Meet the Investor: Christian Teichmann

In our latest Meet The Investor interview we speak to Christian Teichmann, Managing Director of Burda Principal Investments. Christian is a venture capitalist driven by curiosity and a daily quest for the “next big thing'” in the competitive world of fundraising.

He talks to AIN about the exciting sectors gaining his interest, the common mistakes founders make, how preparation is key and why startups should raise more capital than they think they need.

Why did you become an investor?

I am a highly curious person and, as a VC investor, I have the opportunity to come across the next big thing every day. It excites me every morning to think about what will succeed, what constitutes a business and what is merely a feature.

Once you’ve invested in a company, the great part is working with the founders. It’s about building their business in alignment with the initial thesis we formulated together at the beginning. And last but not least: generating a return for our investors. It’s what drives us every day.

What are the most exciting sectors gaining your interest at the moment?

It’s certainly AI right now, but beyond that, fintech in Southeast Asia, space data combined with AI and machine learning. Additionally energy and innovative materials are sectors we’re keeping a close eye on.

How should startups and scale ups approach fundraising in the present climate?

Not any different than in the past! They should have a well thought through equity story with matching and supporting numbers and KPIs. I also expect high but feasible goals and a well rehearsed presentation. Another aspect that is always relevant is that they, the founders, really need to make the time and space for the investor meetings.

What is the most common mistake young businesses make in their fundraising journey?

Two things come to mind: The first is not being well prepared. The second is not being ambitious enough and not raising enough money.

What are the common traits of the successful business founders you have supported?

They try to be “cheap”, meaning they try to build successful businesses with very lean organisations.

What are the most important factors for you in deciding which companies to back?

When we invest in a company, it’s the completeness and track record of the team that’s important. We also look at earned trading and their focus on building a business with a clear differentiation that sets them apart.

If you could offer just one piece of advice to a young startup, what would it be?

My advice would be: Raise more capital than you actually think you need while focusing on building an efficient organisation.

Burda is hosting an innovation conference, taking place in Munich from 11-13 January. Under the theme Dare to KnowDLD Munich 24 invites business leaders, technology experts, world-renowned scientists, critical thinkers, inventive entrepreneurs, and inspired creators to Munich to tackle the most important questions of our time. From AI to immersive realities to robotics.

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Founder mental health: Interview with Dan Kirby

In the latest article in our Founder Mental Health series, AIN sits down with seasoned entrepreneur Dan Kirby, the exited founder of renowned digital agency The Tech Dept, and host of the widely acclaimed business podcast, “Honey I Blew Up the Business.” 

Dan is the founder of the new wellness program ‘Founders Are Mental’ and in this revealing and honest interview he talks to AIN about the intricacies of his entrepreneurial path — from immense success to burnout to now finding new balance and prioritising mental health. 

In addressing the lessons he has learned he has some invaluable practical advice he can offer about how we can all support our mental wellness while running a business. Why we all need to find ‘a good groove’.

Can you elaborate on how success contributed to your mental health challenges and the impact it had on your wellbeing?

Success, accolades, and awards often act as a veil, concealing underlying issues. Like – why are you so driven to prove yourself in the first place?! I was proud to launch a start up, the Tech Dept and build it up into a globally renowned agency helping companies build tech products, working with world class companies like NBC Universal and Microsoft and creating BBC Children in Need’s fundraising platform.

Despite external achievements, I realised I wasn’t attuned to my body’s signals and wasn’t aware of bad habits – which in hindsight were completely obvious. I faced repeated burnouts, I was diagnosed with clinical depression, and had a significant problem in 2017 – when we nearly lost the business (and I nearly lost my marriage). 

I call this 2017 experience “the blow up”! 

This turning point at age 45 when everything unraveled. It was a reckoning, a realisation that the way I was achieving success came at too high a price, and I needed to change. Success can be deceiving; it masked unhealthy patterns in my life – what I would now call a “bad groove”. This undermined every area of my life – especially my mental state.

How did your personal struggles impact your role as a founder and leader, and what toll did it take on your business?

