Editor’s note: This post topic was sponsored by UKTI
When thinking expansion, it’s clear many Nordic startups find themselves gazing at the UK, which many consider the first major stop before a full blown global (or U.S.) roll-out. However, startups need cash to keep their machinery on the move, and getting funded in the UK is a whole different story than in the Nordics. Or is it?
We had our own suspicions, so we decided to do some investigation on the topic: we conducted several interviews with London-based VC’s to get our finger on the pulse of UK venture funding.
We got very constructive responses from Neil Rimer from Index Ventures; Chrysanthos Chrysanthou from Accel Partners, Harry Briggs from Balderton Capital and Gil Dibner from DFJ Esprit, so we’d like to dedicate a special thanks to them in advance.
Mr. Rimer summed up quite nicely what a Nordic startup looking for UK funding should first do when arriving to London:
“I probably would recommend they get back on the plane; head North and only make the trip to London when they have set up a bunch of relevant meetings – ideally via warm introductions. They should always target investors who are inclined to listen to their pitch – either because they’ve demonstrated an interest in and understanding of the sector, or because the entrepreneurs have been highly recommended to them by people they know and whose judgement they trust.”
And it wasn’t just Rimer either: nearly every response we got emphasized the importance of introductions with a “human touch”, that is, proactive and sincere. Putting your network to use is the best thing you can do when setting sail to London, and it could mean putting the word out to investors through fellow startups, or simply pushing them a message via Twitter, as Dibner told us has happened to him with a couple of Nordic entrepreneurs.
Of course, Nordic timidness aside, it’s true not all startups necessarily have a network extensive enough to put the wheels in sufficient motion, but it’s certainly not the end of the story either. Here’s what Chrysanthou had to say, should this be the case:
“If you are not able to lay the groundwork before you arrive, welcome to London! There are a few key investor clusters that would be good areas to explore. Many of the more established investors are in Soho/Mayfair, as well as newer corporates like Google and Facebook. A newer, and probably the biggest, cluster is around London’s Old Street, Shoreditch and Farringdon areas, where some of the newer VC firms, like Passion Capital, and key startups, including MindCandy and Funding Circle, are based. Another up-and-coming area is Canary Wharf, which is quickly becoming a central point for financial technology. For more detail, check out the TechBritain map.”
However, Dibner also pointed out that VC’s look at the entirety of Europe as one big ecosystem, so in a sense, where you’re based doesn’t necessarily have as much importance as a Nordic startup might think.
“If nothing else, being based in the Nordic can only come out as a good thing: Nordics have a reputation you know? Everyone knows where Skype came from, everyone knows where Spotify came from. Coming from an ecosystem like the Nordics is only a net plus”, said Dibner, while adding that 60% of his meetings are done as videocalls, further underlining that investors are indeed reachable by other means than elaborate cocktail party introductions.
Social smoothness, however, is only half of the pie, the second half being purely a matter of what you’re actually made of. Briggs tells us being noticed also requires a good deal of old school entrepreneurism:
“Ultimately it all about doing something really unique. The investors you’re looking for will be after great teams and innovative products or business models. Those are the things that are to get you some encouraging traction,” Briggs said and continued, “Whichever of those stands out, say, you have an interesting, radical product, try and get it featured with [ArcticStartup], with TechCrunch or the Usual Suspect; showcase the team by participating in pitching competitions to get noticed.”
Before we wrap this piece up, here are some of the events and meetups that were recommended for newcoming startups: MiniBar, LeanStartup, Silicon Drinkabout, Don’tPitchMeBro, TechCrunch Disrupt, Noah Conference, Wired, London Fashion Week, BigDataWeek and CloudWorldForum, Startup Weekend, Launch48.
In conclusion, all the VC’s we interviewed shared more or less the same message: don’t be scared to make the first move; be bold about it, but not arrogant; use all means you have at hand to get in touch with the people that are relevant to your goals; coming from the Nordics is something to be proud of, use it to your advantage.
The biggest difference between the London investment scene is that it’s so much larger and complex than anywhere else in Europe, but roughly the same rules of communication apply there than in the Nordics.
UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) is the Government Department that helps UK-based companies succeed in the global economy. They also help overseas companies bring their high quality investment to the UK’s dynamic economy. Their extensive network provides market and sector specific information, location and office space guidance and practical help (e.g. company establishment, taxation and hiring personnel) to get your UK operation up and running. Their services for Finnish companies are confidential and free of charge.