#Behindtheraise with aisle 3

We spoke to aisle 3 co-founder and CEO Thomas J. Vosper about his business revolutionising the online shopping experience. He talks to us about bouncing back from redundancy, what he learnt from pitching to investors and his passion for ensuring we have #nomoretabs.

Tell us about aisle 3?
Like most people I find it super easy to find a car insurance provider, book a hotel in seconds or find availability on a flight based on what matters to me. So why is it so hard to find out all of my buying options for a set of wireless headphones? I am not alone in having to open endless tabs across multiple retailers and marketplaces when I shop online.

At aisle 3 we are building a brand and destination site so that shoppers can see all of the relevant product information, price and availability all on one screen. We are obsessed with a #nomoretabs experience that works for both shoppers and retailers.

Right now on aisle-3.co, shoppers can discover colour and size variations on one page for our launch products – trainers. We are actively looking for new commercial and investment partners to increase our offer.

What is your background?
I’ve been fascinated by ecommerce and both the shopper experience and the retailer relationship since I started as part of a small team in Amazon’s nascent UK marketplace in 2007. It’s crazy to remember that there was about a dozen of us occupying half of the 5th floor of a Slough office block!  I was lucky to launch thousands of merchants across the full range of categories and products over 6 years.

After learning a very different corporate experience at Tesco for a couple of years I joined a price comparison start up and grew its retailers from 6 to 45,000 in three years before it unfortunately went into administration.

I’ve spent the last 14 years trying to understand and support both sides of the purchase journey. I’m obsessed with learning more about how I can support shoppers whilst delivering value and growth to help retailers in the face of ever increasing commercial challenges.

How did the idea for the business come about?
My ecommerce baptism at Amazon fanned the flames of my shopper obsession but having worked with thousands of retailers and brands I’ve become increasingly aware that there is a struggle on the other side of the purchase journey. 

Showing shoppers all of their buying options needs to work in parallel with supporting retailers and brands.  

Finding myself unexpectedly redundant a couple of weeks before lockdown was the forceful kick that (thankfully with some amazing co-founders support) was needed to look at how we could tackle a fragmented online shopping experience.

We looked at the current price comparison incumbents as well as Amazon and Google and were staggered that no-one was able to aggregate information that means we would see all of our buying options on one tab. Given the resource and scale of some of these businesses we wanted to stretch ourselves to see if we could take on the technical challenge of #nomoretabs that no-one else has solved.*

*12 days after our pre-seed round we deployed our own three algorithms that means you can now see all the sizes and colours of a particular trainer.

How have you overcome challenges during COVID?
Our entire business has been built throughout lockdown which has meant we have had to work hard to hire and adopt a new company culture without ever meeting each other.

The shift to remote working has made it much easier for us to find talent to join the team from across the world, however this has impacted us in other ways that we didn’t consider in the midst of our own personal bubble of a global pandemic. 

Outside of the disruption of Covid our team has been affected by Floods (India), Government disruption (Belarus), political tension (Armenia), Black Lives Matter riots (USA) which highlights the challenges of a diverse international team.

We’ve tackled a lot of this by working very transparently, putting trust in each other to hit clearly defined goals whilst making sure that we have a growth mindset that encourages constant feedback loops and support. We shot through the free tier of Slack in just a few weeks!

What would you say to others who have faced redundancy during this difficult time?
We’re all in this together. It is very easy to reach out to friends, family, professional networks across calls, WhatsApp, LinkedIn, etc. and my experience is that people are actively looking to support anyone in a difficult position financially or emotionally.

I’m also personally very wary of perceived success on social media. I’ve been very proud of the grit the team and I have shown and our achievements this year but I’m not satisfied that I’ve made anything yet. Personally and with aisle 3, we are still at the very start of a journey that started in challenging times amongst an incredibly specific set of circumstances.

For every story of someone building a business on a credit card there are 99 that fail. What really motivated me was the outreach of support when I was openly discussing my personal challenge (no job) and the ambition I had to create a company that could impact every Shopper on the planet (aisle 3).

I’d encourage anyone who has been made redundant to reach out to their network and ask for support. It might just be that someone suggests something that you hadn’t considered and from difficult circumstances comes your next big personal development.

Why did you decide to raise investment?
In March I was made redundant and wondered how I was going to settle the credit card bill for my hotel in a month that I wasn’t going to be paid!

My personal financial circumstances were not prepared for a new business, even if I knew that my career and personal development had been leading up to this moment. 

I took out a £25k Virgin Start Up loan to get aisle 3 started but we knew that bringing in smart investors from a diverse background would elevate the business and we could relentlessly focus on growing a world-class consumer offering in a massive market.

I’m a big believer that we are better working together and knew, however capable the team was, that we couldn’t take on such a technical growth challenge alone. Our investors help us make the right commercial decisions whilst providing the financial support to build a shopper obsessed product that no-one else has mastered.

What are your top tips for anyone raising investment for the first time?
Even if you feel very clear on your mission and execution I’d recommend drawing up a list of ideal investors and then flip the order so you are saving the most relevant till later. You have to practice your pitch so that it evolves naturally. I remember the pride we felt with the version of our deck but cringe now at some of those early conversations as we found our feet.

