#SixtySecondStartup

This month our sixty second interview is with Firdaus Mogul, Founder of Check An Invoice. Check An Invoice uses AI and machine learning to identify invoice fraud. Firdaus set up this business after one of his friends was a victim of invoice fraud and he realised that there were no products addressing this problem.

Our interview with Firdaus:

What does your company do?

We identify and prevent invoice fraud using the latest advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Why did you set up this company?

When I ran my own B2B payment business, which I sold in June 2019, many of our customers spoke about instances of invoice fraud. On researching, we could not find any companies that offered solutions to this problem. So we decided to launch our own SaaS application that addresses the needs of both small and large businesses.

We knew we were onto something when:

Every prospect we met and investor we spoke to started complementing our market positioning and how the product is addressing an unsolved need.

How did you get your first customer?

Like all startups, our first customer was an acquaintance, who found the solution very helpful for his business as it reduced the manual workload of checking the invoices

Our most effective marketing channel has been:

Forming partnerships with accountancy firms, FinTechs and banks. These partners then offer our solution to small and large companies as a value added service on top of what they already offer.

The biggest mistake that I’ve made is: 

Assuming that there was already a good understanding of invoice fraud among SMEs. Although our research suggested that over 50% of SMEs are affected invoice fraud, when we went out and spoke to people, we discovered that awareness levels were relatively low.

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

Invoice fraud results in over $26bn of losses worldwide (Source FBI) yet, there are very few solutions which address this issue. Our platform operates globally giving us the ideal first mover advantage.

We worked with AIN because:

We worked with AIN because they have the largest and most engaged network of angels.

Get started today and view pitches from a huge range of entrepreneurs around the world.

The Angel Investment Network’s ‘Pitch and Pint’

The last year has been an important one for the Angel Investment Network – we turned 15 and welcomed new team members, growing the team significantly with a third of our London team joining towards the end of the year. 

Whilst 2019 has been a record year for the Angel Investment Network for helping start ups successfully fundraise, we certainly think there are areas that we can still improve. 

Over the years, we have built up strong expertise about what startups need to achieve to maximise their chances of success. 

  • What does an optimal team look like? What advisers should I bring to my business and how much equity should I give them?
  • When are you ready to raise a Seed round? 
  • How do you make sure you are speaking to the right investors and stop wasting time? 

But as the Angel Investment Network community has grown, we realised there was more knowledge and expertise held amongst our founders, our entrepreneurs. 

And we decided that the time was right to start making the most of that. 

So 2020 will be the year that, as well as making hundreds of thousands of connections online, we will start to connect more and people offline too. 

Join us for the inaugural Angel Investment Network, Pitch and Pint, at the Duke on the Green in Parsons Green.

Learn about how to improve your pitch. Meet the team and learn from the entrepreneurial community. 

Sign up to the Angel Investment Network’s Pitch and Pint.

What does the 2019 General Election mean for startups and SMEs?

“Next week voters face their starkest choice yet, between Boris Johnson, whose Tories promise a hard Brexit, and Jeremy Corbyn, whose Labour Party plans to “rewrite the rules of the economy”. Mr Johnson runs the most unpopular new government on record; Mr Corbyn is the most unpopular leader of the opposition. On Friday the 13th, unlucky Britons will wake to find one of these horrors in charge.”  – The Economist 

The result of the election, for better or worse, is inevitably going to have an impact on the potential fortunes of your startup. We’ve done some investigating into the manifestos of the three main parties topping the polls – Conservative, Labour, and Liberal Democrats, to shed light on what their policies might mean for your business. This article touches on just a few of the policies and their potential impacts. We do not intend to offer a value judgement of any form, instead, we hope to provide a high-level overview of policy changes. 

The Conservative Party 

The mantra ‘get Brexit done’ dominates the Conservative manifesto, with few radical policy changes that could negatively impact small businesses, other than the economic impacts of Brexit itself. They hope to leave the EU in January and continue negotiating a trade agreement with other countries throughout 2020; experts predict that to leave without a deal would make average incomes 8% lower than they would otherwise have been after ten years.

