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UKBAA CEO Jenny Tooth OBE outlines our focus and priorities for 2021

Jenny Tooth

With 2021 now well underway and still firmly in the grip of the pandemic and many parts of our small business economy still on hold or directly impacted, this is an important time for us to reflect at UKBAA on our focus and priorities for the year ahead.

The past year revealed to us the continuing structural challenges in achieving a thriving Angel and early stage investment market across the UK. There remain many areas where Angel investment is underdeveloped or lacking sufficient capacity to meet the needs of growth-focused entrepreneurs. Disruptions and reductions in investment driven by the impact of Covid-19  have occurred across the UK  with more than 50% of angel investors impacted, with levels of investment down by over 40% from 2019 and size of follow on deals down by 34%, as revealed in our recent British Business Bank and UKBAA Angel Market report. This impact was felt even more keenly in the areas outside the Golden Triangle, exacerbating this disparity of access. A key focus of our work will therefore be on building further capacity for Angel Investment, making it more accessible and resilient to meet future needs, both in terms of regional capacity, sector capacity and the needs of a wider range of innovating founders. This will include supporting awareness-raising, education, recruitment and mobilisation of many more individuals to participate in angel investing, boosting investment capacity in existing groups and syndicates and supporting the formation of new ones. We also see the importance of recruiting and mobilising more lead Angels, including a new dedicated programme of activities for identification, engagement and long-term support.

The events of last year and new research also shone an important light on the fact that many founders start their journey at a disadvantage when it comes to accessing risk capital. We want to ensure that our community can identify and fund entrepreneurs with the greatest growth and innovation potential regardless of location, background, race or gender.  We will continue to build on our work in recruiting more women investors, supporting those Angel groups who are establishing strong cohorts of female investors and spreading good practice to other Angel groups. We will continue our work in supporting increased access to investment for entrepreneurs from underrepresented groups, including promoting the Investing in Women Code to more of our members, encouraging the collection of gender related data and sharing of good practice. We will further build on our growing links with Investors from black and ethnic minority communities, to support their work and enable opportunities for co-investment with the wider angel community. We will also aim to engage and recruit more black and ethnic minority individuals with capacity to angel invest across the UK to increase diversity in the angel investment base.

To achieve these goals we will further expand our programme of bespoke events, information and guidance, building on our online services and our new website. Notably, we will work with our member community and partners across the UK who have been doing such fantastic work over the past year. We want to nurture these existing relationships and supporting them in their actions and initiatives, amplifying their capacity and enabling leverage of further private and public resources.  We will also seek to leverage new partnerships at private and public sector to increase our reach and impact and will be keen to hear from any organisations both public and private across the UK, not yet working with us, that wish to collaborate in the year ahead.

We will continue to interface with key Government Departments in the year ahead, notably to ensure that we can influence those policy areas where we need further action or change to support our objectives of building a thriving Angel and early stage investment ecosystem. With this in mind, we have set out this month our proposals to the Chancellor for consideration in the forthcoming March Budget. Notably we have set out our recommendations for boosting Angel investment as a means to support the Levelling Up Agenda and wider economic recovery. You can see in this newsletter, part 1 of my submission to Rishi Sunak where I present the evidence and core data demonstrating the importance of Angel Investment in the risk capital supply chain, the impact of Covid on levels of investment and the needs and gaps in capacity, providing a clear rationale for Government intervention.

A proactive approach is needed from Government to support Angel investment, including enhancing and reviewing the EIS/SEIS scheme and guaranteeing its continuation, supporting a direct nationwide campaign to recruit many more angel investors combined with education and support to new and existing investors. There is also a need to build on existing interventions such as significantly expanding the BBI Regional Angel Investment Programme. Further details are available in part 2 of my Submission to the Chancellor.

Meanwhile we welcome your views and comments on the points set out above and look forward to wider collaboration with you all in the months ahead.

By UKBAA28 Jan 2021