Growth capital is London-centric. Does that matter?

Mar 14, 2018 / Ambition Nation Blog

Through Ambition Nation we’re helping ambitious growth companies from across the country find the right capital to catapult their progression. We’ve started by talking to companies in the North West of England, an area of remarkable SME growth, and asking whether a London-centric investment landscape actually matters if your aspirations are high enough.

Perhaps it was with the spirit of the North West that the Chancellor’s Spring Statement optimistically upgraded its economic growth forecasts for 2018 this week.

“A sense of the possible” is what describes the ambitions of North West-based entrepreneurs, we discovered when Ambition Nation returned to Manchester recently. These are amongst the most optimistic businesspeople in the UK – the first time we visited Manchester, Brexit was barely mentioned; the conversation discussed graft, grits and growth from good old fashioned getting on with it.

Our return to Manchester, to speak in more depth with some of the ambitious companies we met the first time around, really put this character into context.

“A sense of the possible”

More doors

The crux is thus: London has many doors upon which an entrepreneur might knock and find a suitable investor to greet them. Such opportunity is comparatively scant in Manchester. Manchester’s doors, however, open to willing collaborators, and as such, more business and innovation can be achieved. While it’s a great source of talent, London isn’t actually an ideal setting to innovate; the North West, meanwhile, harbours a tight, ambitious community.

There is indeed an inertia felt by having operating capital so centred in the capital, but this does have a knock-on effect. London can find itself undeserving of that capital – good money going to bad companies simply because they’re nearby – but on balance this does result in a slightly Darwinian response from companies outside of London. Only the most investible survive. It is from this mine that we find those diamonds in the rough.

A sense of place for all, where technology and creativity, science and art intermingle

With that in mind is a more balanced allocation of growth capital needed nationally? Or does this actually matter? Most people are capable of jumping on a train to the South East, after all, so is the real issue one of good businesses having the right access to growth capital, investors and institutions?

The culture is there

This nurturing of community in the Manchester region is such that the top talent live, breathe and work next to each other. An innovation culture is possible because those with the propensity to innovate have already created that culture. There is a sense of place for all, where technology and creativity, science and art intermingle harmoniously.

Diverting the investment interest out of London means capturing that feeling, and casting that sense of the possible far wider. The attitude is that nothing is unthinkable as long as the support is there to make it happen – the community that supports itself in innovation is already there. Why can we not recreate that ideal when it comes to scaling up the most innovative businesses?

Motivate and inspire even more great companies with stories of success

During the Spring Statement the Chancellor expressed how he saw economic growth being ushered along – by ensuring that the most productive businesses can learn from the least productive. This extends to how they access capital and who they go to for advice. Enter Ambition Nation stage right.

Without specific guidance on investment options, many founders especially those outside of the London arena turn to lawyers or accountants to find private equity fundraising, which can leave one with limited choice and not necessarily much impartiality.

But by creating a support network that serves to both capture that unrivalled North West ambition and convey that story to the investors and institutions in the South East in the best possible light, we can begin to level the playing field. We can support ambitious companies in their growth while at the same time motivate and inspire even more great companies with stories of success.

Access to growth capital doesn’t need to be London-centric. Likewise, a sense of the possible should be nationwide, too. 

Our next Ambition Nation event, the Female Leaders Series, takes place tomorrow, Thursday 15 March 2018, from 8:30am.

Follow our Twitter feed on @finnCap for live updates from the conference.

And tune back into this blog afterwards to hear more insights.