As we almost come to the end of Investment Month at TechSPARK, we wanted to take a look back on how the resources for investment support have evolved throughout the years. And we thought there was no one better to do the job than Investment Activator, Briony Phillips. Check out her breakdown here!

Access to funding has long been identified as a barrier to growth for companies across the UK and particularly in regions where the ecosystem is less well developed. Whether the issue is lack of social capital and access to potential friends, family and angels that could invest or the barrier is that never-ending search for series A funding that fits with your values and ambitions, access to finance can be a significant blocker. For some, the greatest barrier is actually the somewhat alien language that goes along with finding suitable funding. 

Sadly I don’t have time to cover the whole lexicon here, instead TechSPARK have asked me to share a little potted history of the investment support actors in the South West over the last few years.

  • Eden Ventures based in Bath and London, made nearly 70 investments from a single fund after being founded in 2002. They have seen 15 exits so far.
  • Incorporated in 2009 and registered in Exeter Crowdcube has provided crowdfunding support to the tune of £1billion.
  • Incorporated in 2012, Dorset Business Angels invest in start-up and early stage high-growth businesses pitched to us at their Investors’ Dinners which runs four times a year.
  • Mike Jackson’s Webstart which supported 20 companies both with early-stage seed funding and mentorship when Engine Shed first opened in 2013.
  • The Engine Shed started to offer ‘Investors In Residence’ a bookable service for anyone wanting to chat to an investor. They included ADV, Deepbridge Capital and Maven Capital Partners.
  • Bristol Private Equity Club made their first investment in 2016 and have gone on to make over 20 more and counting.
  • In 2016 Maven Capital Partners opened an office, the first for a VC that I know of, in Bristol. 
  • The University of Bristol has been deploying funds to over 10 companies since 2016 through its Enterprise Fund (managed by Parkwalk Advisors).
  • In 2018 The Engine Shed opened the first UK UKBAA Angel Hub which was a collaboration designed to support angel investors to connect with entrepreneurs and the UK Business Angels Association through the Engine Shed. 
  • According to Beauhurst the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Investment Fund was opened in 2019 and has made 8 investments so far in later-stage firms ranging from £25k to £150k. It offers both debt and equity finance. 
  • In 2020 UWE offered the Digital Innovation Fund and WECA provided the Business Innovation Fund – both were grant funds which required private match funding. 
  • Plerith offers a relatively new service to help companies present themselves to investors utilising their envestry platform. 
  • In 2020 we saw two new angel groups arrive on the scene – Michelmores MainSTREAM in Exeter and Inclusive Angels in Bristol.
  • Newable and Bristol Private Equity Club (BPEC) announced a new £10m co-investment fund in late 2020 which will see Newble invest alongside BPEC in Bristol and with others across the South West.
  • Science Creates Ventures announced their first EIS fund in late 2020 to make £15m investments into early-stage deep tech companies.

Needless to say, equity funding is not the answer for every business but I have barely even begun to describe alternative finance options here. Debt, grants and loans are very important categories for the growing business, if you would like to look at your options from an this perspective, I’d suggest starting with the British Business Banks finance hub.

Are there any significant milestones in our investment support history that I have missed or misrepresented? Please do get in touch and fill me in on the gaps if you know of any. 

This article is written as part of the Investment Activator Programme (IAP) in the West of England. This programme is run by TechSPARK and is kindly sponsored by TLT LLP, delaware, West of England Combined Authority, UWE, Sanderson, Engine Shed and Rocketmakers. Find out more about the IAP here.Logo banner of Investment activator sponsors: Barclays, Delaware, Engine Shed, Rocketmakers, Sanderson, Smith & Williamson, TechSPARK, TLT, WECA and UWEMain image credit: Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko from Pexels