Where do you go for funding that great business you’d like to start – and what are the keys to entrepreneurial success?
Two people who know the answers to these questions shared them with an audience from across the University Schools of Technology, Physical Sciences, Biological Sciences and the Clinical Medicine.
Anne Dobrée, Head of Seed Funds at Cambridge Enterprise, described the funding landscape and the options. She started with the bad news – the venture capitalists and banks are not your starting point. VCs have pulled back from seed funding, except the occasional foray into digital or consumer businesses with rapid returns. But, particularly around Cambridge, there are myriad sources, from friends and families, to angels and seedfunds. The trick is to use your networks – find somebody who knows somebody who can introduce you and your idea. Don’t send it to a prospective investor cold – it’ll join the myriad others in the bin.
Perhaps the most robust way to create a cashflow to support the business, if you can, is good old-fashioned sales. And you give away less of the business.
Anne then covered Cambridge Enterprise’s Follow-on Fund (NB – the next deadline for an expression of interest is 8th January) www.enterprise.cam.ac.uk/university-community/funding/2014/1/epsrc-iaa-follow/, their Seed fund and Enterprise Fund. And, most importantly, don’t forget Cambridge Enterprise’s capacity and interest in helping you to get started, to find mentors and sources of funding and to act as a sounding board as your plans come together (www.enterprise.cam.ac.uk/university-community/seed-funds/process/)
Then Darrin Disley, CEO of Horizon Discovery, spoke on the attitudes and behaviour of a successful entrepreneur. A YouTube video of his talk “Mindsets and Motivations” can be found at www.youtube.com/watch?v=e661dD-1nyc. He also talked about the profound importance of staying lean and focused, the lean start-up. See also Eric Ries’ book, “The Lean Startup” and site at http://theleanstartup.com/. Finally Darrin discussed the power of the business model behind Horizon Discovery and how an approach that aligns the interests of owners, investors and customers has enabled such stunning growth.
And if you’d like a book on the subject, try “Show Me the Money” by locals Alan Barrell, David Gill and Martin Rigby. It’s accessible, easy to navigate and, published in September, it’s right up to date.