Early Stage investors can often seem like mythical animals hidden in parts of the city you have little access to. When you do finally catch yourself face to face in a crowded networking event, or on a brief phone call that you’ve been preparing for all week, it can often feel like an uncomfortably one-sided encounter.
One presumption about tech-for-good startups is that they generate less profit than traditional tech companies. This is a myth - they need to take care to prevent the nobility of the cause from getting in the way of their financial ambition, but there is no fundamental conflict between good business and business for good.
When my business partner, Jack, and I started UnderPinned in August 2018, we had countless images of what running a startup would look like. Time has shown that many of them were poorly conceived. Some, downright fanciful. It’s only been two and half years, but it feels like aeons ago now, and I’ve often thought back to that time, wondering what I would tell myself if I could hop into a time-machine and talk to a younger, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Albert.
As part of the last budget, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that the limit for contactless payments is to be increased from £45 to £100. As a large portion of UK businesses have been closed for months, there’s an obvious reason to want to stimulate the economy by making larger purchases easier. While this increase in the contactless limit seems to be a good move on the surface, we must look at the impacts of this change and debate the case for alternative payment methods.
Whilst the UK is home to a large number of innovative startups, and has even been proclaimed the ‘unicorn’ capital of Europe, it also has a disappointingly high gender funding gap. According to a report commissioned by the British Business Bank, for every £1 of VC investment, less than 1p went to all-female teams and only 10p to mixed-gender teams. The initial reaction may be to point fingers at the VC industry, however interestingly the report also noted that in fact only 5% of all pitchdecks received are from all-female teams.
Asides from having a great idea, one of the most important things you need to do as a startup, is consider your budget. It’s important to have a clear understanding of what you can spend, what you can expect to make, and how the two balance out. Without undertaking this process, you risk ending up in a situation where your finances are out of sync, causing significant issues for your business.
A recent study cited by a leading Fintech publication found that whilst 30% of the fintech workforce is female, only 17% of senior fintech roles are held by women and just over 5% of founders are women. These statistics are pretty shocking as Fintech is such a dynamic world of discovery and innovation.
One of the most common questions that entrepreneurs ask at the early stage of a company is - how do you secure funding? After all, it’s one the most crucial steps in developing a company and will give entrepreneurs the ability to hire employees, develop their product and take the company to new heights. And as the company matures, the process can be slightly different along the way – there are different objectives when raising seed funds, versus Round A, B, and C because at each stage the company itself is at a new level.
Matthew Singleton, Investment Director at Throgmorton Capital Management has spent most of his career advising his clients on how to manage their wealth and plan their financial futures. From time to time Matt advises clients on strategies that may involve investing in startups. He is also a passionate champion of startup businesses and has been involved in early-stage businesses himself. Here, he shares his financial and investment advice for any early-stage business looking to grow quickly without exposing themselves to unnecessary financial risks in his six top tips.
A growing number of people are showing interest in investing. This has been evidenced by an increase in the number of trading and investment accounts opened over the last 18 months and the interest is expected to continue for the foreseeable future. Additionally, more and more business and startup entrepreneurs are getting involved as well. This is due to an interest in becoming more financially literate as well as the desire to benefit from investment yield. But how to go about it?
The world is undergoing huge changes at the moment. Between coronavirus pushing the economy to the limit and a group of Redditors challenging the financial market hegemony, people are questioning the role of established institutions. If finance doesn’t work to enable the economy, businesses or individuals, then who is it for?
Any startup that’s raised venture funding knows it can be a gruelling process. It can take hundreds of meetings, calls, and pitches to land the capital you need to grow. However, VCs provide more than just capital and this can be a huge enabler for startups as they grow and scale. It’s therefore vital to look beyond the cash and ensure any VC you’re looking to work with is able to offer you more than just money.
There are many joys that come from starting life as a freelancer or small business owner – the empowering feeling of striking out on your own, the freedom to set your schedule, the sense of accomplishment when your ideas come to life. But one of the biggest headaches is suddenly being in charge of your own finances, from payroll to budgeting to taxes, especially if you have limited experience in these areas.
If you’re growing a business that has a purpose beyond making profit the world of investment might feel daunting. But there is a breed of investors who are looking to see their investments making a social and environmental impact and they are on the look out to back the leaders of the future. This is an opportunity you can’t miss.
The great idea has started to come to fruition. You are excited about the future for your business and yourself. You have a team in place, and you have got the startup started. The investment market has predetermined that you should go and look for investment to drive your business forward. A good majority of startups follow this route without question.
Included VC, the first-of-its-kind global initiative building diversity within venture capital, has in a collaborative partnership with 11 funds from around the world, kicked off its Fellowship II. It is the only offering on the market that offers a nine-month, fully funded Fellowship to diverse individuals globally who are looking to enter the VC ecosystem.
