As a syndicate of “angels” based in London, Wild Blue Cohort focuses on investing in early stage food, fintech, B2B and B2C enterprise, media, real estate, healthcare and education companies led by experienced managers and targeting big market opportunities. Serial entrepreneur and investor, David Barrie, the Founder and CEO of WBC, answered our questions about himself, the firm, its investment strategy and much more.
FinSMEs: Hi David, first, can you tell us a bit more about you?
David: I have founded and delivered several ventures that have been credited with raising £500m+ of new investment through public-private partnerships. These ventures include projects in the U.K., Russia, Eastern Europe and Canada; progressive enterprises such as The People’s Supermarket, London. My background is in media production. I have produced and directed television for 20yrs+, after working as a producer of financial programmes at the BBC and a research analyst in mergers and acquisitions for a major consulting firm.
FinSMEs: You have an Investment Director at Wild Blue Cohort – tell us more about her.
David: Deepali Nangia is Investment Director at Wild Blue. She started her career as an analyst on Wall Street and then spent several years in the investment divisions of GE and MMC (now Stonepoint Capital) focusing on financial services and financial tech. In these roles, she evaluated many “balance sheet”, outsourcing and technology plays; followed by ops roles at corporates in New York, London, Hong Kong and India.
FinSMEs: Let’s speak about Wild Blue Cohort. Why did you come up with the idea of creating it?
David: Entrepreneurs need finance. Investors want fast growth prospects and some like to be close to the companies that they invest in, especially if they have a role in its management. West London is full of immense commercial and corporate talent and expertise and many residents are private investors. What’s more, many people who live in West London would like to see a more vital, entrepreneurial, diverse local economy. A locally based angel investment network seemed to address all of these needs.
FinSMEs: How does it work?
David: We promote opportunities to our members after direct contact from entrepreneurs or deal partners, such as accelerators, incubators, investment firms and our members. Wild Blue promote enterprises to members through quarterly pitching events and off-cycle. Members carry out their own due diligence. Members invest either alone or in syndicate.
FinSMEs: Which is the investment strategy?
David: Our members are excited by companies led by outstanding individuals and with robust plans to scale up and grow. Wild Blue members tend to seek opportunities that require up to £1m in equity finance at reasonable valuations, with priority given to enterprises eligible for EIS or SEIS tax relief. Companies are screened for several indicators, with priority given to growth and quality of management but also the value of future growth to the local West London economy. We are sector-agnostic but members have very extensive experience in early stage and fast growth businesses and have expertise in food, fintech, B2B and B2C enterprise, media, real estate, healthcare and education.
FinSMEs: Personally speaking, what do (and what don’t) you like to see in startup founders?
David: Investment Director Deepali Nangia and me like to see leaders, honest and direct people, hard working and collaborative traits and of course track record – important but not essential. Differentiation and a long-term vision are important. I like the investor Saul Klein’s view that an inspirational entrepreneur is the one who can describe what the view looks like behind them, after a 20yr journey to success.
FinSMEs: Who is in the portfolio?
David: Wild Blue members have invested in eight firms to date.
Plentific – which provides online support for property transactions;
HomeTouch – an on-demand market place for hiring carers started by a doctor trained at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital;
Loyal zoo – an app for keeping your various loyalty points in one place;
Simplycook – which provides its customers with restaurant-quality recipes and ingredients;
Seeing – a crowd-sourced video content website started by a graduate of Chelsea School of Art;
Great British Chefs – a popular website offering recipe inspiration, expert-cooking guides and the latest chef and restaurant news;
Lexoo – an online marketplace for legal advice, and
Trint – a workflow software company.
FinSMEs: Is London becoming startup friendly?
David: The culture of business in London is very startup friendly but the ‘barriers’ to entry are high. It is very expensive to base your business in London and hire local talent. The motivation of many members of Wild Blue Cohort is to use local money to support local enterprise. Also we are planning to launch towards the end of 2016/early 2017 an unique co-working space that will try to make it easier and more affordable to start and grow a business in West London.
FinSMEs: Personally, which tech trend do you follow?
David: I follow all tech trends – a junkie for TechCrunch, Crunchbase and many newsletters.