Having successfully attracted investors from Singapore to Silicon Valley, Sohrab Jahanbani argues that entrepreneurs should cast their net further afield when scouting for funding
More often than not, how excited an investor is by your vision, how relevant their experience is and what they have to offer is far more important than their postcode. There’s a global community of investors out there who go to the same conferences and have their eye on startup culture in Britain. Many of them are also really keen to have a UK-based technology business in their portfolio because of the reputation the sector has built for itself. So why limit yourself to British shores? Many entrepreneurs are so busy working towards the next milestone that they don’t have the time or headspace to look up and take advantage of a global investor pool. But they could be missing out on some important opportunities.
And if you have dreams of global expansion, looking for an investor with a strong network in a market you’re planning to enter can help you make useful contacts later down the line. But if nothing else, working with an overseas investor trains you to think globally and be open to opportunities beyond your own doorstep, whether it’s hiring talent from abroad or selling to new markets.
Besides, if you’re about to embark on your first round of funding and your business is fairly young, you might not have a clear idea of what you need yet. As a result, the input you require from investors might be minimal and you probably won’t need to talk to them every day. While this may change later as you start to scale, these days technology like video conferencing means you don’t need to be in the same room as someone to develop a close working relationship with them.
As for Brexit, if anything the impact of the vote on the UK’s exchange rate has stimulated overseas investor appetite, as it’s now cheaper for them. In my experience, foreign investors haven’t been spooked by the uncertainty surrounding Brexit so far and they’re often attracted by a startup that can offer them access to the British market.
The only slight complicating factor to be aware of is the cultural differences that might exist, which can affect how decisions are made or how long the process takes. In some countries you might have to do a bit more follow up to get over the finishing line, while in places like the Middle East, face to face meetings are more important than they might be in London. If you’re sensitive to cultural differences like these there’s really no reason why your investor shouldn’t hail from the other side of the world.