When speaking with businesses who are considering going out to fundraise, and are looking for investment, a common concern we hear is “I’m worried about losing equity, and control to someone who only cares about the financial benefits of investing in my business.” And whilst this is a valid concern, in most parts, it is not the case - many investors are happy to provide financial help and step aside if that’s what you’re looking for, whereas many are also there to provide you with much more than just money.
We spoke with Mark Gordon, Chairman and Seed Investor of Ambl, launching this summer, about his experience as an investor who provides more than just the money. Mark provides invaluable advice and tips on investment, and why it could be the right route to go down for your business.
How, from an investor’s perspective can you show businesses they can trust you?
“First of all, you’ve got to have an interest in that business.”
“So, either the product or the marketplace you’re investing in should be something that you know, or you have interest in already - something that you know you can add some value to.
“There are two types of investment from my perspective, there’s a passive investment, which are the ones where you don’t want, or need to get too involved - you just invest your money and receive a return. And I think, in those instances, that’s when it’s best to use investment funds, investment managers, crowdfunding, etc.
“The other type of investments are those where I have a genuine interest in that business, I understand it and I can add a bit more than just financial support. If you can influence and assist that business’s growth in value, then you’re also growing your own investment - so you’ve got influence over your own investment, which for me is quite important.
“Before investing ask yourself: Is this the marketplace you’ve already got experience in? Do you have contacts in that marketplace? Can you add value by leveraging your marketplace and contacts for that business? Do you culturally get the team? Do you see yourself, as someone who can work alongside and help the team? Is there a relationship there that you feel you can and want to create? And most importantly you need to relate to the product, and the service and have some understanding of it.
“I see lots and lots of businesses, but if I don’t get them very quickly, I move on.”
Clearly, you’ve made this investment relationship work with Ambl, as you have gone from a seed investor to chairman of the company. So can you give us a bit of a summary of your relationship with Ambl, and how this transition took place?
“I’ve known Aaron (one of Ambl’s co-founders), for many years, so he’s aware of my business background and often has turned to me for advice and support over the years. When Aaron had this idea with the other co-founders, they put together a pitch deck, and within a couple of weeks, the idea had formulated into a full-blown concept with a business name.
“They came to me for an opinion, - and I got it straight away. I could relate to the issue they were addressing, and I saw how their idea could absolutely make changes in the way consumers behave. In addition, I had an opportunity to support three very credible, capable and enthusiastic individuals.
‘From experience, I know there are lots of pitfalls in creating brands and products, so it is inevitable you will make mistakes along the way. I felt I had a lot of transferable skills to bring to the table to help them along this journey, so within a day of reviewing the pitch deck, I agreed to invest the money they needed to start developing Ambl.
“The term they like to use is that I’ve come on board as their ‘friendly dragon’. I’m here to add value, leverage contacts, provide support, and be a sounding board to guide the guys through developing something like this.
“In reality what’s happened is this has moved so much quicker than we expected it to. The guys have done a fantastic job, and I’ve ended up, spending a lot more of my time being involved than I intended to. There is no doubt that spending more time with the guys and developing Ambl will be beneficial.”
For businesses, who are thinking about investment and need that push to do so, could you give them an idea of the best place to start, and what benefits can come from investment?
“Money has its place. But I’d also look for investment from people within the marketplace that you’re looking to operate in, because straight away they will probably understand your business, and challenges better. These types of investors will be able to add more value than just investment - and I think that’s absolutely key!”
“A lot of the people involved in this business (Ambl) have come through a warm market; friends, family, people you know, friends of friends, etc. - they’re the obvious and easiest places to start with. From this, you then grow your network organically, which is the stage I would say we are in now, where the guys are building a network of people within their sector that are quite influential and can assist them.”
Lastly, if you had one piece of advice for other investors on how they can help skyrocket a business/es, what would it be?
“I think you need to choose to invest in businesses where you can influence change, and leverage your own experience,”
“Whether it be creating brands, developing roots to market, or experience in a specific sector - having transferable skills and experiences means you know where to lead those businesses. I wasn’t from hospitality myself, but what I was able to bring to Ambl was experiences in developing a brand.
“The experience I’ve accumulated over the years from working in various other sectors to hospitality has allowed me to bring in the people who could really help develop the brand and make it stronger. -For example, I’ve been able to use my contact base to help with financial forecasting and advice for a CFO role.
“As an investor, you already have a trusted network of people around you that can assist and add value to that business. So I think you’ve got to think, do I have transferable skills from experience, and do I have marketplace contacts that will assist that business? If you do then you can help any business do well.
“As an investor, there’s nothing more satisfying than helping and seeing people grow and become successful from a personal development perspective like we are doing with Ambl.”