Behind the Raise with eleXsys Energy

Richard Romanowski is co-founder and Executive Director of eleXsys Energy. eleXsys has developed a unique, international award-winning, enabling technology that will drive the transition of global energy grids to a clean energy future.

Tell us about eleXsys and how you came up with the idea?
My co-founder, Dr. Bevan Holcombe, was a senior engineer at an Australian distribution utility with 30 years’ experience and was working on how to decarbonise the local suburban grid.  I was a cleantech angel investor, looking for fabulous ideas.

The biggest issue to local decarbonisation is that the grid was designed as a one way grid. Bevan was trying to find a way to solve this problem, that is, the very limited grid hosting capacity of renewables due to the one-way grid design. He could not find a solution anywhere so in 2012 we decided to team up and started a company now called eleXsys Energy to solve this problem.

eleXsys in simple terms turns the one-way grid into a two-way grid in a cost effective manner enabling a huge increase in local renewables that the grid can host or accommodate in each suburb.

When we started eleXsys, Bevan and I had a vision that discovering a way to turn the one way grid into a two-way grid would be our contribution to saving the Great Barrier Reef by speeding up global distribution grid decarbonisation.

Over the last 9 years eleXsys developed a unique, international award-winning, enabling technology that will drive the transition of global energy grids to a clean energy future.

Why did you decide to raise investment?
The co-founders, Bevan and Richard, are the initial high net worth investors.  We invested over $7.5 M USD of our own money.  Then some friends and close associates also invested almost another $4.0 M USD.  We had developed an MVP (Minimal Viable Product) and a few field demonstrations and planned a slow organic and affordable commercialisation, starting in Australia. Then slowly going global as we knew Australia was a few years ahead of the rest of the world in terms of grid hosting capacity problems due to so much rooftop solar we have Down Under.

Then we won the World Energy Council (WEC) global start up award in 2019. When we won the award, the WEC Secretary General at the time (Christoph Frei), challenged us as follows, he said:

“This technology is game changing; you need to think 100 time bigger” …. that is, we need you to help speed up global decarbonisation and fast!

Since 2019 that is what we set out to do, and in that vein, we needed much more investment to speed up commercialisation and go global faster.

What is your top tip for anyone raising investment for the first time?
It’s never easy, the 1st time or the 10th time. Be prepared to spend a large amount of time raising funds and listen and learn from every pitch. If they say no, ask why. Always be raising and expect to pitch to 50 or more before you hit any jackpot.

What attracted investors to your company?
The IKEA flagship project in Australia which helped investors realise how eleXsys can radically speed up global decarbonisation in the local suburbs.  The IKEA project represents a microgrid at up to 10 times bigger than what current Smart Invert technology and grid constraints would allow.  So up to 10 x greater energy savings for the tenant, up to 10 x more rooftop rent for the landlord, plus up to a 10 x larger $ project for the asset owner (e.g. solar and battery power plant) to earn a secure, uncurtailed ROI over 20 years.

My biggest fundraising mistake was…
Not listening at first to potential investors.

Why did you choose to use Angel Investment Network?
A very supportive, understanding, and innovative group with a focus on ESG (Environmental – Social – Governance) investing. We are now raising our Pre IPO round.

What has the funding enabled?
The main focus was fine tuning our global expansion plans through our planned licensing model. Licensing allows us to scale global quickly as opposed to originating, developing, and building microgrid projects ourselves, which would be a very slow and cumbersome process.

Through licensing our vision is that eleXsys becomes the “Intel Inside” of the global local renewables supply chain.  That is, almost everyone is using eleXsys in their local suburban renewables projects to speed up global decarbonisation.

Did you know that filling every roof with solar could generate > 120% of Australia’s total electrical needs? Same should apply across the global sunbelt ≈ 75% of world’s population.

Cannot be done – local distribution grids will not integrate this much distributed energy due to grid physics limitations (curtailment) due to one-way grid design

Grid curtailment of DER (Distributed Energy Resources) begins to occur when the utility hits ≈ 15% of customers with DER, making projects non bankable .eleXsys cost effectively solves this fundamental problem one-way grid problem.

So far, we have one Master Licensee MOU signed and are negotiating with four more. Plus, established a few Alliance Partners licensees within Australia to be the sales channel and EPC of projects.  Some of the Alliance Partners are global multinational using Australia as a test bed eleXsys licensee, with the intention to then become a global licensee.

Plus the funds are being used to enhance our manducating capability along with recruiting more staff to support the faster growth.

Matching Diverse Talent With Fast Growing Startups

At Angel Investment Network, we strive to partner with pioneering organisations that support startups in ecosystems around the world, Silicon Roundabout have a mission to help get more young people into work at exciting startups, whilst helping unblocking some of the challenges in hiring that startups incur. 

Franceso Perticariari, Managing Partner of Silicon Partner Ventures explains more in the guest blog post below:

At Silicon Roundabout we are working with the UK Government to help youngsters from all backgrounds and who are eager to break into the startup industry to get their feet off the ground and venture into their dream career.

