It’s halfway through January and, surprise surprise, London’s start-ups have funding on their minds. Plus ca change, eh; despite having attracted record levels of Venture Capital funding in 2014, £1.4 billion to be precise (that’s 20 times more than a decade ago), the promise of 5 minutes in the Company of a Balderton, DN, or Passion Capital representative will still bring founders out in large numbers, eager to share their vision for the coming year, which usually involves a cash injection somewhere along the line.
Which is why Tech City needs the kind of nights that Match Capital put on last Wednesday night, the first in a series of strictly invitation only evenings where several early stage companies, in front of an audience of many, many others, plus a smattering of investors, thoughtfully decked out with pink badges to distinguish them from the yellow badged investee hopefuls, pitched for the chance to win a year’s subscription to Match Capital with full use of their super smashing, algorithm driven matching technology, two hours of free legal advice from legal start-up experts LawBite, and a one year subscription to the Investor Ready version of the Fund My Business suite of development tools.
The Match team handled this event with delicacy and tact; after all, pitching events can sometimes feel like a showdown between the haves and have-nots, with investors squeamishly having to explain to a sea of disappointed faces the harsh reality that there is not enough “opportunity”, i.e. cash, to go round, and some very worthy people and ideas are going to miss out in spite of their best efforts, and probably not on just this one occasion.
But Wednesday evening didn’t feel like that, far from it. The evening did include frank exchanges, but it wasn’t money being discussed, it was business, ideas, advice and recommendations, and, if the packed crowd were frustrated in any way by the sight of so much competition, they were not showing it. It’s worth remembering that not all start-ups need investment, that they may be able to hit the heights they have always dreamt of simply by bootstrapping intelligently, being very good businesses capable of growing organically, so many founders will have “pitched up” simply curious to hear the latest on what London’s creative and tech community have been up to.
I must have read Paul Graham saying it 100 times; if you focus on running an amazing business, and you really are an amazing business, then the money will find you. There’s no need to panic or question why you are not surrounded by suited and booted moneymen throwing hatful’s of dollars at you. Very few people are. London is not Silicon Valley. Not yet, perhaps not ever. Still, there’s no harm in keeping yourself abreast of what’s happening, and that’s what makes Match Capital such a good proposition. At the very least, don’t waste your time pitching VC’s who don’t know about and aren’t interested in investing in your business area. A monthly subscription with Match will tell you exactly who you should, and should not, be talking to. Sign up here and see for yourself!
Anyway, back to the evening. We were fortunate to hear from 6 seriously impressive start-ups; Yearbook Machine, Givvit, Wauwaa, Frugl, Cloudtags, and Zipcube. 6 very distinct companies, all using tech to create unique and relevant offerings that were fun, useful and, yes, investor ready. My favourite on the night was Givvit, a simple service that lets you send little gifts to your mates, or family, or loved ones. Cups of coffee, bunches of flowers, chocolates, that kind of stuff. The “gifted” are informed that they have received a pressie and can then pop along to Costa Coffee, for example, to pick up their free coffee, or Interflora to receive their gladioli (or whatever!). Neat, what a way to brighten up somebody’s day! Indeed, Wauwaa and Yearbook Machine, a clever program that lets students create their own yearbooks (the clue is in the title, right), were the worthy winners on the night. Commiserations to the other guys, their time will come no doubt.
What followed was still more awesome; a speech from the humble and likeable Lawrence Barclay, from DN Capital, all about how to be investor ready. What was really impressive about Lawrence, aside from his enthusiasm, were the copious notes he had taken during each pitch and the time he took to give advice to all five, not just bland reassurance, “there, there, better stick to the baked beans on toast for now and hold the champagne”, but really useful and incisive advice with lashings of praise and bonhomie. And you thought VC’s were all like Deborah Meadon off Dragons Den…shame on you!
Listening to advice and learning about businesses outside of your own particular area of expertise is thirsty work, and works up an appetite, a fact which Match, in their wisdom, had realised. Wine and Propercorn were ever present, and when a truckload of risotto balls and veggie stew suddenly arrived, courtesy of Arancini Brothers, the timing was…well, if Carlsberg did pitching events…! And as Daisy, Match’s PR guru and organiser in chief, pointed out in her blog, popcorn is a great way of looking busy when you are too shy to make small talk. I must have eaten bagful’s of the stuff whilst chatting to a glamorous Estonian founder, although I still ended up spilling most of it on the floor. Plus ca change indeed!
Anyway, personal foibles aside, (and it doesn’t help when your drinking buddy is a former rugger bugger who has toured Estonia, of all places) this was a great event that left everybody feeling better about what they were doing, helped raise awareness about the tech start-up scene, and probably helped get more than a few meetings in diaries.
London’s tech start-up scene is a money go round, and oiling its wheels is a challenge because, besides putting investors and investees in a room together and plying them food and drink, it is hard to find another way of making things happen. Match is trying something different, more technical, but it turns out they pull off a good old fashioned shindig too. So don’t be shy, get on the guest list for the next event, hit the dancefloor and try to find your perfect investor partner. Or, if you prefer the more technical, analytical approach, try their matching tools.
Match Capital has all the bases covered. Now can you get past base 2?
MatchUp 1, Match Capital’s invitation only event, took place at their offices on the 8th floor of WeWork co-working space. Sponsors included Arancini Brothers, Humble Grape Wine, and Propercorn. The next event will be announced shortly, contact Daisy Blount for more details.