My personal struggles took a severe toll on my role as a founder and leader. My bad groove affected the business. I wasn’t checked in, drank excessively (because we were hosting events and winning awards), neglected my mental health. I became suboptimal, and the business suffered. It took a significant toll on my family, marriage, and professional life. It was a stark reminder that your individual well-being is intrinsically tied to the success and health of the business.

What lessons have you learned, and how did you transform personally and professionally after the blow-up in 2017?

The blow-up in 2017 was a catalyst for a profound reset. A personal and professional transformation. Confronting my ego, I recognised the paradox of success a startup founder. While it gave me the freedom, motivation and drive to succeed it also meant I didn’t know when to stop and listen to the quiet voice in my head telling me to slow down.

Confronting my demons, controlling bad mental grooves, and prioritising self-awareness became unavoidable. The journey was painful yet necessary. It totally changed my approach to business and life. Looking back, it was a blessing. 

Can you shed more light on the founder’s paradox and the importance of mental wellness in entrepreneurship, especially considering the uncertainty and pressure?

Founders crave freedom – but this freedom comes with uncertainty. However, uncertainty triggers fear, stress, and chronic stress, harming mental health – and physical health (your immune system). Handling uncertainty is crucial; it’s the yin of the yang of freedom. The key is working on how you handle uncertainty to maintain mental well-being.

You need to become at peace with uncertainty being the only certainty of startup life. To do this requires you to understand and confront your ego – your identity – as a founder. Success amplifies both positive and negative mental aspects, leading to unique challenges and making mental wellness harder to sustain. 

Recognising this paradox early – being aware of it – and proactively addressing your awareness is the hidden key for your mental health. If you want a better chance to  thrive in the roller coaster ride of launching a business – I suggest working on your awareness.

In fact the real work is on building what I call your “awareness muscle”. The awareness of your mental health, and emotional health. Often you can simply let thoughts and emotions take you down a dead end. Worrying about things. Or shouting at the intern! 

Becoming more aware – and strenthening that with daily practice you can simply observe any negative thoughts and emotions – and let them drift away. 80% of the drama you feel is just your imagination.

How do you reflect on your entrepreneurial journey now, and what advice do you have for fellow founders in prioritising mental wellness?

My advice to fellow founders is very simple—prioritise your own self care. If you are broken the business breaks. Full stop. You can – and often have to – grind it out. But that only lasts so long, and entrepreneurship is a long game.

Mental wellness is a balance of elements – which is what I learnt in The Blow Up of 2017. This is what I call The Groove. What is your Groove? Your day to day patterns and habits. Are they good or bad?

And you know the answer! If you are drinking 10 coffees a day and never exercising – you do not need a nutritionist and a personal trainer to tell you to tweak your habits. 

Be open to learn  from mistakes, share experiences openly, and embrace the inevitable uncertainty and change that comes with entrepreneurship. Don’t think you already know the answer. I didn’t. 

Maybe you are the problem. In my experience, I was the problem. And the only person I have 100% control over. 

Design your mental groove consciously, confront your demons, and seek support from communities like Founders Are Mental. Mental wellness isn’t just a component of success; it’s the foundation that sustains and propels entrepreneurs forward.

Your focus in the Founders Mental program is accountability and community. Why is the best way of supporting entrepreneurs?

Mental health and wellbeing is often seen as something “nice to have”. But making personal change is hard. We believe that to truly serve founders we need to give them tough love. So Founders are Mental isn’t just about content to learn in a  workshop. It’s a community that sustains change through ongoing accountability. 

The program recognises that the real product is the actioning of good habits – a ‘good groove’. Accountability through extreme ownership and community act as the pillars, mirroring the concept of a personal trainer for mental wellness. 

Having peers who hold you to commitments is instrumental. We aim to create an environment where entrepreneurs can share experiences, be real, and collectively navigate the challenges of entrepreneurship. But sometimes you don’t need sympathy, you need a kick up the arse! Someone to hold you accountable to what you said you would do – and you KNOW is the right thing for you to do (eg go to bed earlier). 

Our monthly walkss, called FAMstep, involve a casual, agenda-free walk in nature in my home in The Peak District – or around central London. It provides an opportunity for like-minded founders to connect, support each other, and take a break from the screens! Plus have some jam roly poly

You mentioned the concept of extreme ownership. How does this apply to founders and their mental well being?

