Venture capital

Investment to help young businesses grow. Alongside funding comes strategic advice from an experienced professional.

Venture capitalists (VCs) put money into early-stage businesses to help them grow. As well as money, businesses can expect strategic advice from an experienced new board member.

VC funds often invest in cycles of between five and seven years. They expect businesses to grow significantly during this time – and make a return for the fund. Sometimes, funds will hold on to an investment to help the business grow even further.

Businesses can often expect further investment ‘rounds’. Seed round investment is typically offered for proof of concept and can be several hundred thousand pounds. Series A investment onwards can be many millions.

What are the main venture capital schemes?

EIS (Enterprise Investment Scheme)Link opens in a new window, SEIS (Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme)Link opens in a new window and VCT (Venture Capital Trusts)Link opens in a new window encourage investment into UK businesses. EIS and SEIS give tax breaks to investors, as an incentive to invest.

Meanwhile, VCTs help take away some of the risk of investing by pooling investors' money and spreading it across a range of businesses. The result is more investment in UK businesses.

Relevance

Venture capital is an option for a wide-range of companies. Profit, and in some cases revenue, are often not a requirement in the VC world.

Strategic guidance

Get support from experts and entrepreneurs.

Large injection of cash

You can get millions of pounds to expand your business, without giving away a controlling stake.

Regional opportunities

VCs regularly travel to regions across the UK.

Equity and growth

There is no guarantee that your business will achieve growth as a result of the investment.

Competition

Venture capital investment is in high demand. VC funds may not be investing when you are looking.

About your business

  • Business stage:  Generally early stage, pre-revenue or pre-profit
  • Annual turnover:  Less than £5m
  • Sectors:  All sectors, but especially suitable for companies with a scalable business proposition
  • Regions:  All

 

About the finance

  • Purpose of finance:  Acquisition; research and development
  • Amount of finance:  £1m or more, depending on the funding round
  • Duration of finance:  5–10 years
  • Cost of finance:  None
  • Time to finance:  6–12 months

Ask an expert: Tim Hames, director general at the British Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (BVCA)

What do investors look for in a business?

There is a split between the investors whose first instincts are to identify a sector and those who look first and foremost at management teams.

Sector-led investors look for revolutionary technological change or demographic positioning. Other VCs consider whether the founders have the vision and expertise to grow a business.

A useful tip for entrepreneurs is to think about what sector they’re in and then work out if the product within the sector is the unique selling proposition (USP) or if they are the USP.

Board seats

VCs often expect representation on your board in exchange for funding and support.

Strong management team

The VC fund needs confidence in your leadership team, as with early-stage businesses there's very little else for the investors to go on.

Understand your investor

VCs look for different things, so increase your chances of success by doing your research on the fund.

Mentality

VCs expect some businesses to fail. Understand early that it's about relationships as much as it is about making money.

Economic cycle

Competition on funds depends on the economic climate. Sometimes funds are not investing much at all, while at other times your business may have lots of offers on the table.

Either you or the VC can make the first approach.

It often takes up to a year to do the deal, but this can vary. The earlier VCs can start the journey, the better. Sometimes an investor will talk to entrepreneurs for months or years before they actually invest.

To learn what steps you need to take to ready your business for venture capital, use this checklist.

After a momentous 2020, 2021 will see businesses still needing funds and VCs still seeking opportunities to invest. Learn five things VCs are looking for in 2021

 

“Venture capital is an incredible partnership between financial professionals and founders. Many VCs are often ex-entrepreneurs, so their advice can be invaluable.”

Quote logo David Mott Chair of the Venture Capital Committee at BVCA

Other finance options

IPO
Equity
An IPO (or Initial Public Offering) is when a business sells shares via the public markets, such as the Main Market or AIM operated by the London Stock Exchange.
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Business Loans
Debt
A business borrows money from a loan provider such as a bank and then pays it back with interest over an agreed period.
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Start Up Loan
Debt
A government-backed loan that helps people who are starting their own business.
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Regional support

Enter your postcode to find business support and case studies from businesses within your region. You'll be taken to our interactive map.