Walking into Croke Park for our 18th Annual Venture Capital Conference recently and seeing a capacity crowd of nearly 400 people in the room, confirmed to me that the Venture Capital and Business Angel funding landscape is stronger than ever and its relevance to SMEs on the island as a means of growing their business is now more than ever considered a real option.
At the event, hosted by Mark Simpson, the audience were invited to take part in some e-polls on the day which revealed some interesting stats.
Seventy per cent of entrepreneurs and investors said access to finance has improved in the last five years, although investor readiness remains a significant challenge.
When asked about the main barriers to raising investment support as a start-up, 46 per cent said investor readiness was a key challenge, while 38 per cent cited a lack of access to suitable investors or funds as a hurdle.
Looking at the key attributes of raising finance or investing in a start-up, investors said an understanding of the process (26 per cent) and confidence (25 per cent) were most important. Over a fifth also pointed to technical capacity as a significant quality when considering backing a venture.
The Programme and Presentations
The programme was full with speakers from all realms of early stage funding taking to the stage, sitting on panels or addressing delegates at workshops.
Investment Manager Deirdre Terrins from Crescent Capital who highlighted cyber security, digital creatives and big data as emerging venture capital areas. She said; “As cyber threats continue to grow, there is a need for big data and data privacy to be intrinsically linked to a company’s security policy. This is a growing area of expertise in Ireland and we see it representing a huge opportunity for budding entrepreneurs, with interest from investors.”
Steve Collins, a Partner at Frontline Ventures, outlined the practicalities of what investors look for, from pre-seed to IPO stage. Emphasising the importance of building contacts, he advised that in his experience, networking recommendations is the best way to secure funding as there is established trust and expectation. He said: “In my experience, only 1 per cent of deals secure funding out of an average of 1,000 pitches, and none of these come from a cold pitch. Establishing and growing a trusted network is vital.”
Also speaking at the event, Dr Vincent Power, a Partner at A&L Goodbody provided the audience with his unique take on learnings from Brexit. He urged the venture capitalist community to invest in their negotiation skills saying: “In the VC community, your whole day is based around negotiation. Use lessons from Brexit to influence your own strategy – don’t assume the outcome, remain consistent and remember, all your actions are being watched.”
InterTradeIreland’s early stage Supports and Services
There is significant venture capital and early stage funding available for those with the right project and the drive and determination to succeed. The landscape continues to evolve since InterTradeIreland was set up 20 years ago.
InterTradeIreland offers SMEs a number of equity support services including masterclasses in pitching, business planning workshops, regional equity advisory clinics and the All-island Seedcorn Investor Readiness Competition.