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Why investor showcases support win-win outcomes

Posted 10 Dec 2018

On 29 November we welcomed 50 investors to the latest Digital Catapult Investor Showcase. They attended to hear pitches from 10 carefully selected companies that had participated in the Machine Intelligence Garage programme, with a view to invest.

Private investment is a critical part of the lifecycle of small businesses

Private investment is often the most critical part of the lifecycle of any business, it allows them to up the ante in the pursuit of customers or to secure the killer talent they need to develop products. For businesses starting out with advanced digital technologies, this is no exception.

Digital Catapult’s accelerator programmes have specific aims, informed by in-house research and support from our expert technologists all armed with industry needs and aligned to market challenges. However, helping businesses to access finance is a common thread that runs through all our accelerator programmes. Whether it’s Augmentor which explicitly sets out to help early-stage augmented or virtual reality businesses get investment ready, or Machine Intelligence Garage which helps newcomers to the artificial intelligence space gain access to cloud compute power, private investment is often the key that unlocks a business’ potential to grow. This is why Digital Catapult delivers regular investor showcases.

How Digital Catapult identifies high calibre startup companies for investment

Each of our programmes starts the same way, we run public open calls to find innovative businesses from our extensive network across the UK. Digital Catapult’s technology agnostic position helps us to draw the best talent.

Once the open calls closes, we go through a careful selection process, to ensure applications meet the requirements of the call and align to our strategic and economic objectives. To add to our expertise we invite third-party stakeholders to participate in this process as they are often leaders in their field; founders, academics or investors. This ensures we discover and support not only the most exciting emerging applications of immersive, future networks and artificial intelligence technologies but also the most commercially viable. This makes finding the companies to present to investors easier and we invite those from our programmes at the stage where private investment is critical.

Investment masterclasses prepare businesses

Every business is unique, as is every investor – or at least their strategy is – whether business angels or venture capitalists. The relationships between founders and investors are just as individual and complicated, and each one has the potential to grow into a win-win situation.

Making sure a founder is absolutely ready for investment and able to articulate their needs is as critical as their ability to pitch. For this reason, we deliver investment masterclasses to prep our founders for the road ahead. At the recent Investor Showcase for Machine Intelligence Garage, masterclasses helped founders to find better ways of articulating the need for their solution. Investors are unlikely to invest in technology for its own sake, the commercial appeal needs to be clear. We also ensure founders understand the funding landscape clearly, to be certain that private investment is what they need and then what level of funding they may need. This can be a simple but revelatory process for many founders as they begin to fully understand the actual cost of their plans.

Working with investors to understand investment opportunities in advanced digital technology landscape

Ensuring an investor understands the nuances of working with specific advanced digital technologies is equally important. Through Digital Catapult’s support of the British Venture Capital and Private Equity Association (the BVCA)’s sector roundtables, we’re able to whet the appetite of investors for these technologies. We give investors an overview of a technology’s business trends in the UK and what they should look out for when exploring the UK’s ecosystems. A handful of our programmes, such as Augmentor, also invite fund management companies to jointly deliver activities which help investors better understand the businesses we support – often resulting in genuine understanding and relationship building between founders and investors, ensuring more successful relationships down the line.

All these activities, to get founders investment ready and investors interested in advanced digital technologies, culminate on showcase night when investors get to hear from the most promising businesses Digital Catapult has identified and supported through its programmes. Experience shows that these evenings frequently lead to game-changing investment for many of the participants, and in the weeks that follow we expect to see some exciting results.