AIN platform for having ‘a winning formula’ as an investable proposition. The business was given the accolade after a judging process involving AIN’s expert panel, combined with a high number of connections from investors.
Payo is a payments and software solution for small and medium restaurants. It solves the problem in hospitality of venues needing to use 4-6 different payment systems with an all-in-one solution enabling venues to make payments more simply and cheaply. The Payo founders came up with the idea following more than 10,000 conversations with venue owners and operators over the past decade in various roles.
Startup of the Month is a new initiative from AIN to champion and celebrate businesses on the platform with great potential and to help raise their profile. In showcasing these startups, AIN’s aim is to highlight the qualities of investable businesses to inspire and educate others. The team at AIN were impressed with Payo’s innovation, clear evidence of traction and experienced founding team.
The Payo team are looking for funding to complete the front and back end development of the platform, as well as supporting sales efforts to further growth. The startup has more than 1,000 venues signed up so far.
According to Mike Lebus, co-founder of Angel Investment Network: “AIN is the world’s largest online angel investment platform and Startup of the Month is about showcasing businesses that have a winning formula to gain investor interest. Payo demonstrates that in spades, with a solution to a real world problem for many smaller hospitality businesses, genuine traction and an experienced founding team. We hope other startups seeking funding can learn from what they have achieved and we wish Payo well on the rest of their fundraising journey.”
According to co-founder and CEO of Payo, Taf Chiwanza: “I’m extremely grateful to AIN for this recognition. It is testament to our hard work and the problems we are solving in the hospitality industry. A lot of the problems we are solving are certainly not just an Australian problem. This is a global challenge and we look forward to scaling this and helping restaurants save time and money.”
In our latest Guest Post, Justin Eames, Head of Innovation at digital product development studio fish in a bottle discusses how startups can create an ideation process to boost innovation.
Many studies show that startups who adopt an ideation process are more likely to succeed than those who don’t.
If coming up with great ideas is key to the success of your startup, then considering how you can manage and improve that can give you the competitive edge.
This is particularly true for digital startups, where the complexities of software development makes getting from ‘great idea’ to ‘great product’ especially challenging.
In this short article I want to encourage anyone leading a startup, whether they consider they are inventing something new or not, to build an ideation process into the fabric of their business.
To get that off the ground you don’t need to make a big investment in time or money, or adopt complex processes. The benefits of a structured approach to innovation can come from just a small number of easy to implement steps.
The typical picture of a digital startup has a visionary founder – the entrepreneur – at the helm, driving the direction of a product while a team around them are tasked with delivering it.
The visionary founder usually works at the highest level of the concept while the team around them are responsible for making decisions about technology, design, customers, marketing and finance.
For the product to succeed, each of those areas must align and have input into the ideas that drive the business. Doing that without a process can be very challenging.
For startups, success requires them to identify where the needs of their users, the requirements of their business and the possibilities of design and technology meet. Once they find that point they are on their way to finding success. This is where an ideation process comes into play.
84% of executives say that innovation is important to their growth strategy, according to a study by McKinsey. Given that statistic, it’s surprising that so few identify it as an activity that someone within their business should own. So all businesses should consider assigning someone to the role of Head of Innovation. Even the most resource-poor startup can do that as this doesn’t have to be their only role, or a major time drain. All that’s required is that there is someone with the authority and responsibility to ensure that the process of generating ideas is managed, in the same way that any other mission critical aspect of a business are managed.
Setting this up need not be a daunting task, there are tried and tested ideation processes from which to draw on and plenty of case studies demonstrating their success. For a long time, organisations that rely on ideas for their success have recognised that ideation, when untamed, is a chaotic and time consuming activity with hit-and-miss results.
As far back as 1942, Alex Osborn (the O of famous advertising agency BBDO) proposed techniques and strategies for generating creative ideas. His book, “How to Think Up”, argues that creativity is not an innate talent but a skill that can be developed through methods and practice. More recently, IDEO (famous for inventing the first computer mouse for Apple) coined the term “Design Thinking”, applying it to their set of ideation methods.
By using lead generation for law firms to reach potential clients, they can establish themselves as experts in their field and build their brand. This can help them to attract more potential clients, generate more leads, and ultimately, convert more of those leads into paying clients.
