In the Spotlight with Investor Relations Manager Gary Lynch

09 July 2024

Having started-up and scaled a number of his own companies, Innovation and Investor Relations Manager, Gary Lynch uses his experiences as a founder to help businesses in Tees Valley understand the funding options available to them and get investment ready. We spoke to him about understanding business finance and the importance of finding the right support to grow. 

A lot of entrepreneurs in the Tees Valley feel as though they must struggle along on their own without even considering investment. This might be from a lack of trust in the world of investment, or the idea that investment is ‘not for people like us’. But this can really hold back their potential and growth. 

I’ve always been in business. My first business was a vintage clothing business, which I ran online and from a shop in Sunderland when I was at university. I think that’s where I realised business really suited me. From there I started and exited multiple businesses, and even invested in my brother’s healthcare business when he was starting.  Later down the line, I was given the opportunity to get involved in the business seriously as a shareholder and Managing Director, and together we grew the business through various rounds of investment, successfully exiting in 2020.  

Having been in that position as a founder, I am aware of the impact that having the right investment knowledge has on a business. I experienced first-hand the challenging times you can go through on the financial side of a company as well as the operational side, and how important it is to understand the options available to you. A lot of entrepreneurs in Tees Valley feel as though they must struggle along on their own without even considering investment. This might be from a lack of trust in the world of investment, or the idea that investment is ‘not for people like us’. But this can really hold back their potential and growth. 

Being able to work in business consultancy, first with UMi and now at Innovation SuperNetwork, is something I love because I can relate to the business owners I am supporting. I know what it is like to seek investment and I’m aware that, as a region, compared to other areas in the country, there’s not enough investment in Tees Valley. Rather than feel sorry for ourselves, I feel passionate about how we can raise awareness for businesses, but also investors, and connecting them.  

What did you learn from being a founder that you pass on to the businesses you work with? 

I learned that it was so valuable to get the chance to look at what you’re doing and find your ‘why’. 

Understanding the whole process of looking for investment really. When I look back at my journey, I wish we had considered investment earlier. Even if the investment doesn’t go all the way, there are loads of benefits a business can gain by putting themselves forward. By preparing to become investor ready, it helps you get all the financial processes and systems that you need ready to go. It also gives you the opportunity to engage with commercial finance and other investors who will challenge you on your business plans and future. I learned that it was so valuable to get the chance to look at what you’re doing and find your ‘why’.  So eventually when somebody does want to purchase the business, everything was in place.  

I think reaching out and exploring the support available to you is very important. Programmes such as Tees Valley Securing Investment play a big role in this, offering fully funded support, which a lot of people just aren’t used to. Start having those conversations and put yourself out of your comfort zone. Find and surround yourself with the people who will help you grow. 

Why do you think so many businesses struggle to access the right investment for their company? 

I think one of the big things is that lack of awareness of the options available. When I was a business founder, I didn’t even know what equity finance was and the different options available. You might only know about debt finance, but that might not be the best options for you, but how can you know what the right options are without the right guidance. 

I think in the Tees Valley, we struggle with the perception that equity finance, Angel investors and Venture Capital are not for us. We address this misconception and connect businesses with investors that will truly work with them.  

Only 1% of investment in the UK comes to the wider North east and Tees Valley region, which is crazy. That’s something that has stuck in my mind since I first heard about it. Now I think we need to challenge this perception that certain types of investment are not for us and start looking at how we can change this, so what I currently do is very rewarding by helping to do that. 

What do you think can be done as an ecosystem to challenge this idea and make it easier for businesses to find the right support in the Tees Valley? 

People invest in people, not everything goes perfectly in business, quite the opposite at times and investors value honesty and want to hear real stories. It’s important that entrepreneurs open up early on and are not afraid to be challenged. It’s about trying to build that trust for both the businesses and the Angels and VC’s. 

Building that investor network within Tees Valley is going to be important. It’s about not only bringing investors who work across the UK to these companies, but also providing a space for Tees Valley based investors to work with local businesses and use their passion for the region to give back to the businesses. I think it’s about continuing to build that network to bring it to Tees Valley, and that’s what we are doing with this programme. 

Tees Valley Securing Investment  

Tees Valley Securing Investment can help your business access finance and funding. Using tailored support to build your investor readiness, helping you understand the options available, and connecting you directly with finance, funds and private investors. Find out more by visiting www.teesvalley-ca.gov.uk/business/business-growth-support.    

Tees Valley Securing Investment addresses long-standing barriers facing the region’s businesses in accessing money by connecting enterprises with investors and funds. The project has received £880,000 from the UK Government through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund as part of the Tees Valley Combined Authority’s UKSPF programme of support. 

 

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