Investment Ready Check List

One of the major problems with starting a business is getting the business into a situation in which you can scale and make the business truly sustainable. This normally means getting some form of investment, this may be from other founders, employees, but most often from investors.

So what are the minimum set of items to check off the list to become investment ready?

1. Domain Name: Make sure you secure the .com site and your country domain, e.g. .co.uk. If these are not available then you should seriously consider renaming both the domain and trading company or someone else could end up with your website traffic.

2. Registered Company: In order to issue shares to an founder, employee or investor in return for their money time/you will need to form a Registered Company, such as Ltd. This normally means going to companieshouse.ork.uk and completing an online form.

3. Have a working Business Bank Account: This must be in the name of the Registered Company with the current directors as signatories. It takes a little longer than expected and make sure you have all the documents before setting foot in the bank. For you first business bank account I recommend you have a physical bank with a business manager, so shop around and make sure you get on with them. This means you can ask questions and get advice for nothing.

4. Trademark, Copyright or Design Rights: It is very important to ensure you are covered by a Trademark in your main trading country(s) so that no one else can use your product or company name.

5. Financial Forecast: In order negotiate a fair deal for both you and the investor it is very important to have robust financial forecasts and a proper valuation of your company. Again there is professional help with accountants if you are having problems.

6. Business Plan: Planning and Execution are key to becoming a successful entrepreneur. I have never liked writing a business plan as it becomes an exercise in writing and not planning, risk management and strategic thinking. I highly recommend that you write this yourself in no more than a day or two as this should be short and concise as the majority of angel investors are busy people and will skim read it at most.

7. Presentation: Once you have got through the door to meet the angel investor, then you only have a few minutes to impress and show you know what you are doing. So use the rule of five, five slides with five lines with five words, the rest is in your head. Remember, the five slides are Problem, Proposition, People, Proof, Request.

8. Shareholder Agreement: It is advisable for you to create a fair Shareholder Agreement rather than use one the investor provides which is likely to be highly stacked in their favour as it has been written by their lawyer.

Good Luck!!

start-up journey

Your startup journey – Hatchery to Investment Ready

There is a wealth of support out their for students and graduates who are starting a business. Its important to use the system to your advantage, so below we set out the path you should take in moving you business through the start-ups stages.

Hatchery

This typically aimed at entrepreneurial students who will utilise a designated and specially designed space to conceive, launch, and “hatch” their own independent businesses. Normally there will be a series of adhoc events, networking and awareness raising activities which are supported by business counselling and academic advising. Examples:

Key Things to look for?

  • Networking opportunities
  • Access to early stage businesses
  • Development of enterprising skills

Start-up Course

A set of events or a week long course which gets you to work on and around your business. These force you to think about the key aspects of the business model, marketing, sales, operations, finance, legal and financial aspect of your business. The programme should help set the plan for the business. These are normally free (you will have to fill in some forms) to attend and offered through universities and support agencies. Key Things to look for?

  • A intensive programme covering topics above
  • Mentoring with a local mentor
  • Follow through support
  • Business Start-up Success rate (should be greater than 50% after one year)

Examples:

Business Incubator

A physical space which is dedicated to start-ups and early stage businesses. Businesses apply with a feasible business plan which supports the funding of the place and support over a period of time. A portfolio of support is provided through a adhoc series of engagements with external “interested” parties, such as mentor, legal advice and funders. Normally providing the physical elements to start a business including hot desking, serviced offices and internet. Key Things to look for?

  • Number of events
  • Types of business
  • Size of business, you want those of the same size or a little bigger which shows they can help this size of business
  • Wifi Access and Speed
  • Spaces for quick meeting, chats and brainstorming

Examples:

Accelerator

These are normally national or regional scheme which take normally trading businesses which have further potential and up skills, network and re-organised the business to be able to take advantage of that potential. They have a mixture of fixed programmes and adhoc support which accumadates the business, at its stage and sector. Key Things to look for?

  • Number of current businesses
  • Number of staff and their networks
  • Location to other clusters of start-ups you need
  • Mentorship programme,
  • Alumni : Number and size of the businesses

Examples

Seed Investment Programme

These open investment programmes offer early-stage investment to entrepreneurs who are looking to develop new ventures. The programmes provide funding and support to help entrepreneurs nurture, develop and test their ideas. They normally last 10 to 13 weeks programme of skills development, networking and investment injection. The majority of these provide each entrant up to £15,000 to £20k of investment capital. Key Things to look for?

  • Support for similar or complementary business sectors
  • Make sure the investors know something about your industry
  • Check their success rate based on increased business valuation
  • How many in the portfolio and how many successful exits from portfolio
  • Do you ready need the money
  • Have you considered other sources of funding

Investment Ready Advancement

Research has shown that it can take up to 18 months on average for enterprises to become “investment ready”. The majority of businesses which are within an investment route need more than 20k and therefore they need to become investment ready before taking on 500k plus. Therefore this stage is about getting the company ready for significant investment. Key Things to look for?

