Angel Investment Network celebrates 15th anniversary

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

AIN London team

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

Our co-founders in earlier times…

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

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

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

Our co-founders James Badgett and Mike Lebus today

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


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

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


 

#SixtySecondStartup

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

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

Our interview with Julian:

What does your company do?

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

Why did you set up this company?

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

We knew we were onto something when:

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

How did you get your first customer?

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

Our business model:

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

Our most effective marketing channel has been:

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

The biggest mistake that I’ve made is: 

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

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

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

We worked with AIN because:

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

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

A worldview on startup stats

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

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

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

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

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

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

Angel Investment Network reports strong annual revenue growth

Angel Investment Network (AIN) has announced strong growth, with annual revenues up 9.4% year on year and a record number of deals for the broking business. AIN now has more than a million users in total on the platform.

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

Alongside the online platform, AIN also runs a successful broking division, which has seen exceptional growth in the past 12 months. Revenues have increased by 22% as demand for the team’s expertise increases. AIN has been involved in several significant raises in the past 12 months for a variety of business. This includes eco-friendly baby product business Kit & Kin, fully customisable bio-polymer plastic company Teysha, and Pin Point, data science offering early cancer detection.

Despite ongoing uncertainty around Brexit and a global slowdown, AIN’s results reveal the buoyant startup culture both in the UK and internationally and the popularity for this method of financing.  The biggest demand among investors over the past year has been for software-based business, however food & beverage and property ventures are also seeing impressive growth. Fast growth worldwide markets include India, Canada and Australia.

Additionally AIN has been expanding into new areas including a property investment site, BrickTribe and an impact-driven online hub SeedTribe, catering for the increasing demand from investors for businesses with sustainability at their core.

According to AIN co-founder Mike Lebus: “AIN is the largest network connecting angel investors with startups, and we continue to see strong growth with investors keen to connect to our wide pool of early-stage businesses. We reflect a strong, growing and resilient worldwide startup culture which has now taken root in every continent of the world. We are particularly encouraged by the performance of our broking business as more and more investors are coming to us for access to high quality dealflow.”

He continues: “We continue to operate a lean and agile business model and we are able to launch new products to respond to the needs of our users. This includes our two new standalone platforms, BrickTribe and SeedTribe, which we built to fulfil demand that we were receiving from our investors.”

AIN’s Olivia Sibony named one of the UK’s top 10 Women entrepreneurs

Olivia Sibony, CEO of SeedTribe and Angel Investment Network’s Head of Impact Investing has been named one of the UK’s top 10 Women Entrepreneurs. 

The accolade came from Business Game Changer Magazine in its annual showcase of The UK’s Top game-changing Women Entrepreneurs. The UK’s Top Ten Women Entrepreneurs recognises the outstanding contribution made by individual UK business women. This contribution is either to their businesses, their local communities or by inspiring and mentoring other entrepreneurs. 

Olivia was recognised for three key reasons. These were:

– Founding and exiting her business, GrubClub, selling to EatWith, feeding tens of thousands of diners through hundreds of chefs, one of whom went on to earn a Michelin Star.

– Founding and launching SeedTribe. The UK’s central hub for Impact Entrepreneurs, supporting and connecting hundreds of entrepreneurs, encouraging using profit for purpose.

– Launching the Female Founders Hub for Angel Investment Network, responding to data that showed just 1 in 10 of our investors are women and a low percentage of female founder teams. She was recognised for ‘empowering thousands of women to gain confidence in becoming active investors and using their skills and money to help shape the world’.

According to Olivia: “I am honoured to have received this accolade. My success is in huge part thanks to the incredible network of entrepreneurs, colleagues and supporters with whom I’ve worked closely all these years. I look forward to continuing this work supporting female founders, as well as entrepreneurs running inspiring businesses that are able to align profit and purpose in order to address some of the world’s most pressing social and environmental challenges.”

The Northern Ireland startup scene deserves more attention

Sam Louis from Angel Investment Network
AIN’s Sam Louis

AIN’s Sam Louis talks through why Northern Ireland’s thriving startup scene deserves more attention.

When it comes to reporting on Northern Ireland’s business climate the focus has, for better or worse, been on Brexit. With discussions about how to resolve the border conundrum continuing, there’s been little talk of much else. However, one exciting aspect has definitely been under reported – the growth of the Northern Irish startup scene. It is worth examining.

I judged the Digital DNA upStart awards in Belfast earlier this year and was overwhelmed by the breadth and depth of exciting companies developing in Northern Ireland. Across all sorts of sectors, there’s really something underway in the Emerald Isle.

Breadth of opportunities

Encouragingly, our data agrees. This year we created AIN’s first ‘State of the Angel Investment Nation’ report. Built on insights from the 100,000 businesses that came through our platform in 2018, it produced a detailed picture of the angel investment landscape. Within this, the report revealed that Northern Ireland had the second fastest growth across the UK. In raw terms in new entrepreneurs it was up 67% on the year before.