Make sure that you can explain enough of your business to friends and family so they can get a general snapshot of your business and what you need the cash for. If you can’t do that you might find you struggle with the elevator pitch to potential investors.

The questions that caught me out, certainly at the start of my journey, were the simple ones that I expected an investor to know and made me doubt my own answer. I sometimes found that the savvy investors would often ask quite a direct and/or simple question to see how you react and answer rather than to hear the details.

If you don’t know the answer don’t try and talk around it. One of my proudest achievements in our business is that we have been able to surround ourselves with colleagues, advisors and investors that complete our knowledge gaps. Investing is a two-way partnership and perhaps the answer to a question from an investor is ‘what would you do and how can you support?’.

What attracted investors to your company?
Investors understood the problems aisle 3 is trying to solve and they related to their own shopper journey – especially when I was able to walk them through the competitive landscape and how we had already exceeded the current incumbents. I think, as shoppers, we are too accepting of the status quo and the need to open multiple tabs on your browser even though hotels, car insurance or flights are easy to compare.

Whatever the type of product and size of purchases the investors I spoke with all shared their personal stories of difficult online shopping experiences – from struggling to find the best deals on Google, to an uninspiring functional Amazon experience or broken comparison-shopping sites that they’d stumbled across.

It increased our conviction knowing just how much our mission can change the landscape of online shopping both for shoppers and for the retailers that struggle to convert to sales on the other side of this broken experience.

I already knew we were fixing a big problem but when investors tell me that we could be creating a unicorn business here in the UK, during a global pandemic, I feel incredibly inspired to push the business even harder and solve problems. 

My biggest fundraising mistake was…
I’ve made lots of mistakes! The hardest questions are often the simplest and I cringe a little thinking about an early conversation with a VC that asked quite directly what my role in the business was. That was probably one of the easiest questions to answer and I could have picked any five of the spinning plates that I manage and have delivered results in but I turned into a waffling mess! I’d spent so long prepping the intricate details of the technical challenge that I was ready to answer any question other than then ones I had assumed the investor would know.

The lesson for me, was that you can prepare all of the details, but don’t forget your value, what motivates you and how you drive the business forward. It’s not about trying to learn everything to fill the gaps in your expertise or responsibility – that’s what I have an expert team for and the sum is greater than the individual parts.

I have also learnt to better read the signs after spending far too long entertaining conversations that I see now were never going to bring investment. I found it very difficult to push hard for a ‘no’ and walk away at the right time when all the signs were there that we weren’t a good fit for each other. Thankfully, we have ended up with a cohort of smart investors who care about our mission and have been incredibly helpful in assisting the team and I. 

Why did you choose to use Angel Investment Network?
Whilst we had a great pool of industry experts from over the years, we knew that reaching out to external investors would help validate our business ambition and the capability of the team without the personal validation. 

We’d looked at a number of different options and thought that AIN was a platform that would help us clearly demonstrate our ambitious, unlock conversations to new, smart investors and would also provide a good central location for investors to point to when sharing our details. 

We decided to launch with the homepage feature on Tuesday, by Sunday had issued docs to the interested investors and closed the round the following Friday on target.

Sector focus: Medtech market

This is the first of our new series focusing on sectors gaining interest and investment from angel investors. This month we take a look at the rapidly growing medtech market. This is a sector that has been thrust into the spotlight this year due to COVID and a worldwide focus on healthcare. More startups than ever are winning investment and developing solutions to mankind’s most serious problems. In fact it has seen the fastest growth in keyword searches from our investor database. AIN’s Ed Stephens takes a deeper look.

Size of MedTech market
The total global medical technology industry is estimated to be £457bn (Statista)

Number of companies
32,000 medical technology companies in Europe – 95% of which are SMEs.

Description
Medical technologies are products, services or solutions used to save and improve people’s lives. Startups in the sector have products and services to help with prevention, diagnosis and cure.

The three main categories of medical technologies are:
Medical devices (MDs)
Products, services or solutions that prevent, diagnose, monitor, treat and care for human beings by physical means.
In vitro diagnostics (IVDs)
Non-invasive tests to determine the status of one’s health and diagnose illnesses.
Digital health
The new suite of tools as well as services, using information and communication technologies (ICTs) to improve prevention, diagnosis, treatment, monitoring and management of health, both physical and mental and lifestyle.

On the platform
In the past year, searches for biotech on the AIN platform have increased by 97%.
Meanwhile searches for Healthcare/ health have rocketed by 86%.

What are the reasons for its huge success in the past year?