Extreme ownership for founders extends beyond business decisions; it encompasses responsibility for mental well being. Acknowledging that, as a founder, you are in charge of your mental state is fundamental. 

The buck stops with you in the business, and it stops with you in your health and wellbeing too.

It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle, but taking care of your mental health is a crucial aspect of being a successful entrepreneur. Extreme ownership translates into a proactive approach—recognising when adjustments are needed, seeking support, and making intentional choices for sustained mental well-being.

You’ve talked about designing your mental groove consciously. Can you explain what a good groove looks like for a founder’s mental well-being?

A good mental groove for a founder involves recognising factors that contribute to positive mental bandwidth and eliminating those that deplete it. It’s about consciously designing your environment, routines, and habits to maintain mental balance. 

If excessive coffee or lack of sleep affects your mental state negatively, understanding and managing these factors become essential. Designing your groove is an ongoing process of self-awareness, ensuring that your entrepreneurial journey is not only successful but sustainable and fulfilling.

As I showed in my story – there is no point “winning” the game of Founder. And then losing the game of Life.

Finally, what advice would you give founders about navigating the multitude of advice available, and how can they trust their intuition in decision-making?

In my podcast Honey I Blew Up The Business I interview top entrepreneurs. People with OBE’s and proper multi-million exits. I often ask the question: ‘what advice should entrepreneurs ignore…”. And 80% of the responses say: “Ignore other people’s advice”

Then they quickly follow up with: “and listen to your gut, your intuition”

 No advice is universally applicable. Every founder and business is unique, and trusting your intuition is paramount. The quiet voice within knows what’s best for you and your business. Journaling and self-awareness practices help you connect with that inner voice. 

Navigating the sea of advice involves recognising that external guidance can only go so far; ultimately, the decision-making power lies within the founder. Trusting your gut, listening to your intuition, and staying attuned to your unique journey are critical components of successful and authentic entrepreneurship.

If you want to know how to be able to hear your intuition. When you get up in the morning, before you look at your phone or laptop, get a pad and a pen and write out all the shite in your head. Once you have done that, ask yourself what to do. Write it down. Then just have the courage to do it. 

Dan Kirby has founded Founders Are Mental (FAM), a coaching community for entrepreneurs. The course helps entrepreneurs define and follow through on the good habits they know they need to do in just a few hours a month.

Entrepreneurs can join fellow Mental Founders and learn a new way to be a successful founder – a Good Mental Founder. It is free to joining their monthly picnic walks – FAMstep – held in central London and the Peak District: 

Meet the Investor: Cristina Bullon Gomez

In our latest Meet the Investor interview, we meet Cristina Bullon Gomez, a seasoned investor with a passion for nurturing and advising startups. She discusses the symbiotic relationship between investors and startups that fuels economic growth, the red flags she watches out for when investing in startups and how startups should tackle fundraising today. Plus her thoughts on why we need societal change to truly democratise the startup ecosystem.

Why did you become an angel investor?

After many years working alongside startups, I recognize the vital role of capital investments. This not only benefits investors in achieving ROI but is equally crucial for startups to foster growth and expansion. This symbiotic relationship is fundamental to any economy, providing markets with new and reliable ideas.

What are the key benefits of being an angel investor?

Being an angel investor allows me to actively engage with startups; I serve as an advisor to many of the startups I’ve invested in.

What are the most exciting sectors gaining your interest at the moment? 

Sustainability and technology.

What do you think are the benefits to startups of angel investment, versus other forms of funding?

Angel investors represent the first line that can make or break startups. We bear the responsibility to meticulously analyse, invest, and drive the right solutions and ideas, making us essential to the ecosystem.

What red flags do you look out for when researching startups?

I scrutinize the founders’ ability to be agile, handle criticism, and stay composed during challenging times. Additionally, alignment of expectations among founders and a startup’s scalability are crucial factors.

We are in a very different investment climate. How should startups approach fundraising today that is different from previous years?

Startups must be aware of increased interest rates leading to a decrease in risk appetite. Understanding macroeconomic trends and targeting the right investors based on company fit is essential. Researching the investment landscape and focusing on initial traction and strategy are key components for success.

