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Thrive is set up by Funding London, a venture capital company bridging the finance gap for early stage businesses based in London. With over a decade’s experience in supporting the startups of London through a variety of funding vehicles, Funding London sensed a need to illuminate the ever-evolving scenario of London’s early stage businesses.

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Investment · 1 February '21

What happened to UK Startup fundraising in 2020?

If there was a year you could hibernate as a startup founder then 2020 may well have been your choice which saw a Coronavirus induced national lockdown upend both our personal & business lives. Startups operating in the hospitality, retail, travel and leisure sectors in particular have been squeezed  by reduced demand for their offerings and reduced access to finance throughout this period. Nevertheless, as a whole 2020’s headline fundraising figures were surprisingly robust showing only a relatively modest decrease of 22% in the total amount invested into UK scaleups of £14.2bn (2019: 18.3bn) in 5,807 deals (2019: 6,833, 15% decrease). [Source: Beauhurst]

Headline fundraising figures in 2020 and the driving factors behind them

However, when assessing the relative performance of the UK fundraising market it is important to not solely compare the figures to 2019, which was a record year for both the amount invested and the number of deals. Looking below at the data for fundraising deals in the UK [source: beauhurst] we can see that 2020 looks comparatively similar to the years of 2017 & 2018 and significantly more buoyant when compared to years 2016 & prior.

One may argue based solely on the data above that the 2020 fundraising figures merely represent a cyclical reduction after a sustained increase in the amount invested since 2011. However, there have been two key trends which drastically change the narrative from the perspective of an early stage founder.

Megadeals

Megadeals have continued to keep overall amounts invested into UK scale-ups high and also helps explain the suppressed no. of fundraises. Given the growth in capital invested into the UK venture market over the past 10 years it would be expected as companies mature to naturally require larger amounts of capital to sustain growth. It also follows that successful fund managers are likely to raise larger funds in the future with a thesis to invest in later stage companies. These investments will be for larger amounts and thus sustain the megadeal trend. This trend has continued into 2021 with over £1.55bn invested (up to 19th January 2021) averaging £27.2m per deal whereas comparatively for the same period in 2020 these amounts were £512m and £6.32m per deal respectively. Companies such as Checkout.com (£333m) (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-01-12/payments-firm-checkout-com-valued-at-15-billion-after-funding) , Graphcore (£162m) (https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/dec/29/uk-graphcore-valued-28bn-nvidia-artificial-intelligence)  and Deliveroo (£132m) (https://www.ft.com/content/ab5044a6-fcc7-447e-befb-ee7be0f0f1e9) have contributed to the megadeal charge into 2021.

First-time fundraisings

When analysing first-time fundraisings in 2020 the overall picture may resonate more strongly with pre-seed – series A founders whereby the amount invested decreased 52% to £605m (2019: £1.25bn 2019) across 281 deals (2019: 397, 30% decrease). The decrease represents the struggles many founders have had with investors choosing to favour supporting their current portfolios and also a narrowing of investment focus on sectors positively impacted by Covid such as Fintech, Edtech & Medtech. So overall first-time fundraising founders may have found it easier to get initial meetings with investors due to video calling efficiencies however notably fewer follow-ups & term sheet offers. 2020 was an interesting year to analyse and I discussed many of these factors in detail with Henry Whorwood, Head of Research at Beauhurst in a recent episode of When Unicorns Fly – The Startup Podcast (https://www.whenunicornsfly.com/episodes/episode-11)

2021 what to expect and Key factors to prepare for your fundraise

Early signs are showing that trends noted above are likely to continue leading to a concentration of funds invested into later-stage companies however the rollout of the vaccine does reduce medium-term uncertainty around the impact of Covid, which may encourage an increase in the proportion of seed-stage deals in 2021. Furthermore, early-stage investors have now shown signs of adapting to virtual deals (www.uktech.news/blog/can-virtual-deals-rise-to-change-the-shape-of-venture-forever-20200616) and consumer spending is forecast to rebound strongly following record saving levels in 2020. Certainly, in the short term, there is a significant amount of capital to be deployed in advance of the 2021 tax year-end in April by EIS & VCT funds which should support deal volumes & valuations.

In summary, founders need to be adequately prepared for their fundraise and it is important to focus on four key stages:

  • An in-depth understanding of the Venture market
  • High quality and clear documentation to support the fundraise
  • Introductions to relevant investors
  • An understanding of the terms of investment.

At  PwC Raise | Ventures we specialise in optimising the fundraising process for both founders and investors and would encourage founders to focus on the above four elements in order to secure an investment with the best possible terms in 2021. For further information on how PwC has helped other founders secure their fundraise and for access to our industry-leading term sheet analysis please visit the website ( https://www.pwc.co.uk/private-business-private-clients/raise.html)