OK I admit it. I watched the final of The Apprentice.
Billed as a tumultuous tussle between baking and botox, a somewhat divisive (and often-derided) form of business-lite entertainment peddled for the masses it may be. But even when viewed through the lens of entertainment, the show can still shine a light on so much more than just the comedic failings of individuals from a range of backgrounds whose every false step under pressure is beamed back to a gleefully critical public.
Let’s deal with the business issues first. Where to start? Lack of defensible intellectual property. Non-existent talent management team. Flimsy experience. (Tip: never tell someone that you have no intention of exiting when asking for an investment.) The list could go on. Ignoring the apparent failings of both embryonic businesses, it prompted me to reflect on the gender issues surrounding start-up finance.
Not in terms of the competitors (who can forget a somewhat bewildered Sir Alan being reminded last week by advisor Karren Brady that he had chosen an all-female final line-up?) but in terms of investors.
Current statistics show that whilst women own nearly half of the wealth in the UK, the percentage of business angels actively investing in the UK is no more than around 5% of the total. It’s a shocking statistic and simply just not good enough. We’re doing ourselves – as a country – a disservice if we fail to lower the barriers which are somehow preventing women from investing. To put it bluntly, entrepreneurs – both male and female – are missing out on cash that should be available to help their businesses grow.
The UK Business Angels Association has carried out much work in this area and Jenny Tooth will be leading a high-profile campaign to ‘Beat the 1:20 Ratio’ during the coming year.
We’re still in the early days of a revolution that’s taking place in early-stage funding, but my strong belief is that by crowdfunding, you are breaking down the old boys network mentality and democratising finance. We are opening up opportunities to invest and by removing perceived barriers, we’re increasing the flow of money to the businesses who need it most. It’s about finding people who are willing to invest in businesses they believe in. And the greater the flow of cash there is, the more successful all of our early stage businesses can be.
It doesn’t have to be all about the Sugar daddies. Let the mummies have a go as well!