Businesslike approach puts UK start-ups ahead
The UK provides the best environment for innovation investment according to BASF Venture Capital investment manager Dr Oliver Guthmann.
Taking a break from ‘speed dating’ semi-finalists at the London Technology Fund Competition, Guthmann told iij that the UK’s ranking as Europe’s largest capital market plus the networking opportunities and support for spin-offs provided by British universities place it ahead of countries such as Germany.
But – perhaps surprisingly – it’s the professional approach of many British start-ups that really makes it worth prospecting for ideas and talent in the UK. ‘Even just when the company is invented they already have someone on the board who has business experience,’ he said. Back home ‘many companies only have technical experience. They are very good scientists but they aren’t capable of covering the business.’test
That ought to be good news for someone. After all, BASF Venture Capital’s own website stresses: ‘All potential projects should feature attractive returns and a strong business plan. As well as a solid capital structure we expect to see skilled and highly committed start-up management.’
In the normal run, if you were to impress a BASF investment manager like Dr Guthmann with your idea and BASF were broadly satisfied with its ‘technology fit’ BASF would want a business plan before it even looked at the product more closely for ‘proof of concept.’ It wants to see ‘solid returns through disruptive technologies,’ which is essentially about funding and/or purchasing decisions rather than the research itself and at this stage at least, the business model is more important than the actual innovation.
However, BASF says that any investment it makes is done with a view to the long term. ‘It’s not only our task just to invest money in companies but also to facilitate collaborations with start-up companies,’ Dr Guthmann explains. ‘This is how we distinguish ourselves from institutional investors. We do not just invest money but we want to like to see a partnership between at least one division with BASF and the start-up company so that we can leverage our network.’