There are three key factors worth examining:

  1. The impact of the pandemic
    Firstly and most obviously, the worldwide pandemic has meant health has been pushed front and centre of people’s minds. When we think of our own well being, we now think of it in a broader sense. The pandemic has also been particularly problematic for those with underlying health conditions, raising a universal awareness of our own personal resilience, immunity and wellness. The pandemic has made us question medical regulation and legislature in a race to develop a vaccine and drugs to treat it. However, it has also made us think more about our general health with a renewed focus on the mental health fallout from months under lockdown. This topic is now a key part of the national conversation too and thus a ‘holistic’ look at health, it’s maintenance and/or deterioration.
  1. The explosion of big data
    This has also been coupled with a rapid and continuous explosion of big data and patient datasets which has of course been a  game changer for healthcare/medtech, particularly in the field of preventative medicine. We now know if we are theoretically able to get our hands on a big enough and robust enough data set for a given illness, we can make significant steps towards diagnosing it more effectively (with the caveat that our understanding of the causes isn’t too siloed). By looking at the data of millions of people worldwide with a similar risk profile we can predict someone’s likely susceptibility to that particular disease and develop treatments and solutions that may even be personalised to their demographic or patient profile. Which is another step towards the holy grail of personalised preventative medicine.
  1. Agile startups
    Agile startups are of course helping to drive this market forward, pushing innovation and continually getting the bureaucracies in healthcare to ask if there are new ways of doing things. It has been heartening to see the increased level of interest shown by the NHS in innovation. Their clinical entrepreneurship programme goes from strength to strength and there is talk of a £5m fund to support seedstage medtech companies. In the past routes to market were cumbersome and often controlled by large medtech/pharma companies. 

A draw for these startup founders and their investors is the ‘mission’. Clearly there are few greater missions than solving complex healthcare issues. Also embedded within medtech is the idea of global scalability due to the universal nature of human fragility, meaning the rewards for success are considerable. Naturally a continued dialogue needs to be maintained to ensure progress doesn’t come at the expense of ethics but the future’s looking bright in this country for healthcare. We face a unique set of pressures through socialised healthcare that create an environment ripe for technology export.

What types of companies are we seeing developing solutions in this sector?

Key players in the sector focus on either ‘longevity’ solutions, technologies that improve health, nutrition and ‘healthspan’ or solutions to medical diagnosis and downstream disease prevention or cure. Diagnostics companies are being well received on the AIN platform and Onsite health and mental health platforms are also in demand, businesses that typically have a B2B component. With models like this it seems the discussion around physical and mental health is inching ever closer. I haven’t seen anything that has a clear grasp on this yet but there are some interesting recombinations of datasets to explore this. The issue you have in a capitalist environment is companies can often compete in siloes e.g. one company to collect DNA data, one to collect blood samples, another to collect stool samples and the final one to collect patient mental health records. Unless the patient has access to all of these services and has a willingness to allow all the organisations to freely integrate and share data then building up a cohesive picture will remain evasive. One might say we are still in ‘investigatory mode’.

What are investors saying about this as a category?

It excites them but they are naturally wary as it is that much more involved and really does require a degree of specialism that other market sectors don’t. In a winner takes all market you have to be more aware of the competition and the market forces and regulation at play.  It has gone from lab based discoveries, pharmaceutical and surgical instruments into the realm of technology, data and AI. As a sector it is enmeshed with the future. This really is the most exciting element for anyone to be involved with – curing mankind’s most fundamental weaknesses. 2020 has brought home our susceptibility and weakness to disease despite our unparalleled technological ascendency. Medical companies battling to come up with vaccines or provide drugs for treatment have become household names. 

What are the fundamentals you look for in a med tech business?

The team seems to remain one of the most crucial elements. Investors will look to back the best in a field. Experts ultimately form an essential part of the social proofing of a business and their knowledge is and remains a huge component of the diligence that needs to be undertaken. You need to be able to trust in their domain expertise and real world experience of the problems they are solving. You also ideally want the business to be close to commercialisation – and to have gone through regulatory approval, which is a big barrier to realising potential. Typically early stage medtech investments will carry higher valuations due to the team strength, IP developed and often the value of non-dilutive R&D grants taken on. 

case studies


Occuity

Disease screening and diagnostics startup Occuity recently raised £1m and generated huge interest from investors. Occuity’s meters work by shining light into the eye and analysing the return signal. This enables chronic health conditions such as diabetes and Alzheimer’s Disease to be monitored. With hundreds of millions worldwide suffering from diabetes this has huge potential. Crucially in today’s world it can also be delivered at a social distance.

PinPoint


Another hugely exciting company who raised on the platform in the past year is PinPoint. PinPoint has developed a Test that uses AI/Machine Learning to rapidly ‘rule out’ cancer from a simple blood sample, and may be used for all cancer types. The potential for the business is simply enormous. Founder Giles Tully pointed out at the time that PinPoint had already achieved nearly 25% rule out, which in 2019 would have given over 500,000 patients peace of mind in a few days instead of worrying for a few weeks and saved the NHS over £150m.

Hexarad


Another company aiming to support the NHS with a different model is Hexarad. This doctor founded company helps support the severely under resourced radiology sector with access to a mobile team of fully accredited UK NHS consultants. 

Agile Funding can help you raise fast

We are delighted to welcome back Adam Blair, CCO at SeedLegals, for his second guest blog as part of our legal mini-series for start ups:

When funding goes Agile

In our first article we discussed some of the different fundraising methods available to you as a founder, and the impact and benefits of the SEIS / EIS schemes. See How to close your funding round before the end of 2020 if you missed it or need a reminder…

This month we delve deeper into the world of agile fundraising and share some practical advice that can help you raise money for your business before the end of the year.

Making the most of the Christmas rush…

The run up to Christmas is always one of the busiest times of the year in terms of fundraising activity and investment. This can be a great time to look for investment, as many investors are looking to move quickly and close investments before heading off on their well earned break (even if this year that will be at home…).

