Visitors and regular readers will note the months of radio silence here. In an ongoing effort to stay lean and effective (thank you, Timothy Ferriss), we’re consolidating our blogging and social media activity. From now on our blogging will take place on the Angel Academe Medium page, and likewise our business-related tweets will be going out from @angelacademe. Simon will of course be continuing to blog about music, tech and the wider culture on DGMFS Media. In the meantime, we’ll keep this blog up as an archive, in case anyone wants to know about the kinds of things we’ve been thinking about over the last few years.

Sarah & Simon


Here’s a x-posting from our sister site Angel Academe


It barely seems believable but this week we launched the fourth year of Entrepreneur Academe – the mentoring programme we run for female founders of tech or tech-enabled start ups. This year we’ve shaken things up a little and instead of following a cohort over several months instead we’ll be inviting different companies to join us each month, in order to see as wide a range of businesses as possible. But each month will consider the same issues, focussing on investment readiness.

A fine  – and diverse – array of businesses were in attendance at this inaugural session:

  • Channeliser is an online network enabling companies to search, connect and engage with prospective IT partners anywhere in the world.
  • Doobiz is a mobile app for contact sharing (using a contact-over-audio technology) and realtime business networking.
  • PsychApps is an app which helps to diagnose, track and journal mental illness, as well as discretely connecting users to local professional therapists.
  • SoSensational is a fashion and beauty e-commerce site curated and tailored to the needs of women over 50.
  • Talking Circles is an enterprise platform for promoting connectivity and continuous learning between coworkers in medium to large organizations.
  • Trik is a drone data management software for vertical structure inspection, assisting drone pilots in data collection, visualisation and analysis.
  • Wattl is a video social network providing users with a grid of heatmapped content which is popular and trending.
  • Worktu connects schools with local teachers online at via their a job-posting website, connecting with local teaching talent at a more affordable price than traditional recruitment agencies.

Sarah kicked off the afternoon with an introduction to the Angel Academe suite of offerings, before asking the entrepreneurs to introduce themselves and pitch their businesses – which everyone did with great verve and passion.


The first half of the afternoon’s mentoring proper was a panel Q&A and general group discussion. We were honuored to have a great group of panellists kick off:

  • Francesca Tondi (Angel Investor)
  • Jessica Dick (Synergy Growth)
  • Natasha Jacobs (Craigie Capital)
  • Audrey Mandela (Tech Entrepreneur & Angel Investor)
  • Karen Thomas-Bland (Angel Investor)

We then explored lots of the issues raised in small groups under the headings: The right kind of funding for you – and the right kind of funder; Organising your campaign: prep, networking, pitching, tax & legals; and Valuation – what are you prepared to give up? We covered far too ground to go into too much detail here, but here are some of the headlines from each group:


The right kind of funder

  • Go for smart money – investors who can contribute much more than simple cash.
  • Investors love to see entrepreneurs who have put their own money into a business – the ultimate skin in the game.
  • That said – don’t wait too long to start fundraising – investors also want to see ambition.
  • Try to find investors who will most likely follow on.
  • Use the “network effect” of your investors.
  • Remember that fundraising is almost always a long process – longer than you anticipate. (A rule of thumb here is 3-6 months.) So don’t wait until you’re out of runway until you raise! And expect to be juggling fundraising and building the business a lot of the time.


  • Every round you do you need to re-justify your valuation (can you really scale it? does this valuation make it worth it to investors?)
  • You run the risk of a down round in future rounds if you aren’t able to deliver on what you said you could do.Gauge your expectations to your investors and judge what is really needed for your business.
  • Consider the exit options: not everyone has to IPO, in fact very few do – a trade sale is what happens to most companies. Also, what are your own goals?
  • You can also set a valuation as a range and work it through with your investor.

Organising your campaign

  • Terms sheets – ideally you should have the same term sheets for all investors in a round, although if there are different types of investors, eg angels and VC or an investor/director, this may not be possible.
  • Be prepared with your own term sheet to present to investors although some, particularly VCs will bring their own.
  • EMI option pools will dilute investors,  make sure your investors are aware of this.
  • Have a full pitch deck which can be adapted to different situations, eg lengthened or shortened, less text for face to face presentations, more text for a deck that is emailed.
  • Open your pitch with a “spear to the head” blow.  Make yourself stand out!
  • A good pitch creates an emotional connection to the listener, tells the story of the problem and your solution and why you and your team can address this issue.
  • Always mention competition; everyone has some! Where do you position yourself against your competitors?
  • Keep your pitch as simple and as easy to quickly understand as possible.
  • Make sure your pitch matches your social media profile, eg Linkedin!