Embedded within the manifesto are some modest policy changes that could benefit startups; they have promised not to raise income tax and VAT, cancelling “plans to lower Corporation Tax, keeping it at 19 per cent,” with the hope to “redesign the tax system so that it boosts growth, wages and investment”. They also pledge to clamp down on late payments and “support start-ups and small businesses via government procurement, and commit to paying them on time” in an effort to “support small businesses that are exploited by their larger partners.” 

Additionally, they plan to “expand start-up loans, which have particularly high take-up from women and BAME entrepreneurs”. So far, the British Business Bank has supported “90,000 smaller businesses with over £7 billion in investment or loans, and will continue to grow.” They have also announced a £3bn National Skills Fund, which will provide “funding for individuals and SMEs for high-quality education and training”. 

The Labour Party

Labour, if elected, hope to negotiate a new Brexit deal within 3 months, prioritising protecting workers rights, a UK Customs Union and an alignment with the single market – then putting the deal to a second referendum. 

Nationalisation prevails in their manifesto, requiring increased taxes on businesses and individuals. Corporation tax would be increased from 19% to 21% by April 2020, with further rises taking it to 26% by 2023. For small businesses – which Labour have defined as those with a turnover below £300,000 – “the current 19% corporation tax rate would be retained initially, rising to 21% by 2023”. These actions could taint the current attractive corporation tax rate in the UK, which helps promote foreign investment.

Additionally, they plan to “rapidly introduce a Real Living Wage of at least £10 per hour for all workers aged 16 or over” using “public finances to help small businesses manage the extra cost”. They plan to give individuals working regular hours for more than 12 weeks, the right to a regular contract, as opposed to zero-hours. Further, they plan to get rid of entrepreneurs’ relief – the charging of capital gains tax at 10% on up to £10m raised from selling a business, in an attempt to reform what they believe is currently “an inefficient system of tax relief”. The manifesto also mentions setting up a Business Development Agency, which would offer “free support and advice on how to launch, manage and grow a business”.

The Liberal Democrat Party 

The ‘middle way’ appears to characterise the Liberal Democrat manifesto, relative to the increasing divergence of the Labour and Conservative positions, offering a centre-left stance on free market capitalism, With regards to Brexit, the push to stop it in its tracks by revoking Article 50 is clear, in favour of open markets and a liberal society.

The Liberal Democrat manifesto offers an apparent end the Brexit saga and unreformed taxation policies. This would not only see an end to Brexit anxiety, but means that small businesses would also be able to operate under the same terms as they are used to. Liberal Democrats want to take Corporation Tax to 20 per cent “and keep the rate stable with a predictable future path.”

Vince Cable, Jo Swinson’s predecessor, is a firm advocate of the startup scene, just days before the election, he is giving talks on topics such as ‘The State of Entrepreneurship in the UK’. His party introduced the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, and the Growth Accelerator, a 4-year programme helping rapidly expanding SMEs. Further to this, R&D programmes, support for flexible IP rules, and regional creative enterprise zones demonstrate the party’s alignment with the needs of small businesses. 

The Lib Dems wish to broaden the role of the British Business Bank, by introducing a ‘start-up allowance’, to encourage entrepreneurship by helping with living costs during the formative period of businesses. Additionally, they hope to “support investment in new UK digital start-ups by reforming the British Business Bank’s support for venture capital funds to enable it to help funds ‘crowd in’ new backers rather than acting as a funder of last resort.” From a training and development perspective, they are proposing “a new Skills Wallet for every adult, giving people £10,000 to spend on approved education and training courses”. 

These policies demonstrate that innovation and business entrepreneurship remain a priority. Yet the uncertainty brought about by Brexit and its subsequent effects on business arguably tarnish the potential contribution of such policies, making the advantages seem merely compensatory in comparison to the damage already caused. It is also worth remembering that manifesto claims are not always substantiated, as the Institute of Fiscal Studies’ General Election Manifesto Analysis shows. It makes for some interesting reading as we wait to see the outcome of Thursday’s election. 

Bioplastics company – Teysha Technologies – completes £1.2m EIS funding round on Angel Investment Network

Amsterdam: Plastic waste floating in a canal in Amsterdam, The Netherlands

According to the UN, 300 million tonnes of plastic waste is produced every year. If current trends continue, our oceans could contain more plastic than fish by 2050. Confronted by increasingly urgent global issues, more and more entrepreneurs and investors are working to see business objectives align with what’s best for the planet. The bioplastics company Teysha Technologies are doing just this, by helping tackle the world’s plastic problem. 

