The climate for starting a new business in Oxford has never been better. Nicola Gardiner Executive Search asked the county’s leading business support for entrepreneurs about how start-ups can secure funding.
Have a solid proposition
It seems the key to convincing those with the cheque books that you have a winning proposition is not a well drafted business plan, but that you have identified who your customers are and most importantly that you have engaged with your target market to shape and validate your proposition. Investors want to see that you “understand your customer, what their problem is and how you intend to solve it” says Matthew Arnold ( Principal, Oxford Sciences Innovation).
Engage with local and global investors
Investment might come via local venture capitalists, Pitchfest (or similar), or angel networks but Marcelo Bravo’s (CEO, PharmaScience Group Plc) advice is don’t just engage with local investors. Find out globally which firms/people are investing in your space, and go and talk to them – even if it is US-based firms or further afield.
Get feedback if your pitch is unsuccessful
An unsuccessful investment pitch might be a signal to re-evaluate your proposition, or to head in a different direction for investment – ask for feedback. “Don’t be afraid to pivot!” says Tony Hart (Network Navigator, Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (OxLEP)).
Focus on sales
Sage advice from David Mott (Managing Partner, Oxford Capital) is not to focus on fund raising at the expense of generating sales. “Sales is the cheapest form of equity”, he says. If you can delay fund raising until your business can demonstrate real momentum in that area, there will be less need to dilute equity in exchange for investment. First round funding may cost the business owner(s) 20-30% of ownership.
Look into EIS and SEIS schemes
Sue Staunton (Partner, James Cowper Kreston) encourages exploring the EIS and SEIS schemes for offering tax efficient investment opportunities for investors.