As part of the programme, we help companies by offering a diverse pool of junior staff, aged 16-24, at no cost for 6 months, whilst helping these candidates gain work experience, so they can get their foot in the door in the tech world.

Our mission is to help increase diversity in tech by being the pathway for young people from all walks of life and varying backgrounds to find work with cool tech startups and develop the skills needed to build a career in today’s digital market.

We would all like to see an exciting, diverse tech industry! 🙌

Here are the jobs we currently train for:


– Junior Marketing Executive

– Junior Business Developer

– Office Executive

– Junior Graphic Design and Video Editing

– Junior Programmer

– Junior Bookkeeper

– Junior Project Manager

– Junior Data Analyst

Business qualifying will be able to apply for and hire candidates through our new, easy to use, platform and receive 6 months worth of wages for them! This includes NI & minimum employer contributions.

What happens at the end of the 6 month placement? Businesses have the opportunity (but not the obligation) to offer the junior employee a job at their company.

We already have 300+ employers on board and have successfully delivered the scheme to help 100+ youngsters with little to no experience and from all backgrounds, gender, and beliefs get training and join these employers. In fact, we’ve recently hired four junior members of staff ourselves who went through this very same process and training, which we designed as startup founders ourselves for startup founders. So far everyone is enthusiastic about the results and we really think this can have a profound impact for both companies and people.

Startups can sign up to Silicon Roundabout’s here .

The T&CS:

Companies will need to pay these junior employees through their own payroll. We will then refund them using the Government funding after only 4-6 weeks from each payroll paid. No claiming needed. As long as the candidates are paid via the company’s payroll, We will automatically receive funds from the Government and transfer them over to them.

During the first month of our 6 month programme, candidates will be trained through our top digital bootcamps, which are also funded through the scheme.

#SixtySecond StartUp with Telbee


Nicholas Phair shares why he thinks online voice messaging is the future in this month’s #SixtySecondStartUp.

  1. What does your company do?

Online voice messaging. We help businesses build trust with their audiences using the most powerful tool they have… their voices. Our online voice recorders can be added to websites, workflows, social media and more, and used in online and offline campaigns to hear from customers, followers and fans and engage in two way asynchronous voice conversations. 

  1. Why did you set up this company?

    To go back to basics. Voice has always communicated far more than typed text alone – emotion, emphasis, connection – and we saw an opportunity to bring the same ease and utility of voice messaging found in consumer apps such as WhatsApp and FB Messenger to help businesses better engage with their own customers.
  1. How did you get your first customer? 

By asking them to pay! It seems like an obvious point but it’s a lot harder than you think. Believing in your product means putting a price tag on it, and asking people to pay. Thankfully our first customer, a prominent podcaster in the US, saw the value immediately.

  1. We knew we were onto something when? 

… we received this early testimonial: “I’m just massively impressed with this entire thing. I’m kind of shocked that it doesn’t really exist to this level, and we can see this being extraordinarily helpful for us.” 

Reading these words, after months of hard slogging in product and planning was golden. When our next 10 customers signed up organically and mirrored the above, we knew that if we kept going we’d succeed.

  1. Our business model: 


Freemium self-serve SaaS with consultative sales to the enterprise. In short: people sign up free on www.telbee.io to experience what voice messaging can do for them and their businesses. We limit the amount of voice messages that can be sent and received to 60 minutes per month and the service remains free (forever) until you decide you need more features, or want unlimited messaging minutes. And for larger businesses and enterprises we offer custom white labelled solutions and integrations specific to their needs. 

  1. Our most effective marketing channel has been: 

Hands down it’s been word of mouth – which shouldn’t be a surprise since we’re all about speaking and listening! 

  1. What we look for when recruiting:

We ask why they want to work with us, and listen keenly to the answer. When the whys are strong enough the hows take care of themselves – or so the famous saying goes. We look for people that want to build something truly unique and grow personally and professionally with the business. 

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

Putting the cart before the horse, and investing in sales and marketing capabilities before breaching that elusive threshold of comfort in finding product/market fit – and while that threshold keeps shifting, mistakes keep coming, but ultimately they are there to make us grow! 

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


Our voice is what makes us human – and in recent times the rise of automation, artificial intelligence, and lockdown-inducing pathogens, have highlighted the importance of building and cultivating real human relationships. We’ve seen an explosion in voice applications across the board, from podcasts, to voice assistance to new types of short and long form voice-based social media. Whilst we are still in the exploratory stage of this nascent sector, what is certain is that businesses everywhere are beginning to see the trust-building benefits of asynchronous voice communication for sales, support and retention. This is only the beginning – and there is so much to be excited about. 

  1. We worked with AIN because:

We worked with AIN because they gave us access to investors globally. As a UK company but with a product relevant worldwide, we knew that part of what we wanted from investors was to extend our market reach beyond our existing network. AIN allowed us to speak with investors from the US and Asia as well as the UK.