With less than four weeks until Christmas, there’s not long left if you’re looking to raise investment this year. But all is not lost – agile fundraising enables you to raise investment quickly and flexibly in situations just like this.

What is agile fundraising?

Over the last couple of years at SeedLegals, we’ve observed that many early stage companies are moving away from go-big-or-go-bust funding rounds every 12 to 18 months in favour of agile fundraising where they raise small amounts frequently, taking investment opportunistically (e.g. when you meet someone who wants to invest) and as needed.

We now see the savviest founders use agile fundraising to grow their businesses faster, spend less time holding up the business while they look for investment, and give away less equity than founders relying solely on the traditional go-big-or-go-bust funding rounds.

The two main agile fundraising methods are SeedFAST (Advanced Subscription Agreement) and Instant Investment.

Advanced Subscription Agreement (ASA)

An Advanced Subscription Agreement is the UK equivalent of the SAFE (commonly used in the US) and is SEIS/EIS compatible – great news for you and investors.

An ASA allows investors to give you money now, in exchange for shares in your next funding round. Your ASA investors will receive their shares, generally at a discount compared to other investors in the round, because they invested early, when you close your next funding round. 

Instant Investment

Instant Investment allows founders to close an initial funding round like normal, and then top that up anytime, within limits agreed in the initial funding round.

This enables you to raise only what you need or are able to raise right now, and get back to growing your business. Then, as you find additional investors, you can quickly and easily add them, effectively topping up your last round. At SeedLegals, we regularly see founders close a funding round and continue raising using Instant Investment for 12-18 months before doing their next round.

You can read our comprehensive agile fundraising guide here

Is agile fundraising right for me?

There are a number of scenarios where you can use agile fundraising to your advantage, whether you are going out to investors for the first time or have raised multiple rounds of funding already.

Here are a few of the most common use cases we see at SeedLegals:

  1. You’ve found your first investor…

First investor on board – now to find the rest, right? Yes and no…

While one option is to keep your round open as you search for other investors, a better way could be to use ASA to get that money in ASAP, rather than keeping those investors (and their investments!) on hold while you line up all the other investors for your round.

With an ASA you get investment there and then, which can be used to invest in growth or extend your runway, and the investor generally receives a discount on the upcoming round in return.

The fact that one investor has already committed and transferred funds will also typically be viewed positively by other investors you’re speaking to.

  1. You can’t agree on / don’t want to commit to a valuation…

Is my valuation £500k? £1m? £3m? £5m? Agreeing a valuation for an early stage business can be a minefield. Luckily, we’ve written this article about how to think about valuing your startup…

Great! So you’re good to go… But there are still lots of cases where investors and founders simply can’t agree on a valuation or may strategically not want to agree a valuation at that time.

An ASA can help both parties here, giving you up to 6 months to finalise the valuation. As a founder, this not only gives you much needed cash, but also time to grow the valuation to a point where you and your investors are both happy.

  1. You’ve got your key investor(s) on board…

When fundraising, founders will often have certain investors they really want to get on board. Perhaps they’re writing the biggest cheque, have a great network, or are able to provide unique advice and insights.

You’ve landed your dream investor(s) and have a decent chunk of your target raise committed – now what? 

This is a great time to consider closing your round and continuing to raise using Instant Investment. Negotiations around valuation and key terms are likely to be finalised or close to finalised by now, meaning that other investors are likely to be signing up to the same terms. 

This approach means you receive funds and can put them to work immediately, whilst continuing to fill and complete your round.

  1. You’re just waiting on the last investor(s) to sign…

Everybody has signed, except one or two investors… One is going on holiday for two weeks and the other is dragging their feet. What do you do?

You could wait until they get back, but this just means more time thinking about fundraising vs. growing your business. Instead, you can let these investors know that you’re going to close the round without them, but (and very importantly) they will be able to invest at the same terms once they’re back, or ready to commit.

This approach can sometimes lead to investors suddenly being available to sign and transfer funds, meaning the round closes as initially planned. Either way the round closes sooner, without losing investors, a win/win.

Summary

If fundraising is dragging on, or you just want to move faster, agile fundraising could be just what you have been waiting for…

SeedLegals

Questions about agile fundraising, or fundraising in general? You can book a call with one of the SeedLegals experts, who will be happy to help.

Silicon Roundabout’s Mustafa Shreet on connecting startups with tech talent

In the latest Startup Microdose podcast AIN’s Global Head of Brokerage Edward Stephens chats to Silicon Roundabout’s Head of Community Mustafa Shreet. Silicon Roundabout is the leading UK community connecting startups with tech talent.

The Silicon Roundabout team are developers themselves and have attracted some of the UK’s best technologists to build their community. They have already helped the likes of Monzo and Treatwell find new employees.

Shreet discusses Silicon Roundabout’s journey over the past ten years. What started as a tech community meet up for developers to discuss opportunities, has grown to now have a community of 15,000 people. As well as matching startups with the right talent to help them survive and thrive, they host hackathons, Tech Talks and a variety of different events. 

Shreet says: “Silicon Roundabout is a community. It’s not just connecting startups with people, it’s about connecting them with the community.” 

