Opening up startup investment

Yesterday was a pretty big day for startups in the US as the general solicitation clause of the JOBS act kicked in which allows startups to publicly say that they are fundraising. Up until now early stage investment was done in relative secrecy but almost overnight this means AngelList will become the biggest equity crowdfunding platform in the world. Investment is still only open to what are called ‘accredited’ investors in the US though.

We’ve had equity crowdfunding in the UK for a year or so and while it’s a bit easier if you’re a certified ‘high net worth individual’ or ‘sophisticated’ investor, actually anybody who understands the risks involved can invest in startups through platforms like Seedrs or Crowdcube.

I’ve noticed that VC firms seem to look down their nose at crowdfunding though. I was at an event a few months ago where one well known London fund said they wouldn’t invest in a startup that had raised crowdfunding. But I think AngelList’s announcements yesterday will change that and if anything the VCs should be worrying about them as competition rather than being snooty. Even the VC firms that have invested in Angellist spin it that they’re complementary models but I think they’ll have to be pretty clever to avoid effectively being in competition in the long run.

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Bethnal Green Ventures: Class of Summer 2013


We’re very proud of all the 2013 BGV teams. Last Thursday was our public Demo Day and they all did a fantastic job of explaining why what they are doing is important and why they’re the right people to do it. The audience certainly seemed to be impressed and there’s been a lot of follow up. A huge thank you to all the teams, funders, mentors and supporters as well as the BGV team of Lily, Laura and Glen for helping to make it all happen.
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London Tech for Good Meetup

Well that went pretty well. Last night we opened the doors to the Tech for Good London Meetup and 150 people showed up. There’s been a lot of Tech for Evil news over the past few weeks so it was heartening to hear some stories of people doing useful things. As well as launching the next BGV call for ideas, we heard from five startups:

  • Echo (previously Hackney Shares) — bringing businesses-to-business time banking to the UK to improve the links between companies and their local communities
  • Winnow Solutions — measuring and minimising food waste
  • Open Sensors (from Atomic Data Labs) — sensors in the home to help older people live independently for longer
  • Speakset — tackling loneliness through simple video calling for older people
  • Flip Yourself — helping young people show their skills by using their social networks

What was also interesting was how indistinguishable in business terms some of the pitches were from non-social startups. Winnow Solutions won Seedcamp last week with their pitch about resource efficiency and Speakset gave a very convincing argument about older people being the biggest business opportunity of the next 20 years.

At the end of the evening we opened it up for people to give plugs for funding schemes or events coming up and there were plenty of those too. It does feel like something is happening around this in London. Long may it continue.

Many thanks to Lily for making it all happen, Eze at Google Campus for hosting us, and our speakers for telling us about their ideas.
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Cleanweb gathering pace

I went along to the London CleanWeb meetup last night which according to a visitor from San Francisco was quite a lot bigger than the one over there. It doesn’t surprise me. We get lots of great BGV applications for startups trying to use digital tech to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and I’m hoping for many more when applications open next week. Listening to the talks last night it seemed to me there are a few areas where we might see lots of innovation over the next few years:

  • Connected devices — everything from Nest through to internet enabled fridges. The point of devices being connected is generally to optimise them. Nesta’s Dynamic Demand Challenge is also interesting here.
  • Data science — taking the huge amounts of data created in energy systems and finding insights that enable efficiency improvements. Examples include EcoFactor and Bidgely.
  • Behaviour feedback — hardware is only part of the system, humans are the other part. Tech that helps people improve their energy behaviour includes things like Shutdown Scanner or oPower.
  • Marketplaces — when you start looking at electricity, one of the most striking features is how centralised in is. The ‘big six’ have a huge (and deeply conservative) effect on any improvement. It’s not a sustainable situation and will almost certainly be disrupted over the coming years. That’s why we’ve backed Open Utility and I expect others to find ways of using marketplaces to reduce emissions.

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