Our London Tech Week event, Tech Growth UK, was back this year (online only) for another successful outing. Some elements remained the same: informative and educational talks from the Department for International Trade on why the UK is such a great place to invest and the support that DIT provides followed by Rochester PR Group, The JMB Partnership and Burges Salmon on (respectively) the need to raise your profile, how to start lead generation and set up your business. We were also delighted to have another founders’ panel, moderated by DIT, which included CloudGaia (Argentina), Terrifio (Canada), Thestartupreneur (India) and VOI (Sweden) all at varying stages of their UK market entry journey who shared their own key learnings.
This year, we took advantage of the online format to offer significantly more content on venture capital, a topic that is always of interest. Justin Macrae, Chief Operating Officer of Fortunis Capital, began by explaining why his company invests in tech – which can be summed up as the fact that there is now an enormous commercial opportunity for the world’s ever-increasing number of challenges and problems to be solved through tech, and tech-based solutions. This “age of innovation” is on a scale not seen before. Justin then explained what Fortunis looks for, starting with the most amazing teams or founders who are committed, describing it as not just a business but a way of life. Of course, the business has to be commercially viable and has to be scalable globally. Also it has to offer some innovation, something different and be able to compete as a standalone innovation and solving a problem: for example a fintech solving debt problems is a great starting point. Justin also passed on some advice which included “be resourceful, ask for favours, go and hustle, get deals and don’t use cash as your only resource – cash burn is not the way to solve problems”.
Justin was then joined by Jon Lerner of Smedvig Capital, Seb Debrouwere of Balderton Capital and Lucas Stoop of FOMCAP who each introduced their companies and their areas of interest (watch the video if you would like to hear their detailed descriptions of whether they are early stage investors, their territories and preferred sectors). All three described their companies as easy to get in touch, providing a lot of information on their websites around pitch events they might hold and, yes, they do receive approaches on LinkedIn and they look at everything that comes their way. Warm introductions are still great so it is always worth building up your connections and network to help.
The panel then answered various questions including what really stands out and what are the common mistakes that founders make. With the caveat that this can vary depending at the stage a company is at, all agreed that having the passion, work ethic, “spark”, a proper product market fit and vision were important. Their advice was also to be very open and honest. It’s absolutely right that a founder is extremely ambitious and has imagination but honesty and integrity, particularly around numbers, was regarded as hugely important as well as being able to deliver your financial model when requested rather than taking a couple of weeks. One phrase that stood out for us was having a “healthy sense of insurgency”.
The panellists also offered some clear guidance on the level of returns they were looking for (think 10x as a general rule) and discussed their awareness and their portfolio companies’ awareness of the need for diversity. They all agreed that change is taking a while to take effect.
The session ended with some great nuggets of advice including not buying into the “cult of the vc entrepreneur”, being prepared for ups and downs, being as efficient as you can with your time as a founder and bringing in the right experience at the right time to help your business grow and develop.
Thank you to all our co-hosts, founders and venture capital companies for making this an amazing event and we look forward to seeing you again in LTW 2022. We’d really recommend you watch the video of the event, so do visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kHNNFDDfSck