Jaydeep Korde had his parents to thank for the idea behind Valueform, his successful food packaging company – and a US university for helping him make it a reality.“My mum and dad were convinced that food packaging in the UK could learn from India and the developing world, where fast food is served on banana leaves and not polystyrene boxes,” he explained to Real Business. “They developed some patents and my father won a £500 research grant with Reading University that turned into a £1.8m research project funded by the British government’s Technology Strategy Board. This project allowed us to work with customers and universities to develop our technology.” Valueform processes food packaging, which is often wasted, from paper and plastic, into cereal waste materials that conform to the latest international commitments to environmental standards. It has brought participation from big name supermarkets like the Co-op and Marks & Spencer. Korde is an engineer by training, but has worked extensively in IT selling his own software business and also working as a consultant to banks, pharmaceutical companies and to the government. Despite this impressive track recording, funding for his new company was hard to attract. He approached incubator programmes, green technology funds, and venture capitalists. “Their predominant response was, great idea, but come back when you have £2m in revenue,” he said. However, the company’s CFO was an alumnus of the The University of Chicago Booth School of Business and it was through the School that the team was introduced to the Chicago Angels Network (CAN), a group of investors, mentors and business experts aligned with Chicago Booth. “CAN represented ‘smart money’ which, for us, meant that not only was there the prospect of investment but also the expertise and an incredible network to support our growth,” said Korde. “Pitching at CAN put us and our business model through its paces, giving us confidence where we were on the right track and correcting us where we needed it.” But for Robert Rosenberg, adjunct associate professor of entrepreneurship at Chicago Booth, it was not just the pitch that encouraged CAN to invest in Valueform. “A disciplined angel group looks beyond a fundraising pitch,” he said. “They get to know the management team, the business model, the competitive space. They look to assess value comparables, who will fund the next round, and exit. This type of due diligence is essential.” Read more about raising finance for your business:
- The ABC of raising finance
- The secrets to closing a $100m venture capital funding deal
- Private equity: A helping hand for SMEs?
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