Wired Magazine’s February 2011 edition has an interesting article on Silicon Roundabout. This nexus of technology and new media startups around Old Street, just to the North of the City of London, has been attracting increasing attention from the media and investors. The essential proposition is that this is a mini-silicon valley start-up hub.
This got me thinking…
Using the list from Wired Magazine’s (have a look here) I thought it would be interesting to see who is investing in what types of companies.
The Universe of Companies
I started with the original Wired List of 86 companies and have added another 25 of my own. This latter group are all based around the centre of London and do not precisely fit the Silicon Roundabout group. I will keep them distinct in my discussion. We have a total of 112 companies.
I looked at the activities being carried out by these business and segmented them into 5 Groups – one of which was Cleantech and applied to only one company (not in the original Wired group).
The remainder then fell into four categories
This group comprise 56 of the 112 companies (50%) but only 5 funding deals amounting to a total $94m. However one deal for $75m funded EPAM systems (not in the core Silicon Roundabout Group). Excluding this, the deal count of 4 is worth only $19.2m. This is revealing. It tells me that investors are a great deal less interested in early stage businesses where the core assets/value lies in people rather than software/IPR.
2. Online Tools
There were 11 companies which I categorised in the Online Tools segment. All of them are from the Wired Silicon Valley Group. Of the 11, I have identified six funding deals for a total of $9.5m. This represents 55% of the group and supports the investment ethos refered to above. I believe one of the major attractions of this group to investors is potential scalability and global applicability.
3. Social Networks
This category has 33 companies in it, of which 23 come from the original Silicon Roundabout Group. The Categorisation is quite broad and I have applied it to any business essentially trying to address a community or a group online. In this group I have identified 10 deals worth a total of $17.72m. The original Wired Silicon Roundabout group represent 7 deals worth $6.38m. Clearly one third of companies have attracted external funding. One company had already gone out of business.
The Software Group comprises 11 companies, of which 7 are from Silicon Roundabout. Five deals have been identified for a total of $62.2m. If Corvil is removed from the group (non Silicon Roundabout), the remaining 4 deals still r represent $30.7m of investment. Once again the intellectual property and scalability of software companies is clearly attractive to investors.
I have identified a total of $238m of external funding to 27 of the companies. The core Silicon Roundabout Group represent 21 of these companies and a total funding value of $65.6m. For this group that is an average of only $3.45m per company.
Types of Funding Rounds
In total I have identified 8 seed rounds, 9 Angel Rounds, 11 Series A Rounds, 7 Series B Rounds and 5 Series C Rounds. Clearly some companies have had more than one round of investment, very often with existing investors following their money.
Seed Investment Rounds
The average deal size was $280,000 per deal.
Angel Investment Rounds
The average deal size was $1.63m but heavily distorted by one investment of $8.5m. Without this deal the average deal size was $770,000.
Series A Investment Rounds
The average deal size was $6.4m. The two largest deals were $21m and $25m. Without these the average size of the series A rounds was $2.71m.
Series B Investment Rounds
The average deal size was $10m but again with a distorting outlier of $50m. Without this the average deal size was $5.85m
Series C Investment Rounds
The average deal size was $13.2m
The deal sizes show a clear and expected increase in size which reflects the increasing maturity of the business.
I have identified 18 Angel investors and 48 venture capital/funds investors. I will focus on the latter as a discussion of Angel investors is a much broader topic.
The key question is where are these companies getting their funds from?
Of the 48 Fund investors, 3 come from Russia, 7 come from Europe (excluding the UK), 20 come from the USA and the remaining 18 are UK based funds. This is the most encouraging finding of my investigation. The breadth and wide availability of funds in Silicon VALLEY is frequently documented. I am delighted to have clearly identified a small group of venture (and by that I mean real risk) taking investors who are based in or have offices in London.
It is interesting to me that of these investors, only 3 have made more than one investment; one fund made 6, one fund 3 and the third 2 investments.
In my own databases of early stage investors I have a total of 167 investors including only 9 of the companies involved in the deals in this study. While there is clearly a market for early stage deals, the types of companies and their perceived risk clearly affects the willingness of any particular investor to commit.
It is also important to consider that each investor will have his/her own requirements regarding revenues, profits, sectors and sub sectors, stage of investment and that this will lead to a fairly rapid reduction in the number of potential investors. In addition, investors avoid having competing companies in their portfolios as this leads to conflicts of interest. Therefore if an investor has just invested in a company similar to that for which you are seeking investment, it is more likely not less likely that that investor will decline the opportunity.
The key factor in an investment decision is the confidence of the investor in the management team. This analysis clearly has not addressed this and without interviewing the companies involved it is not possible to come to any positive conclusions. One might reverse the issue and observe that the companies who have successfully raised money clearly have leadership which has impressed the investors. Those who have not raised money may simply not have needed to raise money and this cannot be taken as a criticism of their management teams.
This study does not have any measured metrics for valuations. Typically at an early stage investors look for between 25%-40% of the company for their investment regardless of its size. Friends and family rounds can mitigate this dilution at the early stage as the management have more control over the issue price of the shares. In addition, companies try to develop progressive valuations, increasing each round, as milestones are met and progress in the business plan delivered.
This analysis allows me to draw a number of business development conclusions.
1. If you are seeking investment you stand a much better chance if you have a scalable and IPR based offering than if you are an agency or consultancy.
2. There are a core group of UK based investors with an active appetite for early stage investments. I would generalise and say that I would expect all these funds to expect post-revenue opportunities and not seed investments.
3. There is clearly some momentum behind Silicon Roundabout, but the size of the investment pool is still very limited compared to the US where there is a wider pool of real risk based investors
4. If you are seeking institutional funding for a technology opportunity you need to investigate the market in depth and specifically target those investors whose criteria most closely apply to your own circumstances.
5. Angel investors also have their own criteria and often invest in smaller amounts. This often means that management need to put together syndicates of investors. Angel Investor Groups exist who take some of this work out of management hands but the individual investment decisions still remain with the investors and so their are no guarantees of funds.
6. Investment rounds are very timely and will absorb a considerable amount of management attention.
I hope this discourse is of interest and I would welcome any feedback or discussion. Please contact me through email, phone or Twitter – details are on my contact page of my website here. If you like this please RT.