What are the common traits of the successful startups you have supported?

Successful startups exhibit traits such as focus, patience, determination, and agility to pivot based on real market behaviour. They understand the importance of timing, partnerships, and assembling the right team. Efficient corporate structures and processes, though tedious, are crucial for long-term success.

If you could offer just one piece of advice to a young startup, what would it be?

Follow your gut and learn to say no. Trust your instincts amid the multitude of opinions in the investment industry. Focus on calculated risks, avoid spreading too thin, and prioritize tasks at different stages of your start-up journey.

Founding teams and indeed investors still have a very low representation of women or indeed ethnic diversity. How can this be improved to ensure we truly democratise the ecosystem?

Addressing this issue requires a deeper societal change. We need to restructure social and economic perceptions of women, allowing them more freedom of choice without structural consequences. Early financial literacy and education are essential to encourage women to take informed risks and participate in a broader range of opportunities.

Join the world’s largest angel investment network, where global investors meet the great businesses of tomorrow.

Meet the Investor: Ben Legg

In our latest “Meet The Investor” interview, we speak with Ben Legg, an angel investor and startup founder driven by a passion for promising founders and innovative ideas. Ben believes in the long-term benefits of angel investing, from gaining insights into fresh ideas to building wealth for retirement and the “warm, fuzzy feeling” of truly making a difference.

He shares his views on the exciting sectors gaining his interest, offers valuable advice for startups raising in the present climate, and explains why the mentoring power of angel investors is a formidable quality that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Why did you become an angel investor?

I have been mentoring founders for 15+ years. Now and again I would be mentoring a really promising one, and after a few months would think ‘I really believe in this founder, team and business’, so six years ago I started to invest in 1-2 companies per year.  

What are the key benefits of being an angel investor?

Being an angel investor gives me three benefits:

  1. Insight. It’s really interesting to be exposed to so many fresh ideas
  2. Pension. This is my way of building long-term wealth for my retirement.
  3. Warm, fuzzy feeling. It just feels good to help entrepreneurs who want to make the world a better place. 
What are the most exciting sectors gaining your interest at the moment?

Firstly, I am always focused on the future of work, plus related areas (e.g. adult education). That is where I am building my own startup – The Portfolio Collective, which helps professionals understand, launch, manage and grow successful portfolio careers.

Secondly, as a former army officer seeing the world become so much more dangerous, I feel compelled to support startups in defence and security technology. Part of my portfolio career involves working with GALLOS Technologies, in which we both invest in and build companies focused on improving our security with new technologies. 

Thirdly, I find any startup that builds more interactivity interesting. Another hat I wear is heading Europe for GFR Fund, a Silicon Valley VC focused on gaming, AR, VR, the metaverse and any consumer technology that is deeply interactive. 

What do you think are the benefits to startups of angel investment, versus other forms of funding?

As the CEO and cofounder of The Portfolio Collective, I have raised £1.3m from 200+ angel investors in our community. These investors believe deeply in our team and mission, which itself is very rewarding.

On top of that, they are all community members, power users and major referrers of new members, ensuring that we always have a steady stream of new members and feedback on what we are doing well, and where we need to improve things.

What red flags do you look out for when researching startups? 

The reality is that when I invest, I am investing in the founders more than the strategy, as the strategy will likely change. I look for the following in founders:

  • Integrity – one whiff of dishonesty – or flakiness – and I’m out.
  • Insight fresh insights on their industry that others haven’t developed (or can’t act on) plus deep curiousity and the ability to ‘outthink’ competitors over a sustained period of time.
  • Rigour – proven passion for, and ability to, build new things – products, teams, services etc. They need to be able to turn slides into real world momentum. 
  • EQ – deep self awareness, listening skills and proven ability to assemble and work with a team with diverse skills and personalities. 
  • Cofounder Teamwork – do the cofounders work well with each other? Do they have different, but complementary, skills? Do they support AND challenge each other?
  • Resilience – a proven work ethic and ability to overcome adversity. No ‘lifestyle founders’ for me.
We are in a very different investment climate. How should startups approach fundraising in the present climate that is different from previous years?

