London’s Tech City is home to hundreds of startups brimming with ideas for products and software that they believe will make millions.
But in order to make that idea become a reality these budding entrepreneurs need funding.
That is where Bill Earner comes in.
Earner and his business partner Pietro Bezza have just closed on €16m to invest in startups through venture capital fund Connect Ventures.
The company plans to invest in European web and mobile sector investments, with particular focus on the consumer web, digital media, e-commerce, entertainment and gaming sectors.
So how can London’s entrepreneurs secure Connect Ventures’ backing?
To find out, I asked Earner what he looks for in new investments and what he thinks of the London tech scene.
What trends do you see among tech startups at the moment?
We are seeing a lot of gaming and e-commerce companies.
There’s a lot of innovation around e-commerce business models and how they actually sell products.
We also see a lot of startups talking about big data and how they can offer a solution to bring meaning from massive data sets.
How does the London startup scene compare to other European countries?
London has a great startup scene, there’s a lot of good innovation going on.
There are a number of good clusters around Europe, but London is the biggest and most established.
Berlin is also thriving, but London is probably a bit more developed.
What do you look for when investing in a startup?
Since we are looking at companies that are early stage we look at the team of people involved.
We want them to really explain what problem they are solving and what the product vision is.
We like them to be very product orientated – they need to have clearly thought through the problem and the solution they are offering.
Also, in this day and age with the technology we have available you expect to see either proof of concept or a sample product.
The days of just showing us a PowerPoint presentation are gone.
How should startups approach you?
We try to be very approachable, we are happy to talk to entrepreneurs.
At the moment it’s just my partner and I and we are reachable via social media, email or telephone.
We even had an entrepreneur drop by the office earlier today.
If someone fails to get funding, what advice would you give them for their next pitch?
It’s the nature of venture capitalists that you say no more than you say yes.
We try to be constructive with our feedback most of the time, and generally entrepreneurs take it quite well.
But obviously every company is different so it depends on the specific case.
A lot of the time our reasons for not investing are to do with the product vision and how it maps to the problem.
What is the most common mistake startups make when pitching?
The most common mistake we see is that they haven’t thought about their potential customers.
Often their ideas are very high level and non-specific about who is actually going to want to buy the product.
How many startups do you plan to invest in this year?
We haven’t got a specific number that we want to invest in this year, but over the life of the fund we want to have around 15 to 20 investments.
What’s the ratio of startups you see compared to the number you actually invest in?
The general rule of thumb for VCs is around 100 to one.
However in early stage investments the ratio might actually be bigger.