Lots to mull over there; if you’ve got anything to add we’d love to hear from you. And in the meantime, if you’d like to enter your company in the next session, you can do so here. Finally, many thanks to Bob Mollen of Fried Frank for hosting the afternoon. More next month!

I said it of 2015, I realise, but 2016 has been truly a breakthrough year for me and Sarah here at TH – and an incredibly busy one.

As you’ll have guessed from the amount of cross-posting from Angel Academe, that project really has been our focus this year. (For those out of the loop, AA is our network of largely – though not exclusively – female angel investors, set up as part of Sarah’s mission to encourage more female HNW’s to invest in female-founded tech start-ups.)

Here are some of the 2016 AA highlights:

  • We screened over 500 businesses and had 16 of them pitch to our group.
  • Our investments this year include: Raremark, Fabric, Pivigo , Headliner and a follow-on investment in Clear Returns.
  • We ran the third year of Entrepreneur Academe, the mentoring programme we run on behalf of the City of London, seeing ten diverse businesses through critical points in their development. Your can read all about the graduation event here.
  • We launched a new website, with the help of our good friend Lauren Hine.
  • We launched Angel Academe North with two lively events in Manchester.
  • We’ve run two of our ongoing Angel training workshops, Investor Academe.
  • We were delighted to be involved with a new Innovate UK initiative: the Women in Innovation Awards, with several of our group acting as judges and assessors.

Winners of the inaugural Women in Innovation awards

Many thanks to our sponsors for their continued support of our AA work: Thomson Reuters, haysmacintyre, Kingsley Napley and the City of London, and of course to MJ and Lauren for all their help.

Our big consultancy gig of the year has been working with the fabulous Wales Millennium Centre on their digital strategy. We’ve spent an awful lot of time in Cardiff since January, really getting under the skin of the organisation, and figuring out what it really needs to achieve through digital means. It’s a crucial point for the organisation as it begins to commission its own work alongside the work it does as a presentation house. At the time of writing we’re helping to write a creative brief for the Centre’s new website.


Sarah outside the WMC


We’ve been doing work closer to home, too. Our Future City is a project that brings together educationalists with professionals from the arts, culture & heritage sector to improve “the lives and life chances” of children and young people in the city through an engagement with creative practice. Simon’s been helping them think about the impact of digital media on young people and how they might develop a programme around “digital skillfulness”. It’s also been great to be working once again with our old friend Marc Jaffrey, OBE.

Following her success in last year’s UKBAA Awards and Tech City Awards, Sarah made the Maserati 100 list, which celebrates those helping to build the UK’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. There’s also been a lot of public speaking for us both, with engagements for (among others): Mass Challenge/Wayra, Cass Business School, the Digital Catapult, UKBAA, Goldman Sachs, the Association for Cultural Enterprises, Brighton Aldridge Community Academy… the variety alone should give you a good impression of how diverse our work has been over the year. Oh, and of course we’ve kept up our long-standing associations with UKTI and Innovate UK.

A few cultural and media highlights amongst all the business, technology and strategy:

Lastly, I’m still managing to keep my skin in the creative game, with my DGMFS Media project now releasing digitally-distributed music: my own, and that of friends and fellow travellers. If nothing else, it’s an education about what it means to be a creative practitioner in the digital age.

That’s it for now: just a snapshot, as I say. As ever, you can keep up with us on twitter: @turnipshire, @simonphopkins and @angelacademe. Our very best wishes for 2017.

Here’s a cross-posting from our sister Angel Academe blog.

On December 28th we held the second of our AA North sessions, exploring ways in which we might expand into the North West and bring together a group of local women investors (well, mostly women). The event was generously hosted by The Landing in their beautiful 7th floor room overlooking Media City UK at Salford Quays and chaired by our good friend Gaynor Dykes. Attendees came from finance, law, the startup sector and healthcare — an eclectic group whose engagement across the afternoon highlighted the real opportunities here.

