Maturing tech sector needs strong leadership
Throughout my legal career I’ve always dealt with businesses in the technology, media, and telecommunications (TMT) sector – and the number has increased significantly in the last five years.
I deal predominantly with starts-ups and 1st and 2nd stage investee companies, which has enabled me to see first-hand a sea change in the tech sector.
In the past, prospective clients would come to me with a whole bunch of ideas with a limited framework or cogent pitch deck or business plan to support their aspirations and requirements for funding.
Although you could clearly see the passion and drive of the individuals, the funding and professional climate had not fully embraced the opportunities within TMT and new media.
Companies were frustrated with the length of time the traditional equity and debt finance providers took to make investment decisions.
Traditional methods were used to assess prospects which included tedious due diligence with limited focus on the actual technology and most importantly the people which would deliver the technology.
As with all early stage businesses, technology is key but a major consideration is the management team in which you are investing.
Owners have now woken up to this key factor and the prospects I now meet see the value in merging old world corporate governance with the new technology they are pushing to market.
Management teams are now keen to ensure the correct structures are in place, whether this is a fully verified share capital table or tailored shareholders agreements and end user terms.
Embracing good corporate governance further strengthens investment credentials, which in my experience was not the norm in the past.
Thankfully business angels, private equity and EIS funders have now stepped up and grasped the mantle from a funding perspective.
Alternative funding has blossomed in recent years (via the use angel networks, EIS/VCT funds and seed round players such as Crowdcube and Seedrs) from which the properly structured and managed TMT businesses have benefited from.
In addition to an expansion of willing and able funders, innovative providers of resource and strategic direction have entered the market, such as The Start-Up Factory.
However, despite all of the positives, I am still told there is a real shortage of developers within the North West, which is hindering growth.
But the future is bright, with the likes of Amazon, The Hut Group and GCHQ moving to Manchester, I can only see this changing and adding another layer of opportunity within the Manchester’s thriving tech environment.
Areas that tech businesses should think about:
- Get your shareholding and corporate structure in order. Most businesses have to beg and borrow to get by in the early years but be very careful when promising equity to service providers. They need to deliver for their slice of the cake!
- Don’t be intimidated by talking to external professionals/seasoned investors. They can add value which money cannot buy.
Bermans prides itself on applying the best parts of the old-world legal services to new age technologies.
- Jon Davage is a partner at law firm Bermans: email@example.com