Democratising Investment: Is tech really the answer?

An Interactive design-thinking session made up of contributors from the region’s pioneering businesses who have recently raised investment, we heard the hurdles they faced in securing investment and building relationships with investors in the current landscape. Joining the conversation were key investors, policy makers and investment platforms who explored how we can address challenges, create opportunities and channel more investment North.

Through these insights, they got to the root of the connectivity issues facing investment supply and demand and asked if technology can successfully bridge the gap.

Session timings:

1.35pm – 2.25pm: Entrepreneur and Investor panels

There was a 2-hour interactive design thinking session with two short panels.

In the entrepreneur panel, we heard from some of the region’s pioneering businesses who have raised investment in the current landscape and learned of the hurdles they faced in securing investment, and in building relationships with investors at different stages of their growth journeys. We also heard from a panel of respected investors, who discussed the hurdles they face in identifying interesting investment opportunities and building connections with prospects outside of the Golden Triangle.

This session gave attendees the opportunity to explore the biggest challenges associated with raising investment in the current landscape and explore opportunities to capture further investment in the North East through the use of technology and investment networks.  It also identified gaps in the landscape  and highlighted additional support and connectivity needed to overcome these problems.

Entrepreneur Panel:
Sarah Cox, Innovation Manager, Innovation SuperNetwork (Chair)
Jordan Dargue, Head of Access to Finance, Innovation SuperNetwork (Facilitator)
Gary Gibson, Dyman Advanced Materials
Debra Leeves, Atelerix
Simon Allocca, Rarecan
Sarah Ellerby, Nova Pangea
Neil Spann, Power Roll

Investor Panel:
Sarah Cox, Innovation Manager, Innovation SuperNetwork (Chair)
Jordan Dargue, Head of Access to Finance, Innovation SuperNetwork (Facilitator)
Roderick Beer, UKBAA
Richard Blakesley, Capital Pilot
Hannah Wade, CPI
Andrew Noble, Par Equity
Tia Patterson, Investor

2.30pm – 3.20pm: Design thinking 

With the landscape scoped, the session broke out and give entrepreneurs and scale-ups the opportunity to build on points raised in the first session, and share their experience of raising investment. At the same time, investors, stakeholders and policy makers also had the opportunity to discuss the difficulties and successes they have in reaching investment ready, high-growth potential businesses.

Finally the groups mixed and started to develop potential solutions to the collective issues faced, and considered how, and if, tech could help.

3.20pm – 3.30pm: Closing panel

The full session ended with a 10-minute panel discussion on ‘what happens next’ to achieve the investment landscape we have collectively designed.  We heard from key policy makers to debate what can be done through networks, technology, policy and business support to build a North East investment ecosystem that works for entrepreneurs and investors.

Panel members:
Shaun Fooy – North East Senior Manager, British Business Bank
Lee Viney – Regional Manager of Yorkshire, Humber and North East, Innovate UK
Alan Welby, Innovation Director, LEP

Here is a sneak peak of our ‘Inky Thinker’ Ben Nightingale’s creation whilst these sessions were happening. Ben did a fantastic job of helping us visualise the common issues faced by entrepreneurs and investors, and we are looking forward to seeing his final visual representation as a tool to help us tackle some of these problems through the Newcastle Angel Hub and our Access to Finance programme. Click on the image to study it in more detail!

Session speakers:

Jordan Dargue (Chair)

Head of Access to Finance, Innovation SuperNetwork

Jordan Dargue is a senior business leader operating across the investment, finance and business growth landscape.  Jordan is an innovative and entrepreneurial professional with a proven ability to drive startup, early stage and scale up business growth through raising capital and strategic development.  Jordan is also a mentor and advisory board member, helping businesses across the UK connect with the right investors and then supporting those businesses with commercialisation, marketing, recruitment and retention to ensure the very best strategies are implemented to and grow and scale commercially. Jordan has an abundance of experience working directly with investors including angel investors and works with start up companies to connect them with the right source of funding, in addition Jordan is an angel investor in her own right and has a portfolio of early stage tech businesses.

Sarah Cox (Faciliator)

Innovation Manager, Innovation SuperNetwork

Open Innovation and Design-Led Innovation Programme Manager; Expert in building Innovation maturity in organisations and ecosystems

Roderick Beer

Managing Director, UK Business Angels Association

Roderick’s career spans over 15 years of managing, founding and growing angel groups and investment platforms that have collectively deployed over £100m of equity investment in more than 500 startup and scaleup businesses.

He started his career at Beer & Partners, one of the first and largest angel groups in the UK, and later helped form and grow a corporate finance firm as their COO.

He is now the Managing Director of the UK Business Angels Association, the trade body for angel and early-stage investing, representing over 200 organisations and that collectively deploy over £2bn p.a. in early-stage, UK businesses.

Andrew Noble

Partner, Par Equity

Andrew is a former management consultant with McKinsey & Co, specialising in sales optimisation for FTSE 100 clients, before re-joining Par Equity in May 2019. Andrew has broad experience across the early-stage venture capital and private equity markets having personally invested in more than 50 innovative, high growth companies over the last 10 years as well as founding Transition Capital – a management buy-in vehicle focused on Scotland – in 2017, where he was managing director, leading the deal sourcing, due diligence, and fundraising efforts. Andrew is a former athlete, having competed for TeamGB in Alpine Skiing at the 2010 Winter Olympics, and holds an MBA from INSEAD Business School.