Gaynor (l) and Sarah (pic: Maya Dibley)

Sarah kicked of the afternoon with a brief introduction to Angel Academe’s work, outlining everything we do before going on to spell out the opportunity for potential investors.

Simon (pic: Maya Dibley)

Self-confessed serial investor Simon Thorpe was up next. An accountant by training, Simon has been angel investing for 8 years, and is principally interested in the tech space. He’s also invested in an unusually high percentage of women-founed companies. He pointed out that the previous week both the Chancellor and Shadow Chancellor had been talking about the importance of the digital technology sector in the UK — at last! Simon talked through some of the lamentable diversity figures in the sector that regular readers will be all too familiar with, including that just 15% of European startups have a female founder and less than 3% of VC-backed companies have a woman CEO.

Simon talked about what he looks for in potential investments: defensible IP, a great idea, a great team, a sound business model and robust financials. But in the end he’s mostly looking for a visionary founder with total belief and commitment.

Then we had chance to look at the situation from the point of view of a female founder. A trained phamacist and oncologist, Clare Nolan has founded her own company, Tomorrow’s Medicines & with the aim of giving serioiusly ill patients faster access to clinical trials. Clare was entirely new to the world investment when starting up and has had something of a baptism of fire. Ultimately angel investment has played a significant role in growing the company, alongside a smattering of grants and a fund investment. Clare was keen to point out that of course such an investment route comes with caveats and dangers. Some investors are relatively hands off, but others can be demanding and struggle not to interfere; the key as an entrepreneur is to know when to push back. She also pointed out that being a female entrpreneur in technology could still be a lonely place to be.

We finished the afternoon with a lively and open discussion about next steps and opportunities. Many thanks again to Maya Dibley at the Landing, and to Simon, Gaynor and Clare for speaking. We look forward to being back in the New Year.

From the Angel Academe blog:

Angel Academe advisor and highly experienced angel investor Meganne Houghton-Berry gave the keynote at our Entrepreneur Academe 2016 graduation ceremony last week. Here’s the outline of her talk.

More here.

Angel Academe


On July 21st we held the second of the expert sessions on this year’s Entrepreneur Academe, this time looking at everything related to SELL: sales, PR, growth hacking and social media. As ever, the afternoon began with a panel Q&A, this month featuring Anjali Ramachandran, Meganne Houghton-Berry, Candace Kuss, Lauren Hine and Garry Felgate.

We kicked off with a brief discussion about growth hacking, which one panellist described as “hitting scale with our spending much” or, more succinctly, “what we used to call marketing”. Some tips that emerged:

  • Try different landing pages and compare responses.
  • Elsewhere on you website, iterate/analyse constantly.
  • Follow your competitors on twitter – what are they up to?
  • Try dropping all formatting on your email newsletter – this my convince users that they’re getting a personal email – although expect a lot of email back!


We then delved into a lengthy discussion…

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Angel Academe

Here’s a nice piece from The Times last weekend about AA investee and Entrepreneur Academe graduates Frugl – the site for discovering events and offers under £10.


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Angel Academe

On Tuesday we held the first of of our Entrepreneur Academe expert sessions at the Tech City offices of our partners Thomson Reuters. It was attended by our entrepreneur cohort as well as about 20 of our mentors. In this session we looked at all the basics that need to be in place in order to scale a business: legal/regulatory/compliance, finance/governance, HR/culture/leadership and boards/reporting/KPIs.

The afternoon kicked off with a panel discussion with Roberta Draper from City law firm Kingsley Napley, Mark Pattenden and Mel Pittas from accountancy firm haysmacintyre, and recruitment expert Lauren Hine, founder of Zealify and an alumnus of the first Entrepreneur Academe.

Questions came thick and fast from our entrepreneurs, the first was on using options to incentivise staff. The Enterprise Management Scheme (EMI) is by far the most efficient and flexible way to do this for a small company and there’s a detailed explanation of how it works on the

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Angel Academe

We had a fun night on Tuesday at the annual UK Business Angels Association Awards at the Dorchester in London, where we were joined by friends, supporters and investors from our network.

2016-07-05 20.16.32

We’re especially delighted that Angel Academe board member, investor and mentor (and all round great guy) Simon Thorpe deservedly won Lead Angel of the Year. In his rousing acceptance speech, Simon re-stated his commitment to increasing the number of women angel investors and supporting women-led businesses. He went so far as to pledge that his successor as Lead Angel next year should be a woman. Quite!

