‘We still have no real venture capital community here,’ says Caan, who also heads up private equity firm Hamilton Bradshaw. ‘Today the $64 million question is where do you go if you have a great idea and want to start a business from scratch?’
Caan states that the US has a clear template for venture capital and an enviable track record of success. ‘Some of the biggest companies in the world were actually conceived in America. Look at Microsoft, Amazon, eBay, Google – they are all the brainchild of Silicon Valley.’
A member of the panel on the Rowlands Growth Capital Review, which examined funding issues for early-stage businesses, Caan argues the UK government must ‘absolutely’ get involved in creating a stronger venture capital community. He also supports the case made in the review of recreating the Industrial and Commercial Financial Corporation, which morphed into the private equity giant 3i.
He says: ‘3i did a fantastic job at the time. It spurred thousands of businesses and today it’s a multi-billion pound company. It really did work very well.’
The Dragon’s remarks follow serial entrepreneur and investor Luke Johnson’s observation that ‘banks are barely open for business’ and angel investment is now ‘the only realistic option for early-stage companies.’
James Caan is on the judging panel of the Nectar Business Small Business Awards, which seek to recognise and reward the UK’s best growing companies.