Government considering rescue funding package for unicorn businesses

The Treasury is discussing the introduction of an emergency funding scheme for UK unicorns struggling to access other forms of capital

High growth unicorn businesses could be in line for emergency government funding, reports The Telegraph.

These firms are too big to benefit from the measures introduced by the Treasury in recent weeks.

Unicorns, valued at over $1bn, are concerned about the lack of funding available to them. Earlier this month, companies including Bulb, Graphcore and Deliveroo wrote to the Treasury to say that they were being excluded and made calls for urgent changes in the state-funded relief.

Since then, Innovate UK funds and grants have opened up along with a £250m Future Fund which allows the government to take a stake in businesses. Under the scheme, businesses can apply for up to £5m in taxpayer money which will be matched by outside investors.

Unfortunately, unicorn businesses rely on raising and spending a much higher sum of money per year, making the Future Fund offering insufficient.

What’s more, businesses must be profitable to access the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), shutting out many start-ups.

See also: Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme – how it works 

Unicorns are becoming increasingly concerned as other funding from Silicon Valley and Chinese venture capital firms dry up. Ministers are aware of these issues and have been finding ways to solve them.

One of the solutions discussed is funnelling money through the Business Growth Fund (BGF), an independent £2.5bn investment fund which was set up by Britain’s banks in the wake of the financial crash. Stephen Welton, chief executive of BGF, said: “The Future Fund makes sense at that end of the market. But we are talking about relatively small sums of money. It is natural to take that approach and apply it to medium-sized businesses.”

A spokesperson for the Treasury said that it “continued to engage with businesses across all sectors to assess the impacts of coronavirus and monitor the effectiveness of these new schemes.”

Investors have also warned that businesses founded by women and people from ethnic minority backgrounds are at a disadvantage. Research shows that investors overwhelmingly invest in start-ups led by men. Check Warner, a partner at Ada Ventures, said: “This is the biggest injection of capital into the start-up ecosystem, therefore this issue should be at least considered, if not very much addressed.”

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Anna Jordan

Anna is Senior Reporter, covering topics affecting SMEs such as grant funding, managing employees and the day-to-day running of a business.

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