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Deal or no deal? What companies want from potential investors

Over 160 UK tech founders and entrepreneurs were interviewed by the UK Innovation Hub to help provide an understanding of the challenges they face, and the role of investors in overcoming them.
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The UK has been benefiting from an abundance of digital companies entering the market over the past decade. Earlier this year a Tech Nation report found investors ploughed £6.8bn into digital tech companies in 2016, 50 per cent more than any other European country.

This not only evidences the attractiveness of Britain as a hub for investment (which shows no signs of abating), but is significant given many of these startups and SMEs can be attributed for driving the country forward and disrupting the status quo for the greater good of the economy and wider society.

Beating the Brexit blues

Despite any gloomy outlooks following the EU referendum, the acceleration and rapid growth of technology-driven enterprises in the UK has sparked interest from a range of investors. And while the appetite for investment is positive for founders looking for financial support to scale, often overlooked is the need for founders and investors to understand the priorities of both parties when it comes to investment opportunities and a suitable delivery partner.

Jessie J professed that it’s “all about the money, money, money”; and yes, that’s a big part of scaling business, be it from the likes of accelerators, angel investors, crowdfunding or large VCs. Often less considered by entrepreneurs and startups is the wider support requirement beyond funding, and how influential this can be when it comes to realising growth ambitions.

What are companies looking for?

The UK Innovation Hub recently carried out research with Tech City, to explore exactly what companies are looking for from potential investors.

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Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

A useful framework to illustrate the findings of our research, and understand what entrepreneurs need from their investors, is Maslow’s (1943, 1954) hierarchy of needs. The theory is a five tier model of human needs, its principle being that people are motivated to achieve certain needs and that some needs take precedence over others.

Our most basic need is for survival, once that level is fulfilled the next level up is what motivates us, and so on.

The journey to fulfilment

At the bottom of the pyramid are the “basic” needs. For startups, our research revealed the most fundamental need is of course access to finance. Beyond this, the priority is the ease of onboarding. Other basic needs – such as free office space and professional services or pitch training – are relatively inconsequential; only a minority of startups deem them to be important to investors.

Once an investor proves they can provide the “basic” needs, they then need to be able to demonstrate support for the ‘growth’ needs. Most of the founders we interviewed stated that access to expertise, contacts and a wider network of investors was invaluable.

Top of the hierarchy of needs is “fulfilment”. Personal chemistry emerges as the most critical factor with more than nine in ten startups looking for an investor they genuinely like and trust. A similar proportion stated that it is important for investors to be in tune with their vision and two thirds of start-ups also welcome the reassurance of their investor having a strong track record.

The benefits of belief

So, what conclusions can we draw from this research? Surprisingly, the main criterion for founders and entrepreneurs is that investors trust them and understand their vision. With a huge network of investors developing alongside the UK’s digital startups, it’s encouraging the see that personal belief, reassurance and trust remains at the heart of the investor/entrepreneur relationship.

Kate Jack, UK country lead for Innovation Hub by Innogy

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As the champion of UK enterprise for 20 years, Real Business is the most-read SME website dedicated to high-growth businesses and entrepreneurs. Through daily news, unique insight and invaluable guides we are an essential resource for thriving businesses.

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