There are two key challenges that frustrate scale-up founders and supporters alike in the West of England: office space (availability, affordability and suitability) and access to investment. Over the last 10 months I have heard the latter described in many colourful ways which I will soon attempt to articulate via a blog post.
Before I do that, I want to share the low-down on the inaugural Quarterly Investment Briefing (QIB) event that Nick Sturge and I hosted on Thursday 22nd March. I share partly for posterity and partly because the calibre of the speakers, and their insights were tremendous.
What is a Quarterly Investment Briefing?
Great question – this is a series of four events and newsletters (Quarterly Investment in Brief) kindly supported by KPMG, Smith & Williamson and TLT Solicitors. These events which occur (unsurprisingly) every 3 months, bring together the investment community to share good practice, learn together, network and discover opportunities. They are not a pitching event, and are not open to the wider community – just to active and potentially active investors.
The region has a healthy calendar of pitch events, and of opportunities for scale-up founders to learn from investors (at the Engine Shed Investor in Residence days for example). If you want to know more about these, please join the QIB distribution list using the link below or drop me an email.
What happened at the first event on Thursday 22nd March?
The event opened with a quick explanation of QIBs from Nick Sturge, who has been working on this particular challenge over the last few years. This was swiftly followed by three informative and engaging lightning talks:
- Dominic Honmong and Ben Tickler, Silicon Valley Bank: provided some great insights into the international trends and insights of venture funding. Their simple summary of investment options was particularly helpful, and they told us that Bristol is #3 outside London for VC investment in terms of volume so far after Dublin and Cambridge. Some in the audience weren’t surprised to hear that the most active UK VCs are Local Globe, London Co-investment Fund, Octopus Investments, Accelerated Digital Ventures and Scottish Enterprise.
- Mark Leaver, Invest Bristol and Bath used some beautiful, colourful images to tell the story of investment opportunities in terms of sectors and businesses in the region. Mark highlighted the key sectors for the region (the most vibrant/active/well-served) as high-tech, digital and creative, aerospace and advanced manufacturing and financial and professional services. He also described the region as unorthodox, diverse, adventuring and pioneering. Graphcore and ReachRobotics were mentioned for their regional, and international success though Mark was the first to admit that these are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of exciting regional businesses doing great things globally.
- Jenny Tooth, UK Business Angels Association offered a simple introduction to UKBAA (UK Business Angels Association) and described her organisation as the trade body for early-stage investing – connecting the community, representing their views and raising standards. Drawing on their annual survey, Jenny also told us that over 70% of angel investment is into businesses in London and the South East and four fifths of angels invested through a syndicate in 2016. Unsurprisingly 87% of angels made use of EIS and SEIS in their investments in 2016. Pleasingly 69% of angel investors surveyed felt that their portfolio was in line with, or above their expectations. Alarmingly, Jenny told us that only 15% of angel investors are female and that 90% of advisers never mentioned EIS/SEIS to female clients.
Jenny also shared news of the Bristol Angel Hub which is an initiative run in partnership with Engine Shed which is summarised in the diagram below. The Angel Hub invites angel investors to register to join in order to receive access to the Business Lounge at Engine Shed, to engage with a calendar of training and development events and to attend these Quarterly Investment Briefing events (and intended for all investors, not just angels).
After the lightning talks, Jenny Tooth hosted an informal and informative panel discussion with:
- Roger Wilkins, Cool Ventures
- Fuchsia Curry, Deepbridge Syndicate
- Jerry Barnes, Bristol Private Equity Club
The conversation was wide-ranging and Jenny deftly navigated the three complimentary but contrasting perspectives on angel investing covering such topics as ‘how we can increase the number of female angel investors’, ‘what we can do to create a more vibrant angel investment ecosystem regionally’ and ‘how each of their propositions work’. My favourite soundbite of the session was definitely Jerry’s wisdom on the topic of regional investors – that they have ‘short arms and long pockets.’ In addition, I noted that the panellists felt there was an important difference between London entrepreneurs and Bristolian ones – that we’re not yet seeing the virtuous cycle of entrepreneurs turning to investors in any real volume. The panel also explained that £300 – 400k is the sweet spot for most angels, and that it’s important to tell the story of successful investments whenever we can – to drive further follow on investment and also to encourage more activity for other businesses.
To round off the event I shared some insights from our data friends at Beauhurst including the 12 companies that have successfully announced investment raises in the last quarter, the companies who’ve raised the most in the region and the sectors where most scale-up businesses are found in the region. Beauhurst gives us great insights into the 245 businesses that are ‘visible’ scale-ups which provides a proxy for the wider (less visible) scale-up work currently happening in the region.
If you are interested in the existing investment landscape in the West of England, check out my recent post mapping those institutions, organisations and angel groups that I’ve come across.
I want to be at the next one, sign me up…
If you are an investor and you would like to receive invitations to future QIBs, and to see the Quarterly Investment in Brief newsletter hit your inbox, please sign up here: http://bit.ly/ESQIBFORM.
If you are a budding angel investor, please come along to the ‘Effective Investor Workshop’ hosted by the UK Business Angels Association on Wednesday 25th April at 16:30: RSVP here: https://angelinvestintro.eventbrite.co.uk
If you are a scaleup founder I’m afraid this isn’t the event for you. However, if you would like me to share your investment proposition with this group, please send over a one page summary of your proposition at least 48 hours in advance of the QIB events.
Future event schedule: Thursday 28th June, Thursday 27th September and Thursday 6th December all 16:00 – 18:30
The Quarterly Investment Briefings and newsletters are kindly sponsored by Smith & Williamson, KPMG and TLT Solicitors.
This blog series tells the story of the Scale-up Enabler, Briony Phillips. Briony joined the Engine Shed team on a 1 year contract in June 2017 funded by Business West, Engine Shed, The University of Bristol and the West of England Growth Hub. This group have a shared ambition – first, to identify scale-up businesses in the West of England region and to better understand their challenges and second, to design, facilitate and support initiatives that will make it easier for businesses to scale-up more effectively – in the long term.
Links and information are correct as of April 2018.
Briony – Scale-up Enabler