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What are angel investors looking for from small businesses?

Securing funding is a priority for all start-ups, entrepreneurs and small businesses. Without cashflow, it doesn’t matter how promising a business idea is. And one channel many entrepreneurs pursue for funding are angel investors.

How do angel investors work?

An angel investor is someone who uses their own personal money to invest in a small business, one that they personally consider worthwhile. They will choose businesses that have growth potential. Usually, they provide that business with equity finance and receive shares of the business in return – think a ‘Dragon’s Den’ style transaction.

Angel investors use their own experience, skills and knowledge to decide who to work with. They don’t rely on an external agent or advisor, it’s about them making gut decisions based on face-to-face meetings, or via online platforms.

A key differentiator between receiving funding from a bank and an angel investor is that you will also benefit from the angel investors contacts, experience and knowledge. Angel investors bring a lot more to the table that just funding, they can bring all kinds of networking opportunities to help the small business grow and succeed. Some choose to act passively as part of a group of investors or be the lead investor on a deal.

How can small businesses find an angel investor?

Networking is key here. The most productive way to approach an angel investor is through an introduction, either from a contact, client, other entrepreneur or even a friend. Angel investors are approached by many people with a lot of different pitches, so it can be difficult to get an ‘in’.

Events are also a possible avenue, with groups such as the UK Business Angels Association (UKBAA) regularly hosting investor forums. These can present opportunities to meet with business leaders, other entrepreneurs and potential investors. They also host regional hubs offering higher visibility of investors to entrepreneurs.

What interests an angel investor?

Investors want to understand how you are solving a problem or challenge present in society or a specific market. They will want to see market research that proves your start-up or project meets an actual need. It also must bring something disruptive or tangibly new to the market.

They also what to know that your business can be scaled, how you plan to grow, how you expect to make money and whether you’ve tested prototypes on customers. You must be able to prove there is real interest in your project. It’s not enough to turn up with an idea and expect funding, rather a strong business case must be crafted.

As well as short-term scalability, angel investors want to know about international possibilities. How will your start-up eventually fit in on a global stage?

Is there a limit on how much they can invest?

While some angel investors choose to do so alone, it’s more common to invest alongside others through syndication. The average angel investment from an individual is about £25,000. Syndicates provide approximately £190,000 on average.

Bigger SMEs on the cusp of international expansion naturally require more investment than a start-up. Investors tailor support to fit the project, something that is usually not possible from traditional lenders. Investors and the start-ups involved benefit from this flexibility.

Investing in this way usually doesn’t see a return or a possible exit for at least eight years. How long angel investors choose to remain part of the business again depends on individual circumstances. They rely on guidance from people who have long-term experience in building businesses to make decisions, as well as their own in-depth knowledge of the sector.

Start-up investment is increasing in the UK

Start-up investment is more popular and accessible in the UK than ever before. There are enough successful start-ups (for example, ASOS, JustEat and Zoopla) providing a clear framework for investors to make a decision. In addition, there are increasing policies and legislative changes implemented by various Governments to support this sector.

The biggest impact has come from the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) in the late 1990s, and the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS), implemented in 2012. Both reward investors with generous tax breaks. For example, under SEIS, it’s possible to gain up to 72.5% of the investment as tax relief.

James Turner, Managing Director of Turner Little Limited, says: “These kinds of tax relief schemes have been exceptionally popular with private and angel investors. Each year. They invest more than £1.5 billion into high-growth opportunities using EIS and SEIS. This is why we are seeing more angel investors wanting to become involved at the early stages of start-ups.

“Angel networks are excellent tools for investors as they present various opportunities through online platforms and pitching events. Tech start-ups in particular are seeing results from angel investors, and it offers a financing opportunity that is more flexible than traditional banks.

About Turner Little

Founded in 1998 in Yorkshire, UK, Turner Little is a specialist UK and offshore company formation, banking and corporate services provider. Our services include company formation, UK and offshore banking, asset protection, credit correction, trademarking and trusts. Other services include Internet services, mail forwarding, wills and probate. Turner Little’s vision is to offer the best possible service, together with market leading products.

Turner Little and its affiliates do not provide tax, legal or accounting advice. Material on this page has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal and accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction.