Manchester Funding Forum: Write-up
Ryan Walsh / 11th September 2023
On the 7th September, FinTech North hosted the Manchester Funding Forum, in partnership with main sponsors Sainty Hird and Partners and Floww, Aquis and Artorius. Over 100 delegates crammed into Bruntwood SciTech’s No.1 Circle Square facility to hear a stellar line-up of fundraising experts share their expertise across all aspects of fundraising!
For those of you who were unable to join us on the day in Manchester, we’ve produced a write-up of the full event, which can be viewed below:
Joe Roche, Engagement Manager of FinTech North opened proceedings, introducing the work we do in the sector, before passing over to Ralph Grayson, Partner of main event sponsors Sainty Hird and Partners to welcome delegates and provide some context around the event.
Christopher Sier, Chairman of FinTech North and CEO of Clearglass was our chair for the day.
Our first speakers were Rebecca Achieng Ajulu-Bushell, CEO of the 10,000 Interns Foundation and Shope Delano, Investor and Founder of Kind Regards. The pair joined us to address the funding gap for diverse founders.
Rebecca shared the story of the 10,000 Interns Foundation – which exists to develop programmes that offer paid work experience for under-represented groups across a wide range of sectors. In 3 years, they’ve created 5,000 internships and receive 15,000 applications every year from universities across the UK.
Shope shared her funding journey with Kind Regards, whilst highlighting some of the institutional challenges she had to face throughout the process. “Lot’s of funding solutions aren’t focussed on the actual issue – getting black founders into rooms where deals are being made.”
Shope made a point that the “easy thing to do is to provide some co-working space or put on a conference” – rather than impacting the more nuanced issue of unconscious bias.
Rebecca commented, “Sometimes the glass ceiling is broken by someone, then built back with concrete”.
“Unconscious bias can come from not recognising a mode of being, way of speaking or the way a person presents.”
Rebecca and Shope then shared their thoughts on what can be done about why diverse founders get less than 1% of funding.
A bombshell moment from Shope: “Just wire the money.”
Rebecca Achieng Ajulu Bushell: “The people winning the diversity race are also winning the profile race… diverse thought will build the future… if we do what we’ve always done, we’ll get what we’ve always got”.
Our next speaker was Ezechi Britton MBE, CEO of CFIT. Ez briefly explained more about the work CFIT are doing in trying to remove the barriers to innovation in the UK. Ez has quite literally seen it all when it comes to fundraising – his journey from developer to co-founder, to CTO to serial entrepreneur and VC, means his perspective is an incredibly unique one.
Ez’s company was founded by two founders of Nigerian descent and one of Indian, and raised over £200m, bucking the trend for FinTechs with diverse leadership. “Less than 0.02% of VC funding goes to black female founders. Only 2/1000 companies backed by VCs have black founders.”
On fundraising – “Even if you don’t have those liabilities, you’re still taking on maximum risk as a founder – this creates some friction points and interesting decisions. This can lead to bad outcomes.”
“Nobody thinks fundraising is easy.” – EB
“Most founders don’t factor in their lifestyle into their fundraising costs… salary is another one, build it into the plan from day one” Ez. “Too many founders go out fundraising too early.” – EB
Ez used the example of FTX and a lack of due diligence due to FOMO. His one piece of advice for founders seeking funding in the room: “Put a strategy together – you rarely hear about the fundraising strategy.”
Next up, we heard from Laura Pomfret, Co-Founder of Financielle, a Manchester-based financial wellness platform focussed on a female audience.
Laura thanked several of her funders and supporters in the room and reminisced about debating to spend money on train tickets to attend a pitching competition in London, in which Financielle came 2nd. Laura was wonderfully candid about her fundraising journey and offered advice to other founders in the room.
“As a founder, it’s a pretend job, nobody else would be expected to be qualified in so many fields – you’re a CFO, CMO, COO
“I didn’t know angels and I didn’t want to take what money my family and friends have”
“I didn’t want to build a business for investors”.
Financielle now boasts over 4,500 paying monthly subscribers from 120 countries and 7.3 million views on TikTok. Laura shared tips on raising for new founders:
- Debating on seed or bridge
- “Build the business you want, not the business you investors want.”
- You don’t need funding to launch, don’t be afraid of starting.
- Factoring the salary you need
- Never pay for PR as a start-up
Our next speaker was Azeez Soetan, who leads Startup and VC Partnerships for Floww. Floww was established as the first global end-to-end platform for the private market. The platform supports entrepreneurs, funding partners and investors providing them with a platform that vastly improves their experience operating within the private market.
The Floww platform is built on the three pillars of data, regulation and distribution:
Data – Through its patented walled garden technology, private market operators can confidently access and share key documents needed to make data driven decisions.
Regulation – The Floww SPV is a FCA authorised and globally tradable asset allowing investors access to much needed private market liquidity.
Distribution – Floww is built to support every direction of play and all stakeholders in this ecosystem, whether a company wants to deal directly with investors, present an opportunity to their angel syndicate, or tap into new pools of liquidity.
Among the key points raised by Azeez were:
“You need to have different funding options, not everyone can go into VC straight away”.
“Having a fundraise strategy is crucial and something that we often find is missing”.
If you’re looking to raise money, launch a fund or run deals – talk to Floww.