This is a great sign of things to come, as confidence builds within the country that top startups can be started and scaled on home soil. N. Ireland’s highest performing sectors were software and property. Cyber security businesses are particularly well represented within the software category. However, we are seeing a really encouraging breadth of opportunities – from health food companies and CBD ventures to dog grooming startups. Northern Irish entrepreneurs are setting up across all industries.

Increasing investment from overseas

Looking to the other side of the table, we’ve always had a strong core of investors coming out of Northern Ireland, many of them from a property background. What’s been interesting though is to watch their attention shift inwards as their home market grows. With increasing investment from overseas, this is something we hope will continue, with NI investors going in alongside international firms to fuel the local ecosystem.

As the world evolves, digital talent and capabilities will play an ever-increasing role in the international standings of the world’s nations. Key areas like Cyber Security, AI and Machine Learning are already a valuable commodity in dictating not only economic growth, but also geopolitical opportunities. As the Northern Irish start up scene continues to develop, especially in these highly technical areas, it has the potential to make a serious contribution to the UK’s already strong representation at the highest levels of the digital world. Whatever the outcome of Brexit, Northern Ireland’s start up scene looks set to grow. Let’s hear more about it.

Video: How to go from Idea to Investment

We’ve been helping startups raise money around the world since 2004. Over 900,000 entrepreneurs have used our site. And the question we get asked most is ‘How can I get my idea to investment?‘.

After all this time in the industry, you’d think we’d be well-placed to answer it. And we are. But it’s still not an easy question and the answer depends on the business in question.

We’ve been holding events and workshops to help entrepreneurs navigate this difficult first hurdle. Back in March we did a big one with global digital skills educator, General Assembly. And we filmed the whole event so we could share the wisdom with as many people as possible…

The film is quite long and you may want to watch specific sections at a time, so here’s a breakdown:

0:0017:06 Entrepreneur & Investor Olivia Sibony describes her experiences from the Grub Club idea to finding investors

17:0735:25 Ed Stephens, Head of Investor Relations at AIN & Host of The Startup Microdose Podcast, gives practical advice on optimising your processes for finding investment

35:26-END Ed Stephens interviews an expert panel of entrepreneurs on their experiences: Anthony Rose (Seedlegals, BBC iPlayer), Elizabeth Swanton (Feedr) and Wil Harris (Entale, Condé Nast)

idea to investment

Enjoy!

If you have any questions, please reach out to hello@angelinvestmentnetwork.co.uk

My 5 Tips for Raising Angel Investment

Back in 2013, I took a step that would change the trajectory of my career forever. After seven years at Goldman Sachs, I left for a new adventure. I was confident in my skill set, but terrified that I was abandoning the safety net of the corporate career path.

Fast forward six years, and how glad I am that I took that decision. I launched a foodtech startup called GrubClub, which I ran for five challenging but satisfying years, before EatWith acquired us in 2017.

olivia sibony grub club how to raise startup investment
A celebratory Grub Club evening

One of the things I learned on that journey was how hard and how important it is to raise funding. That’s partly why I joined Angel Investment Network last year. I had raised money through them for GrubClub and really bought into their mission to democratise angel investment.

So, here are my five key tips for getting investment:

1. Investors invest in teams

Many of the most successful businesses are at their core very simple ideas. Google allows people to search for stuff on the internet. Ford builds cars. But neither Google nor Ford were the first in their category.

Their success is commensurate to their ability to execute changes.

That’s why the team in charge of navigating this journey is so important. And that’s why investors invest in teams. So, keep that at the forefront of your mind both when building out the early team (obviously), but also when creating a story for your pitch.

Have you got an A team?

2. Remember that investors are not the same as customers

(This point is related to #3 below but is important enough to mention on its own.) Entrepreneurs often fail to communicate successfully with investors because they explain the benefits of their product/service as if describing them to a potential customer.

This is easy to do because during product and strategy meetings their focus has no doubt been on crafting the proposition to customers.

While your investors may also be customers, your proposition to them should not be the same. You will lose their interest if you talk to them as if they were customers. So, craft a story and a proposition specific to them…

3. Tell investors a compelling story

I hear a lot of people give advice like ‘tell a story in your pitch’. But they often fail to explain how to do that meaningfully. So, how do you tell a compelling story to prospective investors?

The most basic story that all investors want to hear is how they are going to make money. There may be other factors like the desire to make a positive impact on the world. But ultimately, an investor wants to make a return.

I heard a founder sum up this idea nicely on The Startup Microdose Podcast – he said, “Show investors what winning looks like.”

So, build the story of your pitch by putting dollar signs in the eyes of investors and by explaining to them how you are well-placed to execute on this grand vision.

Is your investor story compelling?

4. Create momentum

Investors are busy people. You will not always be top of their priority list. So, don’t be disheartened if they don’t get back to your message straight away.

But also, don’t be shy of sending them reminder messages.

The trick to doing this and engaging them is to try to include some impressive update that you’ve achieved since your previous message to them e.g. ‘Ex-CEO of Unilever has just agree to join the board’ or ‘1,500 new users sign ups in the last week’.

This creates the impression of progress and always helps to prove the competence of you and your team.

