All posts by jccfb

Focus on Crowdfunding: What questions should you ask yourself before going down this route? Food for thoughts…

Written by Veronique Rapetti, JCCFB President and NEF Learning Director, for the New Entrepreneurs Foundation Blog.

Not another Crowdfunding blog, I hear you say! Actually no: I want to share with you some practical points and insights I captured while speaking to couple of entrepreneurs recently.

It is true, crowdfunding (with crowdfunding being the practice of funding a project or venture by raising monetary contributions from a large number of people, typically via the internet) or peer-to-peer funding is rapidly coming of age.

The examples and the numbers speak for themselves:

  • “A British firm which makes roll-up shoes has raised £205,000 on a crowdfunding website in just a few days, 27pc higher than the £150,000 initially targeted and with a week to go until fundraising ends.”( 3/10/14, www.telegraph.co.uk)
  • “Kent winemaker Chapel Down has raised £3.95m after completing a crowdfunding scheme it launched less than a month ago. More than 1,400 investors bought shares in the company, which plans to use the money to lease 400 acres of new vineyards in the county.”(3/10/14, www.kentonline.co.uk)
  • “Samir Desai’s Funding Circle platform lent £54 million to small businesses in the second quarter of 2014. …Santander directs small business borrowers which it cannot help to Funding Circle” (8.10.14, Evening Standard)

The above are just couple of examples of a growing trend for start-ups or businesses to look at crowdfunding as a possible alternative response to bank’s unwillingness to lend to small businesses.

So as a new entrepreneur, when considering crowdfunding as a possible alternative source of funding for your start-up, what questions should you ask yourself?

Since crowdfunding is becoming more and more popular, let’s look at some of the key questions, which were highlighted to me by the entrepreneurs I met, and that you could consider before looking at crowdfunding for your start-up. In no particular order:

  1. When should you look to outsource your funding? Timing can be an important factor, as releasing equity too early can be damaging in the long term. So have you tried the most common route of asking your friends and family first?
  2. How much do you need to raise? Is it to launch your business or to support an existing business or a new expansion? What is the minimum amount required by the platform?
  3. How much equity are you prepared to give out? Or are you thinking of crowdfunding in exchange for samples or royalties?
  4. If it is equity crowdfunding what type of share are you looking to release? (Type A with voting rights, or Type B?)
  5. What legal help the platform is offering you and is it included in the fees? (share certificates needs to be issued and they are a legal document)
  6. What is the minimum amount investors are required to bring in? Some platforms ask for £10, some £1000 minimum. This minimum amount will off course have an impact on the number of possible investors investing in your campaign.
  7. Does the platform give you the opportunity to go over your initial target, should your campaign be really successful?
  8. What sorts of accreditations or qualifications do the people working in the platform hold? Are they FSA approved? Certainly worthwhile to check this point.
  9. Should you go for a well-established site with possibly higher fees and more traffic or a smaller one? To answer this question you could consider the following: do you have already a base of followers that you could involve via your social media campaigns and therefore you could select a less well-know or more niche crowdfunding site. Or, do you need the “reputation brand” of a well-known platform with already a large traffic base?

The answers to the above questions are very personal, and based on your unique situation. Like anything there are lots of options to choose from, different packages, some platforms are also specialising on a specific industry sector. You will need to decide which one will give you the best outcome or service for what you need.

To give you an idea: the most well-know and established sites are Crowdcube.com &Seedrs.com, but other sites are emerging all the time: for example Fireflock (actually a host company on the NEF programme) or Crowd Shed and many more. Someone in the field told me there are about 80 platforms in the UK alone! (take a look at the 10 best platforms:http://www.kindredhq.com/top-10-crowdfunding-sites-uk/)

This new way of funding start-ups is really generating traction and becoming a rising industry. To support this, on 23rd May 2014 the European Equity Crowdfunding Association –EECA* (http://www.equitycrowdfund.eu/) was born.

To conclude, as an entrepreneur crowdfunding may have a place in your funding strategy, but it is up to you to assess the pros’ and cons of it. Despite the mind-blowing numbers we can read about in the press, you need to be aware that not everyone is successful and actually “more than half of all crowdfunding campaigns fail to reach their funding goal”*.
(*Source: http://www.nesta.org.uk/blog/spotlight-crowdfunding)

So, do your research, speak to approved financial advisers, read blogs, talk to entrepreneurs who have already used crowdfunding and read the small print in the contracts!

Véronique Rapetti, Learning Director, New Entrepreneurs Foundation

*EECA: Equity crowdfunding platforms from ten European Union countries (Austria, Belgium,Bulgaria, Estonia, Finland, France, Ireland, Italy, Spain and UK) represented by 31 members

Disclaimer: with this blog, I and the NEF are not giving you a financial advice or recommendations. You should always do your own research and speak to FSA approved and professional financial advisers.

Entrepreneur vs “intrapreneur”: which one would you like to be?