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.

#BehindTheRaise with SidebySide

It’s not actually exclusively startups that raise on AIN, there’s a growing number of funds too. We caught up with James D’Mello from EIS Fund SideBySide to hear about their experience:

Who are SidebySide?

SidebySide is run by a management team responsible for over $1.5bn in exits to date. We have worked with younger companies for a number of years and concentrate on adding benefit to help these companies scale from startups to larger, growth businesses. 

The UK management team is formed of our founder, John Bailye. Our Junior partner, Ben Ashworth. Our Portfolio Manager, Alicia Taylor, our portfolio company mentor, Sheli Gupta, and James D’Mello, who heads up our investor relations function.

John Bailey, Founder

Our investment thesis

Although we score third globally in an OECD ranking of the number of start-ups created, we don’t make it into the top ten when it comes to businesses that grow into established, medium-sized companies that have a lasting impact on our economy” – The Independent, referring to the UK in the OECD Global Rankings 2017.

This is our focus and why we formed the SidebySide Partnership. We want to help founders take their business to the next level.

James D’Mello

What types of companies do you invest in?

We invest in fast-growing technology-enabled businesses with £1-10 million in revenue. These more established companies will usually be at least several years old and typically have over 30 employees. We look for companies where there is evidence of a strong customer acceptance of the product and service offered, and where we believe we can add value to them in the long run.

Tell us about your portfolio

We invest in “tech-enabled” companies. That translates to companies who use tech to change the way we do something by a company that is looking to define the way future companies in their sector will operate. 

As an example from our most recent round. We invested in a company called Laundryheap.

Laundryheap offers door-to-door laundry and dry-cleaning services to consumer and business customers, including major brands. The platform allows users to have their laundry collected, washed, ironed, and returned to them in a guaranteed turnaround time of 24 hours.

One of the main reasons we love them is the fact that they are able to scale into new markets without the capital heavy constraints that have held back their competitors. Across its US and Asian markets, Laundryheap has seen particularly rapid growth since March 2020. In the US, where the platform is now operational in multiple cities, the business is reporting month-on-month growth between 50 to 100 per cent. As for the Middle East, where, customer growth is hitting between 60 to 80 per cent month-on-month.

What is it like raising investment as a fund? How is it different from raising for a single company?

Raising as a fund is very similar to raising as a single company, except, instead of talking about one company, we talk about many. Typically investing in 3-5 companies per round, there is a lot to talk about. We pride ourselves on the amount of time we spend with our companies each month, therefore can go into as much detail as a potential investor wants to go into.

What are your tips for raising on AIN?

Our first campaign with AIN received a lot of interest but the interest didn’t lead anywhere. We took things back to think about what we could do differently, One of the main things we changed was the points that we highlighted, less of the traditional X amount of revenue, aum etc – more of what made us different to other investment funds they may have seen. We were very upfront and frank with potential investors and made sure to schedule zoom/phone calls after speaking on AIN to allow them to meet us and ask their questions in a more conversational manner.

What are your plans for the funds? How are you deploying them?

We have invested in 6 different companies now over our last few deployments, in our most recent round we invested into a fashion marketplace that is changing the way retailers and brands sell their old season and discounted stock, a travel courier company that picks your bags/skis/golf clubs up and takes them to your holiday home/hotel for you so that you don’t have to worry about checking them all in and carrying them around.

How does SidebySide help startups? And what experience do you bring to the table?

Whilst a lot of UK VCs come from an investment banking/accountancy background, SidebySide is a team built from entrepreneurs and operator types. They have been responsible for founding, investing in and running over 30+ companies, one of which was founded and grown into a billion-dollar exit. The early mornings & late nights, the stress of running a company, the hurdles to overcome to scale your business, the team has been through all of it before, rather than just financed it and watched from the sidelines. We help the companies in our portfolio by spending time with them, a couple of times a month, going through whatever the company needs support on. 


Any tips about pitching investors over Zoom?


I used to love nothing more than speaking in a room full of people at pitch events/industry talks. When Covid hit, these events were all moved to Zoom, Which as I’m sure many of you will have experienced by now, Is a whole different ball game. It’s very hard to read peoples body language and facial expressions when there are 50+ people in a Zoom call, you also don’t know if anyone is laughing at your bad jokes if they’re all on mute! 

One of the main things I have tried to focus on and has seemed to work well so far is to try and concentrate on talking into the camera lens, it may seem like a small thing but it is the closest thing to eye contact you can do over Zoom. I also set out a couple of bullet points on my screen on a notes app to prompt me to go through set points on the call. 

Lastly, A great tip I read in a guide from Sequoia capital – One of the mistakes most people make is thinking because you have a 60-minute meeting slot that you have that persons attention for 60 minutes – Spoiler, You don’t. You should use the first 5 minutes to earn their attention for the next 15 minutes which in turn will interest them enough to listen for another 30 minutes.  


