Tue 11 May 21
Despite launching in the middle of a national lockdown, a new business investment platform, has had a phenomenal first year with over £7.7 million pledged to develop innovative business ideas.
Angels@Essex, which matches investors with those needing funding to progress their innovative business ideas, was launched by the University of Essex in May 2020, and so far 11 businesses have shared £4.9 million. A further £2.8 million has been committed.
The platform’s success shows the huge potential of the Knowledge Gateway research and technology park, based at the University’s Colchester Campus, to drive growth in the East of England.
John Stenhouse, who runs Angels@Essex, said: “New ideas will be key to rebuilding our economy and Angels@Essex is nurturing those ideas. We aspire to create a more sustainable future, which will create a healthier economy.
“Some doubted the wisdom of launching a business investment platform during lockdown, when businesses across the country were struggling to survive. But our success has shown even a pandemic cannot stop innovation and there are always people with confidence to invest in those ideas and get them off the ground.”
The biggest beneficiary has been Conigital, whose founder Don Dhaliwal has a vision to create cleaner, greener and safer public transport by developing driverless vehicles, which are available on demand.
Within six months of joining Angels@Essex he had raised £1.5 million, with more in the pipeline, through a combination of private investors and funding programmes.
Richard Tunnicliffe, Director, Confederation of British Industry, East of England, said: “Angels@Essex and the Space to Grow programme have demonstrated the need to raise funding for seed and early-stage equity finance. With exceptional ability, the University Enterprise Zone team have successfully brought investors and founders together in just one year to the benefit of the region and especially the local business economy.
“Having established a focal point for entrepreneurship and access to much-needed equity investment, the University continues to attract significant funding from around the globe.”
In 2019 the Knowledge Gateway was designated a University Enterprise Zone (UEZ) with Research England and the UK Government providing £800,000 towards the £1.3 million project to nurture new digital and creative businesses.
Since then the UEZ has unlocked millions of pounds of investment for companies through Angels@Essex and the Space to Grow programme has provided hundreds of one-to-one sessions and webinars providing vital support to budding entrepreneurs.
A new programme, aimed at encouraging female entrepreneurship, has also just been launched. Female Founders and Investors is a female-led network that helps female-led tech businesses to find the right investors. This initiative will offer support that addresses the specific needs, challenges and goals of female founders and investors.