Tell us a bit about yourselves – what are Entrepreneurs in Residence and what does the role entail?

I’m Nitin Patel. I have been an Entrepreneur in Residence since March 2020. Before that I was CEO of Redring Xpelair. Before that I had a career in the automotive industry, being responsible for setting up new manufacturing plants in the northwest of England. I have also had experience in turning around a number of businesses. I am also a coach at the Judge Business School in Cambridge as well as being a board member of the Cambridge and Peterborough Combined Authority. At Essex, I spend most of my time talking to entrepreneurs, understanding their business proposition and helping them become more investment ready.

I’m William Millar and like Nitin, I have been an Entrepreneur in Residence since March 2020. Before that I was the Innovation Adviser for Suffolk businesses in the New Anglia Growth Hub. Prior to that role I worked for BT, in many different roles ranging for research and development to new product and service introduction, to systems architect, to name but a few. Outside of my Essex role I am also a trustee for a small UK charity.

Where does your entrepreneur role fit into the University structure?

We are entrepreneurs in residence as part of the University Enterprise Zone or UEZ. As a University Enterprise Zone (UEZ), we are designated by the government as a centre for nurturing and supporting new digital and creative businesses. The University of Essex enterprise zone was created in 2019 and is fully funded by Research England and the University.

Our role is to support new businesses by helping them with their investment strategies. We aim to help them become more ready for investment and, with our advice and guidance, enable them to publish their investment opportunity on the Angels@Essex equity investment platform, which is a foundational part of the UEZ.

Sounds interesting. Can you give us a bit more detail about how you work?

We work closely together. Nitin will have an initial screening call with the entrepreneur to introduce ourselves and the process we follow and check that the engagement is suitable for both parties. After that, we set up a longer review call where we use the entrepreneur’s pitch deck to guide the agenda.

The pitch deck, which is a slide show about fifteen slides long, is the conventional way of an entrepreneur engaging with an investor and we want it to be presented in the best possible manner.

As what we do is fully funded, we have no agenda, other than to provide the best possible service for the client. To do that, we take a holistic view of their proposition, where the strength of our insight is around the market opportunity for the proposal and the investment potential. In effect, we are asking whether the entrepreneur has presented their case in the best possible light to attract the attention of an investor, so that a follow up and more detailed conversation around a possible investment can take place.

The University’s objective is long term – to grow the local and regional economy to create job opportunities for graduates and potential engagement opportunities with businesses. Consequently, there is no immediate investment opportunity as a result of the review meeting. That in turn means that we can have a very open conversation with entrepreneurs and get to know what drives them, what their passion is, what they have already done in the business, what their vision is, etc. By approaching the review in that way, rather than a detailed technical review of each slide in the slide deck, we can help the entrepreneur build a better narrative of the business for the investor.

We both participate in the review as we bring different perspectives to the business proposal.

At the end of the review, we provide a short summary report by email, which captures the main points of the discussion. This provides something for the entrepreneurs to review and consider and it helps them make decisions about how they might change their pitch deck.

Because we don’t approach the client with any agenda, other than to help them rather than to own them in some sense, we can be flexible in our approach and offer help to a business at any stage in its development. If we think they will get more support than we have time to offer them, we will introduce them to other support organisations, such as Colbea or Innovate UK Edge. If we think they might be able to get funding from other sources such as grants, we will point them to people who can help with that too.

In this way we bring something that is different and unique to the coaching process.

Can you explain how you use your background and experience to help the entrepreneurs?

As we come from two different commercial backgrounds, we bring different experience to the review meeting. Nitin comes from a manufacturing background and as CEO was responsible for the manufacture and marketing of consumer products. William comes from a research and development background, being responsible for the development and launch of new products and services. Hence our focus is on the strength of the entrepreneur’s narrative about their business and whether the business is ready for investment.

From our own experiences in different aspects of business, we can challenge the entrepreneurs and encourage them to present their case in the best way. Sometimes we do this by direct questioning Other times we delve into the business proposition and tease out facts that the entrepreneur has forgotten about because they are so involved with the business, but which are extremely important to investors. We do this in a friendly and informal way, which nevertheless encourages the entrepreneur to think about their business proposition and refine their story.

Because our approach is to look at the business, then it works for a business of any age, from start-up raising their first round of investment, to established businesses looking for additional funding.

Thank you for that. Has the approach been successful?

We think it has, but we would say that wouldn’t we? The numbers speak for themselves.

We have had close to 500 one to one coaching sessions with over 170 entrepreneurs to date. Of those we have published over 30 investment opportunities on the Angels@Essex platform and those business have successfully raised over £4m in investment.

If you would like to know more, contact us at