We’ve all been there. The conversation 30 minutes after last orders on a rainy Thursday night at your local pub where you vow to give up your boring office job and do something exciting with your life. Maybe you’ll start your own business? Being your own boss is the aspect of entrepreneurship which attracts most people. After all, most people’s bosses are just, well, a bit bossy. You would make a much better boss. You are nice and you would never tell yourself off for pressing the snooze button for an extra ten minutes in bed or crawling into work late, smelling like a brewery, in yesterday’s clothes.
This is the sort of romanticising of self-employment and entrepreneurship that goes on in the head of those people who subscribe to the “if that bloke off the Apprentice can do it…” school of thought. Contrary to common belief, being an entrepreneur is not all hanging out in jeans and converse pretending to be Mark Zuckerberg, spouting management speak (“drilling down/touching base/strategic synergy”) and working from a laptop in a coffee shop. Even if you can muster the correct work ethic (all-day everyday for most startups, in case you were wondering) you do also need a great business idea.
What’s that? Everyone can be an entrepreneur? We are all but one great business idea away from becoming a successful businessperson and making millions? Total rubbish I say. Even more misguided is the idea that entrepreneurs are people who have just “struck it lucky” following a cartoon-style light bulb moment of epiphany. People who believe that are usually the same people that wander around the Tate Modern pointing at various paintings and installations muttering under their breath “I could have done that”. My response always being, “Perhaps, but you didn’t”. Entrepreneurs are first and foremost people that “do”.
I hadn’t had any real experience of working with entrepreneurs until I joined the Corporate and Commercial team in September last year. I have to say that without exception, the entrepreneurs I have come across have been bright, astute, driven and incredibly focused people. Certainly no time for hanging out in Starbucks or pressing snooze; they have all been “do-ers”. I got a further insight into the world of entrepreneurs and angel investing when I attended my first Angel Academe event in October last year.
Angel Academe is a female friendly (but not female-only) angel investor group which provides, mentoring, non-exec advice and investment to technology focused startup businesses and entrepreneurs. Kingsley Napley are a sponsor of the Angel Academe and provide legal support to the investor group, drafting the heads of terms, investment agreements and ancillary documents when an investment is made and follow the process through to completion of the deal and the transfer of investment funds to the company.
The Angel Academe meet approximately once a month at the offices of Kingsley Napley for their studio events. At each studio event, three entrepreneurs pitch their business to a panel of angel investors. In addition, Thomson Reuters host the larger “awareness” events which include selected pitches as well as an inspirational speaker – usually an established female entrepreneur. The diversity and breadth of experience across the angel investors is quite remarkable. Each of the angels comes from a high-flying professional background whether it is in finance, media, publishing, retail or otherwise. They should, by rights, be an utterly terrifying group of people to share a room with, let alone pitch to, however this is simply not the case. They have proven themselves to be warm, receptive, insightful and constructive at every turn and this feedback is echoed time and time again by the entrepreneurs who pitch to them. A million miles from any of the unpleasant and hostile cross-examinations, not to mention the poor wardrobe choices, you may have seen on Dragon’s Den.
The entrepreneurs that pitch at the studio event have also been extremely impressive. Well-presented, clearly structured business ideas and all demonstrating great market traction and some amazing early success stories. Sarah Turner, the founder of Angel Academe, is very thorough in her screening process, ensuring only the best entrepreneur candidates make it through to the pitching stage.
At the studio events the entrepreneurs deliver their pitches, the angels ask questions - often difficult, but always constructive - and the angels will then decide whether they wish to dig a bit deeper. If this is the case, the entrepreneurs will liaise directly with a lead investor from the group, some due diligence will be carried out and, if all parties still wish to proceed, legal documentation will be produced to complete the investment.
BuddyBounce is one such success story. BuddyBounce is a social media platform for young fans to support their favourite pop artists and for management teams of those artists to manage and build their relationship with their fans across a number of social media sites from a single platform and data source. The site has been a roaring success with young people up and down the country and across Europe; Justin Bieber and OneDirection are particular fan favourites, so I am told!
The angels were drawn to BuddyBounce not least because of the standout business idea and the great opportunities for growth but also because of the entrepreneurs behind the company, Emma Obanye and Giulia Piu. The angels were impressed at how passionate they were and the progress they had made in a relatively short period of time with limited resources. Emma and Giulia had relied on bootstrapping, assistance from the WAYRA scheme and help from friends and family to fund BuddyBounce. The passion, determination and drive they demonstrated coupled with their novel and already successful business idea was rare and unsurprisingly a team of 9 angels were keen to invest in the company.
The first round investment in Buddy Bounce completed at the end of February with legal support provided by James Fulforth and myself, Olivia Stiles. As our lawyers host and attend the studio events, entrepreneurs and angels get to know who will be working on their investments. This certainly eases the chain of communication during the deal period which, like any commercial transaction, whilst exciting, can also be a time of great pressure. The BuddyBounce investment proceeded smoothly and Kingsley Napley are delighted to be working with Angel Academe on the next investment in the pipeline.
Whilst the typical 13 year old ‘Buddy Bouncer’ will be suffering from BieberFever now that the new Buddy Bounce Mobile App is under construction, my current malaise takes the form of the well-known 20-something Londoner’s affliction of FOMO (the Fear Of Missing Out). I’ve moved training seats to a new department so I won’t get to work on the next Angel Academe investments, however I am keen to track the progress of Angel Academe and also see what the future holds for BuddyBounce. There’s only one way to settle a serious case of FOMO…I’ll be following Angel Academe (@angelacademe) and Buddy Bounce (@buddybounce) on Twitter and if that doesn’t keep my FOMO at bay I’ll see you at the next Angel Academe event.