Any ideation process for digital products will do well to draw on those “Design Thinking” methods including empathising with users to understand their needs and experiences, formally defining the problem, ideating and prototyping possible solutions, as well as testing and iterating on those solutions based on user feedback. This approach has proven to be highly effective and there are many case studies to support that.
For instance, Airbnb used design thinking to completely redesign its website and user experience, turning them from a failing business to a thriving business. An ideation process for digital products should segway comfortably into project management methodologies like Agile Scrum, joining up the complete digital product development process from vision to ideation and through to production and iterative delivery. It’s certainly never too late to build an ideation process into any business, but there is no doubt that doing so from the earliest stage brings huge advantages.
My advice is to keep your ideation process simple and appropriate for the outcomes you need. As your business grows you’ll find you naturally add stages and people to the ideation process. As your business grows, you can start viewing it as a part of a wider innovation function of your business. — Justin Eames is Head of Innovation at digital product development studio fish in a bottle. He’s the creator of The Ideation Framework, an open methodology that’s designed to improve innovation within startups and small teams.
At AIN we believe that promoting female entrepreneurship is central to economic growth and meaningful innovation.
This IWD we wanted to celebrate female entrepreneurs and at the same time, acknowledge the need to boost both the number of female startups and also female investors to ensure we can truly democratise angel investment.
According to research from Pitchbook female-founded companies in Europe have received just 1.3% of VC funding since 2017.
Having more diversity across the whole startup ecosystem would help. Research by Beauhurst and the UKBAA found just 14% of female angel investors are women, but having more women investors could help to shift the dynamic.
AIN Head Of Impact and exited founder of GrubClub Olivia Sibony launched our Female Founders page to provide our audience with access to companies led by one or more female founder on the UK Angel Investment Network.
This is the first step in our journey to bring together a community interested in funding and supporting women-led businesses. Check out some of the innovative startups currently looking for funding.
According to Sibony: “Women represent 51% of the population. By far the largest under-served population in the world. In an increasingly uncertain world, we cannot succeed if we carry on with the status quo. A key to change, is to bringing new voices in to the narrative. Women have such a powerful voice that can help balance the perspective and help bring about fresh thinking.”
Over the past year we have been thrilled to support exciting businesses with female led founding teams including Period care and sexual health brand Here We Flo who raised £1.7m in an angel funding round, supported by AIN.
Here We Flo’s mission is ‘shamelessly natural care for life’s messiest moments’. The brand intends to challenge, shame and disrupt the period, bladder and sexual wellness markets with organic and vegan products. Here We Flo was created by university friends Susan Allen and Tara Chandra. (pictured at the top of the article.)
We also saw another incredible business, Birmingham-based smart-EV and energy storage startup WAU (We Are Universal) raising £650,000 in a pre-seed funding round. Crystal Drury (pictured above), co-founded the business alongside Linas Pozerskis.
When asked about the importance of gender balance in founding teams they said “Diversity allows you to see the same situation from multiple powerful angles.”
Meanwhile sisters Katie and Amanda McCourt are co-founders of sustainable underwear disrupter Pantee. They raised successfully on the AIN platform last year, with investors buying into their creation of the world’s first underwear brand made from deadstock t-shirts. The duo are currently raising again. Check out their pitch.
We hope these successful startups can help inspire other women to launch their own businesses and potentially go on the become angel investors themselves.
According to Head of Marketing at AIN, Marisa Scullion: “We understand platforms such as ours need to help push the dial and make funding and supporting women-led business accessible and achievable. There are now many fantastic fundraising platforms made for women, led by women, inspired by women which is motivating. Women have a huge role to play in the growth of the tech industry and we want to help bring together our community interested in funding and supporting women-led businesses. It will benefit the whole startup ecosytem”
Becoming an angel investor can be a hugely rewarding way of using your experience and capital to support innovative startups and potentially earn a return on your investment.
As this involves deploying your own personal capital this is of course, not something you want to tackle lightly. We’ve spoken to a series of experienced angel investors and investment experts to give you the low down. Here are their top tips for anyone considering the high octane game of backing early stage startups.
1) Educate yourself
Before going down this path, it is really worth taking the time and effort to learn about the startup ecosystem. Also learn about the different types of investments available, and crucially the characteristics of successful startups. This can include doing online research, reading books, attending conferences, and talking to other investors. It also means really understanding the minutiae of the various Government schemes to support investment like EIS and SEIS and their global equivalents. Particularly given there will be significant changes in April.
