Funding for Scale ups - Guest Post by Briony Phillips, Scale up Enabler

Briony joined the Engine Shed team in Bristol on a 1 year contract in June 2017 funded by Business West, Engine Shed, The University of Bristol and the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to work towards their shared ambition. Her first priority is to identify scale-up businesses in the West of England region and to better understand their challenges and second, to design, facilitate and support initiatives that will make it easier for businesses to scale-up more effectively – in the long term.


How can fast growth, scale-up businesses unlock investment and funding in excess of £1M?

The West of England is recognised as a great place to start a business, but one of the biggest challenges reported by businesses who are scaling up is 'access to finance'. Specifically, founders lament the amount of time it takes to unlock funds and the lack of readily available information about the various options.

Meanwhile providers of funds highlights their frustrations in struggling to access deal-flow and in being approached by businesses who aren’t suitable/relevant or ready for their offer.

Finance is one of the key focus areas for the Scale-up Institute and a topic which is highlighted as a challenge by many of the scale-up businesses I have spoken to so far. I hear war stories of venture capitalists who won’t consider investing outside London, frustrations with crowdfunding platforms, and much more in between. This is a common challenge which (in my opinion) needs to be addressed locally and nationally – politically and practically.

Last week I was lucky enough to attend the launch of the ScaleUp Institute’s latest report ‘SME Finance Monitor: The Scale-up Perspective’ which was hosted at the London Stock Exchange. This report builds on the annual SME Finance Monitor run by BDRC Continental (since 2011) and analyses scale-up business leaders’ opinions and actions from interviews conducted in 2015/2016. The full report shares much more, but here are some highlights:

  • Scale-ups and aspiring scale-ups are much more likely to be innovative, trade internationally and plan (produce management accounts and have a business plan) than SMEs.
  • A quarter of both scale-ups and aspirational scale-ups have been trading for 15 years+
  • 6 in 10 scale-ups (59%) have an owner or MD who is under 50 years old compared to 46% of other SMEs.
  • 17% of scale-up businesses studied are led by women and these businesses show particular traits such as being more likely to plan and innovate but less likely to be using finance.

As Scale-up Enabler for the West of England, I’m keen to re-invigorate the investment options in the region and am trialling and launching a variety of initiatives to make that happen. As part of this work, I'm putting on an event at the Engineshed in Bristol on Wed 17 January 2018 16:00 – 18:00 for founders and employees of businesses looking to raise £1M+ to learn from those who’ve tackled the same challenges before and those who offer services/products to help.

You can sign up here:

At the event we will ask questions such as:

  • Where can aspiring scale-ups find funding in the region of £1M +
  • What does best practice look like in this domain?
  • What needs to change in the West of England to make raising investment easier in the future?
  • How can we foster more altruism/philanthropic behaviour from our community of successful scale-up entrepreneurs (investment/mentoring)?

Our intentions for the event:

  • To bring the community of scale-up businesses and finance support together
  • To explore the challenges that scale-up businesses face in relation to finance
  • To identify potential solutions and commit to actions that could resolve those challenges

Who should attend?

We invite founders and employees of businesses looking to raise £1M+ in the next 12 – 24 months to join us for this event.

This event is organised in partnership with TechSPARK and SETsquared Bristol. The event is kindly supported by the London Stock Exchange and Alternative Business Funding, "Wherever you are in your business journey Alternative Business Funding is right for you."