Investment readiness: the importance of networking

Mona Bani

The Cabinet Office’s recent Social Investment Awards are a further step in their commitment to developing the UK social investment market. During my time working at the Cabinet Office I got to see how they translated their broad market-shaping brief into a series of specific policies and programmes, such as the Investment and Contract Readiness Fund (ICRF).

The Social Investment Awards celebrate the achievements of a range of actors that are working to expand and develop the market, and among the awards was the Investment Readiness Award, won by Big Venture Challenge (BVC). BVC supports ambitious social entrepreneurs to secure investment, as well as attracting new social investors into the marketplace, and as part of the team delivering BVC Shaftesbury Partnership is very pleased at the recognition given to the programme. So it is worth thinking a little about what Investment Readiness actually is, and how to make it work well.

Investment availability or investment readiness?

An Investment Readiness Award suggests that one of the barriers to a well-functioning social investment market is on the demand side. Recent research by UnLtd, the lead partner of the BVC, confirms that the problem with securing social investment for entrepreneurs is less about the investment not being available and more about whether entrepreneurs are ready to receive it. Having a great idea for a service or product is not enough to run a successful organisation, build a successful team and secure the trust of investors.

The right idea needs the right people (and the right network)

Once a great idea has been identified, it is crucial that the entrepreneur works with the right people, who have a range of skills in business planning, leadership, internal and external communications, marketing, sales, finance and so forth, to grow and sustain their venture.

The role of The Shaftesbury Partnership in the BVC programme is to make strategic connections to key individuals to help entrepreneurs strengthen their networks, while also providing the entrepreneurs with one-to-one support to enable them to make best use of their existing networks. We've connected our ventures to individuals who have completed their advisory boards, to individuals who have helped them develop CRM systems, and to individuals who have helped expand their sales pipelines. All this gives potential investors faith that they are investing in a strong business as well as a great product.

Connecting with peers as well as investors

Finally, in the spirit of what Shaftesbury Partnership is trying to achieve, BVC means that the entrepreneurs get to be part of a powerful network - not only of people who have access to investment, but also of other social entrepreneurs. They get to benefit from the ideas, methods and support of 29 other ventures, who are going through the same challenges as them and are finding ways to innovate and succeed.

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