By Jim Duffy, Entrepreneurial Spark CEO
It’s easy to get caught up the start-up revolution that is sweeping the globe right now. In fact, I am part of it and I love it! So much energy from people in so many sectors who want to build, grow and scale great new ventures… They are doers and work hard at building relationships.
I get to work closely with so many people and see great entrepreneurs make real progress, and I can tell you through experience what makes an investable entrepreneur. With over £20 million invested in Entrepreneurial Spark companies, my team can spot investable people pretty quickly - it’s the ones who make the effort with other people. However, getting them to appreciate that and round them off is, indeed, another challenge.
Here are some things that we believe stand out in investable people:
1. Always On
Investable people are always switched on – thinking about their idea or business. The team at tech company – Nameloop – are always motoring. The entrepreneurial leader – John Wilmot – constantly thinks, recombobulates and plans for success in a busy and crowded space. The entrepreneur who is alive to their business will make progress.
2. Total Focus
Being completely focused on what one is doing is a must. I am not suggesting that other features or income streams should be ignored - far from it. But only if they complement the offering for the customer. Carol Knight – DiaryDoll – is an inspiration in her focus. Her products are now in Debenhams as well as John Lewis - and she is not stopping there. Carol’s laser like focus on the segment and pain point she is addressing is breathtaking.
3. Knowing the Numbers
Last month, Entrepreneurial Spark had Steve Smith of Poundland giving a masterclass in our Birmingham Hatchery. I recently heard someone quote, “what does he know about pricing, everything is a pound!” Exactly the point!! Steve knew his margins to the second decimal. An investable entrepreneur knows that numbers are important to get started, grow and scale. James Brown from Beer52 knows his subscription box model inside out. He knows how to drive value for his customer, while keep the business on track. James stood out a mile… as he was onto this right from the start of his venture.
4. The Team
One of the most successful businesses in the world is U2. The four guys there all comprise a world beating rock band. The bass guitarist is just as important as Bono the singer. The drummer is immense and the Edge – lead guitarist – is awesome. But put them all together and bingo!! The capacity for entrepreneurs to build, hire and nurture great teams cannot be underestimated. Tracey Eker – Flexiworkforce – is building an exciting tech enabled recruitment company. The strength of her team is what gives Tracey the capacity to continue to build. She cannot do it without them now! This is a key strength that needs relentless effort – building a great team that completes you.
5. Viewing Failure as a Learning…
We all fail at different times of our lives. Personal relationships, starting business, driving tests, exams etc… How we cope is what differentiates us! John Loveday from Spearhead Training knows he will fail at certain things. He knows he does not have all the answers. He knows he will mitigate for 90% of the risk. But, when he does drop the ball, he will view it as a learning and then make sure there are no re-sits! That’s the attitude of a true entrepreneur.
Get these right and one becomes highly investable. I’m going to tell you a secret…and this is what 8 out of 10 investors will tell you. These can all be learned. All be worked on. All be improved. That’s what makes great investable entrepreneurs… They know that and constantly seek to improve.