VCs have a lot less money to deploy now, and every investor of every type now expects a faster route to profitability. So no-one should plan on an easy raise with a pitch that doesn’t have a tangible plan to get to profitability fast.

For most startups at the moment, revenue, grants, angels and family offices are a better place to look than VCs, so focus more time there. And make sure you have proof points regarding market size, pricing, cost levels and customer likelihood to pay. 

What is the most common mistake startups make in their fundraising journey?

The most common is starting too late – it always takes longer than expected. The second is raising in rounds. The most successful raising I am seeing at the moment is ‘always on’ raising, typically via an ASA (UK) or SAFE (US). That way you don’t need to hit a fundraising target, but can raise as you gain traction.

If you could offer just one piece of advice to a young startup, what would it be?

Find 3-5 great mentors or advisors, with complementary skills,  and tie them in early. Give them about 5% of the company between them – either in stock options, or if early enough include them in the founders agreement (with clawbacks in case it doesn’t work out). These people will support you, challenge you and help you with fundraising, partnerships, talent acquisition and much more.

Are you positive or negative about the UK retaining its place as a key startup hub?

I am very positive. Within Europe, the UK still has by far the deepest pool of investment capital, entrepreneurial talent, top universities and supporting organisations. 

Founding teams and indeed investors still have a very low representation of women or indeed ethnic diversity. How can this be improved to ensure we truly democratise the ecosystem? 

There is no quick fix here. We need a 360 approach in which we showcase role models, train aspiring entrepreneurs, connect founders with capital, then support those founders on their journeys. 

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Regenerative AgriTech: Seeding a greener future

In an era where environmental sustainability and food security are paramount, the world of agriculture is undergoing a profound transformation. Regenerative AgriTech, a groundbreaking approach that combines cutting-edge technology with ecological wisdom, is at the forefront of this change. As the world grapples with the challenges of traditional farming, Regenerative AgriTech offers innovative solutions that are capturing the attention of both investors and eco-conscious farmers. 

In our latest sector focus article Olivia Sibony, AIN’s Head of Impact and founder of Impact Amplified, explores the reasons for the rising interest in regenerative agricultural technology, the hurdles that this sector must overcome, the promising investor opportunities, and the trailblazing companies leading the way in this transformative field.

What is regenerative AgriTech?

Regenerative AgriTech is a farming and land management approach that enhances ecosystems and food production sustainability through technology. It prioritises soil health, biodiversity, and carbon sequestration by minimising soil disturbance, using cover crops, crop rotation, and livestock integration. 

This practice emulates natural ecological processes to build resilient and productive agricultural systems, addressing climate change, biodiversity, and food security while preserving the environment. Technology plays a pivotal role in optimising resource management, improving efficiency, and supporting data-driven decision-making for eco-conscious farmers.

What are the reasons for the rising interest in agricultural  technology?

Agriculture is a significant contributor to global carbon emissions, accounting for 30% of emissions, 70% of water usage, and almost 90% of deforestation. While the population continues to grow, traditional farming methods yield less. 

Climate change effects, including unpredictable weather patterns and declining pollinators, further exacerbate the situation. Although technology can’t replace the need for human sustenance, it offers opportunities to disrupt and transform the agriculture system, addressing this substantial market’s challenges.

What challenges does agritech need to overcome and what barriers still exist?

Agriculture is an industry steeped in tradition, which has traditionally been slow to change. In addition, many parts of the system are interconnected, which makes it hard for people to adopt change. 

But if we compare it to the banking system, which is heavily regulated, we have nonetheless seen innovative players disrupting the banking system and reaping huge rewards. Similarly the agritech sector is seeing a growth in ambitious entrepreneurs using new technologies that offer new opportunities to transform the food industry. 

What is the investor opportunity?

The investor opportunity is huge. The global regenerative agriculture market size was valued at USD 9.08 billion in 2022 and is expected to reach USD 31.88 billion by 2031, at a CAGR of 15.17% during the forecast period.The market is driven by a number of factors, including:

  • Increasing awareness of the benefits of regenerative agriculture, such as improved soil health, water quality, and biodiversity
  • Rising demand for sustainable and ethical food products
  • Government support for regenerative agriculture initiatives
  • Technological advancements in regenerative agriculture practices

North America is the largest market for regenerative agriculture, followed by Europe and Asia Pacific.