Shreet discusses the fact a lot of startups have traditionally had bad experience with traditional recruiters and so are turned off by the whole process. He says: “Many developers have negative feelings toward recruiters. Most recruiters don’t have the specialist knowledge.” 

Shreet lays out a lot of the things that are going wrong. He says: “The challenge for startups is how to translate on paper what you are doing and ensure it appeals to developers. And decide who to approach.”

Angel Investment Network is partnering with Silicon Roundabout to help connect our community of startups find the talent you need. You can find out more at the interim landing page

Startup Microdose is one of the country’s leading startup business podcasts. It is hosted by Ed Stephens and Electric car subscription company Elmo co-founder Oliver Jones. It features conversations with people startups can learn from with guests are at the forefront of their fields with practical wisdom to impart on entrepreneurship and beyond. Check out the interview below.

Angel Investment Network reports impressive annual growth

Angel Investment Network (AIN), has announced impressive annual growth, with annual revenues up 5% year on year and the last quarter seeing revenues increasing by 14%.

We now have more than 1.4 million users in total on the platform. In the past twelve months we’ve overseen a record 192,000 new registrations from entrepreneurs. The figure has almost tripled in the past five years with new entrepreneurial hotspots developing across the globe. Encouragingly for the businesses on the platform there is also more investor activity than ever with a record number of connections made despite the unfortunate circumstances this year.

Despite the pandemic, there has been impressive growth across Europe, with Germany seeing a 40% increase in revenue, the Netherlands up 130% and France up 27%. The USA has also seen a rise of 27%. Our performance has received plaudits from several media outlets, being covered by Techround, Growth Business UK, Bdaily, Business Mondays and Angel News.

Alongside the online platform, AIN also runs a successful broking division. Despite the challenging conditions it has seen impressive revenues year on year, despite longer funding rounds in today’s climate. AIN has been involved in several significant high profile raises in the past 12 months for a variety of businesses, including edtech startup BibliU, digital addressing startup OKHi and YouTube karaoke channel Sing King. 

Despite the backdrop of the global recession and pandemic, AIN’s results reveal the embedded startup culture both in the UK and internationally. They also highlight the enduring popularity of passion-driven angel investors as a source of early stage funding.

According to AIN co-founder Mike Lebus: “2020 has been a time of unprecedented turbulence for the startup world, as it has for general society. Despite the challenges, we continue to see record numbers of startups look for funding on our platform and angels willing to invest. The solutions to so many of the problems we face are in the minds of startup founders and we are proud of the work we are able to do to help them fund their ambitions.”

He continues: “We continue to see strong international growth with startup communities developing throughout the world. We now have 40 networks extending to 90 different countries. We are also building new partnerships with accelerators and continue to offer tailored offerings in the property sector with BrickTribe and impact investment with SeedTribe.”

#BehindtheRaise with BorrowMyDoggy

We spoke to BorrowMyDoggy founder Rikke Rosenlund about disrupting the dog-sitting market, overcoming challenges during COVID and dos and don’ts in approaching angel investors. You’d be barking mad not to read on.

Tell us about BorrowMyDoggy?
BorrowMyDoggy is an online platform connecting dog owners with borrowers. People sign up, create a profile, write a little bit about themselves or their dog and then they’re able to take a look at the suitable matches in their area. Matches are based on location and availability, and it’s all about getting to know each other really well before sharing the dog.

For owners, it is a way of finding a trusted local dog lover to take care of your dog when you can’t. You can rest assured they will treat your dog like family. For borrowers it is a chance to have a dog in your life by spending time with one and helping out owners at the same time. Dogs also get more exercise, attention and most importantly, love. It’s a win-win! It could be someone who has just had a baby who might need someone to help take care of their dog. They might be connected with someone who has a five year old but can’t commit to the full time commitment, but has a dog void in their life. Every match is very different.

What does it cost?
£12.99 per years for borrowers and £44.99 per year for owners and all the members are verified and covered by insurance. They have 24/7 vet access. No money is exchanged between borrowers and owners, as borrowing is based on the love of dogs rather than for a profit.

How have you overcome challenges during COVID?
Of course it has been challenging. We put a notification at the start of the crisis to say don’t meet someone else from another household, although there were some exceptional circumstances. What has been truly heartwarming is seeing the community come together. During COVID we’ve seen different members of our community perform selfless acts, for example delivering medication to other members who were self isolating. 

Overall the interest in dogs has surged during COVID and many more people are looking at owning them. However it is important that people understand the cost and time commitment of having a dog. 97% of dog owners underestimate the cost, which is £21-£33,000 over its lifetime. A lot more people have got dogs during lockdown but a lot of people are going back to the office. There is also separation anxiety to consider.

Why did you decide to raise investment?
We wanted to grow our platform further, both acquiring new members and also optimize the product and make the platform better. The extra investment means more staff and technical work on the platform and customer acquisition.

What are your top tips for anyone raising investment for the first time?
Firstly understand it is a process that can take time and not something you can do over night. Make sure you understand investors. This means do your due diligence on interested parties. Also have someone review the investor deck so you can get feedback on the material. Finally check a crowdfunding platform if you want an idea of top investor questions.  I would also look at the top questions you would expect and have answers ready for them. 