Simon Allocca

CFO, Rarecan

Simon Allocca, has 30 years’ experience in banking, spanning Capital Markets, Corporate Coverage, Risk and Investment Banking Business. Most recently, he was Managing Director, and Global Head of Industrials and Manufacturing at Lloyds Banking Group from 2011 to 2019. Simon, as well as being the CFO at RareCan, a company that has been established to accelerate research into the treatment of rare cancers, he is also a Non-Executive Director at CBM plc, a sustainable timber business and he is a Board member of Digital Identity Net, a fast growing Fintech company.

Hannah Wade

Head of Investor Partnerships , CPI Enterprises

Hannah focuses on building and maintaining relationships with private investors, supporting early-stage technology companies to secure private investment and managing CPI Enterprises’ investment portfolio. She qualified as a lawyer in 2006 and was in private practice for over eight years. She specialised in construction law and insurance law, spending six years at an international law firm working for global insurers. She then joined CPI in 2015 as an in house lawyer, providing legal advice to the CPI Group on all manner of legal issues and drafting and negotiating a variety of commercial contracts.


Estelle Blanks

CEO, Innovation SuperNetwork

With over 20 years’ experience in economic development through regeneration and innovation in the North East of England, and working across the UK and Europe, Estelle has a thorough understanding of the national and local innovation eco-system.

She has attracted and led multi-million-pound high-profile programmes in the North East region aimed at supporting new and growing innovative companies. Estelle has in-depth practical knowledge of open-innovation and challenge-led innovation to help address organisational and societal challenges. An expert in access to innovation finance, she has also supported hundreds of companies on their fundraising journeys.

Richard Blakelsey

Founder and CEO of Capital Pilot

Richard is founder and CEO of Capital Pilot, the Investability Ratings Agency. The company provides startups with an in-depth assessment and rating of their investor proposition, offering neutral feedback affordably and at scale.  The Investability Rating is fast becoming a signal of quality across the market.

Capital Pilot is now launching Boost Funds – revolutionary investment vehicles in which selection decisions are based purely upon ratings. This enables the rapid and low-cost creation of large and diversified investment portfolios, and will “level up” access to investment for all founders and business types irrespective of geography, demographics or sector.

Capital Pilot is the lucky 13th startup Richard has been involved with. He has plenty of founder experience – good and bad – to draw on.

Before moving into the early stage technology world Richard was Managing Director at JP Morgan, structuring complex financing transactions for large cap telecoms and technology companies.

Shaun Fooy

North East Senior Manager, British Business Bank

Shaun is the Senior Manager for the British Business Banks, UK Network for the North East England and has worked for the bank for over 2.5 years

The UK Network seeks to enhance business finance ecosystems across the UK so smaller businesses, wherever they are, can grow and prosper. It also helps the Bank develop a deeper understanding of small business finance markets in all parts of the UK so that, ultimately, the Bank can improve its support to smaller businesses everywhere.

Shaun has spent the majority of his 30-year career supporting smaller businesses in the North East providing funding solutions as a relationship manager and business development manager. He has worked for a number of banks in the commercial and corporate banking market, including Barclays, Lloyds Banking Group and RBS and NatWest.

Lee Viney

Regional Manager of Yorskhire, Humber and the North East, Innovate UK

Lee joined Innovate UK from the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority and Local Enterprise Partnership following a career in public sector economic development. Lee’s experience has mainly been in entrepreneurship, scale-up, innovation and commercialisation, with cross policy links into skills, trade and investment and business finance. Within this area Lee has led the development and managed the delivery of public funded business support programmes and contributed to local and regional economic policy.

Gary Gibson

CEO, Dyman Advanced Materials

Gary has over 20 years of experience in technology. After graduating with a BEng -1st degree, he followed this by completing a PhD in Materials Engineering from the Imperial College. Gary was awarded The Ernest Edward Glorney Scholarship in Materials for his work in the field. Since then, he has headed many different research teams in both the UK and US. In 2010, Gary founded Ibex Innovations, who specialise in new X-Ray processes and is the inventor of most of the company’s patents. He currently remains a board member. In Oct 2018 Gary moved to work full time as CEO at Dyman Advanced Materials.

Alan Welby

Director of Innovation, North East LEP

Alan is Director of Innovation at North East Local Enterprise Partnership. His role focuses on the delivery of key programmes and stimulate investment in innovation and its ecosystem in the North East of England.

The NELEP sees innovation as being central to the North East’s Strategic Economic Plan and its long term ambition to build a more productive North East with a competitive and embedded business base along with creative and inclusive communities. As the NELEP states: “Innovation means making the most of new ideas, products, processes and applications to develop new businesses and make existing businesses more effective, efficient and profitable. Matching what is needed and with what is possible can lead to better social outcomes as well as a stronger economy by developing and delivering new approaches to the problems faced by individuals and communities.”

Alan joined the LEP from Liverpool John Moores University, where he was Director of Research, Innovation and Partnerships and was responsible for the delivery and management of a £25.7m annual programme of community, commercial and collaborative activity.

Neil Spann

CEO, Power Roll

Neil joined Power Roll Ltd in 2014 as CEO and is responsible for all aspects of development and performance.  Prior to this Neil was Director of Group Finance and Investor Relations of eaga plc.  In 2011 they were purchased by a major UK Support Services company, Neil stayed with the business to become the FD of its UK Services division, a £1.2bn business.