AI and new technologies help better understand health soil management and crop health to increase yields, machines are able to turn air into water to reduce water usage. Within the gates of the farm itself, a huge array of innovations are transforming the industry, and this is just the beginning. 

The regenerative agriculture market is still in its early stages of development, but it is growing rapidly. As more and more people become aware of the benefits of regenerative agriculture, it is likely to become increasingly mainstream. It is the perfect time for investors to get on board.

Which companies are doing interesting things in this space?

Biohm is a regenerative biotech company, pioneering innovative solutions. They convert organic waste into insulation materials using mycelium for the construction industry, all while being carbon-positive and manufacturing locally.  

Additionally, they produce waterproof sports clothing and harness mycelium and bacteria for energy production. Their four strains of mycelium are capable of degrading plastics, such as Polyurethane (PU), Polyethylene (PE), Polystyrene (PS), and Polyester (PET), breaking them down into sugars, benign hydrocarbons, and carbon dioxide. Mycelium consumes the sugars and hydrocarbons, while photosynthesizing organisms transform the carbon dioxide into oxygen.

All of their technologies take their roots from regenerative agriculture practices.

Smart Oasis Farm use precision agriculture in disused containers to create food in urban environments.This innovative approach guarantees yields, low energy and minimal food miles. It was created by a Ukrainian farmer, with part of the funds going to fund more production in Ukraine.

Bio Natural Solutions converts organic waste into a spray that extends the shelf life of fresh produce, reducing the reliance on plastic packaging and chemical sprays. This innovative biotechnology benefits the global export of perishable goods like avocados and mangoes, effectively curbing food waste while reusing organic materials.

Join the world’s largest angel investment network, where global investors meet the great businesses of tomorrow.

Meet The Investor: Bryony Marshall

In our latest Meet The Investor interview we speak to experienced angel investor Bryony Marshall. She discusses why the present investing climate is a return to ‘normal’, the common mistakes startups make in their fundraising journey and how to avoid them. Plus the importance of networking and community and why we need to first understand the barriers to diversity in the startup ecosystem before we can look at solutions.

Why did you become an angel investor?

For me, angel investing is a way to directly support innovative ideas and help amazing founders on their mission to change the world. As an angel investor you are usually some of the first funding into a start up, and I am using that opportunity to ensure funding reaches a diverse founders. 

What are the most exciting sectors gaining your interest at the moment?

I have always been interested in healthtech and am always excited by new developments in this space because of the direct impact on the quality of people’s lives.

How should startups approach fundraising in the present climate?

The last few years were an abnormality, and we are now returning to normal.  Investors got so focused on growth they momentarily forgot about fundamentals like a path to profitability. When cash is no longer easy to come by, needing to constantly raise to grow starts to look like quite a risky strategy.  From the startup’s perspective they also need to de risk their futures by ensuring they raise enough to give sufficient runway to reach a meaningful milestone before they need to raise again.

What is the most common mistake startups make in their fundraising journey?

Losing momentum in the fundraising process.  Ideally startups should have mapped out the steps in their process and have all materials ready at the outset.  New questions that come up should be answered and added to a FAQ knowledge base.  Every meeting should build on the previous and finish with an ask or action.

What are the common traits of the successful startups you have supported?

Single mindedness of the founders, when you know they’ll do anything to succeed and won’t take no for an answer.  Also, being strong storytellers, this is important for getting everyone on board from investors, to key hires, to customers.

If you could offer just one piece of advice to a young startup, what would it be?

Talk to other startups, find networks and communities where you can learn from other’s experiences.  As an angel investor, being part of the Alma Angels community is invaluable to me for all the same reasons.

Are you positive or negative about the UK retaining its place as a key startup hub?

I lean towards optimism, while acknowledging that the challenges have increased, mainly due to economic conditions. I believe we can continue to attract talent, foster innovation, and maintain a supportive environment for startups, but this requires more acute attention than it did previously.

Founding teams and indeed investors still have a very low representation of women or indeed ethnic diversity. How can this be improved to ensure we truly democratise the ecosystem?

