London Bound – Part 1 – How the Event Came About

by | May 20, 2024 | Raising Investment

The idea for an Accountech trip to London first came to me last year when I was down for a business trip and discovered that after Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Dundee, London is the city where you can find the most Scots in the UK – and also that many of those are successful, well connected and keen to help their fellow Scots.

I had also come across Scottish Business Network and was keen for our clients to tap into their business network of a diaspora of Scots all over the world – in particular, I had an interest in their US connections as increasingly our clients are looking at that market for both sales opportunities and as a potential source of investment. Several of our clients have recently either set up US subsidiaries or are looking to do so .

Last year our client Crover secured $500,000 investment when they won the prestigious Grow New York competition, having been the only European finalist.

However, it remains difficult for UK tech start-ups to raise investment in the US without a North American presence of some sort, such as having an office, employing staff or having US customers.

So US investment may have to be a longer term goal, but London could be a stepping stone or a more realistic short term objective especially at the Seed stage.
Scottish Business Network could be the solution there as they were looking to put on regular events in London and were keen to showcase Scottish companies.
I already knew of their chair Russell Dalgleish, as do many since he is very well connected – I recently made my 5,000th LinkedIn connection but the person that I share the most connections with is Russell – we have 1,244 connections in common. I also got to know their London ambassador, Jonny Downie, who was originally from Edinburgh and was very impressed with both his commitment (especially as he was doing this voluntarily at the same time as launching his own consultancy business Barnton Park Group, which helps high growth companies to raise investment and scale) and his experience and expertise at organising these events.

The next piece of the jigsaw was a little longer in coming to fruition and requires an explanation of the evolution of Accountech to fully understand:

21 years ago, I left my role as Finance Director of Omega Diagnostics, a medical diagnostic company. Deciding that I wanted to work with tech start-ups but also wanted to be my own boss, I went back into the accountancy profession which I had left as soon as I could when I qualified, 10 years before.

However, I wanted to create a new kind of accountant, specifically aimed at tech start-ups. One that was much more involved in the client’s business, like a part time member of their team, rather than someone that they saw once a year and who had hundreds of other clients.
I wanted to take a long term perspective (tech start-ups need patient accountants and lawyers as well as patient capital!) and prioritize clients that were small and just starting off but which had great potential.

This evolution happened in 3 stages:
Stage 1 – I marketed the business as The Accountant for Tech Start-Ups but still had some non-tech company clients to pay the bills.
Stage 2 – the business was mature enough that all of our clients were tech companies but at different stages from Pre Seed to Seed to Series A.
Stage 3 – just this year we have changed our focus to concentrate purely on impact driven tech startups in the areas of climate tech and life sciences/medical devices.

Something else that has started to happen of late, is that the Accountech flywheel has gone full loop.
Clients that we worked with at the very start of their existence, have raised investment, expanded and then exited and now the founders of those clients have started coming back to us as either advisors and/or investors in new tech startups that they are involved with.
One example was Codeplay Software whom we worked with from the very beginning with just the 2 founders to the point at which they raised investment from Foresight Group 13 years later, a successful business with over 80 employees. Foresight Group invested in 2018 and achieved a return of 15.7 times their investment and gross proceeds of £48million when the company was acquired by Intel in June 2022.

Another example was Psymetrix, a client which was acquired by Alstom in 2011.
Last year, Psymetrix founder Jos Trehern approached me about a new start-up that he was chair of, a Glasgow University spinout called Clyde Hydrogen Systems which had created technology to help build systems for green hydrogen production at scale by developing a new type of electrolysis.
In February, the company raised a pre seed round with investment from Zinc Ventures, the University of Glasgow and several strategic investors which together with grants totalled over £1million of funding. Around that time, I attended Edinburgh University’s Venture Builder Showcase (at which our clients Prozymi Biolabs and Airspection were both winners) and met Natalie Pankova from Zinc. When I mentioned the London event that we were planning, she very kindly offered for Zinc to host it.

With Zinc’s investment priorities being:
(1) Improving the Health of the Planet
(2) Improving the Health of People

We had the perfect host.

Now all that I had to do was to find which of our clients would be interested in travelling to London and being showcased.

To be continued…