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Is the environment right for venture capital in the north west?

Michael Taylor, the Editor of the Insider Magazine, just ran another successful Deal Makers 2009 Award ceremony, which  clashed with my own, Managing Growth – Tech Entrepreneur Series held at eOffice on 12th November 2009.

Michael in his weekly column argues that private equity needs to get back to its venture capital roots. The Good news is that LDC is making a change in their investment criteria by wanting to invest into early stage businesses. So Michael thinks this is a good ground for celebration, especially as LDC won one of the awards he gave them.

Disclaimer 1: I am jealous as I could not attend the event. So you know why I am taking this attitude!

In my view, just like any industry, you see companies changing their strategy from time to time. Whilst LDC is speaking about lowering their investment criteria with the hope of netting the next Google (why is it that they all pick Google as the one to beat?), which is great news for Northern StartUp 2.0 community, there are others who have got tired of early stage investment, and changing their strategy by targeting companies with stable revenues and profits, but could do with an injection of new ideas to revive growth. In fact, just over the last two months, I have spoken to two tier-1 VC houses from London on the same topic.

So whilst we should be jubilant on one hand of LDC’s decision, we should be less happy on the other hand with my friends from London! In essence, we have equilibrium, one going down and two going up, well almost!

Disclaimer 2: As I cannot be a friend of Roger Cashman (he is way too cool and hangout with only the A-list), I decided to be friends with Michael, as Michael is the second best thing to Roger!

Extract from Michael’s article on his website

“Eales told Insider that although LDC only makes investments below £5m on an exceptional basis, he was keen to see technology developed in the UK and not lost abroad. “I am considering plans to set up part of LDC to invest in special situations,” he said. “I would like to develop LDC downward. We could still do all the things we are already doing but could also do SME investments.”

As if to dampen our enthusiasm, Eales cautioned that plans for the shift were in the embryonic stages, but as he outlined further ideas of how it would work, it rather suggested progress was being made. “The level of due diligence we carry out on our current investments – between £5m and £50m – would not be appropriate,” he said. “We would need individuals with specialist industry knowledge to explore the business for us.”

I can only say, bring it on! as we, the Northern StartUp 2.0 community got the experience and know-how and the odd failures (1 under my belt) to help LDC reduce its risk exposure! But more than anything, it would be a blessing to add another brand to the community. Whilst the EV Group and Liverpool Ventures (now gone!) invested in to early stage tech businesses in the past, we have seen our new friends, A2E Venture Catalyst investing into another NS20 tech startup and making two more offers. Sorry, I cannot reveal the names here!

Whilst Northern StartUp 2.0 has engaged with Aquarius Equity Partners, I do not believe they have invested into any startups from the NS20 community. In fact, I believe their interest lies in heavy research based (IP rich) companies than software startups.

EV Group and YFM Private Equity have always been supporters of Northern StartUp 2.0. However, it seems I have annoyed EV Group with my last newsletter, so I now need to rebuild our relationship! All I want to say about this issue is, whilst I may have jumped the gun a bit (my analyst days coming back), we cannot just talk about the upside! We must talk about failures and learn lessons, if not, how can we ever learn?

Of course, Michael is operating at a level much higher than me, rubbing shoulders with the top elite of corporate financiers delivering news whilst trying to entertain the not-so-entertainable chaps such as me!

Disclaimer 3: As far as I know, I appeared at least 3 times on Michael’s flagship product, the North West Insider

Just to conclude, it is great news to hear that LDC’s new strategy. EV Group has also geared up with recruiting two staff from now closed Liverpool Ventures. In addition, they now have offices in Preston, Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham.

Disclaimer 4: Given my big mouth and Michael’s charming network, don’t you think it makes sense for us to work on a project together?

From my side, I would love to see lot more entrants in the market, from single investment partner to multiple. We need to create competition within the venture capital market place. We need to change our attitudes, and see technology businesses are worthy of the news as well as investment. Just to close this, you all should be attending Northern StartUp 2.0 events and supporting my efforts in building the ecosystem (shameful plug!).

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