How to raise investment for your digital business: The Pembridge Partners dos and don'ts
More people are starting media and online businesses now than perhaps ever before. On one level this is clearly the result of a tough employment market. But on another level attitudes in Britain are becoming more entrepreneurial.
Anecdotal evidence, for example, suggests that the Silicon Roundabout area of London's Shoreditch is beginning to rival California's Silicon Valley in terms of being a hotbed of new ideas and as a honeypot for investors.
And these investors are still there, even if the banks themselves remain cash-strapped.
Last week the offices of Mother hosted a seminar designed to give young new media businesses insights into securing investor funding. It was organised as part of a Solutions for Business programme that is run by the likes of Grant Thornton, E-Synergy, as well as Pembridge Partners, which is headed by Rose Lewis, who is also a MiNetwork mentor.
Rose told the meeting; "the banks may not have money, but the bankers do. Rather than buying a Ferrari the trend in the City is to use bonuses to invest. They are only one group who still have cash to back new businesses."
So once you have identified who still has cash to invest, how do you persuade them to give some of it to you? Drawing on her experiences at 3i and Pembridge, which as well as advising, also invests directly in media and marketing firms, Lewis gave some insights into the sort of things she and her team might look for:
* Make sure you are part of a team, we rarely back single entrepreneurs. Even a team of two people is preferable to a team of one.
* Make sure you have a leader, particularly in 50/50 partnerships, so we can be confident decisions can be taken quickly and somebody is in charge.
* Make sure you have people with start-up experience on your team, as opposed to corporate experience. We want to know the team has experience of running and starting a business, what it's really like to run out of cash for example.
* Make sure you really have a start-up mentality. We want people who are focused on equity uplift, not maintaining their middle class lifestyle. People who are more concerned about keeping their children in private schools should stick to the corporate life.
* We want people who are prepared to work really, really, really hard. Facebook didn't just grow for example. These guys worked 24 hours a day.
* We want technologists. You don't necessarily need to be a coder, but we will want to know how you might leverage technology to make a positive impact on your business. If you are a technology start-up we would expect to see a coder as part of the founding team. In my view, all five year olds should now be taught coding.
* Team cohesion is key. We want to see a team that is aligned. One sign of a team not being aligned is when they talk over each other in a pitch. Never disagree in front of investors! So back each other up and make sure the CEO is fully supported.
* Remember what you are pitching for. Yes, you want investment. But more often than not what you need first is the next meeting. So focus on that.
* Do your research on investors. If you haven't done your research on me I won't talk to you.
* Be able to pitch your business in whatever way the opportunity presents; you might have three sentences, or three hours. Your 30 second pitch can get you the money, in some ways it can be more important than the business plan. I met a chap who filmed and sent his two minute pitch via his iPhone. That was brilliant.
* Have a clear exit strategy. Investors want to know when they'll get their money back.