It’s official – London is Europe’s global tech city, with London based technology firms having raised more than $10.5bn in new investment from venture capital firms in 2020. As good as that is, the good news just keeps on coming, as 2021 looks to be even more promising given that London based VC firms have raised record amounts of fresh funds ready to deploy this year.
The online world has often been difficult for inventive startups that want to make a living from their passion. You have an idea that you believe consumers want, but getting it to them is hard. Your strength is in the idea, but to get it out there you have to create a website, decide on ecommerce or charging capabilities, plan a marketing strategy, resolve accounting issues and even organise customer service. So before you even get started you are defeated by too many obstacles. However, for the creative person there are a great many platforms and technology solutions that will do all of this for you.
Staying on track financially can be one of the most challenging aspects of creating and managing a startup. If it wasn’t hard enough, the global pandemic has added another dimension of difficulty which even the most robust of businesses have struggled to navigate. However, there are a few key things that startups can do to stay on top of their finances. Below are five tips for startups aiming to become a thriving and profitable business.
One of the advice I always give to founders before they go to investors – make sure you are fundable. But what is a fundable business idea? Having been working with startups for more than ten years and supporting them in the fundraising process I summed up these seven questions that could help you understand whether you are ready to raise funds
Bored of the adage 'If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail'? You're not alone. Sadly, truisms - much like a parent's advice - tend to be worth heeding. When it comes to funding, it's best to do it well in advance. Too many companies leave it until there's a cashflow crunch before acting. As trusted advisers, accountants need to play the role of parent, use their wisdom to identify future funding opportunities, model a couple of scenarios, and help clients find a source of finance that doesn't leave them with unfavourable terms.
Overall VC investments in 2020 are at par with previous years – but in Q3 2020, venture capital funding for all female founders is on pace for its worst year since 2017 (US data). In the week of Global Women's Entrepreneurship Day, four of Europe’s top early stage venture funds (Speedinvest, Amplifier, La Famiglia and Redstone) got together to look into the reasons behind the grim statistics and explore what changes need to take place for more female entrepreneurs to get to a term sheet.
During lockdown, the UK Government awarded over £130m of grant funding for Research and Development (R&D) activity to innovative businesses and their collaborators in the United Kingdom. The awardees were from multiple sectors including creative, engineering, digital health, education and sustainable energy.
Since the launch of London’s Silicon Roundtable in 2008, UK tech startups have enjoyed more than a decade of strong interest from Venture Capitalists (VCs). Spurred on by the success of fast-growth consumer tech companies like Uber or Deliveroo, VCs have sought out startups that could break into the public zeitgeist to become the world’s next big thing. This culminated in more than $13bn being pumped into British technology startups in 2019. Then, the pandemic struck.
The year 2020 is a year like no other. While data shows the pandemic hasn’t affected the overall amount VC dollars invested in tech companies (on par with previous years; US), it has already had a disproportionate effect on the funds allocated to women-led businesses. Venture checks for female founders are at their lowest since 2017. The broader picture is even grimmer, with a real threat to roll back the last 30 years of economic progress for women (according to the International Monetary Fund).
When it comes to equity crowdfunding, the go-to platform for any European investor, young company or growth stage business is either Crowdcube, Seedrs, or both. In the first half of 2020, the two platforms topped Beauhurst’s State of UK Crowdfunding report, with similar, impressive performances. Seedrs closed 95 deals and raised £49.7m, while Crowdcube secured 97 deals and generated £48.5m – all throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fintech business lender, MarketFinance has secured an additional £50m from one of Israel’s largest asset managers, Viola Credit, to lend to UK SMEs under the HM Treasury and British Business Bank CBILS initiative. The announcement comes as MarketFinance launches a 'unified application' process in which SMEs will, through one application, be presented with a variety of finance options and be able to select those best suited to their needs.
For startups, the importance of quality professional advice cannot be overstated. While business owners are quick to seek advice from lawyers and accountants there is considerable resistance to seeking financial advice. A survey conducted by OpenMoney earlier this year, which polled 2,080 adults, provides a worrying insight into how business owners view financial advisers and the advice that they provide. We spoke to Pradeep Oliver, Partner, Cripps Pemberton Greenish who gave us more insight on the topic.
European VC funds are raising a record amount of capital in recent years - $13B in 2018 with over 40% going into funds greater than €250M. Venture is not only a vital source for startup companies to achieve growth and create value through innovation - it is key for the overall economy. In essence, it is a two-sided business, where exceptional founders are matched with capital. While a lot has been said and written about the ‘front’ facing side of the venture industry, how do venture capital firms emerge and raise their funds?
It is often said that turnover is vanity and profit is sanity. But, even more importantly, do not forget that cash is king. Put simply, businesses fail because they do not have enough cash or other liquid assets to pay their bills or meet their immediate obligations. So, whilst increasing turnover and growing profitability are what every business owner is aiming to achieve, it is crucial to still have a very strong focus on cash flow and the levels of cash in the business.