Our final segment of the morning session was our panel discussion titled “Successful exit founders reinvesting in the region”, featuring a stellar line-up of speakers, including: Kevin Shone, Managing Director, Head of Family Office Consulting, Artorius, Ezechi Britton MBE, CEO of CFIT, David Levine, Principal, Manchester Angels, Claire Lewis, Co-Founder and CEO, Baltic Ventures, Andy Barrow, General Partner, Praetura Ventures and Sam White, Founder and Global CEO, Stella Insurance.
The panel discussed the key learnings taken away from their funding journeys and advised the founders in the room about all aspects of fundraising:
“It’s a game of survival, if the ideas good enough, someone one day will invest.” – Andy Barrow, General Partner, Praetura Ventures
“It’s really hard. Don’t take things personally” – Sam White, Founder and Global CEO, Stella Insurance.
“Be persistent, be nice.” – Ezechi Britton MBE, CEO of CFIT
“The only thing that matters to a VC is a maximised return. Investors might talk about impact, but they only care about returns.” – David Levine, Principal, Manchester Angels.
“Unicorns vs camels – there’s a lot of talk about becoming a unicorn, but why don’t we strive to be camels instead? They last for ages on very little.” – Sam White, Founder and Global CEO, Stella Insurance
“Motivations differ massively from investor to investor.” – Ezechi Britton MBE, CEO of CFIT
An important factor to consider for founders:
“There’s a difference between hungry and starving – I’ve seen founders have to walk away due to mental health issues.” – Ezechi Britton MBE, CEO of CFIT
“Healthy people build healthy businesses” – Claire Lewis, Co-Founder and CEO, Baltic Ventures
“The best boards; the CEO and the Founder tell the board what to do” – Andy Barrow, General Partner, Praetura Ventures
Following a lunch and networking break, we heard from Andy Barrow, General Partner at Praetura Ventures. As if Andy hadn’t been frank enough already, we next heard from Praetura about ‘What VCs won’t tell you’:
“Building a business is hard. Defensibility is not as strong anymore.”
“There’s more chance of raising capital than you think.”
“It’s not always a ‘fighting battle’”.
Andy dispelled the myth that VC’s can help your business grow, emphasising that it’s down to founders. Being cautious on feedback and listening is key. “There’s no guarantee that VCs will help your business to grow – it’s on you.
“Not all businesses need VC money”.
“You don’t have to go to London for funding. UK VC has come a long way in the last decade. Stay local with your funding if you can, no one wants a long distance relationship”.
- Perfect your pitch – is it slick, did you nail it, did it feel right for you?
- Approach firms that are looking for you – make sure you go for the right VC
- Tell your story
- Be honest about the risk
- Learn as you go – your pitch deck will change
- Enjoy the journey
Next up we heard from Chris Sier and Kevin Chong, co-head at Outward VC. Kevin invested in Chris’s FinTech, Clearglass, which we explored as part of a fire-side chat. Kevin gave an overview of Outward, who are a London-based FinTech fund. Outward set out to address the funding gap between 2 and 5 million; often the gap between initial fund-raises and big institutional raises.
Outward have 20 companies in their portfolio, and in Q1 next year, they’re starting their next fund.
“Empathy is really important” – Chris Sier
“Early-stage investors are trying to see if the opportunity is big enough… If we think it can be global, we’re interested… we’re also looking for deep domain expertise.” – Kevin
Our next speaker was Rupert Matheiu, partner at Sainty Hird and Partners, our main sponsors of the Funding Forum. Rupert stressed the importance of people, a recurring theme of the day.
Rupert talked through his main takeaways:
- Board – increasing your companies valuation
- A board should bring advice, credibility, skills, diversity
- Search – finding and hiring the right people
- Rupert talked about the evolution of boards, from founder control, to shared control through to potential investor control.
- Why use search? Expertise, network, discretion, time, independence, opportunity cost
- Evaluation – why it matters in fund-raising
- Do the evaluation at the beginning of the process – do this as a start-up
- Evaluate people on your team – competencies, personality and values
Rupert then shared his conclusions:
- A strong board gets a higher valuation
- Help is required to hire the best people
- An early valuation
- Reduces perceived risk
- Increase valuation
- Better team function
Our final speaker was Steve Henney, Business Development Director at Aquis Exchange, who explored the option of IPO’s for companies fundraising.
Why does a company IPO?
- To attract new capital, often from abroad.
- Raising your profile
- Retain control of your company
- Create liquidity
- Incentivise employees
- Obtain a live market valuation
Aquis are creating a flexible public market to allow growth companies to list, called Apex.
Steve talked us through a successful case study; a company went public within 8 weeks on the platform. They managed to raise £10m from notable institutional investors.
- Real momentum from the public market arena to make it more accessible for companies
- Much more accessible at an early stage now
- Pool of potential investors is growing in size and diversity.
Chris Sier, Chairman of FinTech North and CEO of Clearglass then closed the Manchester Funding Forum.
We’d like to say a huge thank-you to everyone that attended – we hope you found the event as valuable one. We’d also like to thank our sponsors Sainty Hird and Partners, Floww, Aquis and Artorius for their support; our fantastic speakers for sharing their expertise and funding prowess and the team at Bruntwood SciTech for hosting us.
Our next event is the Leeds FinTech Open Mic Showcase, set to take place on the 28th of September. Check it out here!