Where do you plan SideBySide to be in the next 10 years?

Unlike traditional VCs, SidebySide limits the number of companies that we invest in at any one time. We do this so that we can actually spend important time with each of them and make sure they have the best chance of success. So whilst most VCs would say in 5 years we want to have backed another 50+ companies – that is not us. We want to continue backing great management teams and working closely with them to help them scale their businesses to the next stage and become the type of company that defines the sector in which they operate. 

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.

#StartUp Buzz

Each month, we share a selection of stand out companies that our team have picked out as particularly exciting, or high potential. This month we have selected the following:

Immersify Education 

Immersify Education is a learning app, initially creating a totally novel experience for dentistry students, but ultimately a comprehensive solution that makes it much easier for students to learn across disciplines.

Immersify fast tracks the pace of learning by combining rich multimedia content and an AR experience that gives the students the sensation that they are working on a patient right in the dentist’s chair.

– The founder is an award winning edtech entrepreneur with an exit in the dental education space

– 100% recommendation for the B2B offering 

– Rated 5 Stars on the app store 

Immersify Education are raising £1.2 million and have SEIS and EIS relief available.  

Find out more about Immersify Education.


28 Well Hung 

28 Well Hung

28 Well Hung are pioneering the regenerative restaurant concept in London. 

All their food is chosen to help regenerate the planet, sequestering carbon and methane in the process and specifically working with farmers who are obsessed with regenerating the soil that they use. 

Starting out as a street food stall, 28 Well Hung is now an established restaurant with £230k revenue that was profitable during Covid. 

‘28’ are raising funding to expand, they have acquired a 9 year lease in Brixton and plan to open this summer, with a further London site due by the end of the year. Of note: 

– Strong vegan and vegetarian customer base (50% of menu is veggie)

– Nominated for multiple awards including Best Street Food Trader

– 16% operating profit in 2020

Find out more about 28 Well Hung Ltd


Scrubbingtons

Scrubbingtons produce a range of bespoke personal care products perfect for kids, from hand sanitiser and soap to shampoo and bubble bath. 

They use natural ingredients, perfect for sensitive skin, and make the product easy for kids to use themselves.

Why’s it special? It’s 98% natural, very soft, and has special foam that lasts twice as long as gel. It’s sustainable with refillable pouches and recycled. 

– 4.9* average across thousands of reviews 

– Already supplies 150 school and nurseries directly

– 400k revenue in 2020 with 200% Y-O-Y growth

Scrubbingtons products are widely available including in Tesco, Amazon and Ocado. 

Find out more about Scrubbingtons here.

#SixtySecondStartUp with Jumpstart

Matthew Sarre shares the story behind JumpStart in this month’s SixtySecondStartUp:

  1. What does your company do?

    Jumpstart is the UK’s only start-up graduate programme. We find exceptional graduates (the top 1% applicants), train them up, match them with start-ups, and then provide ongoing, mentorship and a peer network. 
  1. Why did you set up this company?

    To stop the brightest and most ambitious graduates from sleepwalking out of university and into big corporate grad schemes to go ‘sell their soul’. Instead, we get them to go and have an impact in a start-up and build something meaningful. Basically, my co-founder (Kabir Bali) and I built a programme that we would have wanted to do when we left university. 
  1. How did you get your first customer?

    We set up the company in the depths of the pandemic, so it was not easy to find start-ups to pitch to. But, at the end of every zoom call with friends & former colleagues, I would ask: “are there any start-ups that you can introduce me to” and follow it up with awkward silence until they made an introduction… Good advice for anyone who wants to build out a customer base. 
  1. We knew we were onto something when?

    We thought we were onto something when we got 10 applications to our programme on our very first day live. This was, of course, very misguided. But, we are now trending upwards of 1500+ applicants a month and have carved out a niche that seems to work: we place graduates in Founder Associate roles to take B and C tasks off the founders’ plates so that they can focus on A tasks. 
  1. Our business model:

    We’re a little like ambulance chasers in the sense that we operate a “no win, no fee” model! That means that we only charge a fee if the graduate is still in role 3 months after they have started. 
  1. Our most effective marketing channel has been:

    Word of mouth referrals. Which, I am reliably told is a good sign! 
  1. What we look for when selecting our candidates:

    It boils down to attitude. Sure they are smart, but we look for ‘hungry’ go-getters who have done something interesting like founding a company or society while at university. 
  1. The biggest mistake that I’ve made is:

    I once allowed someone into my Zoom meeting who I thought was a founder and ‘pitched’ them as if they were a start-up. It turns out that they were a graduate applying for the scheme… 
  1. We think that there’s growth in this sector because:

    There is a growing trend away from traditional career paths and a rapid acceleration of the start-up scene in the UK. 

  2. We worked with AIN because:

    They have an exceptional network of start-ups.

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.