  • Are able to share control of your business
  • Have you analysed the right type of investor for your business
  • Have you a clear idea of what stage your business has reached

Examples:

Entrepreneur Core Values

6 Core Values of an Entrepreneur

Every entrepreneur should have a mantra, a code by which they conduct business and here we set out our “core values” of an Entrepreneur. Its so important to believe in what you are doing and set your path using values which others also work with.

Partnership

The success of an entrepreneur is largely due to the partnerships they forge. The intellectual capital and passion entrepreneurs display on a daily basis are key drivers in achieving their partnerships with employees, customers and other businesses.  They highly value and respect the people who make up their company and the commitment to excellence. Recruiting, training, and retaining quality people are fundamental objectives an Entrepreneurs’ success.

Personal Integrity

Entrepreneurs conduct all matters of business with integrity. Entrepreneurs proudly uphold the values of honesty, truthfulness and sincerity, while remaining fair and ethical in even the most difficult situations.  Entrepreneurs seek to constantly maintain a professional demeanour despite facing critical decisions while conducting business. The time and effort put into every project is true to their mission of delivering superior results in a professional manner.

Innovation

Entrepreneurs know in every marketplace, innovative ideas, concepts, and processes are essential to the continued success of any company. Entrepreneurs endeavour to create value, deliver results, and continuously improve all elements of both their business and those of their customers. Entrepreneurs aim to be creative, effective, and efficient within their company to help create inspired, visionary solutions for our business partners.

Ethics

Entrepreneurs firmly believes that a strong moral code is a key component towards earning trust in their business, both internally and externally. They strive for all aspects of their company such as people, ideals, functions, and outputs to uphold the highest possible moral competency and responsibility. Entrepreneurs are steadfast in practicing and observing the ethical and moral principles.

Trust

Trust is one of the foundation stones of being an Entrepreneurs. It begins with their co-founder, investors, employees and depends on the reliance, partnerships, and successes they share with customers. Trust between our company and customers manifests itself through common goals, respect, and fulfilment of our commitments. Due to the trust they build, both with employees and customers they can not rest easy knowing they have not meet  all of their needs.

Quality

Quality is an underlying trait of Entrepreneurs that touches all aspects of their business. The quality of they people and excellence of their operations lead to distinctive outputs for their customers. Quality is achieved through passion, leadership, education, empowerment, responsibility and accountability. These are virtues Entrepreneurs champion  and recognise in the activities of their company.

The Startup funding cycle

6 Stages of the Startup

When we work with start-ups its important to provide an assessment on their journey within the startup lifecycle. Understanding where a startup is in their lifecycle allows us to assess their progress, providing mentoring to the founders and also provide a vision. The startup lifecycle is made of 6 stages of development, where each stage is made up of levels of substages, allowing for more granular assessment which helps pinpoint the main drivers of progress at each stage.

1) Discovery (or Pre-Seed)

Goal: This phase is all about discovering and validating whether you are solving a meaningful problem and whether anybody would “hypothetically” be interested in their solution.
Milestones: Founding team is formed, many customer interviews are conducted, value proposition is found, minimally viable products are created, team joins an accelerator or incubator, Friends and Family financing round, first mentors & advisors come on board.
Management Team : Founder(s)
Funding Requirements : £500 – £5,000 (always depends on the business type and technology requirements)
Business Development Milestones : Validated Problem and potential solution
Typical Funding Resources : Cash
Average Valuation : Nil (Typical Technology Start-up)
Time: 3-6 months (average for all types)

 

2) Seed

Goal: Development of a minimum viable product which can be shown to potential customers, sponsors and customers.
Milestones: Founding team is formed, many customer interviews are conducted, value proposition is found, minimally viable products are created, team joins an accelerator or incubator, Friends and Family financing round, first mentors & advisors come on board.
Management Team : (Core team) Founders, co-Founders, Mentor,
Business Development Milestones : Letters of intent or some preliminary relationships
Funding Requirements : (Seed Capital) £10,000 – £50,000
Typical Funding Sources : Friends and Family financing round, first mentors & advisors come on board
Average Valuation : £10,000 – £100,000
Time: 5-12 months (average for all types)

3) Validation

Goal: The Startup is looking to get early validation that people are interested in purchasing their product through orders or pre-orders with deposits.
Milestones : refinement of core features, initial user growth, metrics and analytics implementation, start-up funding, first key hires, pivots (if necessary), first paying customers, product market fit.
Management Team : (Entrepreneurial Lieutenants) At least one real manager, Founders, Mentors and Advisors
Funding Requirements : (Startup Capital) £100,000 – £300,000
Typical Funding Resources : Business Angels, Grants,
Business Development Milestones : Paying Customers
Average Valuation : £1m
Time: 9 months – 1 year

