I spent today at the YCF Scotland Annual Conference at Stirling Management Centre. This is the first time I have attended as I have kept having diary clashes. It was the 10th annual conference and it was sold out with a wait list. I now see why. There was an excellent collection of speakers and a very high quality audience for networking.
The title of the event was “Early Stage Investing: Where Are We Now?”. The speakers addressed this question, and also talked about things we could aim to do better in the future. I’m probably over-reaching by attempting to summarise a day of complex and insightful discussion in a few bullet points, but there are a few themes I would like to draw out.
- We should be proud of the Angel Investing community we have in Scotland, which is truly world class and is being widely emulated.
- The dotcom bust in 2001 and the global crisis in 2008 have left the risk capital markets in poor shape. IPOs are all but impossible and exits are only now starting to recover. Fund managers aren’t investing in VCs and VCs are moving to later stage to reduce risks.
- Ideas are not fundable by Angels or VCs, only companies with real customer traction are getting money. This means that companies must find ways of being lean and supporting themselves until they have that customer traction.
- Getting VC money into Scottish companies is hard, with few local VCs. Where companies have taken Angel money, this tends not to be compatible with taking VC later although there are exceptions, especially in biotech and life sciences.
- As a community, we can act ourselves and try to influence policy to improve the situation – such efforts are already underway.
- New opportunities such as SEIS and Crowdfunding continue to develop, and companies need to learn to exploit them in an appropriate way
There was so much good content at this event that I’ll definitely be posting more from some of the speakers later.
I want to thank Jonathan Harris at YCF for all his hard work organising the event, and all of the speakers for taking the time to share their thoughts. The day was interesting, educational and thought provoking. I’ll certainly be putting a lot of what I heard to good use in the near future.