I had the great privilege of attending a meeting at 10 Downing Street on Friday morning. It was a completely surreal experience walking up to the famous black door and watching it open in front of me so that I could enter. Inside there was a reception for entrepreneurs and members of the early stage finance community drawn from across the UK. We were then summoned to our seats and the Prime Minister addressed us, delivering three very clear and concise messages:-
- Starting and building new businesses lies at the heart of our economic recovery.
- The provision of early stage finance is a vital ingredient in building new businesses – please keep doing it and do more of it!
- The Government is doing everything it can to support the new and growing business agenda. He mentioned in particular the recent enhancements to EIS relief and the new seed EIS scheme which offers, for one year only, no less than 78% tax relief for anyone seeking to shelter a capital gain and willing to invest up to £100,000 in a start up company.
He was extremely well briefed, spoke with authority and assurance and fielded a number of detailed technical questions, all of which he easily took in his stride.
We then had presentations from Lord Young who finds himself back in the Cabinet Office as the Small Business and Enterprise Adviser to the Prime Minister, from Anthony Clarke, the Chairman of the British Business Angels Association who has done so much to get the issue of early stage finance on the Government’s agenda, a number of inspiring stories from entrepreneurs, and further presentations by no fewer than three Government ministers, including the announcement of an extension of the SMART Award Scheme and increased funding to the Science Research Councils by David Willets, the Minister of State for Universities and Science.
Ken Cooper, the Managing Director of the Equity Funds Division of Capital for Enterprise spoke about the new Angel Cofund (www.angelcofund.co.uk) which will encourage more Angel investing. Don McLaverty, the Managing Director of Oxford Innovation announced a completely new initiative called Business Coaching for Growth. This will provide high quality coaching and connectivity for high growth start-ups, focusing on development, innovation, leadership and management skills and intensive “investor readiness” support. The target is to support at least ten thousand start-ups a year and to get at least fifteen hundred of that cohort of new businesses “investor ready”.
The life of an entrepreneur can be lonely, uncertain and highly stressful. However, we must rely increasingly on entrepreneurship to provide employment in innovative new businesses and it is encouraging to know that Government has put this at the heart of its economic agenda. For anyone interested, a transcript of the proceedings may be found at:-http://www.number10.gov.uk/news/transcript-business-angel/.