As I write this post, £60,000 is finding its way from Creative England to our seed funding round. We're obviously over the moon about this and would like to thank everyone at Creative England for their time and backing of Cyclr.
It's the culmination of a surprisingly quick funding expedition. Ian and I first heard about Creative England's Equity Investment Programme in mid-October and decided to apply.
How we applied...
Creative England made the application process pretty simple:
- Complete a short 'expression of interest' form on their website; it asked for the basics from the business plan and financials.
- Complete the full application. If your business plan is thorough, you'll have all of this information already. As well as financials, they are particularly interested in the impact of your business on jobs (safeguarded and created).
- Take a trip to Creative England's Bristol headquarters (we went mid-December) to demo the product and ask questions. The pitch was with a project manager, a management accountant, and their CFO. In terms of questions their focus was: what is the stage of the business; background of the team; proof of market; ability to scale; use of the funds; valuation; and exit strategies.
- Take a final trip to Creative England (we went mid-January) to present to their full investment panel. This is normally a 15-20 minute session, but they allowed us to run longer. Ian and I talked about the best way to show the important information quickly, and settled on a version of our pitch deck which led on growth and potential exit points for Creative England. The panel consisted of the same people as previously, but additional members made up of specialists and external assessors.
Taking into account the Christmas break, the process lasted around 8 weeks from start to finish. Our perception was that the panel were well briefed before the final pitch -- having read the business plan and application -- and already had a strong sense of whether Cyclr was an investment candidate or not. Their questions were focused on a few specific areas that needed to be explored to satisfy concerns or clarify details. For us, that was where Cyclr positioned in its market, its ease of use, key financial metrics (LTV, CAC, etc) and how this translated into profit and exit strategies.
We felt the panel were commercially well-informed, and, being confident on our numbers, I think we had a productive session. Our advice would be to make sure your financials are in good shape and that you can clearly demonstrate your route to profit.
Find out more
Creative England, perhaps unusually for a public sector fund, takes an equity stake in a business. In many regards they operate like a regular venture capital fund, except they're working to get the best return for taxpayers' money. This struck us as innovative and we'd like to see more public sector funds focusing on high growth businesses in the startup ecosystem.
Throughout the entire process Creative England have been a model agency: polite, efficient, and asking the right questions. If you're a UK creative or tech startup looking for match funding, they're a great place to start. They will fund up to 25% of a round, which means you need to secure the rest.