With a world-leading team, Teysha has created a material patented, renewable, fully biodegradable plastic substitute. Using organic waste matter, they can create polymers for 100s of different applications: whether you need a hard casing for a lipstick packaging or a flexible wrapping for a retail item, they can do it. From building insulation to car dashboard moulding, the potential is vast.

The product also completely bio-degrades back into earth-friendly organic matter, and even this process can be tailored. For example, the product can be broken down in water in a matter of hours, weeks or years, or it could be waterproof yet still breakdown in compost.

Coca-cola “coke” bottle washed onshore – maria mendiola

Teysha has successfully raised £1.2m of investment, supported by Angel Investment Network (AIN). It is also one of the handpicked companies featured on SeedTribe, an online community connecting profit-with-purpose startups with expertise and investment. The investment is being used to deliver prototypes and secure contracts, allowing them to tap into the global bioplastics market which is set to be worth $43.8Bn in 2022. 

Duncan Clark, Director of Operations at Teysha Technologies said: “We are delighted with the interest we have received from AIN investors. Made from all-natural and inedible agricultural waste streams, Teysha’s second-generation bioplastic is the result of decades of R&D. One of the biggest challenges facing bioplastics, as this new industry evolves, concerns the fate of the products when their use has ended, our product tackles this by breaking down to its constituent earth-friendly organic building blocks.”

According to AIN’s Sam Louis, Head of Consultancy, who led the fundraise: “Teysha’s technology creates an incredible opportunity for how we produce materials. The investors on our platform were really drawn to its ability to answer the growing demand for sustainable plastics, its inherent versatility and the ability to create so many different products depending on need. It’s exactly the sort of company we love to be involved with and we have seen a significant rise in interest among investors for impact-led businesses of this type.”

With exciting times ahead, the company’s future is looking undeniably bright. Teysha is part of a movement of companies paving the way for change. This is made possible by the foresight of investors, who are using their influence to support businesses which align profit with purpose, to help create solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems.

If you’d like to explore pitches from a huge range of entrepreneurs around the world, click here.





How is Angel Investment Network different from crowdfunding?

From crowdfunding sites to online platforms like Angel Investment Network (AIN), there are a multitude of options available to entrepreneurs looking to fundraise. Making the right decision can be a daunting task and it’s sometimes hard to choose the right strategy and identify value. You may be asking yourself, where does Angel Investment Network stand in all of this, if it’s not a crowdfunding site? 

We’ve highlighted a few of the ways AIN differs from crowdfunding, offering a valuable alternative to the ubiquitous crowdfunding sites:


1. Sophisticated investors

Our investors are self-certified as sophisticated investors and/or high net worth individuals. They are typically looking to invest a significantly higher amount than the average crowdfunding investment of just £68. Instead, ticket sizes average at a healthier £50,000. With AIN, you’ll have less small ticket investors and a lower administrative burden, making it easier and quicker for you to raise money. 

2. International Reach 

We have investors from almost every country in the world. Crowdfunding platforms can struggle to achieve this because of varying regulations around crowdfunding in different countries.

3. A flexible service 

AIN offers a very flexible service that grants you access to a large network of potential investors. Unlike crowdfunding, once the initial connection is made, users can take further discussions off-platform and we don’t take part in processing payments. How you then work with them is entirely up to you and the investors: round size can change, valuation can change, it’s as flexible as you like, for as long as you like.

On AIN companies can even complement their profile with any other fundraising avenues that they are exploring – there’s no exclusivity. 

4. No hidden fees

Our platform works on a straight upfront listing fee, and can even be free. With crowdfunding, you will usually be charged a commission on all the funds you raise during your campaign. Our fee doesn’t change if you get more investment, making it a very cost-efficient option.

5. Diverse sectors and investors 

Often crowdfunding platforms can be less effective with businesses that aren’t as universally appealing or consumer-facing. We have companies from almost every sector on the platform, from IT and communications startups to medical ventures. AIN allows users to broadcast their idea to thousands of potential investors looking for new businesses to invest in.

We don’t just have angels, we also have family offices, funds, Venture Capital, and Private Equity firms on our network. It is rare that you would find these on a crowdfunding platform.


