In The Spotlight with Innovation Manager Karl Murray

11 December 2023

Having established himself within the tech start-up community in the North East via roles at Tech Nation, his own start-up enterprises, and with the grass roots-led Silicon Mingle, Karl Murray uses his experience as one of our talented Innovation Managers to support tech start-ups, particularly with accessing finance.

We spoke to him about how we build better relationships between founders and investors and ensure the North East Tech and Digital Sector is future-proofed for continued growth in the coming years.

“What I love about being on the business and innovation support side of the tech industry, is hearing people’s ideas and just coming away from meetings and thinking, ‘I never knew that existed’.”

Why should investors be considering investing in tech businesses?

I think they should be considering the potential upside of investing in a tech business. Tech is one of those things that can be applied across all sectors so it’s quite flexible and can scale rapidly. Tech entrepreneurs are quite an interesting bunch. They understand their product really well, but sometimes they get too invested in their products, so they need that business mind to help. Investors like coming into tech companies and helping them in that way, it’s not always all about the money.

What I love about being on the business and innovation support side of the tech industry, is hearing people’s ideas and just coming away from meetings and thinking, ‘I never knew that existed, I never knew that could be applied to this industry’. There are ups and downs, there are days where you don’t move the dial forward, but I’ve been there myself, so I know what it’s like. I love the enthusiasm and seeing those business ideas go from a dream to a reality.

How does access to the right financial support help businesses adapt and adopt technology?

Understanding what your funding options are as an entrepreneur or a scaling business is essential. Understanding when and where you need the investment, having a strategic and time actionable plan from registering your business to getting it off the ground, is the first place to start. Equity and speaking to investors may not be your first step so it’s important to understand everything you need in place before you open that door and start speaking to private investors or funds.

It’s so important to have that knowledge base. Understanding all these little details can be a bit overwhelming but a programme like our Pathways to Funding offer can break it down for the entrepreneur, take a bespoke and individual approach and ensure the journey is not confusing, cumbersome and scary. We don’t want to turn investors off by getting to them to quickly or by going to them without enough clear detail and focus.

How can building an investment ecosystem in the North East address the gaps between tech and investment?

I think first and foremost, communication is key. We need to understand where the glaring gaps are and how to close that gap to ensure founders are able to secure investment. Part of this process comes down to education for both the entrepreneur and the investor, but we need to hear all of the voices in this landscape to really understand what the challenges are. We recently supported the British Business Bank with a round table in Newcastle. One of the glaring take-aways was that we have a market failure in the region at seed and start-up stage. So collectively we need the ecosystem to work together to try and overcome this barrier for regional businesses.

When it comes to connecting our entrepreneurs with the investment they need. Again, we need to take a co-ordinated and well-managed approach. Entrepreneurs need to understand what’s available within and beyond the region. On the investors’ side they need to stay updated with what kind of companies we have in what areas of the North East, and then it’s down to us to form those pathways and create that connection.

What needs to be done to help business and entrepreneurs to continue unlocking innovation?

I think we need to continue the conversation with investors and angels and create a community that isn’t fragmented. If we can facilitate that community, we can allow feedback both ways. Being an entrepreneur myself, I felt like there was a divide. You kind of feel siloed in a way and you don’t know who to talk to or how to approach them for a chat. If we can break down that barrier, I think that will help.

“The biggest thing is realizing that you are not alone on this journey and there are people who want to help”

What are your tips for tech businesses looking for finance right now?

The first one is to really sit with yourself, and think am I ready for investment or do I need to explore other types of funding? If you’re ready for investment then you need to build a plan for your investor outreach and this where we at the Innovation SuperNetwork can help. I think you can waste a lot of time chasing the wrong investor and it’s more beneficial to sit there and do the research and find investors that feel right for you. Consider getting involved with our team and events that get the community together is the best place to start. Even if you don’t learn something from a talk you might meet someone interesting there. I think it’s crucial to find your tribe and leverage those networks too.

If there is anything you feel like you are lacking or don’t really know, we will help you. Even if it’s just someone to chat to, there are people in the community who will just sit and listen to you.

The biggest thing is realizing that you are not alone on this journey and there are people who want to help.

Karl can be found on LinkedIn and via email at karl.murray@supernetwork.org.uk

To find out more about our Access to Finance support, click here

 

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