By Tom Raffe
Although starting your business can be liberating and exciting, generating the capital you need to be a successful entrepreneur can be difficult. I recently raised $500K; a healthy amount in the UK. London’s ‘Tech City’ isn’t as mature as the start-up scene in the U.S. although I still faced similar issues.
Angel networks are groups of investors actively seeking opportunities. There’s often a charge involved to pitch and sometimes a “success fee” if a member does invest. Think about the cost involved and if it’s viable but it’s a chance to refine your pitch to a critical audience. In London, I pitched at Thames Valley Investment Network, London Business Angels and Angel Lab. LA’s Tech Coast Angels, Investors’ Circle in San Francisco and Golden Seeds in New York City are good places to start in the US.
It’s easier said than done, but it’s important that you get away from the desk and meet people. Going to lots of networking events can sometimes feel like a waste of time but it’s still a great way improve your pitch out loud and meet similar people. Sites like entrepreneur.meetup.com are good places to get started on where the best events are locally.
When networking, keep calm and try to be genuine; most people are just as nervous as you. It’s easy to forget, but just try to be nice and helpful and the conversation will flow. After you’re more comfortable, begin to make a list of people in the industry you’d like to meet and even reach out to them proactively. I met my lead investor at a networking event in London. It doesn’t happen often, but it can.
Some of the most highly regarded accelerators in the US include Y Combinator, TechStars and AngelPad. Wayra and Seedcamp are particularly popular in London.
It’s an opportunity to learn from some experienced professionals and put together some projects that can really test your business model. This can help to raise money quickly but be prepared to give away equity. Weigh up what it means to you. We haven’t been part of an accelerator so far, but if it meant working with the right people then I’d certainly consider it.
Tom Raffe is the founder and director of Screenburn, a Facebook VOD platform that enables the sale and distribution of movies, music and other video direct to fans online. Follow him on Twitter @tomraffe.