We have raised over £300 million for startups around the world, and have built a global network of thousands of entrepreneurs and investors.

Could you benefit from our global network of investors? Click here to get started.

Angel Investment Network celebrates 15th anniversary

From a vision of opening up the closed world of angel investment to an expanding global network of a million users

AIN London team

From a proposal for a rabbit mashing factory in Russia to successfully funding What3Words, Angel Investment Network (AIN) co-founders Mike Lebus and James Badgett have seen it all. It has now been 15 years since our co-founders and childhood friends formed AIN, now the world’s largest online angel network. What started in the early days of the internet as two friends having a vision of an interconnected network of angel investors and startups has led to a platform now spanning 90 countries and more than a million users. Meanwhile the team is now 25 strong with team members in the UK, USA, Mexico, Spain and Nepal.

Our co-founders in earlier times…

Living and breathing the startup world since the early noughties, the team has successfully raised funds for standout companies like What3Words, Novastone and Rosa’s Thai. In the last few years the company has been developing at a breakneck pace with the launch of two spin-off brands, SeedTribe, a community for impact-focused businesses, and BrickTribe, which connects investors and lenders with property developers with proven track records. 

In the last year alone, AIN has received over 100,000 pitches from entrepreneurs across the globe, with the figure doubling over the last two years. Alongside existing markets there has been a rapid growth of startups coming from emerging markets. Meanwhile investors registering on the site have surged nearly 40% year on year, now standing at more than 200,000 registered business angels. 

Alongside the online platform, AIN also runs a successful broking division, which has seen exceptional growth in the past 12 months. AIN has been involved in several significant raises in 2019, including eco-friendly baby product business Kit & Kin, fully customisable bio-polymer plastic company Teysha, and Pin Point, a data science offering early cancer detection.

Our co-founders James Badgett and Mike Lebus today

Speaking about the anniversary James Badgett said:
“When we first set up, no one looked for investment online. Most investment came through personal connections, which not everyone has access to. We saw that good ideas weren’t getting the funding they deserved, because entrepreneurs’ access to angels outside their immediate circles was severely restricted. We imagined a platform which gave all entrepreneurs access to a national and international network of investors; and, of course, the only way to do that was online. It is remarkable to see how it has grown and we are proud of AIN’s place at the epicentre of the startup scene in the UK and now spanning the globe.”


Mike Lebus said:
“When we set up AIN, angel groups tended to be focused on a regional basis. Applying to them, following up, getting feedback, arranging meetings, etc was fairly laborious. We had the idea of creating a portal to streamline the whole process for entrepreneurs and investors. I feel immensely proud to have helped brilliant companies like Sweatcoin and What3words on their journey to huge success. However, of course there are no guarantees of funding and the startup idea needs to capture the imagination of any potential investors. Over time you do get a sense of what will work and what will sadly remain a pipe dream. We launched the broking division to apply our team’s expertise of selecting high quality dealflow and to help our investors identify the best prospects.

With AIN now having a footprint in every continent (except Antarctica where unsurprisingly there doesn’t seem to be much demand), we can’t wait to see where we’ll be 15 years from now! Happy anniversary AIN.


 

#SixtySecondStartup

Welcome to the first in the series of our #SixtySecondStartup blog. Each month we will be profiling a different founder with some quick fire questions.

This week we are talking to Julian Hall, Founder of Ultra Education C.I.C. Ultra Education teaches young people aged 7-18 entrepreneurial skills to help them grow or start a business. Through their app they ensure that all young people, regardless of their background, have access to the tools needed to develop their entrepreneurial skills.

Our interview with Julian:

What does your company do?

We teach entrepreneurship to kids aged from 7-18 years old. We have developed an A.I. powered chatbot that can deliver entrepreneurial education to kids at scale through a native mobile app.

Why did you set up this company?

We believe that entrepreneurship is a great vehicle to help increase the life chances of children and young people. It helps them to develop life and work skills.

We knew we were onto something when:

A parent told us that their child never concentrates in school but we had captured their imagination in less that 20 mins. 

How did you get your first customer?

Word of mouth! I told the story about how my own daughter picked up entrepreneurial skills by watching me working at home. After we realised these skills could be taught and started sharing that idea, we got immediate demand from both parents and schools.

