'Increase investor diversity and tech scene will follow'
A director at a major investment platform has called for more diversity among investors - as that would lead to a more diverse tech start-up community.
Sara Parker has been working in the FinTech space for more than 20 years and is an advisor at award-winning, not-for-profit NorthInvest.
Addressing delegates at Manchester’s inaugural FinTech North conference this week, she said there’s “a job to be done” when it comes to educating investors about the FinTech sector.
She also stressed that more diversity is needed in both the investment and tech start-up communities.
"Women angel investors are much more likely to invest in women founders of businesses,” she said.
"If we want to encourage diversity in tech businesses, then we need to encourage diversity in the investor community as well and that involves a bit of education."
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Speaking to BusinessCloud, Parker said there's a real emerging FinTech community in the North but stressed that Manchester should not be singled out as being the FinTech hub.
"The key is to not try and divide the region but rather to say that there's a real strength across the North – and actually we are seeing greater collaboration across the region," she said.
"I would say there are different strengths across the North; I don’t think there’s one clear winner."
Although Parker admits there are still start-up founders who feel that going to London is their only chance of securing funding, she says that is changing.
"Undoubtedly there is still a magnetic draw to London and I have come across people who said they’ve been told that they can get more money if they go to London," she said.
"But I think many people are wise to that because they recognise that there are a lot of strengths in the North – both in terms of costs and the quality of life and a growing community of customers and businesses."
Parker speaking at FinTech North
Also speaking at the FinTech North event was Nick Horrocks, a director at investment bank GP Bullhound, who advised tech entrepreneurs to be realistic when it comes to approaching investors.
"Coming in and saying 'I just need £1m and then I’ll take over the world' generally doesn't work very well with investors," he said.
"By all means paint a picture and have a vision because that's ultimately where you want the company to be and you want someone to buy into that vision, but that’s generally achieved over a number of steps.
"I think you have to be very cognisant of how much money you need to achieve the first step and if you achieve that then there’s the next step and arguably a step after that. Be realistic, pragmatic and sensible."
Oliver Woolley, co-founder and CEO of private investment network Envestors, described the tech investment scene in London as "saturated" and said he was excited by opportunities in the North.
"As investor in London you can go to two pitching events every night of the week," he said. "There is a lot happening down there but actually we think there’s a huge number of exciting things happening in the North which require investment and that’s most likely going to come from angel investors.
"The reason that I’m up here is because London is saturated.
"We think there's a massive opportunity up here to not only connect with people in the North but also to connect them to London as well."