Behind the Raise with Wealthyhood

Alex Christodoulakis is co-founder of Wealthyhood, the app ‘to turn you into your own wealth manager’.

Alex shares his story about Wealthyhood, how he raised investment, and his advice for entrepreneurs:

Tell us about Wealthyhood and how you came up with the idea

A few years ago, together with Kostas, co-founder of Wealthyhood, we wondered how we could invest our money on a monthly basis. We were busy professionals at the time and couldn’t devote much time to research or execute any sophisticated investment strategies, and of course not in the position to actively trade the markets.

So, we spent time trying to identify what was out there to solve this problem. However, we soon realised we weren’t alone in that. The problem was everywhere around us. There was a typical question among our friends, family and colleagues: “How can I invest my money? I don’t have the time or the knowledge to trade…”.

But how will they do that? 

Trading apps are usually too complex for beginner investors. They offer no guidance on how to get started or tools to create a long-term portfolio. They incentivise you to actively trade, by constantly notifying you for random price movements. Everyday investors get caught up on their emotions and end up gambling instead of investing. This was not the experience we were looking for.

So, we decided to build Wealthyhood to bridge the gap. Instead of just giving friendly advice to our friends, we decided to build a product that would guide long-term investors to build their wealth over time, by intelligently investing their money the way they want, with fewer fees.

It’s not only how our interactive guidance helps users to invest the right way, but also how we help them develop the right wealth-building mindset. You don’t have to be a millionaire nor an expert to have a successful and pleasant investing journey.

And this is how Wealthyhood was founded to become the first DIY wealth-building app for long-term investors.

Why did you decide to raise investment?

Unfortunately, Fintech is a very capital-intensive industry, even before you decide to spend aggressively on growth and marketing.

The initial costs have to do with securing regulatory approval and FCA compliance, even before you get started. And this is why we initially decided to raise some external money, alongside covering some operational costs and our plans to grow the team.

Apart from that, raising money from angel investors is a great way to validate your value proposition and showcase their belief in the vision of the company and the ability of the team to execute!

A successful angel raise doesn’t just get you money, but also access to the network and connections of your investors, so it’s a two-way process. The right investors can significantly accelerate our progress.

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

It’s always easier to approach angel investors, than early-stage VC funds. Start from your own network, pitch them your company and vision and then expand to your second degree connections, angel networks and of course the Angel Investment Network.

If you can’t persuade angel investors to invest in your company, then you should reconsider your pitch.

Always have a story to share; why you’re building this product, what’s the problem and why you’re the perfect team to  succeed!

Any signs of initial traction are a great validation that you’re heading to the right direction.

What attracted investors to your company?

I think it was a combination of different things. Probably the most important is the problem we solve. Our angel investors immediately acknowledged the gap between trading apps and robo advisors and the need for a DIY wealth building app for long-term investors.

Our vision to create the wealth-building app not for the top-1%, but for the 99% fully resonated with them.

At the same time, our investors had faith in the team behind Wealthyhood and us as co-founders. The first angel investors were people from our close network with strong  belief in our capabilities as a team. Then, friends of friends and finally professional angel investors, who got to know us better and believe in our determination and skills to execute.

Apart from that, we had already built some momentum, showcasing that we were heading in the right direction. We had more than 3,000 users signed up to our waiting list, over 10,000 followers in our LinkedIn and Instagram pages and had developed a community of 50 Wealthyhood Ambassadors across Europe.

Last, but not least, a few months ago we won 1st place on FinQuest Accelerator and are currently participating in the VISA Innovators Program, which for angel investors shows strong progress.

My biggest fundraising mistake was…

My biggest fundraising mistake was that we began by approaching early-stage VC funds, instead of angel investors.

This was wrong; it cost us time and money, but we soon realised it and switched our focus to angels, who were a much better fit for our stage and needs!

However, it helped us challenge our value proposition, improve our deck and positioning and make it more robust.

Why did you choose to use the Angel Investment Network?

Angel Investment Network was an amazing way to connect with the right investors for our company. It’s very time-efficient for founders and probably the best portal to share your story from a fundraising perspective.

It was first suggested by our advisors and we soon realised they were right to insist. 

Our number 1 focus for Wealthyhood for the year ahead is:

To build the investing experience we envision and make it publicly available through a web platform, iOS and Android apps. We’ve already launched a beta version of the product and are onboarding the first users from our waiting list.

Over the coming months we want to onboard the whole waiting list and give instant access to new users in the UK and EU!

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 fundraising yourself, you can find your local network here.

#Start-up Buzz

Each month on the Angel Investment Network blog we feature some of our start-ups making waves. Here are some of the ones to keep an eye out for in June:

Vitabeam

Vitabeam has developed a patented LED technology that mimics the sunlight spectrum to stimulate plant growth, extend shelf life of food and kill unwanted pathogens, such as bacteria and mould.

Vitabeam has £1.72 committed sales, a pipeline of £6.5 million, and has received 2 Innovate UK government grants valued at £640k. Tests have shown biomass increase in herbs as high as 54% from using Vitabeam. 

