Thanks to the Investment Activator Programme (IAP), you may have noticed a flurry of content around all things investment this month. From legal considerations to keep in mind when raising to advice from founders and a breakdown of becoming an investable entrepreneur, we hope to have provided some useful insights! 

Today we wanted to shine a light on the work that the IAP is consistently engaging in – not just for a one month special. Launched over two years ago, the IAP is the first of its kind in the UK. It was created to catalyse investment into the South West’s renowned tech and digital startup community and is designed to support companies that are raising early-stage equity investment. Although there is a hive of activity in our region, it’s crucial to actively stimulate growth. There is more capital than ever right now, but accessing it can still be a huge barrier to founders.

The programme continues to break down these barriers and help startups with real potential access the funding that can elevate their concept from an idea to a business. With the leadership of Briony Phillips and Abby Frear, the two year pilot model has been extended for a further two years at least to continue to drive investment into fast-growing startups. Through their work, they are aiming to increase the flow of equity funding into the region by shining a light on the great companies that are here and bringing investors and founders together. 

Facilitating connections

We caught up with Abby, Director at TechSPARK and Investment Activator Lead, to find out more about what the past two years have brought to our community. 

The IAP’s activities are divided into two target audiences: for founders and for investors. Abby tells us, “We run a number of events to help founders, both in terms of getting investment ready, and also to allow them to meet interested investors.”

“Initially we wanted companies to have the ability to find investment locally – and not to always have to go to London or the States, and we wanted to showcase to investors that there are a lot of extremely investable early-stage companies in the region.”

– Abby Frear, Director at TechSPARK

Abby runs a monthly event called Pitch Me! It’s a space where, “founders can practice their pitch in front of a panel of friendly experts for feedback and advice,” she says. If you’d like to give this a go, don’t hesitate to reach out. The other main event is the bi-annual Silicon Gorge Pitching Competition. We’re currently in the midst of Silicon Gorge, with the semi-finals happening tomorrow and Wednesday. Abby explains that Silicon Gorge, “allows founders looking for up to £3m the chance to pitch their business to a room full of tech investors and enablers of investment.”  

24 companies will be pitching to our panel of judges, and these are open to an audience so you’re welcome to attend and watch some of the brilliant pitches. Or, if you’re an investor, you’re welcome to come along and see the final pitches on 12th May 2022, just email Abby for an invite.

For the benefit of investors looking for talent to support in the region, things are a little different. Abby outlines for us, “Specifically for Investors, my co- activator Briony runs the Quarterly Investment Briefing, an event that happens, you guessed it, once a quarter – and is strictly aimed towards investors and enablers of investment – to inform them on what’s been going on in the equity investment landscape over the last 3 months, as well as detailing all the companies we know about in the region that are raising right now. We have some great speakers at these and they normally follow a theme eg Angel Investment, People Powered Investment. 

“For both audiences, we publish a lot of content including our monthly blogs and investment related news, as well as features on the great companies who’ve raised, are raising and any new funds or pots of money available.” You can find this content, alongside more great tools and tips for founders and investors on the IAP microsite.

The mission for the Investment Activator Programme

The IAP was born out of a series of conversations around the correlation between financial investment and company growth. Abby and Briony spotted a need for a united programme to focus on dismantling the block to investments many startups face, ultimately making the difference between pursuing the venture or giving it up. 

Abby tells us, “Various strands of the IAP have existed for years but the aim was to bring together these various activities under one umbrella and add capacity to these to help better prepare early-stage companies for investment and welcome investors to the region.

“Initially we wanted companies to have the ability to find investment locally – and not to always have to go to London or the States, and we wanted to showcase to investors that there are a lot of extremely investable early-stage companies in the region.”

And things went well, resulting in the programme being extended. Abby says, “We’ve had some brilliant feedback, both from the founders and the investors, and many of the companies we’ve helped and showcased have gone on to raise millions. 

“Fortunately the brilliant private and public sector partners we work with have agreed to continue their sponsorship of the programme, and that’s what’s enabling us to do this great work!”

Alumni of Silicon Gorge Investor Showcase include Immersive Labs and Martin Bysh from Huboo, cited as two future unicorns, who raised £68m and £60m respectively in 2021 alone, plus many others who have raised millions since they pitched: Lettus Grow, KETS Quantum Security, Yellowdog, TravelLocal, Virti, Neighbourly to name just a few.

Abby adds, “Since kicking off the project in 2020, we have also seen 2 new funds established in the region, Newable and Science Creates, and new investors, such as Mercia Asset Management, making a base here, which has been fantastic. While these are separate to the IAP, we’re sure that the amplification of great investment news and event activities has contributed to this landscape.”