Ping pong and Movember are things of the past for companies set to be backed by Ingenious Ventures’ new media and creative industries seed fund, as the firm’s CEO Patrick Bradley explains.
In three months, I will be standing in front of 15 start-ups who have just received two items from Ingenious Ventures: a cheque for up to £150,000 and a large tin of instant coffee.
The cheque is a message that my team and I believe in the companies’ business ideas and want to work closely with them; the coffee is a hint that they need to get back to work.
Sometimes, companies in their seed to validation stage can become spoilt and distracted. Spoilt because of the many excellent incubators and accelerators developing new ideas in inspiring surroundings, and distracted by all the people and organisations trying to progress those ideas. But this is one of the most crucial stages in a company’s early years and it demands focus: it is the opportunity to prove a concept, execute it professionally and attract the right attention from investors.
In the early days, a young company may meet hosts of angels – many will end up with their name on the cap table and all will have differing thoughts about where the business should go. Management will also encounter the mentors and evangelists who swoop and pivot in and out of an idea’s evolution.
Some of these projects thrive, but others will not. Of course, at times it’s the ideas themselves that flounder; at others it is the distracted founders who let the business fail. Only the companies with the best ideas and the most committed, determined and capable founders will encounter venture capital teams like mine, which runs the Ingenious Seed Investment Programme.
More on Ingenious Ventures:
- Ingenious targets £20 million for new EIS fund
- Shelley Media Fund 5 launched by Ingenious
- Ingenious positioning to sell festival tickets
The first piece of advice I give companies looking to take venture capital funding is that it should be the last thing they do: the further along they can get alone the more likely it is they will attract institutional funding – and the higher the price they can demand for a stake.
Venture capital money is serious money. Perhaps you are a graduate of an incubator or similar, or a serial entrepreneur with successful exits behind you. Whoever you are, you certainly need to understand that accepting investment from a major institution means acting in a certain way.
After investment, your role will shift significantly. You are no longer just the creator of a good idea; now you are growing a company for the benefit of your customers, users, employees, investors – and yourself. In-office ping pong and Movember become distant memories and ‘all-nighter’ means something different now. Gratification is delayed because if you expect smart money, you should also expect serious money.
You should also demand your investor does everything in their power to help grow the company. This can include access to their network and perhaps further rounds of funding as the company grows. This is why Ingenious Ventures invests a Series A Fund in which BBH, the advertising agency, co-invest in return for access to their branding strategy expertise and global client network.
But, as I will tell our first intake in September, access to that fund and the potentially significant follow-on investment it can make, is only available to the companies that use our seed funding seriously and effectively. Then, we may even buy them an espresso machine.