Learn More 

Mintago

Mintago helps businesses save on their workplace pension tax bill, whilst improving the ‘pension well being’ of their employees. Mintago helps businesses to structure their pension in the most efficient way using HMRC’s salary exchange scheme reducing NI contributions, whilst rolling out pension optimisation tools.

Founded by the founder of Perkbox, and with the team ex RBC, BDO and Atomico, Mintago is growing at 100% MoM and saved customers over £250k despite only launching in December 2021. 

Learn More

KiKaPay Digital Payments

KiKapay enables merchants to collect payments from customers in a manner that is typically 80% cheaper than card payments, by using their bank’s secure customer authentication process, and because it doesn’t require an app to be downloaded, KiKapay provides a frictionless solution. 

With open banking payments increasing ten fold in 2020 and 25 billion card transactions having been processed in the UK alone. KiKapay has brought onboard an experienced team with 75 years experience, including a partner at Deloitte and the ex Head of Advisory for European payments at EY.

Learn More

The New Era of Flexible finance: Why Startups are Embracing Portfolio CFOs in 2021

Addition offer a suite of financial services, from bookkeeping to growth funding. Their CEO Graham Davies explains in the guest article below how start-ups can benefit from having a portfolio CFO working alongside them.

When it comes to multi-tasking, entrepreneurs take the crown. Wearing a plethora of hats is pretty much a given. Not all roles can be juggled, however. A jack of all trades is a master of none – which is why a growing number of startups are choosing to outsource certain company tasks.

The average self-employed person spends an average of 12 working days a year on tax compliance alone. Time is golddust to entrepreneurs, and 12 days worth of drumming up new leads (or spending time with loved ones) is a lot of time to spend on something you may not even fully understand. 

It isn’t only about saving time. Strategic outsourcing is usually a money-saver, too. This is especially true when it comes to accounting and financial planning. According to Glassdoor, the average CFO wage in the UK is £121,443 per annum. Taking on a full-time Chief Finance Officer is far too costly for most startups. However, they still look for these insights and advice to help them plot a course for growth. 

This is why portfolio CFOs have started to become increasingly attractive. 

But let’s take a closer look at this on-trend dynamic. 

What Is a Chief Financial Officer?

A chief financial officer (CFO) is a senior executive who manages the financial actions of a business. Their duties typically include:

– Tracking cash flow

– Financial planning

– Analysing and acting on financial strengths and weaknesses

– Forecasting

Essentially, a CFO oversees every aspect of your company’s accounts, finances and compliance. Their job is to ensure informed decisions are made to support the financial wellbeing of the business.

What is a Portfolio CFO?

Many startups choose to outsource their financial management to a third-party CFO. These high-qualified individuals usually work with agencies or freelance, and will manage multiple company accounts – or portfolios – at once. They will typically have extensive experience in their field, and offer dedicated services at a much more affordable rate. 

Why are Portfolio CFOs so popular?

Startups are becoming increasingly attracted to Portfolio CFOs. But what is the chief driver behind this surge in popularity? 

John Miller, Chief Operations Officer at Addition, links this rise to one simple factor: cost. Having previously served as CFO in green tech startup Spring, John now manages Addition’s CFO services. “Startups don’t require a CFO on a full-time basis,” He reasons, “as the cost is arguably not worth it. At £80k – £150k+ for a full time CFO in a startup to a medium company, this expense is often hard to justify.” 

Of course, hiring a portfolio CFO is still an expense. However, the investment is well worth the cost. “The aim for all back-office roles, like finance, is to pay for yourself.” Says John, “Therefore, having a CFO on a part-time basis makes this easier in a small business. At £3k per month, it’s almost a third of the cost, whereas I would argue the benefits will not be a third of the size.”

Are Portfolio CFOs similar to Accountants?

As your startup grows, you’ll likely be advised to hire an accountant. This is definitely sound advice. Accountants will help with your tax compliance, bookkeeping and reports. But once the ball gets rolling faster and you’re looking to drive growth, a CFO can work wonders.

In order to appreciate what each of these roles brings to the table, you need to understand exactly what it is they do. “An Accountant or bookkeeper is focussed on implementing the rules and guidelines set out in the accounting standards for companies.” John explains, “This includes ensuring your company meets its statutory and tax obligations, accounts filed, returns processed etc.”

A CFO, meanwhile, is a strategic position in a company with the aim of driving the business towards its goals. “CFOs need a particular set of skills to do their job that accountants generally don’t.” says John, “One of the main skills needed is agile thinking – the ability to understand the ramifications from proposed or imposed decisions very quickly. For example: should business A start offering their online english tutoring business to China? The Portfolio CFO needs to quickly think about the ramifications of selling in China and the tax implications. They need to consider legislation, marketing the service in a different language, hidden charges and how to monitor progress. The role of a CFO goes beyond following the letter of the law – it involves creating strategic opportunities for growth.” 