What attracted investors to your company?
The dog sitting market is worth over £1 billion. This is something we are trying to disrupt and we really are the first of the kind. It is also helped that many investors are dog lovers. They could ‘get it’ instinctively and understand it would be great to have something looking after their dog. The other key thing that appealed was the product. We are a large community, we have some really strong numbers. A lot of our investors had heard about the platform. 

What has been good for acquisition?
Online acquisition, PR and world of mouth has been great. We also have an engaged community who are happy to recommend us. 

My biggest fundraising mistake was…
Historically realising how long it can take to raise funding. You need to be prepared that it may be longer, especially when it is the first time. For example with angel groups, they don’t necessarily meet that often. Even with a crowdfunding platform there is a lot of work to get a pitch ready and then the closing off of the investment round.

Any other advice?
Understand who has the capacity to follow on relatively easily if the company requires more money. Checking out the record of the investor is a good way of doing this. How do they add value to the company? Do they have a network they can introduce you to? Also, do you have good chemistry with the investor? It’s like getting married, because it’s hard to get divorced! 

Why did you choose to use Angel Investment Network?
A friend raised funding for the network and  thought it was really easy to use. I found it straightforward to see what was required to get a pitch live and the team is very nice.

Behind the Raise with flypop

Nino Judge, CEO of Flypop shares his advice for entrepreneurs about how he used Angel Investment Network to get his airline off the ground.

Tell us about flypop: The ‘pop’osition

flypop is a new British low-cost airline providing non-stop direct flights between the UK (London Stansted) and second cities of South Asia, starting with India, targeting the South Asian market in the UK, Europe and North America and their visiting friends & relatives (VFR).

flypop is also committed to protecting the planet by being the first and only fully carbon neutral airline in the world by carbon offsetting each passenger that travels with us.

flypop: It’s just good business.

Why did you decide to raise investment?

We needed a small amount of working capital for 2019 to help raise the larger amount for our Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Air Operator Certificate (AOC). Aviation is a highly regulated industry, and as such our first step is to apply to the CAA for our AOC. In order to do so, a minimum amount of capitalisation is required, which in our case was £6m in equity capital.    

How did your first external raise come about?

We, the directors, bootstrapped initially to purchase data, finish the business plan and design the website. However, it became evident we needed to achieve even more KPIs before the main equity raise of £6m.

We decided to raise another £80,000 to get us through Financial Year 2019/2020 and put a larger management team in place, get premises for the management team to meet regularly, develop a promo video for investors to understand our unique low-cost product and lastly have a reservation site showing this product is ready to generate revenue!

What attracted investors to your company?

Our USP of focusing on low-cost non-stop travel for the Indian & South Asian VFR market resonated with the millions of future passengers who would use our service.

Our competitive advantage is offering the lowest fares flying non-stop to the second cites of India (& South Asia) avoiding the potentially infected hubs and getting our passengers “home” to where they want to go in the shortest possible time.

We focus on the resilient VFR market segment that always needs to fly home. This segment has always recovered first from any recession returning to high load factors.

For the first time since 9/11 it was an advantage to start operations as a new airline rather than be a debt laden legacy airline.

My biggest fundraising mistake was… 

Not raising enough as building a company always takes longer and costs more. We ended up incurring unexpected costs including paying consultants to perfect the business plan. Good people cost money. Third party validation reports, marketing campaigns & events to raise funds, Legal & IT costs.

It always takes longer as the holiday seasons get in the way. With Easter, Summer, Ramadan, Christmas and New Year, nearly 4 months out of 12 are go slow or closed months. Let’s not forget our unexpected Covid -19 virus!

Why did you choose to use Angel Investment Network?

We wanted to work with a partner that had great global investor reach, reasonable costs with a professional and friendly support team. With AIN we received 30 enquiries within 14 days, and we closed within the month and could have raised 5 times as much.

Keen to hear more?

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

Startups & Covid-19

This week we spoke to Harun,  the Co-founder & COO of Glorifyapp.com about the effects of Covid-19 on Glorify. Glorify is a Saas design tool created specifically for eCommerce entrepreneurs. It eliminates the need for professional designers, making it easy for anyone to design product imagery and marketing content for their e-commerce business in just a few clicks.

Our interview with Harun:

How has the coronavirus impacted your business?

Glorify is performing very well despite the coronavirus outbreak. Our greatest asset is that our company has a solid runway and therefore, all our key players have remained intact and have been working harder than ever to grow the business. 

From February 2020 – to March 2020, we’ve had a whopping  358% growth in our user subscription numbers. This clearly reflects the fact that businesses need a Saas product such as Glorify, in order to propel their own businesses at a time where most are losing money quite drastically. 

Furthermore, with the vast majority of countries on lockdown, the need for online shopping has grown tremendously. This has created a massive requirement for more eCommerce businesses to spring up to fulfil this demand. Glorify offers these businesses an affordable platform to create all the design and marketing material that they need to keep their businesses afloat. 

Have you had to pivot your business and if so?

We haven’t had to pivot the business, however, we have offered a 60% discount on our annual plans to ensure that we are affordable and considerate towards businesses that we know are struggling during this period. 

Have you been engaged in a fundraise during this time?

We started to fundraise just two weeks before the outbreak began in London. We are still reaching out to investors to secure our first round of investment. If we have to, we will bring Glorify in front of 100’s of investors to eventually find that outstanding investor to partner with. 