The amount of information we are exposed to exceeds our ability to process it. Out of the about 70,000 thoughts we have per day, our short term memory can hold no more than seven for only about 20 to 30 seconds. How does this relate to branding? Our long-term memory stores our associations with specific brands which is also ultimately the desired effect of marketing campaigns or PR activities - for people to remember your company (or you as a person!) when in need of the products or services you provide.
I was asked very recently by a company to explain how I would approach their projected Intellectual Property (trademarks, patents, code of the platform) concerning their Balance Sheet or Statement of Financial Position. To make it even more complicated and they have asked me to consider both UK accounting rules as well as the US.
Asto Business Capital loans are now available on the Funding Options platform as part of a long term partnership with the business finance marketplace. The Santander-backed app joins Funding Options’ roster of more than 200 lender partners, offering loans of as little as £150 or as much as £150,000, to help small businesses plug urgent cash flow holes.
2019 was a record breaking year for VC investment in UK startups ($13.2bn, an increase of 44% compared to the previous year) and the amount of VC dry powder in Europe is higher than ever before(more last year’s raises here). Success stories of companies raising millions without a formal pitch deck (Hopin, an online events platform) or still in beta and during lockdown (Clubhouse, a voice-based social media app) do sound inspiring.
Conducting a regular business audit is a vital document that is needed to help monitor and inspect the financial situation of a company. To prevent losing track of assets and overheads a business has, audits help bring clarity to managers where their cash in-flows and out-flows are going to and from.
Since the Coronavirus outbreak, multiple concerns about the pandemic deepening social and economic inequalities have been raised. The latest ‘Ecoystem’ webinar session brought together leading investors and one of world’s largest engineering and manufacturing companies in a conversation on challenging industry perceptions to break down barriers to VC funding and innovation.
OurCrowd, a crowdfunded-venture investment platform, has announced the launch of its Pandemic Innovation Fund. The Fund plans to raise $100m for investment in urgent technological solutions for the medical, business, educational and social needs triggered by global pandemics and other health emergencies.
We are in a state of an unprecedented global health crisis. Coronavirus has spread with similar speed and impact to an earthquake – with confirmed cases surpassing 5.5 million people in under six months’ time. Economically, according to IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva, the world is facing the 'deepest recession since the 1930s Great Depression'. A shock to the system, which has transformed the way we work, communicate and live. And fundraise. Last week a research by Plexal and Beauhurst revealed investment in UK tech startups has dropped by 50% year-on year. What should companies fundraising know, how to prepare and how has the VC landscape changed?
Over £7.25bn has now been paid to more than 40,500 businesses under the UK government’s Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS). More than 130,000 applications were also received for the newer Bounce Bank Loan Scheme (BBLS) on the first day of launch alone, with SMEs able to apply for between £2,000-£50,000.
Money most certainly does not buy happiness, but it does make the world go round. And the lack of money can lead to hardship in many ways. A question that I keep overhearing recently is about whether it is still possible to raise finance during the coronavirus pandemic. The simple answer is yes… maybe!
A staggering 66% of startups have less than 12 months runway and 39% have less than six. These bleak statistics paint a somewhat gloomy picture and yet, in the UK alone, we saw a steady 8.5% increase in the number of companies being registered last year, so these figures are certainly not deterring the business leaders of today. Here James Hyde, CEO and co-founder of James and James, explains more...
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the economy hard, and small businesses in particular. The UK Government is moving at great pace to implement unprecedented economic assistance measures, but even with their best efforts, the dramatic drop in footfall over recent weeks has made it difficult for small businesses to survive even in the short interim period.
We invest in people that are very similar to us. That in itself it can be a good thing, the problem is that men invest mostly in men! Having spent the last eight years in venture capital investments working with many entrepreneurs during their journey from early stages into growth, I realised that there are differences in the way the women entrepreneurs in my portfolios experienced the fundraising journey.
Let’s face it: if your business is growing fast, you’re likely to need capital. There are different ways of financing it (advanced or discounted sales, strategic partnerships, bartering, grants & loans, crowdfunding) with Venture Capital one that arguably poses the greatest risk for both founders and investors.
A survey of 200 startups and scale-ups – commissioned by Envestors in 2019 – has uncovered a number of misconceptions which are ultimately impacting the ability of companies to successfully raise funds using the crowdfunding model. Furthermore, the results show the approach - which hasn’t changed since its genesis in 2011 - is ripe for disruption.
In the last two articles in this series I have looked at various aspects of finance and this time I am going to stay with the financial theme but from a very different angle – tax. But tax is a very broad topic and I wanted to focus on one unusual aspect of the UK tax system, and that is R&D (research and development) tax credits, and it is unusual in the fact that this time it is HMRC giving you money rather than taking it.