In other news, Entrepreneur Academe graduate Julie Walters from portfolio company Raremark won Best Investment in a High Growth Woman Founder in recognition of their pioneering work to transform one million lives in rare disease.


Also shortlisted were The Dots (the professional networking platform for creative professionals and Mush (the new, free way for mums to meet…

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Cross-posted from the Angel Academe blog:


Mentors and entrepreneurs at the EA16 launch

Last week we launched this year’s Entrepreneur Academe to a full house at the City of London’s City Centre suite. This is the third instalment of EA, and once again we’re delighted to have the City of London as our partners. We’re mentoring 10 women-led tech startups this year and the calibre is clearly very high. Wednesday was the opportunity for the businesses to introduce themselves to our network of mentors, investors and partners and lay out what they’re looking to get out of the next 9 months with EA.

David Pack, Partnerships Manager at the City of London kicked off the afternoon with a brief talk outlining why they support the programme and how important this kind of collaboration is to them.


Sarah outlines EA success to date

He was followed by our own Sarah Turner, who talked about what had been achieved by the programme to this point, in terms of growth and funds raised. Headlines for last year’s cohort include an average 100% in turnover with 6 companies achieving  a 200% increase, and £1.5m so far raised in investment.


Raremark’s Julie Walters tells the entrepreneurs what to expect from the programme

Raremark, a community platform for sufferers of rare disease and their families is one of those companies that raised, and took the opportunity on Wednesday to announce a successfully closed round of £680k. The company’s CEO and founder Julie Walters talked about her experience of the 2015 programme and told this year’s cohort how to get the most of the sessions and mentors.

Anjali Ramanchandran, a great friend to Angel Academe has been one of our EA mentors since the get-go. She talked about how to ‘hook up’ with the mentors either in person or through LinkedIn, and what kinds of mentoring relationship they could look for, from a simple chat over a coffee through to a more sustained relationship – and all points in between.

We then got down to the meat and potatoes of the afternoon, with each company giving us a 5 minute presentation, outlining the company’s history to this point, their ambitions over the coming year and their specific asks.

Chime Advisors, co-founded by Angela Bradbury, is “reinventing the expert network” and provides answers to research questions on niche topics for consulting and PE firms through phone calls and surveys with experts via sophisticated tech.

Coo, co-founded by Shilpa Bhandarkar, is a new kind of parenting platform whose first product is a group communication & calendar app that helps build parent communities.

Grub Club, founded by Olivia Sibony, is a discovery platform for unique dining experiences. Chefs set up restaurants in underused spaces & sell tickets to their dinners via the website.


Headliner’s Maria Hayden

Headliner, co-founded bye Maria Hayden, connects live musicians, bands and DJs directly with event planners to book for corporate events and private parties.

MeeTwo, co-founded by Kerstyn Comley, is a webapp offering moderated peer support and expert advice to help teenagers deal with everyday anxieties.


Metafused founder Madhuban Kumar

Metafused, founded by Madhuban Kumar, uses artificial intelligence with real time data to enhance marketing decision-making and driving automated proactive intelligence.

Pilio, founded by Catherine Bottrill, provides energy analytics to businesses and households seeking to make energy and cost savings.

Pivigo, co-founded by Kim Nilsson is building the trusted marketplace for data science projects, disrupting the data consultancy market, and democratising data science.


Mush founders Katie Massie-Taylor and Sarah Hesz

Mush, founded by Katie Massie-Taylor and Sarah Hesz, is a web-based platform that connects mums with other mums in their locality, and was described on Wednesday, only half tongue-in-cheek, as “Tinder-meets-NCT”.

We’re hugely excited about working with this year’s cohort, and look forward to to first of this year’s expert sessions – SCALE (getting the basics right to grow).

Join us as a mentor?

Our mentors include experienced entrepreneurs, angel and institutional investors and business leaders from the Angel Academe community and partner organisations. As well as extensive experience of starting, running and growing businesses, they bring specific expertise in finance and fund-raising; sales, marketing and PR; technology; law, accountancy and people management.

We provide them with an opportunity to get to know some exciting women-led businesses over a period of time. If you would like to join our amazing pool of mentors, we would love to hear from you. Please tell us a little about yourself.

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