Interview: Wilfred Fianko, Co-founder of Cornerstone Partners on their involvement in Creative Enterprise Evolve & the high potential of the businesses involved

Creative Enterprise Evolve is a unique programme developed in partnership with Creative England, British Film Institute and UKBAA to showcase the exceptional investment opportunities that the UK’s creative sector has to offer. A unique aspect of the programme is the specialist support it provides creative businesses to better understand the investment ecosystem and ultimately find a route that might work best for them.

We’re delighted to have been involved in the latest iteration of the programme, providing the start-ups with access to our investment community via a variety of channels. This year the start-ups also benefitted from the specialist expertise of Cornerstone partners: the first Angel Investor Network focused on investing in businesses owned and run by black and diverse founders. They curated a programme of support that gives step-by-step guidance on what the startups need to know about raising investment, as well as providing environments for them to put their learning into practice. We sat down with Wilfred Fianko, Co-Founder of Cornerstone Partners, to discuss how they first got involved in the programme and what their impressions were of the cohort whilst working with them.


Could you tell us a little bit about how Cornerstone first got involved with the programme?

Our chairman, Rodney Appiah, first made the connection after an initial meeting with Kate Adam, Programme and Engagement Manager for the Creative Enterprise Evolve programme and Tim McSweeney, Project Advisor and Mentor for the programme. We were excited about the programme and incredible work the team were already doing. They were looking for an Angel Group who could provide specialist guidance to the cohort, including helping them to show the value of their business models. Some of the businesses had not previously had the opportunity to pitch in front of VCs, so it was a case of providing a ‘real practical experience‘ before heading out into the market place.


What are the focuses of the programme of support you’ve put together?

The programme of support was spread across 3 sessions; the first session was online and we outlined the basics: how to raise capital? How to pitch effectively? What we find works, developing your business model. Essentially providing a playbook on how to raise capital. We also identified 7-8 areas you must have in your pitch deck to ensure success.

We felt they all presented well and articulated themselves clearly, which likely comes from the sector they’re in and the type of communication skills you need to have

The second session was in-person at Level39 (One Canada Square, Canary Wharf), it was great to have all of the businesses, based across the UK, come together. We’d given them the tools, so it was then time for them to pitch to us. We felt they all presented well and articulated themselves clearly, which likely comes from the sector they’re in and the type of communication skills you need to have.

We encouraged the cohort to think about their investor audience and why it would make sense for their respective investment thesis.

For the final session, we made things more real. We invited a number of other VC firms, including representatives from Conduit Connect, Proxy VC, Octopus Ventures, January Ventures, Mercia and The British Film Institute (Global Screen Fund). The investors were highly engaged and provided onscreen feedback immediately after the pitches. We provided the opportunity for the investors to connect with the cohort following the session.


Were there particular things that the Cornerstone team picked up on throughout the sessions?

One of the challenges was that some of the startups felt that creatives were often overlooked and not considered as exciting as tech opportunities. This view started to shift throughout the sessions, as they began to understand different investors look for different things and it was important to connect with the right investor.


Were there particular businesses or business models that stood out to you?

There’s definitely an appetite for gaming businesses, this is something we’re seeing more of, given it’s such a fast-growing sector. That said, all of the businesses have done great things and have amazing experience. A number of the businesses were able to demonstrate their scalability, which is so important, they explained their business models well, talked through revenue streams and sales distribution channels. The businesses also presented their in-house capabilities really well, demonstrating their ability to scale as opposed to one-off projects.

We’re starting to see good exits in the marketplace. VCs invested $4.7B in gaming startups in the first year of the pandemic

What would you say to investors that might not have previously considered the creative sector?

The creative sector definitely provides investors with an opportunity to diversify their portfolio and tap into some otherwise untapped markets, where people are actively trying to scale their businesses. It’s a fast-growing sector with exciting prospects. We’re starting to see good exits in the marketplace. VCs invested $4.7B in gaming startups in the first year of the pandemic. This is encouraging for creatives and investors in this space.


We recently hosted the pitch showcase related to the latest Creative Showcase Evolve programme; read up more on the event and each of the businesses part of this year’s cohort here.

If you are a founder who is interested in learning more about Cornerstone Partners, please visit their website at www.cornerstonepartners.co.uk.

For more information, please contact: Wilfred Fianko, Co-founder, Cornerstone Partners, wilfred@cornerstonepartners.co.uk.

By UKBAA14 Apr 2022