4) Established / Efficiency

Goal: The company refines the business model and improves the efficiency of their customer acquisition process. The business should be able to efficiently acquire customers in order to avoid scaling with in-effective processes.
Milestones: value proposition refined, user experienced overhauled, conversion funnel optimized, viral growth achieved, repeatable sales process and/or scalable customer acquisition channels found.
Management Team : (Risk takers) At least three real managers, Founders, Mentors and Advisors
Funding Requirements : (Venture Capital) £300,000 – £500,000
Typical Funding Resources : Venture Capital
Business Development Milestones : Profitable customers, Strategic Partners
Average Valuation : £3m
Time: 1 – 3 years

5) Scale

Goal: Startups step on the marketing drive and drives global growth very aggressively.
Milestones: massive customer acquisition, back-end scalability improvements, experienced executive team formed, process implementation, establishment of departments.
Management Team : Executive Board, Management Board, External Advisors
Funding Requirements : £1.2m – £5m
Typical Funding Resources : (Bridge Funding)
Business Development Milestones : Historical results against plan, Focused Business Plan, Strong Processes and Controls,
Average Valuation : £3-15m
Time: 3-5 years (average for all types)

 

6) Sustain

Goal: Develop a portfolio of customers and products, either based on one technology or a set.
Milestones: diversification of customers and revenue streams, agile product teams, public and investor relations
Management Team : Executive Board, Management Board, External Advisors, Product Teams
Funding Requirements : (IPO) Large A Round
Typical Funding Resources : IPO
Business Development Milestones : Multiple Revenue Streams,
Average Valuation : £10-30m

Entrepreneurs don’t like forms

When you work with so many universities, you get to see many aspects of Enterprise Education, some good some bad. But there is one aspect which staff and students have issues with and its ERDF funded projects. These projects are designed by someone who normally has long gone to another institution and therefore the narrative is long lost on why they embarked on this journey, however across the sector we see a series of common issues:
 
Timing – When a student joins a university and wants to start a business on graduation. They pop over to the enterprise department and see what support is available for graduates and notice its “part funded by the EU”. The one question they forget to ask is “Will this be available in three years when I graduate”. If they did ask, the answer would be “I am not sure as its a three year project that started last year” or something like this. How can the student plan to start a business at that university if the support is not going to be there?  The length of the project is not in line with the academic programme and the University has not committed to provide a portfolio of support for students with or without ERDF funding. 

Journey – The journey through enterprise education and support to create a business is not a linear one. The education is needed at the point of most impact, i.e, just before they need to undergo that task. You need book keeping at the start and completing the business tax return at some point within the first year. Some students require a considerable amount of social media training within the execution of the marketing plan, while others need very very little. These rigid projects can not coup with this approach.

Support Blocks – The majority of ERDF project require support to be in six hours blocks, signed off by the student on paper (That’s the EU Eco credentials crashing and burning). This requires a fixed “we are going to tell you” how to run a business approach. This limits the support to providing six hours on each subject and forcng everyone to attend every session to build up a set of paper work which evidences the “learning”. Whereby setting the objective to get people to sign forms in person. The majority of staff are only concerned with getting students to sign forms. The use of mixed media and social peer development is important for any long term business development and yet does not fit into these six hour form signing blocks.

Scope – The requirements of the project requires the scope of the project to be limited, which is understandable. However, a students startup comes in all shapes and sizes, which may not fit within the scope. The money is set out in a way which 2 years ago made sense, but now the economy, technology and business trends have moved on makes little sense to conducts the project with this set scope. The projects need to be able to adapt to the needs to the customer while keeping the aim, to support students in starting a viable business.

Location – The majority of projects are based around a location, so within the region of the university. The funding for the project comes from two sources, the EU and the students fees. So if the student intends to develop their business back home in another region, then they are not eligible for support under the ERDF project. The university does not offer support in getting them on a project in their region and nor does the university offer to support the student with the part of the funding which they are matching with the EU. So this student loses out.

One Stop Solution – Students want to go to one person and get all the support available for starting a business. They don’t need several projects which work on different aspects of enterprise and are separate. The supermarkets know this, the government know this (www.gov.uk), so Universities need to understand this and develop the enterprise support personal to be a single team where students meet the first person and can get access to the portfolio of support available at this institution. The ERDF project can not be the only support available and there has to be more offered to ensure the needs of students is met.

I know these issues are not entirely placed by the EU, who need to understand why these projects are providing little long term benefits or culture change within the institutions. The majority of the problems lies with those that create the proposals, the managers of the project and their briefs. Basically it needs further development of a working relationship with people who understand enterprise education with those who understand how ERDF projects should and could be run.

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