Access to funding is always a challenge for start-ups and early-stage entrepreneurs. If you haven’t got money of your own or can’t raise it through your family and friends, then where else can you realistically go?
Luckily, the UK has a thriving business angel community. More and more private individuals are investing anything from hundreds to hundreds of thousands in entrepreneurial businesses, normally supported by generous tax reliefs under the UK’s Seed and Enterprise Investment Schemes (SEIS/ EIS). If you have a clear vision, a minimum viable product or service (and preferably some early revenue), a strategy that’s capable of delivering long term value and a well thought out business plan, a business angel might be the answer to your funding prayers.
Type “Angel Networks” into Google and you’ll get millions of results. There are a large number of formal and informal networks to choose from. Many, but not all, can be found via the searchable member directory at the UK Business Angels Association’s website – https://www.ukbaa.org.uk/
Take great care when selecting your angel(s). Some will want to be heavily involved in your business and some won’t. Find out who else they’ve invested in and speak to the management about their approach. This is likely to be a long-term relationship, so characters and attitudes are important. Advice from a friendly mentor may be welcome but you won’t want to find yourself in partnership with an interfering or controlling individual.
When you speak to Angels, try to look at things from their perspective. In particular, remember that you only get one chance to make a first impression and that, given the risk profile of early-stage businesses, investors will take some convincing. Lack of vision, strategy, scalability and passion will be big negatives, whereas a well thought out and fully researched business plan, high barriers to entry and a sound grasp of the projected financials and cash flows will be strong positives.
It’s worth mentioning that Angels also come in crowds! Over the last ten years or so the crowdfunding industry has taken off, with companies like Crowdcube, Seedrs and many others funding hundreds, if not thousands, of businesses. The UK Crowdfunding Association is a good place to start and you can get details of their members from their website – https://www.ukcfa.org.uk/about-us/members/
Crowdfunding is an amazing resource for entrepreneurs but it’s not for everyone. If you want to access it, you’ll need a proposition that appeals to the ‘crowd’ and a formal campaign. In general, you will also need some pre-committed funding – nobody wants to be the first investor on a wholly unfunded pitch.
With crowdfunding, investors are generally passive and it’s possible to treat all of the shareholders in your crowd as one owner, easing the burden on your reporting and company secretarial responsibilities.
And finally, whatever your source of funding, don’t be tempted to overvalue your business and don’t forget to focus on how your investors will get their money back. A vague idea that you might like to pay them some interest or buy their shares back at some future date is unlikely to be attractive.