After venturing from Oxford to London in a classic Routemaster red bus and attending a panel discussion with three world-leading social entrepreneurs at the Impact Hub Westminster on Thursday evening, our 30 entrepreneurs began the fifth and final day of the Accelerator Week on the banks of the River Thames.
At Chivas Brothers’ offices the finalists were given invaluable insights into the investor mindset, which culminated in a workshop extolling the virtues of thinking like a toddler. After lunch with the wider Chivas team, they were whisked back to Heathrow Airport to catch their flights home.
But first this is what we learnt on the last day of Accelerator Week.
1. Climb inside investors’ brains.
Co-founder of B Lab UK, Charmian Love, took to the stage again this time with a panel of London impact investors in tow to help the finalists understand the value shareholders are looking for in a business. The investors doled out the skinny on the factors they evaluate when seeking to invest, along with the qualities that most strongly appeal to them in an entrepreneur.
“The ideal business? All of the organisations I have worked with are the ideal.” Mike Mompi, who leads the Early Growth Ventures team at ClearlySo. “But when the founders are so enthused and unstoppable, that’s what we look for as investors.”
2. Be authentic.
Another of the impact investors in attendance urged the finalists to never lose sight of what compelled them to launch their business in the first place.
“Impact is so individual to you and your business. Be authentic in meaningful ways - don’t put things in your pitch just because you think the investors want to see it.” said Bridges Ventures’ Amanda Feldman, who has focused her career on shaping social innovation and investment strategy with corporates and entrepreneurs.
Sam Salisbury from Ignite Social Enterprise, the UK’s first impact investment fund with a focus on energy, said: “Start fundraising and raise enough for six months. Find an investor that fits you. That’s when you’ll get the most out of them.”
He added: “Be transparent. Show the real competitor analysis.”
Underpinning all of the investor's’ comments was the idea that each of the finalists’ stories were their most valuable asset from an investment viewpoint.
Mike said: “Make the truth absolutely fantastic. Tell people your story as that's the most compelling and most effective way to find the right type of investor. You will have to predict your earnings and profits, but be conscious of this - it’s always better to beat a target than come up short so don’t over sell your idea.”
3. It’s easy as one, two, three.
Explaining the key principles behind securing investment as a social business, Charmian suggested there were three things to consider.
“Be authentic, crystal clear and considered. These are the three main things investors look for.”
4. Investor-startup founder relationship is a two-way street.
FOLO Farms’ Will Chua, who founded an urban farming community that is changing the way we look at our waste and the way we grow our food, found the workshop particularly interesting. As impact investing becomes more popular, the discussions around measuring impact and benchmarking financial returns become more complicated. As a result it’s hugely important that they are proactive in demystifying their work. Will urged these savvy operators, either the investors themselves or the people representing them, to travel far and wide to speak to startup founders about their enlightened thinking, in order to articulate their sophisticated metrics and algorithms that could help society.
“There are billionaires running around my city so for me there is an opportunity for these young social impact investors to harness them,” Will explained. “The way we talk to them and engage with them is very important, but I feel strongly that impact investors need to play a proactive role in bringing startup founders and investors together.”
5. Embrace your inner child
Paul Lindley - the founder of innovative organic baby food brand Ella’s Kitchen - gave a playful talk on how The Huge Power of Thinking Like a Toddler can provide a direct line to creativity, confidence, ambition and motivation by putting the finalists in a fearless state of mind. And the philosophy has helped Paul in his own journey as a social entrepreneur, co-founding The Key is E in 2014 to help African entrepreneurs whose social businesses benefit children, and setting up Paddy’s Bathroom in 2015 - a brand of natural toiletries that creates clean water for children through its Drop Buy Drop programme.
“We’re inspired by toddlers, which is why our ethos is all about fun, health and innocence,” The founder of Ella’s Kitchen, whose mission is to improve children’s lives by developing healthier relationships with food, said: “When I asked my kids what their favourite flavour Ella's Kitchen was he said ‘Red like my fire engine.’ That’s why we called it ‘The Red One’ - which is now one of our top sellers.”
He added: “Look within yourself and discover the old mindset you had when you were younger. In the rush to grow up, don’t forget that you can grow down.”
Speaking about Paul’s workshop, Michaël Van Cutsem, founder of BeeOdiversity, said: “It was interesting to be brought back to being a toddler. It enabled you to be much more creative and that’s imperative because we need to be creative to solve the issues we’re looking to address and issues we’re challenged by.”
He added: “I think there is something we can learn from a child’s mindset particularly in regards to the way we collaborate with others. How can we creatively get others, like our stakeholders, involved in order to get them to act as agents of change. I think Paul’s workshop really gave us some great solutions to that.”
After Paul’s illuminating workshop that brought out the inner child in each of the Chivas Venture finalists, lunch with the wider Chivas team marked the close of the 2017 Accelerator Week. It concluded a busy but transformative five days for the finalists.
For the founder of SoWat, the portable water purification system that turns any source of fresh water into clean drinking water using no chemicals, meeting all of the other finalists and seeing their varied solutions to global issues was the most rewarding element of the Accelerator Week.
Khaled Al Mezayen said: “For me, the best part has been to get to know all of the people here. To exchange our mutual experiences, that has definitely been the best part. Of course the sessions about finance, fundraising and everything in between was excellent but I think the best part is what we will keep. And that is the network of entrepreneurs which is amazing.”
Although the 2017 Accelerator Week has nearly run its course, the Chivas Venture competition is someway shy of reaching its business end.
From Monday 1st May to Sunday 4th June, the public will be able to show their support for their favourite finalist through a live vote. Over the course of five weeks, the public’s vote will determine how the first $250,000 in funding will be split among the finalists. The winner(s) of the remaining $750,000 will be announced on Thursday 13th July at the Chivas Venture Final in Los Angeles, after their high-stakes pitch in front of the judges and a live audience.
Follow @ChivasVenture on Twitter for all the highlights from the competition, and the latest stories, ideas and individuals that are helping to shape our future.