Once you have educated yourself, it is crucial to then think about the types of startups you want to invest in, the amount of money you’re willing to invest, and how involved you want to be in the company’s operations. It is crucial to consider whether what you want to bring is a sector expertise that would lead your investment strategy or whether you will become more broad based.
According to Matthew Louis from the AIN brokerage team: “According to investors I speak with, I would say most investors are involved in 6-8 projects. However those more involved in specific industries tend to be 2 or 3. With F+B it tends to be broader. With software there will be more of a specific criteria.”
Having a broader base for your investments rather than a focused expertise can provide more opportunities for areas of passion, which can be a great motive. However it is imperative to not let this cloud any judgement in your cool headed investment strategy.
According to experienced investor Noel Duigan: “I think you really need to be paying attention to both the head and gut, I don’t tend to invest with my heart, at all. I will always look at the business case first to see the potential. If that checks the box and my gut is off then I pause and try to work out what the problem is. If I can’t find it, but still keep that feeling that something isn’t right, I don’t usually invest.”
Building relationships with other investors, entrepreneurs, and industry experts is crucial for any investor in learning about new investment opportunities, conducting due diligence, and getting insights into the startup ecosystem. Angel Investment Network was set up as an online platform to shrink the globe and connect investors with the exciting businesses of tomorrow and others in the startup ecosystem. There are a variety of online and offline forums for meeting people in person.
Roxane Sanguinetti is an experienced investor who works with Alma Angels and is co-head of the London chapter of Women in ETF’s. She advises: “Ask loads of questions and ask for help from experienced angels – what do they look at? What questions do they ask during due diligence? From my experience, angel investing is a collaborative environment. I am yet to meet an angel who hasn’t been open to discussing their journey or their investments. As a first step, joining a community or a syndicate can be of great help for those who feel they need an organised structure. You get to ask your questions in a safe space and see dealflow more easily.”
4) Do your due diligence
Once you are at the point of backing a startup, doing due diligence on any startups is essential. Evidence suggests that investors who spend longer on DD get higher returns. Indeed UKBAA research has shown that at least 20 hours due diligence has a positive impact on the likelihood of a multiple investment return.
AIN has produced a series of check lists on how to do your due diligence. The key areas of focus should include the team and management, business, market, technology (if applicable), finance, tax and legal. Red flags should be front of mind at all stages. The more experienced you become the quicker you can spot them.
For Noel Duigan the founding teams’ experience or lack of it is key: “Often you are investing in the founders rather than the company. If the founders don’t have any skin in the game, that’s pause for consideration. Lack of traction in their space will often mean stalled growth and is a red flag.”
Meanwhile according to investor Addy Windsor-Clive: “Red flags include a pitch deck that isn’t in a suitable format, failing to cover the typical questions a VC would ask. Also not knowing their market size or having a product fit.”
5) Think how you can add value
Finally (and to slightly mangle a famous quote by JFK) an investor should ‘think not what a startup can do for you, but what you can do for the startup.’ As someone with experience in either building a business or some deep sector knowledge you can offer your invaluable knowledge to a startup building the next game-changing business.
Xavier Ballester, Director at Angel Investment Network’s Startup and Property Divisions has worked with hundreds of angel investors over the past 17 years. He says: “Over the years I have seen the different ways angel investors can bring more than money. This includes: Industry contacts, Industry know-how, business skills (many have been CFOs, CMOs), help with strategy and potentially other investors.”
Meanwhile according to Stephens: “Adding value as an advisor/angel is always complex – there have been many examples of angels adding considerable value. For example, someone I worked with helped an FMCG business, as he already had a company that runs one of the UK’s largest warehousing facilities for Ebay. So he helped with supply chain and logistics leveraging his existing assets. More broadly, investors should and normally do always make intros, roll up sleeves and much like charity trustees pitch in where their skillset permits.”
To summarise, if you are thinking about becoming an investor ensure you first educate yourself with the wide variety of online and offline resources. Next define your investment strategy based on your skillset andnetwork with others (in particular experienced angels). Once you are ready to invest, do your due diligence and really think about how you can add value.