With low levels of investor confidence in the UK's green industry, businesses need to do more to attract funding in an increasingly competitive landscape. Seth Tabatznik of Berti Investments says support options like Berti’s own ‘Green Accelerator’ are increasingly available to give entrepreneurs some crucial tools to get to the next level.
The good news for nascent sectors such as cleantech is that investors are becoming more and more interested in brilliant business ideas that will solve some of the world’s big environmental and social problems.
The bad news is that it’s a challenging, entrepreneur-infested world out there and a great product or service driven by passionate people is not always enough to enable successful business.
Entrepreneurs must do more to make themselves heard – and get the support and investment they need. Increasingly, hubs, incubators and accelerator programmes are proving to be valuable tools to help foster scalable and sustainable businesses. They establish strong networks and credibility to enable enterprises to attract funding. Berti Investments' own programme, the Berti Green Accelerator, which was launched in February 2012, aims to advance the low carbon sector by adding value through business support, funding, networks and credibility. But what are investors like Berti looking for and what can entrepreneurs do to get investors knocking on their door? Seth Tabatznik of Berti Investments has the following advice:
1) A strong pitch
Investors, like anyone else, are captivated by a compelling story. They are certainly looking for passionate people – but also people who are knowledgeable about their sub-sector, who can demonstrate that depth of knowledge in their story, and who can show how their business addresses a market failure.
Cleantech network ecoConnect has great insight into what investors really focus on; they run a quarterly pitching event, exposing entrepreneurs to active green investors, as well as training the entrepreneurs at targeted bootcamps. “Entrepreneurs need an investor's perspective of what makes a compelling business presentation,” says ecoConnect’s CEO Robert Hokin. Pitching events provide a critical function in exposing entrepreneurs to investors and the proof is in the pudding, he says: “Through the programme, nearly half of the presenters have gone on to gain funding, although not necessarily through us.”
Entrepreneurs do not often lack ambition or drive, but James Caan, CEO of leading private equity firm Hamilton Bradshaw identifies that “many entrepreneurs struggle to become investment ready due to lack of experience or knowledge about certain aspects of their business, such as financial or operational know-how.”
Advisors such as Caan's Hamilton Bradshaw Impact Partners (HBIP) work on identifying these gaps and equipping their clients with skills that will not only attract investment but also catalyse growth from any stage of a business' journey. Working on the Berti Green Accelerator to offer bespoke support and expertise, HBIP are able to help identify growth areas and consolidate strategies into sustainable plans of real investor interest. “It’s what we call intelligent capital,” says James Caan.
3) Access to strong networks
Connecting and engaging with networks is key to a business's success. However, opportunities to access exclusive networks may be few and far between for the hard-working entrepreneur. Business incubation immediately establishes connections to advisors, investors and other entrepreneurs, enabling invaluable collaboration and partnership opportunities.
Programmes such as the Berti Green Accelerator and Hub Venture Labs (HVL) aim to better equip businesses to dominate the competition, and with prime access to investor circles, opportunities such as this serve as a platform to encourage sustainable growth and profitability.
Stephen Rockman, co-founder of HVL, identifies that “investing is about relationships: it’s symbiotic between investors and entrepreneurs who also need to build peer support networks for validation and collaboration. So our incubator with multiple programmes offers a fascinating environment to blend two or three hundred entrepreneurs with each other as well as mentors and investors.”
Seth Tabatznik is Director at Berti Investments. The Berti Green Accelerator programme is open to any conceptually good, low carbon UK business with growth potential and a proof of concept. Each year it will select three outstanding businesses to support, which will have to demonstrate that they aim to tackle climate change by sustainably reducing carbon emissions. The deadline for entry this year is tomorrow, 19th April. http://bertiinvestments.com/berti-green-accelerator/
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