We talk about the ‘barriers to women’ or ‘barriers to diversity’, while these barriers exist, how can we be surprised that we have low representation?  In many cases these barriers haven’t even been properly identified, so we don’t even know what needs to change.  Or worse, they are and the change is dismissed as being in some way unworkable by those who benefit from the status quo.  This is just step one, with the barriers gone, we can then look at how to attract, promote and retain.

Join the world’s largest angel investment network, where global investors meet the great businesses of tomorrow.

Meet the Investor: Conor Sharpe

Last year, we introduced a new content series spotlighting our inspiring and diverse network of investors. All leading the way in their respective fields. 

Fast forward to 2023, a very different climate compared to last year, with its own set of challenges. Founders are navigating through a highly competitive landscape, with investors applying more stringent criteria for precious funding.

Against this backdrop we are pleased to announce the launch of Series 2, as we aim to address these challenges and continue our mission of connecting ambitious entrepreneurs with investors.

In our first interview, experienced angel investor, Conor Sharpe, Co-Founder at CircleRock Capital delves into his motivations in becoming an investor.

He offers invaluable advice for startups seeking success in a different climate, highlights strategies to save precious time in fundraising and shares his unwavering confidence in the UK retaining its place as a startup powerhouse. It’s time to meet the investor…  

Why did you become an angel investor?

My motivation to become an angel investor was two-fold: to meet incredible people with huge entrepreneurial ambition and learn from them, and to capitalise on the potential for high returns.

What are the key benefits of being an angel investor?

The key benefits are the continuous learning opportunities, the opportunity of a large financial outcome, very attractive tax reliefs, and enabling investment portfolio diversification!

What do you think are the benefits to startups of angel investment, versus other forms of funding?

There are many benefits including access to patient and flexible capital, and the ability to leverage an angel’s valuable network.

What red flags do you look out for when researching startups?

Red flags I look out for include high employee turnover, founders who don’t have a good grasp on their metrics, and a lack of market validation.

We are in a very different investment climate. How should startups approach fundraising in 2023 that is different from previous years?

Raising capital is harder than ever, so make sure to consider every last funding option to secure funds for your business. Knowing the key metrics of your business is also vital – consider using a solution like Scaleup Finance’s CFO-as-a-Service to stay on top of them!

What is the most common mistake startups make in their fundraising journey?

It’s amazing how few founders have a well-organised data room! Many startups waste time on their initial fundraise talking to VCs – they would be far better off targeting value-add angels.

What are the common traits of the successful startups you have supported?

I have now professionalised my angel investing by forming a leading syndicate called CircleRock Capital – we believe all the startups we have backed have the ability to be the leading company in the world at what they do. A common trait we see is that the very best founders have an understated confidence in the inevitability of their success.

What do you think the Government could do to help support the startup ecosystem?

I think the Government do an incredible job in assisting startups – they have shown a willingness to listen and make changes to policy and increase tax relief limits where necessary. A continued focus on underrepresented founders would be welcome.

Are you positive or negative about the UK retaining its place as a key startup hub?

Extremely positive! The unique melting pot of diverse cultures that is found in the UK will ensure this. 

Join the world’s largest angel investment network, where global angel investors meet the great businesses of tomorrow.

Video Interview: What’s the difference between Angel Investors and VCs?

The difference between angel investors and venture capital firms always seems to confuse entrepreneurs.

In truth, the difference is fairly clear-cut.

Who are they? What do they look for? How can they help? How much are they likely to invest? These are all key differentiators.

As an entrepreneur looking for funding, it’s important to understand these differences. Your choice of who to approach and when could have a significant effect on the efficiency of your round.

Xavier Ballester, the co-director of Angel Investment Network’s brokerage division, explains more in this recent interview. He’s talking to our friends at Linear, a specialist prime broker and award-winning hedge fund incubator based in London and Hamburg.


Prefer to digest your content in written format?

I wrote an article on the topic for Angel Investment Network’s Learn centre. You can read it by clicking here.

Success Story: Reward Gateway acquires Yomp

Yomp • Engaging People • Rewarding Wellness from Yomp on Vimeo.