How has this been impacted and are you adjusting your plans?

We understand that most investors will be a lot more cautious in their decisions at this current moment. However, we feel it’s important to let investors know that we are a thriving and growing business, we have a winning team and a superior product despite the current difficulties.

We also feel that it’s important to make the first point of contact with investors regardless of time and circumstance, because it will take a number of contacts before the investment round will be close. 

What message would you have for investors?

Our message to investors is that Glorify is a highly investable organisation, particularly due to the massive surge in eCommerce businesses. With the Covid-19 pandemic, more and more people are turning to online shopping which creates the need for more eCommerce businesses. And for an eCommerce store to do well, they need to have high performing ads, a trustworthy brand, a website/online store with images that represent their products authentically and attractively. These businesses most likely cannot afford the high paid services of professional graphic designers, and so Glorify is the answer to their design and marketing needs. 

We are also confident that once the pandemic ceases, online shopping will remain as popular as it is now, purely due to the ease of just clicking what you desire and having it delivered to your doorstep. 

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

My team and I are coping well with the lockdown. We are all geared towards facing any problem that comes our way with positivity and determination, and to make something good out of a bad situation. 

The co-founders of Glorify have two mandatory meetings each week (apart from the several other calls over the week). These are scheduled on Mondays and Thursdays. The meeting on Monday covers mostly the expectations of team members and what goals and deliverables each department is expected to fulfil. 

On Tuesdays, we have team meetings with the heads of each department and discuss the work they’ve completed the previous week, and then outline the goals of the upcoming week.

The heads of the department then in turn, have meetings with their relevant sub teams to ensure that there is 100% alignment and coordination. 

We use Slack for communication throughout the week and everyone has been responsive, communicative and on top of their game. In fact, most of us even work on weekends!

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

Yes. Since our launch in September 2019, we have been involved in charitable ventures. We have offered donations to various organisations such as drop of life, save the children, little hearts, Oxfam International and more. We have also offered free Glorify accounts to registered charities such as Child Aid Gambia and the Namaste Welfare Trust. 

We are now shifting our focus to Covid-19 related charities and have reached out to our Glorify community to suggest charities that we can donate to. More on this here.

What do you think about the measures that have been introduced by the Chancellor?

It is indeed reassuring to see the Chancellor announcement to help and support small to  large businesses across all industries. He promises to make available an initial £330 billion of guarantees – equivalent to 15% of UK GDP. 

I think the real challenge will be to ensure that those who need it most receive such funding easily and quickly. Otherwise, many business owners will end up losing everything they have worked so hard for. 

What else do you think the Government should do?

I believe that the government needs to pay attention to the strat-up spaces as much as  the large companies. Big companies no doubt need help at this moment. Airlines, for example, are severely hurting and looking for a bailout. Hotels, cruise ships, national foodservice chains, manufacturers, and more may find themselves in line, too. Assistance should, and likely will, be given.

Startups may be small companies but they can play a significant role in economic growth. They create more jobs which means more employment, and more employment means an improved economy. Not only that, startups can also contribute to economic dynamism by spurring innovation and injecting competition.

What advice would you give to other startups at this time?

Improvise! We understand that not all businesses can thrive at a time like this, but it’s crucial that start ups come up with coping strategies. Remember, Covid-19 will pass. And when it does, it’s important that you come out of this pandemic ahead of the game, and not remain buried under it.

If you have the resources, try to invest in essential and fast moving products that you are certain will sell. If you are not, we would advise you to come up with coping strategies such as using relevant ebook lead magnets, offering giveaways that would be useful during a lockdown, create content strategy around the current hot topic as Glorify has done here.

Regardless of what you choose to do, Glorify is here to help you out. We are offering our annual plans at a whopping 60% discount purely because we understand that businesses are running on low fuel during this unfortunate time.

For more tips on dealing with the impacts of coronavirus, visit our Startup Survival Guide.

Startups & Covid-19

This we spoke to Chantal, the Founder of the music licensing for performance sports platform ClickNClear, to find out how Covid-19 is effecting her business.

Our interview with Chantal:

How has coronavirus impacted your business?

It has certainly affected our market (we license music to performance sports) and slowed a few things down but it has not drastically impacted our business yet. We are still early stage and technically pre-revenue and were planning on launching in the summer. It may delay our launch slightly but we do not see it drastically affecting when we will be revenue generating. Sports events will happen again, it’s just a question of when so we just need to be as prepared as possible.

Have you had to pivot your business and if so how?

To some degree, yes. We are a music tech company licensing music to performance sports teams. We have been in beta for the last year and are planning on doing a launch this summer. All events have been cancelled however and whilst that would seem like the end of the world for a business like ours, we actually see it as an opportunity.

We have been busy focussing on our technology and continuing to sign more deals with music industry labels and publishers so when we are ready to launch, we have the best tech and the best music possible. Now that sports teams are closed for training, sports federations and coaches have the time to engage in conversation, browse ClicknClear and think about their music for next season. Instead of attending events and meeting people, we can focus this time on building education around music licensing and closing deals with international and national sports federations which will help us generate revenue as soon as events start up again.

Have you been engaged in a fundraise during this time?