Portfolio or not, the CFO supports the startup on its journey and drives it forward in the most effective way possible. “Ultimately, an accountant and CFO work hand in hand.” John acknowledges, “It’s a symbiotic relationship, which is why at Addition we have a team made up of portfolio CFOs and bookkeepers. This gives our clients access to both elements required and is more economical to use both roles where they are best suited. There is no point in paying a CFO day rate to complete bookkeeping tasks.”

What does a Portfolio CFO do?

They might not be a full-time employee, but make no mistake: portfolio CFOs are definitely on your team. 

During their contracted hours, a portfolio CFO will work as strategically and diligently for you as any of their full-time colleagues. Here are five of their main areas of focus:

1.   Financial Management and Strategic Planning

Your portfolio CFO will implement controls so funds can be spent easily, but with solid regulations. They’ll help you determine where the business wants to go, and what it needs to get there. Finally, they’ll turn this understanding into a financial strategic plan.

2.   Forecasting and Budgeting

This involves breaking the overall strategic plan into nuts and bolts. Your CFO might ask questions like, “How much are we going to spend – and hopefully earn – on all elements?” They’ll help adjust your budget to reflect this, 

3.   KPI and Performance Tracking 

KPIs are vital to financial growth. A portfolio CFO will implement automated ways to periodically track performance to plan. They’ll help answer questions like, “What do we need to do more of – or less of? Do we need to do something completely different?”

4.   Cash Flow Management

Cash is king for all startups. Staying on top of what is coming in and what is going out is vital for survival as well as success. Your portfolio CFO will help you utilise your cash-flow efficiently. 

What Can a Portfolio CFO do for my small business?

While anyone can make use of a portfolio CFO’s services, the best fit are small to medium startups- especially ones who are focussed on operational delivery direct to customers. 

You may wonder what scale ‘small to medium’ is operating on. “Once a business gets to a certain size,” says John, “let’s say 50 full-time employees and £25m+ revenue, getting a full-time CFO would be more economical.”

For John, this is due to the complexity of the organisation. “Someone who is fully focussed in the CFO role would be able to add the most value to that entity. Therefore businesses who are smaller than that, I would argue, may not get the full benefits for the cost of a full-time CFO.”

Establishing when the time is right isn’t always straightforward. For some helpful context, here are some examples of startups who’ve hired portfolio CFOS:

Example 1: A restaurant group with several sites. They’ll obviously have experience when it comes to running the restaurant profitably. However, a portfolio CFO could help with raising money to open a new site.

Example 2: A startup which has seed investment (before PE where it gets serious –  a PE firm may want a 100%-focussed CFO to guard their investment and drive growth their way). This business is still in its infancy. The experience of a part-time CFO to guide the founders ideas will be vital to success.

Example 3: A hairdresser who is looking to expand into another site. A part-time CFO could spend some time working out a business plan for the new site. This would be presented to a bank to help raise the funds. The CFO could then track the performance of the site to make sure it is delivering the plan (and if not, help with what to do next).

Example 4: An online tutoring startup which may offer English courses all over the world. The tax treatments need to be carefully managed.

Example 5: A gym or fitness centre looking to sell. A CFO can support with financial reporting to give to potential buyers, as well as projections to support the valuation.

All of the above examples are in need of good financial management and leadership. However, they aren’t large or complex enough to require a full-time CFO within the business. Their main focus is on operationally delivering for their clients. This means a bank-office role such as a CFO isn’t needed daily. 

“The CFO doesn’t help these example startups to cut more hair, offer more classes, or clean more flats.” John analyses, “Therefore in order to maximise profits, why not take on a part-time CFO?”

What Makes a Good Portfolio CFO?

When it comes to key traits and talents, portfolio CFOs and in-house CFOs fall under the same umbrella. Demonstrable experience and qualifications are obviously important. However, with portfolio CFOs managing multiple clients at once, commitment and dedication to each customer is more important than ever. 

A stand-out portfolio CFO should be:

1.   Transparent

“When it comes to numbers, the CFO’s analysis and guidance needs to be true and actionable for the client on the journey to achieving their goals.” Says John, “Due to the portfolio nature of the role, this is a challenge. Dipping in and out of several businesses means focus cannot be 100% 24-7 – unlike that of the client with their business. Therefore, it’s about building solid advice on the facts of the business.”

2. Experienced

A catalogue of prior experience with startups and goals similar to yours is key, according to John. “I’ve found that providing experience of how events have played out in historical scenarios really helps clients understand ramifications.” He says, “Failing that, it’s about drawing on the diligence disposition of a CFO to research, investigate and provide insight, as well as drawing on the network of contacts.”

3.   A team player

As mentioned before, you’re not paying a CFO day rate for them to replace your bookkeepers. That being said, they should be working closely alongside your bookkeeper. 