Yesterday Techcrunch posted an article announcing that Reward Gateway had acquired gamified health startup Yomp for an undisclosed figure. Techcrunch mention the £200k seed round that Yomp filled last year, but neglect to mention that £150k of that came through Angel Investment Network (the whole SEIS allowance) !

But that’s of little importance. Our investors are over the moon at such a rapid ROI. As you would be. The figure hasn’t been disclosed yet, but our £150k went in at a valuation of £1 million; and we’d expect someone of the calibre of Reward Gateway to be able to acquire for £3-5million. By that reckoning, our investors are getting a 3-5x multiple return in just over a year.

How Funding Works – Infographic Timeline

For many entrepreneurs, no matter what stage they are at in their fundraising journey, it can be difficult to see the wood for the trees and hold a sense of the bigger picture in mind. This helpful infographic, courtesy of Funders and Founders, gives a clear picture of the funding process from Day 1 to IPO.

To read the full article which gives a detailed analysis of all the stages follow this link

Latest Success Story: Restaurant Reservation App Uncover acquired by Velocity

It doesn’t seem like that long ago that we helped Uncover, which went on to become the UK’s premier restaurant reservation app, fill their seed round. In fact it’s only been 16 months. But on the back of their extraordinary year since launch they have now been acquired by Velocity, the world’s leading international digital hospitality service, for an undisclosed figure.

9 months after launch Uncover had gained 135,000 users and was partnered with 350 of London’s high-end restaurants (incl. Alain Ducasse Restaurants, Coya, LIMA, Restaurant Story, Taberna do Mercado, and The Clove Club). In that period it was recognised by Apple as its “Best App” on over 10 different occasions for its immaculate user experience.

The deal means that the new, refined platform, due to be launched early in 2016, will have a network of 800 venues and over 60 Michelin stars and that Velocity has taken itself another step closer to being a comprehensive hospitality platform all over the world.

Read more:



Back-to-Basics: How to Start a Startup

Even though i’ve been in the startup business for a while now, when i stumbled across this infographic by Funders and Founders, it reminded me how useful it can be to glance back at the basics once in a while. In an increasingly fraught and complex world, it is not only extremely helpful, but also motivating to step back and see the workings of the bigger picture; to catch sight of the wood for the trees. Details are important; but occasionally we can get bogged down in them.

As every successful person ever will tell you – if you get the basics right, the rest will follow.

This is true even for the most seasoned of serial entrepreneurs. Especially as a number of the processes outlined in this simple infographic will remain crucial throughout the life of your startup, not just at the beginning. So whether you’re just starting out or a startup veteran, it’s worth casting your eyes over this one…

Latest Success Story: Numecent announces $15.5M Series B Investment

Cloudpaging leader, Numecent, have just raised $15.5M in series B funding bringing their total investment accrued to approximately $38M.

We first encountered Numecent back in 2012 when they approached us looking for seed funding for their cloudpaging technology concept that enabled native Windows applications to be delivered from the cloud. We were impressed by the fact that Numecent’s clients would have no need to download or install any software on a PC at all; and, applications would be delivered 20-100x faster than a conventional download.

We raised them £900k in seed funding and are now delighted that their promising technology is continuing to receive the recognition and investment it merits. On top of the Series B funding, Numecent was named a winner of the Red Herring Top 100 North America award, was chosen among the top 20 virtualisation solutions by CIO Review magazine and was cited as one of the 12 data-centre technology companies to watch by TechTarget.

Want to know more about Numescent? Watch the video below:

Latest Success Story: what3words Gets £2.5 million Series A Funding Led by Intel Capital

Over the course of the last year we raised £600k in seed funding for one of the UK’s most promising tech startups, what3words. If you haven’t heard of them yet, you’ll want to watch their video (below) to get in the know about the extraordinary developments they’ve made in geo-location technology, mapping the entire planet into 57 trillion 3m by 3m squares, each with its own three word label.

On the back of the successful seed round, what3words has gained significant traction including contracts with leading geographic information system providers. Their success piqued the interest of Intel Capital who alongside existing Angel Investors have filled a Series A round in the region of £2.5 million.

Here’s the TechCrunch article with more of the details: TechCrunch: what3words Series A