The West Midlands has to up its game when it comes to angel investment in order to support more start-up and scale-up businesses and grow the regional economy.
That was one of the key messages to emerge from the first West Midlands Angel Symposium, a joint initiative between Aston University’s Centre for Growth team and Minerva Business Angels, part of the University of Warwick Science Park.
Professor Aleks Subic, Aston University’s Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive, opened the event, held at Aston University’s John Cadbury House.
He said: “We have some incredible talent in this region, and it is about matching that with people who have experience in business who want to invest and support their innovative endeavours.
“The need has never been greater for more angel investors to step forward, and it is up to all of us to work even harder and collaborate further to make that happen to help our businesses and economy grow.”
Richard Parker, the Labour mayoral candidate in the May 2024 elections for the West Midlands, also attended as a Keynote speaker advocating for the importance of angel investors and their contribution to helping to grow our local talent. He also shared his ambition to grow the West Midlands economy with the audience.
The event included speakers and panellists from the British Business Bank, Midlands Mindforge, and the UK Business Angels Association (UKBAA), with the overall aim of encouraging more angel investors to come forward.
On top of that, the audience was given an insight into a shortage of female investors coupled with a low percentage of women-led businesses receiving investment.
Alex Toft, who heads up Minerva – the most prolific angel investment network in the West Midlands – said the region would only rear its own ‘unicorns’ and boost its economy if it engaged more individuals to come forward.
He said: “Through our network, we see the huge benefits our angels bring to businesses – not only through the cash they inject but also the expertise they bring.
“There are many reasons for angel investors to get involved. For many, it’s about their enjoyment and interest in helping a business grow. There are also tax incentives for investing in this way.
“Of course, there is an opportunity to achieve a positive exit, and we’ve had many of those with Minerva.
“But we have to engage more people to come forward and invest in this way in businesses that are doing exciting things. We need to be competing with the likes of London and the South East or even Manchester when it comes to angel investment. Worse than that, investors in this region are ‘exporting’ their money elsewhere in the country, so we have to engage them.
“Without angels, we won’t be able to nurture our very own unicorns!”
The symposium also heard from Professor Mark Hart on the challenges SMEs face, while Phil Mitchell of Harbour Key discussed the tax advantages of angel investing.
Manjit Jhooty of Jhoots Pharmacy; Lisa Smith of Midlands Mindforge; and Sam Tubb, an angel investor, explored the reasons for investing during a panel session with ‘giving back’ as one of the most common objectives.
Sam then joined Tracy Sherratt of the British Business Bank; Jenny Tooth, OBE of the UKBAA; Samantha Niblett of Labour: Women in Tech; and Mandeep Soor of Bendi on a panel to discuss how to encourage more female investors to come forward and also get more funds into women-led businesses.
Kameese Davis, who secured investment through the West Midlands Mayoral fund delivered by Midven for her hair care products business Nylah and has since picked up funds through Minerva and other sources, said her company would not be where it is today without that kind of support. Kameese is also an ambassador and supporter of the Minerva Birmingham Pitch Up competition which she won at Venturefest in March 2023.
For more information on becoming an angel investor, go to https://minerva.uk.net/
Notes to Editors
More about Minerva Business Angels
Minerva Business Angels, part of the University of Warwick Science Park, has been accredited as the UK’s 3rd most active Angel network in the UK, a top 10 investor in Cleantech in 2022, the most prolific investor in the Midlands on a deal basis and also won the Angel Investment Network of the Year 2023 SME New Financial Awards. Minerva has supported over 100 companies; its angels invested almost £ 100 million in companies from all over the UK and is a delivery partner in Innovate UK’s Delivery Partnership scheme to facilitate the deployment of grants.
Together with Aston University and the University of Birmingham, Minerva Business Angels also delivers Minerva Birmingham Pitch Up, which is run jointly with Venturefest, a competition to support the development of our West Midlands companies to become pitch-ready but also to help them raise their profile.
About Aston University
For over a century, Aston University’s enduring purpose has been to make our world a better place through education, research and innovation, by enabling our students to succeed in work and life, and by supporting our communities to thrive economically, socially and culturally.
Aston University’s history has been intertwined with the history of Birmingham, a remarkable city that once was the heartland of the Industrial Revolution and the manufacturing powerhouse of the world.
Born out of the First Industrial Revolution, Aston University has a proud and distinct heritage dating back to our formation as the School of Metallurgy in 1875, the first UK College of
Technology in 1951, gaining university status by Royal Charter in 1966, and becoming The Guardian University of the Year in 2020.
Building on our outstanding past, we are now defining our place and role in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (and beyond) within a rapidly changing world.