Gearing your innovative business through investment

You may have an innovative business, but making it a global player is likely to need some serious cash.

Ian Shields, programme manager at investment readiness scheme gateway2investment (g2i), reveals how organisations like his might be able to help.

In an ever more globalised economy, competition gets fiercer and threats to the UK’s competitiveness grow stronger.

Everyone knows that China and India are moving up the value chain from low-grade manufacturing into higher technology sectors and churning out talented engineers in the hundreds of thousands. And let’s not forget the increasing challenge from a resurgent Eastern Europe in sectors such as information technology.

In the face of these challenges it’s easy to dwell on the UK’s weaknesses, such as our patchy educational standards, the continued outsourcing of whole tranches of our manufacturing and services base, and a creeping tendency towards risk aversion.

Happily at g2i, we also see first-hand the abundant potential of UK small businesses demonstrating innovation and creativity across all sectors.

We’ve advised and found backers for businesses in a vast array of sectors, developing ambitious businesses with great potential. The universities are one source of this potential, offering technological innovation in areas such as cleantech and the life sciences.

Meanwhile, the creative sector is hugely important to the economy of London and the UK, generating intellectual property that is often hard to replicate.

Just some of the startling innovations we’ve helped along the way include streamlined cancer diagnostics, a new model for video downloads, a product that prevents your bath overflowing and combined heat and power projects that use recycled wood chippings for fuel.

While innovation and entrepreneurialism are clearly alive and well in the UK, it is the translation of ideas and talent into commercial success that is the real challenge. The companies we advise are generally at their most vulnerable; they are in the Valley of Death, the early stages where most businesses fail.

Those that do end up competing globally will be those that can demonstrate scaleable business propositions, technology that can be validated in the marketplace and a realistic understanding of what investors are looking for.

That may sound straightforward but we see time and again that businesses do not find it easy to look beyond their own immediate concerns and consider the bigger picture. Those seeking venture capital backing tend to make the same kinds of mistakes, talking endlessly about their product or service and failing to shape their business as an investment proposition.

Yet with the right advice good concepts can be turned into winning realities. g2i’s investment readiness programme has already demonstrated notable success with over £21 million already raised for growing companies.

Put simply, the programme provides tutoring and support to help create businesses and plans that are fit for investment. We take companies through seminars, assessments and action plans aimed at making entrepreneurs look hard at the viability of their businesses and the risks inherent in their plans, aligning them with the demands of potential investors.

The best prospects are invited to a series of four-day, in-depth workshops that refine the business idea and its presentation. These conclude with a live pitch in front of a range of potential investors including business angels, venture capitalists and corporate investors.

From what we’ve seen, the UK’s start-ups and growing businesses are not lacking in entrepreneurial drive, but the formula for large-scale success still eludes too many and securing financial backing remains one of the hardest bits of the formula to crack.

Perhaps more than anything else the successful businesses that go on to compete and win globally will be those who can first answer the investor’s mantra: ‘How much money do you want? What do you need it for? How much am I going to get back and when will I get it back?’

Marc Barber

Marc Barber

Marc was editor of GrowthBusiness from 2006 to 2010. He specialised in writing about entrepreneurs, private equity and venture capital, mid-market M&A, small caps and high-growth businesses.

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