With stock markets dizzy eyed at what the ECB might do next, broader investor sentiment remains a bit muted into what is traditionally a sketchy time of year. The basic reason is that there are lots of people out of the office. High days and holidays loom large after a winter burning logs and watching re-runs of Dad’s Army and that means that the market takes on a lethargic air. Yet the startup scene is not known for its buy-in to holiday season and the Seedrs platform continues to be crowded with some attractive looking ideas.
A few months into my life as an angel and there are a couple of things that I’ve picked up. I thought I’d take a moment to share a few of the key things that I’ve learned from my foray into angel investing.
Keep an eye on the site
The really hot ideas fund quickly. It seems to me there that are attics full of seed capital that watch the Seedrs site like hawks and when something really juicy goes live, it funds before you’ve even had time to make a pot of tea and mull it over. It’s worth logging in on a pretty frequent basis.
Some campaigns require a bit of reading
Just because you might think it’s not worth investing at first blush, don’t rule it out. Some campaigns have funded that, on the first read through, I thought had business models that lacked much substance. It’s worth keeping an open mind and following campaigns that are closing in on their targets. Be prepared to go back and reassess. That man who makes Trunki luggage didn’t have many bites in the Dragon’s Den first time out, and it worked out ok for him.
Watch to see which entrepreneurs work the hardest
Read the updates which get sent out in a regular email. Take minicabit, which is described in one of their press releases as the “Skyscanner for ground transport” and which announced it had signed a UK wide deal with O2 Academy who are the people who persuade Status Quo and the like to go and play in places they’ve never heard of. They have also done a deal with Local World who are big in regional newspapers and have put minicabit onto their many websites. It’s good to see these developments, as it demonstrates a management team who are out doing deals and not sitting at home in their undies pressing refresh on their Seedrs page in between walking the dog.
Look for multiple rounds
I like businesses who are back for further funding. Now this can be taken one of two ways; one they burn through cash like a WAG in Harvey Nicks, or two they are on to something and need cash to grow the business further. I like to try and side with the latter. It also adds a layer of reassurance to see early VC types getting involved. It’s not to say that they are neccessarily better at picking winners than you or I, but the fact that they do it for a living suggests that, on the margin, they might be. They also have other VC friends and go to industry get-togethers where they drink whisky sours at the bar and talk up their own books. The more people who are out there talking about a business that I own a sliver of, the better.
This month I’ve put some money into NearDesk. The pitch is that they allow users to rent desk space and meeting rooms through a simple system similar to an Oyster travel card, where the user only ends up paying for the amount of time that they are swiped ‘in’. No long term contracts, no messing about with leases or worrying about whether the cleaners are going through the filing cabinet at night. This helps companies to cut costs and improve the mojo of its employees who can cut out an hour long commute standing in the buffet car of an overcrowded First Great Western. On the other hand, many offices have empty desks, rooms full of old Amstrad computers and boxes stuffed with files that no one knows anything about. There is space to burn.
Near Desk seems to be a volume game, they need to sign up partners, and sign up users, but clearly having 150 locations that are now live they have a platform from which to build some momentum. Having Harry Platt, who used to be the CEO of Workspace, also bodes well, given he will be able to quite literally open a lot of doors. The website looks slick and offers an easy booking procedure; first impressions count. With the rise of technology, desk bound jobs are a relic of an age of inefficiency and business practices. The world is going mobile, it’s all about high-speed remote-access and storing your spreadsheets in the cloud and NearDesk is in the market with a business model that has huge potential. “The average UK commute is 8.5 hours per week” the blurb goes – not for much longer.
This post first appeared on Mark Hepburn’s blog Hepburn Says. Mark works in the finance industry and joined Seedrs in early 2014 to start investing in startups. If you would like to join the journalist and blogger guest user programme then you can send a writing sample to firstname.lastname@example.org.