Our business model:

Is a subscription based mobile app powered by A.I. and supported by human mentors in the chat. 

Our most effective marketing channel has been:

Word of mouth through social media. We promote the successes of our ‘kidpreneurs’ and which other people also share on their social media channels.

The biggest mistake that I’ve made is: 

Not growing our team early enough and not capturing the impact of our work.

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

More and more kids want to work for themselves and have ambitions that schools are unable to currently support on their own. Entrepreneurship is becoming common place, but kids and young people still don’t have access to on demand support. 

We worked with AIN because:

We believe that angels are not just thinking about a monetary return but also a social return.

Get started today and view pitches from a huge range of entrepreneurs around the world.

A worldview on startup stats

Angel Investment Network connects startups and investors from all over the world. But what does the current global startup climate look like? We have drawn together some statistics to give a brief global overview. 

In terms of numbers, the USA has by far the most number of startups at 46,606.  The UK comes in third place, with 4,901, just a couple of thousand behind India.

However, despite the USA having the highest number of startups, it is Uganda which has the greatest number of entrepreneurs per adult population at 28.1%. Interestingly, 5 out of the 15 countries with the highest proportion of entrepreneurs are in Africa, and Southeast Asia and South America are represented by 4 countries each.

Moving on to unicorns, meaning private companies with a value of over $1 billion, China is in the lead with 149 unicorns, compared to 146 in the USA. These two countries are vastly ahead of any other, with the UK and India coming in a distant third with 13 unicorns each.

Whilst these statistics only scratch the surface of the global startup landscape, they show that it certainly is an exciting world out there! 
All statistics and infographics are from the article Startup Failure Rate and 80+ Other Startling Statistics About Startups.

Angel Investment Network has networks around the world. Wherever you are based, if you are looking for investment find your country’s network, register and then upload your pitch.

TechRound Interview with Seedtribe CEO Olivia Sibony

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

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

Tell us a bit about your career…

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

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

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

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

How did the idea for Seedtribe come about?

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, what is Seedtribe now?

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

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

The new Seedtribe homepage coming soon…

What’s the mission?

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

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

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

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

What challenges do you face?

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

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

What’s your vision for the future?

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

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

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

Where can people find out more?

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

The Sunday Times’ Q&A with Angel Investor Olivia Sibony

Every week The Sunday Times talk to a business angel investor, one of the early-stage investors who collectively inject £1.5bn a year into British start‑up companies. This week they featured our very own Olivia Sibony, Head of Impact at Angel Investment Network’s new impact-focused platform, Seedtribe.
Here’s the piece as printed in The Times:

Olivia Sibony runs SeedTribe, an online platform that connects investors who want to back ethical businesses with entrepreneurs looking for funding. It is part of Angel Investment Network, which has about 1.1m members.

SeedTribe raised £2m last year and is currently working on companies including gaming developer, Playmob, and 28 Well Hung, a “carbon-beneficial” steak and chips chain.

Sibony, 38, co-founded Grub Club, helping London diners find culinary experiences. Two years ago, it was sold and rebranded Eatwith.

Star investment

Playmob can be integrated into a company’s website to engage users with the United Nations’ sustainable development goals. Dove [soap] uses it, reaching more than 4m people in three months. It is profit-driven, but at the same time doing good.

Common misconceptions

People think we don’t want to make a profit. If you don’t have any money in your bank account, you’re not going to be able to make an impact.

Mission-focused

Impact has to be embedded in the business. If you create a medical device that helps scan for early signs of skin cancer, the more devices you have the more impact you’ll have.
UN sustainable development goals millennial angel investor

What I learnt

Building your own business teaches you what to do — and what not to do. I try to think of the next three things I need to do, rather than getting overwhelmed with 100 things at one time.

I wish I saw more…

Diversity among investors. That’s not just for the sake of diversity, which is important, but because we are missing out on so many potentially incredible businesses.

I wish I saw fewer…

Disposable cups and bottles all over the place. There is so much scope for creative entrepreneurship here. We can turn this growing and entirely needless problem into an opportunity.

Next disrupted industry

Housing. There’s a growing crisis — and great potential to do something that is financially viable that enables fewer people to be homeless.

You can read the original piece published in The Sunday Times here