5. Don’t waste time

We live in a digital world. A world full of tools to boost your productivity and streamline your processes. Use them! There are some great ones for raising investment. My favourites are: Seedlegals – for digitally creating and signing all your legal documents; MixMax – for seeing if people have read your email and how many times and when; and, of course, Angel Investment Network – for meeting investors you could never otherwise hope to meet.

What do you think?

These tips are both from my own experiences. Do you agree/disagree or need more explanation? (Let me know in the comments!)

Author BIO

Olivia Sibony is an award-winning entrepreneur and ethical investment champion. She left a career at Goldman Sachs to launch foodtech startup, GrubClub, which she sold to Eatwith in 2017. She then joined Angel Investment Network (having previously raised money through them) to launch and grow SeedTribe, a spinoff platform focused on impact entrepreneurship.

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

High-End London Baker Orée Raises £425,000 Funding in Angel Investment Round

London-based bakery, Orée, has raised £425,000 through Angel Investment Network (AIN) the UK’s largest online platform connecting angel investors with startup businesses.

The French-style, high-end bakery started trading in March 2016 and currently has two shops at 275/277 Fulham Road and 147 Kensington High Street. The concept is bringing ‘a taste of the boulangeries and patisseries of rural France to London’. The funding will finance the opening of the next shop based in Covent Garden with a further location in London Bridge set for later in the year. The ambition is for more than a dozen shops across London and an international expansion.

The raise is one of the largest for a food business in AIN’s 14-year history. The highest to date was the £600k raise for Rosa’s Thai Cafe which raised £500k through AIN in 2014 and has since delivered returns to investors via a private equity buyout.

The combination of Orée’s high-quality product offering and high-end, high footfall locations across London, gives it a strong position within the food retail industry and made it an attractive proposition for AIN’s network of investors. Orée bridges the £8bn bakery market and the £6bn café and coffee shop market, both experiencing annual growth of 2.5% and 5.7% respectively. According to data from AIN, food and beverage was the second most popular category among angel investors in the UK for 2018, losing out only to software.

Xavier Ballester, Director at Angel Investment Network who brokered the deal, said: “Orée was of strong interest to our investors with its offering of a premium, authentic French Patisserie to a market that is increasingly captivated by continental cuisine. It satisfies several consumer trends that have characterised the UK casual dining market in the past couple of years, including ‘premiumisation’ and a concern for provenance.

How to Make a Smart Angel Investment

This interview with Mike Lebus, founder and managing director of Angel Investment Network, was originally published in Sifted. You can read the full article on ‘How to Make a Smart Angel Investment’ with views from other industry leaders here.

Mike Lebus, angel investor & co-founder Angel Investment Network

Mike Lebus (UK)

Mike Lebus is co-founder Angel Investment Network, a platform catering to 205,000+ angels which has backed the likes of bed mattress startup Simba, geocoding business What3Words and kids media company SuperAwesome.

An angel investor for 6 years. 

Number of personal investments: I try to make two personal investments a year. Through the venture division of the company (me and three others), we have a stake in over a hundred companies.

Average cheque size: I normally invest £10-25k.

The biggest misconception about angel investing is… that investors should be based in startup hubs like Silicon Valley and London. Online platforms and digital networks now allow investors to find great deal flow wherever they are based.

Do… take the time to meet and get to the know the founding team. When you invest in early stage projects the idea takes second place to the team. This is because the idea will have to change and evolve to be a success; and it’s the team who are responsible for doing that!

“Investors don’t have to be based in startup hubs like Silicon Valley and London.”

Don’t… invest in only one company. No matter how good the opportunity looks, there are so many unknowns when it comes to early stage investment. It’s a much better strategy to invest smaller in more businesses.

The biggest mistake I made was… to miss out on a great opportunity because I failed to build a good relationship with the team. In the early discussions I should have focused on getting to know them, their vision and their processes; instead, I was too blinkered on the valuation and deal terms. It ended up being a waste of everyone’s time. The company went on to do very well!

My personal top tip is to… manage your expectations. If you’re obsessed with returns and timescales, you’ll end up being a burden on your portfolio companies. If you relax and trust the team to execute on their vision, then you can focus on finding meaningful ways to help them with your experience and connections.

My most recent investment was in… Sweatcoin, an app that tracks your outdoor steps and rewards you with digital currency. It’s been the fastest growing health and fitness app in history in every country it’s launched in on the App Store. I know the founder well, so knew how talented he was. I also loved the company’s innovative approach to incentivising people to become more active and get healthier.

Sweatcoin tracks & verifies your outdoor steps using your phone’s accelerometers and GPS location. Those steps get converted into our currency — Sweatcoins.

The deal I regret missing out on is… Funding Circle. We helped them with funding very early on, but I chose not to invest personally. Their IPO last year valued them at £1.5 billion!

If I could change one thing about the European angel scene it would be…More government incentives to encourage more people to invest into startups. The UK have the SEIS and EIS schemes, which have really helped stimulate early-stage investment. I think more European countries should introduce similar incentives.