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What will Backing Founders mean in 2022?

David Mott, Founder Partner, Oxford Capital


What a year it’s been as we’ve all tried to navigate a new normal.  While Covid has been a difficult beast to predict and plan for, once again we’ve been amazed by the resilience our founders and their teams have displayed throughout this challenging environment.

 

The current landscape for early stage companies

The early stage tech sector has delivered another stellar year.  The recent State of European Tech annual report highlights that Europe is firmly positioned as a global tech player in 2021, with a record $100B of capital invested, 98 new unicorns, and the strongest ever start up pipeline, now on par with the US. European tech is creating value at its fastest pace, adding $1 trillion in just 8 months.

At Oxford Capital, as early stage investors our commitment to our companies goes way beyond the initial investment.  Our aim is to back founders throughout all stages of building their companies from seed stage and beyond, through the numerous ups and downs they will face.  But what will this mean in 2022 and what are the biggest challenges that founders are likely to face?

 

What should founders prioritise in 2022?

 

Surround themselves with the right team

It may sound like an obvious point but it’s crucial for a founder to surround themselves with the right team at all stages of growing their business.  At the initial seed stage this may be about ensuring they have the right COO in place, the right developers to enhance their offering or simply the right marketing consultant to really push their growth.  From a founder’s perspective they need to consider the culture of the company and their requirements for growth at each stage.  In addition to gaining an understanding of where the gaps are in their own knowledge and expertise – a founder can’t be all things to all people.

We believe that bringing in an independent Chair is almost always a force for good, so we encourage companies to seek one from the earliest possible stage.  For example, portfolio company, saving and investing app Moneybox recently appointed Laurel Powers-Freeling as its new Independent Chair.  While the company has grown phenomenally since launch and now has over £2bn in assets under administration, Laurel’s significant experience will help support the founders as they approach their next phase of growth.

 

Building their mental resilience

This year as our founders have continued to navigate the challenges of building a business throughout the pandemic, we have placed additional focus on nurturing and maintaining their mental resilience.  As early stage investors we have adopted a ‘mindful VC’ approach, ensuring that we check in with our founders on a regular basis, don’t take ‘I’m fine’ as an answer and support them through any challenges they’re experiencing that maybe impacting both their personal and professional lives.

As we head into 2022, they will continue to face bumps along the road that may impact their future growth and we will provide support and guidance to enable them to get the best out of their businesses.

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