Archives for the month of: May, 2015

geeksAs a startup founder, working with other startup founders, on a day to day basis, I get a huge amount of exposure to the European startups scene. I probably met upwards of 1000 startup founders in the past year. After at least 20 years in corporate life as a salesman and then management consultant I am in a good position to see the benefits of startup life;

  • The founders have vision and passion - The best startup founders are on a mission.  They have identified a problem or opportunity and will risk everything to ensure that they address it. They usually have immense positive energy and have the ability to motivate others to follow their vision.
  • Startups change  the way we live - In most walks of life it is difficult to make a real impact. Startups can bring radical change within relatively short timescales and with a small injection of capital. We only have to look at companies such as Facebook, Twitter, Uber, Airbnb and Instagram to see the diversity of change that is possible.
  • They shake up existing companies – Startups have little respect for the status quo. The taxis in San Francisco were awful; Uber gave a great alternative. The banks and other near-monopolies will be next. There are already startups nibbling away at the non-core activities of these monolithic businesses, providing customers with a better customer experience at a lower cost. It will not be long before startups will disrupt any business that does not provide exceptional service.
  • They are a creative learning process – Working on a startup is a constant learning experience. Small team sizes mean that everyone works on every aspect of the business. The environment is dynamic and subject to constant change as competitors emerge and market conditions change. Startup founders have to be highly creative, to imagine new solutions, unique business models and innovative processes.
  • They are a great environment to work in - Startups are a very different working environment to most enterprises. There is no time for politics or egos. The most important thing is getting the job done as effectively as possible. Startups are finely balanced and there is little room for hanger-oners. The pressure is invigorating and no two days are the same.

Enterprises are increasingly finding it difficult to innovate in the face of competition from smaller more nimble competition. Startups represent an alternative way of organising resources which provides more fulfilment to founder teams and employees and deliver accelerated results. There is little doubt that life in a startup can be extremely tough and is not for everyone. However, for many of us there is nothing else that comes close.

Blog by Paul Dowling – Co-Founder of Dreamstake  the world’s first tech startup platform to match founders with the most appropriate investors using a unique startup rating system. This allows entrepreneurs and investors to monitor startup progress and inject capital and support when most needed. Startup founders can create profiles on the platform and get direct introductions to investors. We are constantly looking for great early stage tech startups. Investors please contact [email protected]

We have also recently launched an exclusive tech angel investment club in partnership with The Hoxton. HoxTech Angels will run invitation only angel investment evenings every last Monday of the month.

 

There is nothing very novel about claiming that we are currently in a startup bubble. For sure, the most likely cause for the bubble bursting in the UK is a knock-on consequence of it happening in the US.  The same thing happened with the last dot.com bubble in 2001. However, has the UK Government created unique circumstances with their current strategy towards investors and startups? And should The Government be doing more to avoid a similar disaster?

The SEIS scheme has been very useful in stimulating investment in early stage startups. There can be little criticism of a scheme that offsets some of the considerable risk taken by individual investors. However, as usual, the accountants have found ways to use the tax break in ways in which it wasn’t intended. In my opinion, most SEIS funds are a bad thing. They attract investors who are only interested in the tax breaks and have little interest in the underlying success of the startups. These funds have to make a lot of investments within each tax year to fulfil their commitment to their investors. They make high charges on both the investors and often on the startups themselves. This means that they can only attract founders who are desperate. Any investment vehicle where the tax breaks are more important than the underlying fundamentals can only be a bad thing. The availability of capital for low grade startups is inflating valuations and undermining the market.

The second questionable trend is the emergence of equity crowdfunding as a mainstream activity in the UK.  The US Government has quite rightly been cautious in allowing this form of crowdfunding. The availability of capital from crowdfunding is increasing the valuations on sub-prime startups, which is the recipe for a bubble. Crowdfunding attracts startups that would not normally be able to secure angel investment. The terms on these platforms are more hostile to investors which is a deterrent to more experienced angels. Less experienced investors are unlikely to fully understand the importance of diversifying risk across multiple startups and are less likely to carry out thorough due diligence.

The two trends, noted above, both lead to a greater availability of dumb money into a poorer pool of businesses. The Government should clamp down on SEIS funds and make sure that equity crowdfunding is very closely regulated. They should also do more to encourage more conventional forms of startups investment.

Blog by Paul Dowling – Co-Founder of Dreamstake  the world’s first tech startup platform to match founders with the most appropriate investors using a unique startup rating system. This allows entrepreneurs and investors to monitor startup progress and inject capital and support when most needed. Startup founders can create profiles on the platform and get direct introductions to investors. We are constantly looking for great early stage tech startups. Investors please contact [email protected]

We have also recently launched an exclusive tech angel investment club in partnership with The Hoxton. HoxTech Angels will run invitation only angel investment evenings every last Monday of the month.