Panel bashing (part 1)

With Barry off in Chicago (but keeping up his UK media profile), it was down to me (Danvers) to represent Bootlaw at two start up conferences last week.  First up was the Bizspark conference at Microsoft near Victoria Station, for a discussion optimistically entitled “Putting the Fun into Funding” [Video].

An august line up of investors had been assembled: Charles Grimsdale from Eden Ventures, Matthew Mead from NESTA and the chair, Sherry Coutu, an angel investor with an “A to Z of investments” from AlertMe to Zoopla – also including LinkedIn.  The entrepreneur’s perspective was provided by Dan Zywicki from Exceedra – a promising new start up which has managed to get by without VC funding – and doesn’t intend to take it.

The VCs spoke about the key attributes a company must have before they would consider investing.  The strongest message was that the team had to be good and Charles Grimsdale said that he needed at least two equally strong founders and preferably a third, on the basis it was unlikely all three people could be having a bad day simultaneously. Sherry Coutu emphasised seeking out the “right” angel investors who could add value to your start-up and had relevant experience, quoting research from NESTA which showed that angels who invested in areas they were familiar with and did due diligence got better returns.

I spoke about the positive effect of the investment process is that it acts as a catalyst to clean up areas of the business, which have been neglected previously, both from a business point of view when thinking about your investment proposition as well as from a legal point of view during the formal disclosure process.

Dan from Exceedra told the story of a previous business he had worked for which had suffered from VC funding as it had given it a comfort blanket, resulting in poor decision making, putting it in a terrible position once the money ran out.  He did concede though, that his business was funded by bank debt, secured against his own home.

We also had the strange experience of repeating the same panel session immediately afterwards for a new audience.  My takeaway from that? Panels definitely get better with a rehearsal – and I’m looking forward to our west end transfer – this one could run and run….

PS If you would like to join the Bizspark programme, please do get in touch with us as we can help you get on since we are “Network Partners”.

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