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“The balance between being ambitious and staying focused”

We speak to four driven scale-ups as they explore the topic of funding.

Get advice on funding for start-ups, as our entrepreneurs discuss what to include in a funding pitch, challenges they’ve encountered, where they seek advice from and plans for their next steps.

Find out how our High Growth & Entrepreneurs team can help you with your funding needs.

Watch what our entrepreneurs had to say and read the interviews below.

What is the most important part of your pitch when looking for funding?

Steven Dring, CEO and Co-Founder, Growing Underground
The most important part of my pitch when speaking to investors is taking them though the journey, the story and the impact that we can actually have. Impact investment is now a major part of people’s portfolios and a major focus for the city as well, and investing in businesses that have impact is clearly the way that most funds like to operate, so for us it’s highlighting the level of impact and how we measure that impact as well.

Nick Curran, Finance Director, Pact
The typical start up story is consistently raise funding. At Pact we’ve taken the decision to grow organically and not raise any new equity. One of the keys to the organic growth at Pact has been having a subscription model which gives us a predictable revenue stream. We’ve had a facility at Barclays in place that’s supported our growth.

Emmalene Maxwell, CFO, The Fold
When looking for funding, whether it’s from Angels, institutions or even banks, the most important thing for us to know is the true fundamentals of our business, so really understanding the marketing drivers, understanding our customer, but also the marketplace that we’re in and what our competitors and our peers are doing.

As a start-up when looking for funding it really depends where you are in your stage of life, and that will dictate who you’re going to look for. In The Fold’s history we’ve had investment from Angels, really early on just as we were proving the concept, all the way up to growth capital institutions. Our Angels have been with us from the start and they’ve been really supportive all the way through and they’re still with us.

Oren Peleg, Executive Chairman, JustPark
When it comes to going out and funding, there’s a couple of things that are really important that we get right. A lot of people refer to this as storytelling, which feels like it’s false, it’s not meant to be, I think you need a very compelling story. You really need to demonstrate to people that there is the opportunity that you’re going after and the way you’re going after it is going to unlock value and that you are adding value to the value chain, or creating new value in the value chain, and that is something that you can deliver and sustain. I think demonstrating that is absolutely fundamental.

The other one is demonstrating how you can protect what you’re doing and why you are differentiated to some of the other offerings that are maybe trying to do the same or trying to attack the market differently to what you’re doing and why your proposition is strong.

And then I think two other things are really, really important. One, that you really have understood the right balance between being ambitious and being focused. I think one of the interesting things I’ve found out as I’ve transitioned from more traditional businesses that I’ve run to the tech ecosystem is the scale of opportunities, is there are just so many more options for growth, but you can easily get carried away, dilute your capital, dilute your management, dilute your ability to deliver because you’re just trying to do so many things.

So demonstrating that you’ve got real, clear prioritisation about what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it, and that you’ve then recruited against that and you’ve planned against that, I think is very important. And then finally demonstrating that you’ve got the team to deliver, I think that’s really, really important.

And I think it’s OK to demonstrate where you’ve got gaps, but demonstrating that you understand them and that you’re doing something about it is really important, but showing that you have the capability and the capacity to deliver what you’re saying you’re going to deliver is really important.

Who would you turn to for advice on funding?

Steven Dring, CEO and Co-Founder, Growing Underground
The people I turn to for advice on funding are the experts that I’ve wrapped around me. On our Board, we have representation of somebody who is a board member for the British Investment Bank, she’s also a very early investor in our business, and has invested in subsequent rounds. It’s making sure that you use your investor base where that expertise sits, and bringing those people into the business to help you scale, so turning to experts in the finance area, in the venture capital area and people around you that have those skills and relationships already and tapping into their networks.

Nick Curran, Finance Director, Pact
At Pact we’re lucky to have a really experienced Board who we can turn to at any time for advice on our future funding plans.

Emmalene Maxwell, CFO, The Fold
When going for funding and thinking about who we might talk to, certainly thinking about your network and who you’ve got in your network is really important. As a company we have a really supportive Board with a really supportive chairman. We’re obviously talking to those guys about any form of funding, be it debt or equity.

If you’re just starting up, you’re really looking for someone supportive. You’re not in the game for a corporate finance partner, you haven’t necessarily got the funding to do that, so you’re really looking for those Angels, who can both support on the funding, but also on the advice side.

How would you summarise the challenges with funding?

Steven Dring, CEO and Co-Founder, Growing Underground
To summarise the challenges in funding, we have to look at the fact that we’re a new business in a new industry, in terms of controlled environment agriculture. That’s been one of the major challenges in funding, which is explaining what we are to people and what the opportunity is and once you get past that, then you start to see your funding accelerate.

Nick Curran, Finance Director, Pact
One of our challenges with funding is it’s a time-consuming process. As a finance person you’re one of the main people involved in the process, which involves a lot of time working with potential investors and producing information, modelling, etc. 

Emmalene Maxwell, CFO, The Fold
One of the biggest challenges when we’re looking at a fundraise is actually the time that it takes to do that and the pressure that it puts on the business, so particularly around the management team, we’re running the business, so we’re building the plane and flying the plane at the same time, and it’s actually really difficult to find any time in your day to do anything else, and fundraising is a really time intensive and high work level period of time and it can be ongoing. If you’re lucky, it’s within three months, in some cases it can be six or even longer. So it’s really just trying to manage your time within the business effectively while also having your focus on the fundraise, and that can be really difficult for a management team and also the rest of the business, because the rest of the business are looking to the management team to guide them. So it’s a difficult time and it puts a lot of pressure on.

How would you summarise your plans for future funding?

Steven Dring, CEO and Co-Founder, Growing Underground
Summarising the plans for the future in terms of funding, we’re now a much more stable business, with a finance team there and we’re now developing and have that clear financial pathway and strategy to take us forwards to scale in the future.

Emmalene Maxwell, CFO, The Fold
I’d summarise our future of fundraising by saying watch this space!

When you go through a funding round, what would you least want to give up?

Steven Dring, CEO and Co-Founder, Growing Underground
When you go through a funding round, it really depends on the type of investor you’re bringing in and where you are in your life as a company, and that will really dictate what you’re willing to give up. You might be willing to give up slightly more at the beginning, because you understand it’s a more risky concept, but certainly later on you’d be looking for something slightly different. You obviously also need to make sure that you’re incentivising your management team, and that’s a really key thought as you go through a funding process.

The views and opinions expressed in this content don’t necessarily reflect the views of Barclays Bank UK PLC, nor should they be taken as statements of policy or intent of Barclays Bank UK PLC. Barclays Bank UK PLC takes no responsibility for the veracity of information intimated by a third party and no warranties or undertakings of any kind, whether express or implied, regarding the accuracy or completeness of the information given. Barclays Bank UK PLC takes no liability for the impact of any decisions made based on information contained and views expressed in this video or article.

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