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Pulling back the curtain: Ben Wynter on AIM’s Angel Investment Syndicate’s priorities

Ben Wynter

Last November, UKBAA member AIM (Association of Independent Music) announced the launch of its Angel Investment Syndicate. Formed with the help of UKBAA, the syndicate is looking to move the needle in the music industry and bolster support for those businesses who have the ability to scale but aren’t sure how to do it. We spoke to Ben Wynter, Entrepreneurship & Outreach Manager at AIM, to find out more about the syndicate and what it hopes to achieve.

AIM’s Angel Investment Syndicate was set-up for a number of reasons, initially inspired by a British Business Bank report published in 2019. That report found that entrepreneurs from low socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds faced barriers when it came to accessing knowledge, social capital and investment capital. Determined to change that within the creative industries, AIM set up the syndicate to make investment more accessible for all. Wynter explains:

“Creative entrepreneurs start off by just doing something that they’re passionate about. That might be making music or developing an artist or getting an act into the ether, then that passion creates a business. They start to make money from it, and they start to grow a business. Then they reach a point where they’re like, ‘Oh, this is a really viable business and I want to scale that business’. However, because they’re coming from a place of creativity and because they’ve come from a place of passion, they might not understand the language or understand the nuances of investment so they run away from it and their business never gets to be anything more than a cottage industry.”

Wynter says that there are many viable businesses in the music space that could scale and grow but their lack of confidence when it comes to understanding the investment landscape is holding them back. Emphasising AIM’s approach Ben says:

“What we wanted to do at AIM was to pull the curtain on investment, and help creative entrepreneurs to understand the language, understand the fundamentals and take away a lot of fear that exists around investment. We want to encourage them to go and seek that investment so that they can scale their business and they can fulfill their full potential.”

The ultimate goal of the AIM Angel Investment Syndicate is to invest but alongside that, AIM wants to ensure that those entrepreneurs who are seeking investment, are equipped with the right tools to do so. Further expanding on their ethos Ben comments:

“Regardless of whether people secured the capital investment from our syndicate, we want to ensure they left with the knowledge and the skills in place to be able to go seek investment from anywhere. We’re putting together the Investment Readiness Programme, with the help of UKBAA, so that any AIM member will be able to learn about investment, learn the language of investment, and find out what it means to be able to secure that investment. It will take them through everything from the basics of what is angel investment and what is a syndicate to understanding EIS and SEIS schemes, and how to put together an investment ready business plan and tips on pitching and dos and don’ts.”

It’s still very early days for the syndicate, which doesn’t officially launch until April/May but the reaction was so strong that AIM held its first pitching event in December. While future pitching events will be the culmination of entrepreneurs completing the Investment Readiness Programme, the first one was to really allow investors to get a feel of the types of businesses out there. It also served to give the entrepreneurs a chance to understand the pitch environment and understand what they needed to do to win over the investors.

The AIM Angel Investment Syndicate has brought together a variety of angels from differing backgrounds. While some of the angels have a music background, not all of them do but Ben believes that the different skillsets and experiences of each angel will be an advantage for the syndicate.

“We have some angels who have a music background, we have specialists in finance, we have specialists in tech, we have specialists in business and we have some serial angel entrepreneurs as well. It’s a real nice mix of angels that bring different skills to the table and have different beliefs. For example, there’s two of the angels who know nothing about the creative industries. They see it as extremely a high-risk investment proposition but they wanted to be part of the syndicate because they saw it as a great opportunity for them to learn. It will also enable them to understand the creative industries and get a real understanding of what a good investment looks like, and what a bad investment looks like. You’re only ever going to really understand that through engaging with people from the community.”

Through the syndicate Ben is hoping to foster not only an active group of angel investors but also a social community that shares expertise.

“Our angels are very deliberate in the fact that they want to learn from each other, they want to engage with each other, and they want to build a network together. As the person who is running the syndicate, it’s really important that not only am I bringing them together for pitch sessions, but we will have breakfast where we discuss various things around the syndicate. I’ll invite them to events like the AIM Awards where they’ll come and join me at the table. It becomes almost a little social group. The more they get to know each other, the more they’re able to tap into each other for other opportunities and other resources other networks, which ultimately is what they all want. There’s value for angel investors being in a syndicate.”

When the idea of forming the syndicate materialised, Ben knew that turning to the UKBAA for support was a smart move. Through conversations with UKBAA Executive Chair Jenny Tooth OBE, Ben was able to bring his vision to life and really communicate to those in the industry what the syndicate would be able to do.

“I’d definitely go on record and say without Jenny’s support and the support of UKBAA, I don’t think the Angel Investment Syndicate would have got off the ground if I’m quite honest. Jenny really supported me and the education UKBAA provides on its website has been extremely helpful and beneficial. Having the support and the stamp that UKBAA are involved within the syndicate helped to legitimise it. As far as I’m aware, this is the first of its kind within the music sector so there will be some raised eyebrows, but as soon as you mention we’re doing this and UKBAA have supported it, it just gives so much legitimacy to the whole process.”

Once the syndicate launches in a couple of months’ time, Ben’s focus will be on investment opportunities and he hopes to make at least a couple before the year is out. As well as putting businesses through the Investment Readiness Programme, Ben is working on bringing in some more partners to sit alongside UKBAA, Reed Smith, Simkins and The Ambassador’s Group. Beyond that, Ben shares:

“I hope to grow the amount of angels that we have within the syndicate. Whether that’s 12 months, or whether that’s a bit further down the line. I’d also like to create a sidecar fund, which would be fantastic. We have big ambitions with this and hopefully we can move the needle within the music industry and help to empower many, many creative entrepreneurs to secure capital investment in their businesses.”

For more information about AIM please visit https://www.aim.org.uk/

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By UKBAA 15 Mar 2023