“30% of my day is spent with bookkeepers to ensure that all base financial data is strong, solid and makes sense.” Says John, “No analysis works without good foundations, which is why our Portfolio CFO’s are supported by a team of bookkeepers.” 

4.   A visionary

Once they have the necessary information, a good CFOs should make the most of it. “I use informed insights about my client’s business to give them actions that, when put in place, help them achieve their goals.” John explains. “Your CFO should be modelling out the future for your business, and helping set a course for the future. This could be help with raising money; working out which hires to make; whether to add a new product line and many other strategic decisions for small business.”

5.   Clued in

A good CFO (portfolio or not) should always be aware of the latest financial guidance pertaining to your business. “10% of my day is spent researching the latest guidance from the government.” John states, “This is to ensure that we can provide insight on the latest legislation, as well as which grants could be claimed for.”

6.   Ethical

Advising multiple clients calls for an extra set of scruples. This is especially true when it comes to any potential conflict of interest. 

“We have one set of clients where there could be room for connection. In order to ensure ethical practices, we divide the work between myself and my business partner.” Says John, “Were either of us in a situation where we were working on our own, we would not take on the work if we believed there was a conflict of interest. Our integrity is worth more than the paycheck.” 

A good CFO should also keep on top of their ethical and professional requirements – as part of their membership to the relevant accounting bodies. 

7.   Attentive

We all know how frustrating it can be to wait on a response from someone – especially where money is concerned. Along with the cost-effective perks of a portfolio CFO comes the fact that they can’t be on call 24-7. 

“A portfolio CFO cannot serve all clients at the same time and immediately.” Says John, “Some startups value this more than the cost of full-time versus part-time. The biggest challenge as a Portfolio CFO is staying on top of multiple clients and prioritising effectively. The way we get around this at Addition is by having two portfolio CFOs to share the load.  We also have a team of highly qualified accountants and bookkeepers to ensure the financial information is clean, robust and clearly presented.”

AIN members can obtain the following offers in our Perks & Benefits section.

1. Annual Budgets & Forecasting

Addition helps you plan your business’ journey for the next 12 months and transform your vision into an actionable finance plan. £1,500 per scenario – Angel Investment Network members get 20% off.


2. Financial Modelling

Every business decision has a financial impact. Addition creates a dynamic model for your company, based on today’s needs and tomorrow’s goals. £500 per scenario – Angel Investment Network members get 20% off.


3. Financial Pitch Deck Review

Addition has helped startups from pre-seed to to Series A and beyond. They know what investors are looking for when it comes to financial reporting and projections in your pitch deck. £650 per review – Angel Investment Network members get 20% off.

Cleantech energy company eleXsys Energy raises £640,000 through AIN

eleXsysEnergy has raised £640,000 through Angel Investment Network, the world’s largest online angel investment platform. eleXsys Energy has developed a unique, international award-winning, enabling technology that will drive the transition of global energy grids to a clean energy future. The eleXsys® technology enables large commercial and industrial rooftops to become grid-connected, solar power plants. eleXsys® is the critical enabling technology being installed to build the IKEA eleXsys Microgrid at IKEA Adelaide, which will become 100% powered by renewable generation by 2025.

The raise took four months and was part of a larger £5m funding raise, including a Series A round of  £3.55m, with the funds allowing the business to continue its investment as it rapidly grows its global reach. eleXsys Energy’s innovative technology unlocks the full potential of electricity networks to host multiple times more clean, distributed energy without expensive network infrastructure upgrades. By providing services that enable a two-way flow of electricity on grids, the platform supports the most efficient, low-cost means of delivering clean distributed solar or wind energy.

The company originated in Australia but has now reorganised and is headquartered in London. This is eleXsys Energy’s first raise overseas and marks a significant step for the company.  The company has over 270 customers including 11 industrial rooftops across schools and government, agricultural and commercial buildings. The raise will allow the business to continue to invest in its technology as it rapidly grows its global reach.

According to Richard Romanowski, co-founder and Executive Director, of eleXsys: “We are delighted to have completed a successful round of fundraising with Angel Investment Network. Our technology is critical for the transition to clean energy – one of the world’s most pressing challenges. Funding from investors across the world confirms the transglobal appetite for investment opportunities in new cleantech solutions, aiming to tackle global carbon reduction targets. We are a rapidly growing business and with the capital raised, we will be able to further drive our strategic plans for expansion and deliver on our goals for our new and existing investors.”

According to Sam Louis, Head of Consultancy at Angel Investment Network: “We are excited to be working with eleXsys Energy in this period of significant growth for the company. This raise ensured that eleXsys secured the backing of strategic and experienced investors as they expand their global reach and make their mark on international markets. Our passion-driven investors want to support businesses that solve real problems and there’s arguably few greater problems to solve than how to dramatically scale the move to clean energy.”

News of the raise has been covered in the media both in the UK and internationally including: UKTN, TechLoop Europe , UK Tech Investment News, Growth Business, Eminetra and 24htech Asia