Written by Veronique Rapetti, JCCFB President and NEF Learning Director, for the New Entrepreneurs Foundation Blog.

In my previous blog, I talked about “entrepreneurship” becoming the new leadership and how large organisations were developing incubators or creating more links with entrepreneurs, as they could see the benefits for their innovation, growth and ultimately gaining a competitive advantage in their industry.

So, what about becoming an “intrapreneur”?

The term is often used for people who are working in an established company, who come up with an idea, launch it with the organisation’s support, and are creating something new for their company. For example, At Lockheed Martin, intrapreneurs developed a number of famous aircraft designs and at 3M, they came up with Post-It Notes and at Google, they came up with Google News, AdSense and Gmail.

In a 2013 study , developed in partnership with American Express for Dan Schawbel’s book Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success, they found that 58% of managers were either very willing or extremely willing to support employees who wanted to capitalize on a new business opportunity within their company. In addition, they found that 40% of millennial employees were either very interested or extremely interested in doing this. That is why Intrapreneurship programmes seem to become more and more popular.

As more millennials are coming onto the job market and are looking at entrepreneurship as a viable career option, many companies have programmes already in place to cater to this rising demographic that will become 36% of the American workforce by end of 2014 and 46% by 2020. Closer to home, in the UK, the New Entrepreneurs Foundation is proud to talk about similar intrapreneurial success stories. The first one we are proud to share with you has been achieved by one of our Class of 2012 NEFer: Hamish Grierson. After a successful placement at Travelex, and demonstrating his innovation and entrepreneurial flair, Hamish has launched Travelex’s own incubator.

So, as you are looking to embark in your entrepreneurial journey, there is room for some of you to consider intrapreneurship. But you need to find the right organisation with the right culture, and come up with the most relevant innovation for your organisation.

In my early career, I too became an intrapreneur: after working for 3 years for a large conference and exhibition organisation, I launched a new Training Business Unit within the company. This was possible because of my knowledge of the sector I was working in, the entrepreneurial culture of the organisation and my capability of identifying a gap in the market.

Nowadays, Intrapreneurship is recognized as a key to dynamic growth and change and for millennial like you, it’s an opportunity to develop your leadership skills at an early stage of your career and bring innovation to an organisation. In addition, if you are a millennial looking to launch a business, but are still paying back student loans, may not have access to mentors or capital, intrapreneurship could be the perfect solution. By leveraging internal resources and a corporate brand, you can make a big impact even at the start of your careers. When intrapreneurs are successful, companies reap the benefits too.

That is why the NEF Learning & Development programme is focusing on developing the entrepreneurial and leadership skills needed to be successful in any new business creation scenarios: be it as a stand-alone start-up or be it within an organisation. Ultimately it is about wealth and growth creation!

Is Entrepreneurship the new Leadership?

Written by Veronique Rapetti, JCCFB President and NEF Learning Director, for the New Entrepreneurs Foundation Blog.

I don’t know if, like me, you have noticed a proliferation of articles about the rise of entrepreneurs, entrepreneurship programmes, start-ups being launched and looking for funding, new accelerators and incubators, University Enterprise programmes and also a growing trend of large corporations creating their own incubators and working with entrepreneurs, such as Deloitte, Barclays and Telefonica to name a few. So why is entrepreneurship getting so much more press coverage nowadays? Why are large corporates looking at teaming up with entrepreneurs and bringing into their organisation entrepreneurial talents? Are we witnessing a shift in the way the economy and organisations want to be managed and grow? Is the traditional leadership model being challenged?

To understand the increased connection between entrepreneurship and leadership, let’s define some of the key skills entrepreneurs need to demonstrate. In no particular order:
– Vision/commercial acumen: able to spot opportunities in crowded markets and understand the competitive nature of business
– Risk taking: able to go outside owns comfort zone and take actions
– Resilience: able to persevere in the face of obstacles, learn from and accept failure
– Change management: can adapt, be flexible and comfortable with change and innovation
– Communication: can communicate clearly and effectively
– Analytical skills: able to think analytically both with numerical and verbal information
– People skills: able to understand other people strengths to build the best teams

To some extent, the above skills are very similar to the one we look for in a leader…aren’t they?

In the UK, the government is also pushing the entrepreneurship agenda to help support skills and ultimately innovation and growth in the long term. Recently the All-party Parliamentary Group for Micro Businesses published a report on “An Education System fit for an Entrepreneur”, looking at the effectiveness of the UK education system in supporting entrepreneurs from the age of 4 to 44 and beyond.

So, faced with the new challenges the economic downturn unveiled, we can easily understand how and why entrepreneurship skills are seen as the drivers for change, innovation and growth. We can appreciate the impact of the economic woes to the way we perceive entrepreneurs and how it reinforce the idea that entrepreneurial skills have a role to play in the drive for growth.

Is that why learning and development programmes such as those offered by the New Entrepreneurs Foundation play a key role in the new economy?  We are recognising that in order to transform UK businesses, we need to develop not only leaders but entrepreneurial leaders!