Early Stage Challenges: Chapter One
London’s entrepreneurial world has always fascinated me and that is one of the reasons I am so excited about my new role as the portfolio manager of the London Co-investment Fund. The LCIF was set up by Funding London to stimulate high growth companies in the fields of tech, digital and science. The fund has already invested in 67 early stage companies across multiple sectors, placing LCIF in the league of top institutional investors in this space.
Since joining Funding London, I have been actively involved in understanding our portfolio companies and the challenges our founding teams are facing. While every business is unique and every founding team has a different profile, it is interesting to discover that the overall portfolio experiences are not that dissimilar. The list of pressing matters is endless and diverse from operational issues like recruitment, regulations, and finance management to strategic questions like fundraising and business growth. It is worth mentioning here that from our portfolio of 66 companies (to date) over 45 companies are looking to raise seed extensions, Series A and beyond in 2017, creating a total portfolio funding requirement of over £120m.
Fundraising is one of the most daunting tasks for a young company and the current investment statistics are not exactly encouraging. London’s venture capital sector attracted $2.7bn in 2016 over 544 deals, down from $7.6bn in 2015 over 549 deals (source CB Insight). Although year end data will not be available until early 2017, we can already see that there is a marked decline in the average amounts being raised by early stage companies.
What does this mean to the LCIF portfolio?
First, that VCs without future prospects to raise new funds will be more cautious in their allocation strategy.
Second, the preferences and criteria of both angels and institutional investors are changing, they are looking for much better preparation, revenue confirmation and signals of sustainable growth. The straight forward due diligence process is shifting towards an exercise of Russian roulette, at times a true test of endurance for companies. Of course, this is not always the case as confirmed by our portfolio’s seasoned entrepreneurs.
Third, the increased friction within niche sectors means that more early stage companies are competing for fewer funds so brand awareness, ability to manage investor relationships and visibility in the market are becoming more important.
How is LCIF supporting the portfolio companies?
At Funding London we have been proactive in understanding the challenges that our portfolio companies are gearing up for and we are committed to supporting them in their journey.
Plans are already in motion to open the New Year with an event on The Funding Journey – Seed to Series A and beyond, in late February. It is being designed with the goal of equipping our portfolio with the insight of investors, professionals and most importantly experiences of fellow entrepreneurs. Further, throughout the first part of the year a program around supporting themes is being developed to assist companies better prepare for expansion outside the UK, upcoming regulatory changes and business growth.
We are working very closely with our supporting partner Capital Enterprise to forge new partnerships and create exclusive offers for portfolio companies including advisory services, organising networking events and individually assisting companies’ outreach to relevant investors.