Not even COVID can halt our burgeoning technology sector. Indeed, while questions can be asked around the UK’s response to the pandemic as a whole, the same cannot be said of how its scale-up and technology businesses have coped with the massive disruption to the economy.
It was a sector that was thriving before 2020 and has only gone from strength to strength since. According to the Tech Nation Report 2021: Lifting the lid on how UK tech boomed in 2020, the UK tech sector has shown both remarkable resilience and growth in spite of unprecedented challenges across the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit uncertainty. It’s a situation that shows no signs of slowing. The UK tech sector attracted record investment of close to $8bn in the first three months of 2021. Looking ahead, with the British government also keen to use its future policymaking to help “level up” regions of the UK we can expect to see more companies emerge from other parts of the country.
As the fog of the pandemic begins to lift and regions away from London are encouraged and incentivised to ‘build back better’ more companies will emerge with solutions to address the challenges of tomorrow. But growth requires investment and this is going to thrust the task of fundraising to the fore. Here are my six top tips for growing businesses that are likely to be looking for investment in the coming months:
Start the fundraising process early
Pre-Covid, from start to finish, you would allow six months to complete a fundraising round from pitch to pocket. This allowed time for things to be held up along the way. Post-covid there is much more uncertainty – lockdowns with different geographical responses, for example. As a result, those businesses looking for funding should leave longer like around 8 – 10 months, to account for the unknown and fluctuating VC appetite.
Maximise the advantage of teleconferencing
Given the current restrictions around travel, you’re probably not going to be travelling to meet people face-to-face (F2F), so get used to video conference calls at all hours of the day. We pitched to investors on every continent and in most major European countries. The pandemic has made pitching a little easier in a number of respects. The normalisation of video conferencing means you can do more meetings in less time and the location of your investment partners is not as limited. You don’t have to do the tiresome dance of getting your laptop hooked up to the variety of office conferencing systems. Pitching from your own home office (or your normal office) gives you the home field advantage. Finally, you also have everyone’s names labelling their video feed which helps both during the meeting (addressing people by their name is a courtesy that is often overlooked) but also after with follow up emails.
But understand its drawbacks, too
The biggest disadvantage to video pitches is not being able to read the room. Video pitches are more sequential than F2F pitches which means you only see and hear one person at a time. Aspects of your pitch will not universally land or be understood – mostly by the people who are quietest on the call. It is worth going a bit slower and asking for feedback after important slides. You lose half the ability to make a good first impression, so for the video call your manors, attentiveness, the way you dress and a bit of small talk can go a long way.
Commit to your long-term aims
Over the last year, VCs have each taken their own tack on their appetite for new investment and which sectors to invest the money. They have their individual pressures which mean they have to adapt more rapidly than normal. It is more important than ever that you take the long-term view on your business. You and the VCs have ephemeral concerns and pressures that can easily make you compromise on the long term view for your business to address near-term concerns. Make sure your business has all the fundamentals right for long term success.
Address how you have had to adapt in a pandemic head on
It is a unique opportunity to communicate how your business has dealt with adversity and how it has still prospered, as opposed to the normal narrative of unbridled excellence. Resilience and de-risking your business is fundamental to success but is often not addressed because it can be often interpreted as fixing mistakes or fragility in the proposition. Talk through how the pandemic has negatively affected your business, what you did to fix this and how successful the fixes have been.
But don’t let the pandemic dominate your story
While the core of your story may stay the same, how you optimise the telling of your story should be led by what energises the room. You can’t ignore the pandemic. The world has changed a lot in the last 18 months and your discussions need to acknowledge that. Changes in working habits, travel, spending patterns and how products are purchased, how we communicate and not least – the macro global economy. However, your pitch should be about your business and your long-term vision – the pandemic challenges are just obstacles you will/ have overcome. You should be able to answer questions about these challenges (subjectively but ideally quantifiably) but you should try not to use slide retail on it.