We had just started a new fundraise when COVID19 hit and have seen a slow down in response and interest. Many are looking after existing portfolio companies and are less interested in investing in new companies especially if they are in a market that has been negatively affected. 

How has this been impacted and are you adjusting your plans?

There’s a lot of uncertainty right now so we have been re-thinking our raise and ways we can continue for longer without additional funding or ways we could close less funding now, with a potential bigger raise once this is all under control.

Another consideration for us is that we are a global company. We work with national federations all around the world and each of them will go in and out of lockdown at different times. We are keeping up to date with all the latest news and keeping conversations going with those federations so we are in the best position possible.

What message would you have for investors?

The time to explore and start conversations is now. Most people have more time. Some of us are still very busy but if we start conversations now, you can learn how founders operate and react to some of the most difficult challenges. It is possibly the best test of the capability of a founder(s) and should mean that an investor can become much more comfortable with their investment and more understanding of the businesses plan. 

We are open to having initial conversations and keeping potentially interested parties up to date as things progress.

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

We all remotely work so we’ve been fairly accustomed to lockdown for a while! It hasn’t affected us too much at all. It’s actually been really nice to not be on an aeroplane every couple weeks and spend some much needed time to focus on new ideas and projects we’ve been wanting to do. We are a small team but this has essentially increased our resources! We can get more done, we are becoming even better at communication and are getting creative with solutions to challenges.

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

We have been thinking of some potential ways to help but given we are still pre-launch, we are still building some of our community. We have been putting out themed positive playlists of music to help support people but are really focussed on building all of our educational material covering music licensing so coaches have additional resources and understanding of it.

What advice would you give to other startups at this time?

These are challenging times for us all. Some will make it but others won’t and we can’t be too hard on ourselves for something that is out of our control.

You have to focus on the small things that you can control in your business – scale back expenditure if you need to, ask yourself the difficult questions, have a plan a, b c, d and more! Be ready to adapt to anything that comes your way and try and remain positive but accept that you will have bad days and know what they will pass. 

For more tips on dealing with the impacts of coronavirus, visit our Startup Survival Guide.

#SixtySecondStartup

This week we spoke to Sara, Co-founder of On Good Authority – a premium outdoor lifestyle brand with sustainability at its heart. In the middle of fundraising before Covid-19 struck, Sara spoke to us about how they have had to change their business plans and why shopping sustainably is more important than ever.

Co-founders Sara & Hannah

Our interview with Sara:

What does your company do?

On Good Authority is a premium outdoor lifestyle brand that merges contemporary styling with waterproof technology using recycled fabrics and non-toxic water repellency techniques. We bridge the gap between fashion and function in a truly conscious way.

Why did you set up this company?

We felt frustrated at the compromise between style and practically in women’s rainwear. 

How did you get your first customer?  

Like many startups, our first customer was a friend who experienced the same challenge and had been looking for a stylish waterproof for years.

We knew we were onto something when? 

When we started speaking to our friends and wider circles. We realised it wasn’t just us that shared this frustration and with our relevant industry backgrounds it occurred to us that it was a problem we could actually solve.

Our business model: 

We are primarily a D2C fashion brand supported by wholesale partnerships.

Our most effective marketing channel has been:  

Speaking directly to our audience, whether that’s organically through our social media channels, at Pop-Up events or with carefully curated influencers with shared vision, style and values.

The biggest mistake that I’ve made is: 

Maybe being a bit too conscientious and trademarking our name quite early on in the overall process to then re-brand and change our name! 

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

We’re at the forefront of an emerging global movement where consumers are demanding sustainable product and conscious lifestyles. It’s not a fad, it’s here to stay because we have to make fundamental changes in the way we live and consume if we are going to secure a future for our planet and the next generations.

Has Covid-19 had any impact on your fundraising plans? And if so, how are you adapting? 

We were in the midst of fundraising when Covid-19 hit the UK. It soon became apparent that investors were unlikely to take risks on new business startups, as they may need to step in and financially support those already within their portfolio. So with this in mind, we decided to put our fundraising efforts on hold.

We are now taking the opportunity to hone our proposition even further and reframe our business plan so that we can relaunch in summer 2021 in tandem with the UK music festival season. We believe (hope) that by then the economy should have settled and people will be extremely keen to get outside and party come rain or shine!

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

Right now, we are focusing on keeping engaged with our audience and using our platform to continue to raise awareness about the importance of shopping sustainably. Now more than ever, we are becoming aware of the importance of conscious living. From the way we eat, to how we travel and to how much clothing we consume. It feels like the perfect opportunity to continue to spread this message so that when we come out the other side, we carry forward these new learnt behaviours and consume more responsibly.

We are also keeping in regular contact with our family and friends including those that we have met along our start-up journey. It’s not an easy time but knowing that we are all in it together and that we can all play our part in supporting key workers by staying at home is what keeps us going. We are so grateful for modern technology allowing us to get creative with video calls and virtual house parties!

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

We are using our social platform to share positive and motivational news to help spread a feeling of community. For every sale we make, we are donating £5 towards our nominated charity: RCN Foundation. This is to support the nurses who are so bravely working tirelessly on the front line supporting our nation through this very difficult time.

For more tips on dealing with the impacts of coronavirus, visit our Startup Survival Guide.