From left to right: James Song (MSc Entrepreneurship at Cass, 2019), Aurore Hochard (Head of Entrepreneurship Programmes at Cass), Emily Brooke MBE (Founder of Beryl), Martin Mignot (Partner at Index Ventures)

EntrepreneursTalk@Cass returned with a bang to Cass Business School on June 5th, 2019 organized by Aurore Hochard, Head of Entrepreneurship Programmes at the University.

Martin Mignot and Emily Brooke MBE discussed advice for entrepreneurs seeking funding, and their experiences as an investor and investee in the transportation industry. They were interviewed by James Song, a Product Designer at Founders Factory and MSc Entrepreneurship (2019) student at Cass who stated, “It was a great occasion to learn from the experiences of a couple of successful people both from the VC side and entrepreneur side!”

Martin Mignot, a partner at Index Ventures, exclaimed early in the evening that his favorite part about the industry is the fact that “I get paid to learn and work with incredible people” and how much he enjoys helping solve problems for early-stage companies. According to Mr. Mignot, “Every company, no matter how successful, is just a sum of problems to solve” and he enjoys the process of finding solutions.

Index Ventures is typically Seed and Series A investments, and Mr. Mignot commented, “We like to be the first institution but not the first money in” for investments made. This is fairly common in the industry, with angel investors taking on the most risk and venture capital investors signing on later. The UK is a great ecosystem for early-stage investment due to the various tax benefits that angel investors make, especially EIS and SEIS.

SEIS stands for Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme and offers a 50% tax break for investors that put in part of the first £150,000 for a qualified startup. Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) offers a 30% income tax reduction for investments up to £1 million for an individual and £12 million for a company. These are some of the highest tax benefits in the western world for angel investment, and this helps to make London and the United Kingdom a healthy market for new startups.

Emily Brooke is the Founder of Beryl (formerly Blaze), and her company has benefited from this great ecosystem, getting early investment from the Richard Branson family, Index Ventures, and others. Beryl has gone through some rough patches, and Mrs. Brooke discussed the problems they have overcome when expanding internationally including trademark issues that forced them to change their name. Her biggest advice for entrepreneurs is to “Get on with it” when getting started, and to “Focus on doing one thing properly before diversifying”.

Mrs. Brooke’s advice for getting investment is to find investors that will let you retain a lot of control over your own company, stating “Our goal is light-touch investment” which has “…given us a lot of freedom”. Apparently, this approach has worked well, as Beryl has won multiple awards for their bike lights, including the iF Design Award (2019), Eurobike Industry Award (2018) and many others while expanding her product sales across Europe, the United States and Japan since its founding in the United Kingdom in 2012.

Emma Rowe, MSc Entrepreneurship (2019) at Cass Business School, attended the event and said “[the evening] was incredibly valuable. I loved having an insight into the speakers’ personal journeys, particularly the challenges they faced and who inspired them to do what they do today.”

The evening ended with a networking session and drinks, where up-and-coming entrepreneurs mingled with their experienced counterparts. The excited conversations were a sign that the next event will be well attended! These types of events are what help Cass Business School to stand out among its peers, and the evening offered real value to students and industry professionals alike.

The next EntrepreneursTalk@Cass event will be taking place on July 3rd, 2019 at Cass Business School attended by another Entrepreneur and Venture Capital duo. Please find details here.

Andrew Bott
MSc Entrepreneurship (2019)
www.linkedin.com/in/andrew-botty