Entrepreneurs Dean Ward and Simon Roberts shared their top tips for raising investment in the funding masterclass at FUEL Liverpool this week.

The event, supported by Growth Platform and Clockwise, saw almost 100 people attend a public breakfast panel event before more than 20 scaleup and startup businesses gained direct access to experts in a series of behind-closed-doors masterclass pods focused on specific challenges they may face.

Ward, one of the experts for the funding pod, is the founder and chief product officer at Evoke Creative, which manufactures digital kiosks to the likes of McDonald’s, JD Sports and Google.

In December 2023 BGF made a multi-million-pound follow-on investment into the Liverpool-based business following significant contract wins and international growth.

“It’s good to get advice and help to grow – and it’s good to have the backing and security of knowing someone is behind you. Equally, this comes with pressure when things aren’t going so well,” was Ward’s advice to the FUEL cohort businesses.

“Giving away equity is necessary in some cases to realise the ambition of the business.”

Asked when businesses should raise investment, he replied: “It really depends on the business and the opportunity. Organic slow growth works for some, and investment may not be needed. If the business has an immediate opportunity and it can be evidenced, it makes sense to raise.”

Ward recently joined the digital and creative board at Growth Platform as it seeks to give business a voice in the wider policy-making process.

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Roberts is the co-founder and CEO of Liverpool startup Heatio, which has raised £2.5m in investment.

“We have cultivated relationships with angel investors, venture capitalists and strategic partners, effectively communicating our vision, market potential and growth strategy to secure the necessary capital,” he divulged. “These fundraising efforts have enabled us to scale operations, expand into new markets and drive innovation within our industry.”

Asked for his top five tips for raising funding, he offered:

“Prove your business model works – demonstrate customers will buy it (not a friend or family member).

“Practice – Pitch to friendly people in the investment world to practise for the real thing.

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“Be prepared – You don’t get too many shots at this, so make sure you have a solid business plan, financial forecast and projects that you can stand behind.

“Listen to what investors tell you. You are the one asking for investment, and if you want the funds, you have to take on board the advice even if you don’t like it.

“Know your audience. Angel investors are very different from venture capitalists. Adjust your pitch accordingly.”

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When should businesses raise investment, in Roberts’s view?

“When they have achieved significant milestones or traction demonstrating market demand and scalability potential or when they have a clear growth trajectory but lack the necessary capital to execute their plans.”

Louise Chapman is an investment director at Praetura Ventures, which she joined in 2017. She previously spent nine years in KPMG’s advisory business and has significant experience advising SMEs.

She raising investment was all about building relationships.

“Build a relationship with investors as it’s so much harder if we receive a deck in cold,” she said. “This doesn’t need to be multiple meetings, but just get your name known.”

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