haysmacintyre’s hot seat: 30 minutes with Sarah Turner, Angel Academe

20th February 2019

An occasional series featuring haysmacintyre’s clients who are leading developments within the creative, media and technology sectors.

Sarah Turner tells us about Angel Academe, the award-winning angel network that is helping more women to experience the benefits of angel investing, while enabling UK startups with at least one female founder to access the funds and wider support these angels can bring to their businesses.

What led you to found Angel Academe?

Angel Academe was born out of my own experience. After years working in technology and around the startup world, I was looking to invest some of my capital in a rewarding way. I found financial advisers didn’t know about angel interesting and when I began to attend pitch events, I generally found I was the only woman in the room. Neither of these scenarios was exactly optimal! I was excited by the prospect of investing in fledgling businesses and knew that other women would be too, so it was clear to me that important sources of funding and expertise weren’t being tapped.

What business achievements are you particularly proud of?

In 2015 Angel Academe was awarded the ‘lead angel syndicate of the year’ award by the UK Business Angels Association. For me this was a huge moment, proving that ours is not a marginal network, but one that can compete on equal terms with much more established groups. As a result of the success of Angel Academe, I was delighted to  be personally named as one of the 50 most influential women in UK tech by Computer Weekly.

We have now invested in 20 companies and has has over 50 investors as members and, of course, our greatest achievement overall is simply to enable more women to break through in the UK tech scene.

Tell me about Angel Academe’s methodology.

Most of our angels are women who, like me, want to make a positive impact with the money they have available to invest and learn about investing in businesses within a supportive network.

Some of our angels are business leaders in their own right and have exited their own startups; they have experiences to share and see Angel Academe as a way to ‘give back’ to their community. Others are senior professionals working within large corporates or professional services and Angel Academe is a means for them to scratch that entrepreneurial itch so many of us have! We have men as investors as well, of course, who I think love being part of such a diverse group.

Our approach is discursive, collaborative and enthusiastic; we are discerning, selective and hugely encouraging of the founders we back.

Have you experienced any setbacks?

We invite businesses to pitch for investment at regular events during the year. The startups are screened rigorously, but sometimes, despite the business need being a real one, no investment is offered. This can be frustrating, but there can be a myriad of reasons for this; perhaps the business plan isn’t robust, or the entrepreneur is not sufficiently influential, or perhaps the timing just wasn’t right. It may simply be not the right “fit” for our angel group. However, we have to recognise we are changing the face of angel investment and this change takes time. We’ve been operating for five years now and have made several successful investments – and have launched a satellite operation in the north of England – so growth is there. We also pride ourselves on being completely transparent about the ups and downs of investment to all our stakeholders.

What advice do you have for those seeking investment through Angel Academe?

We have strict investment criteria (which you can read on our website) and take businesses through a four-stage screening process before giving them the opportunity to pitch to our angel group. haysmacintyre, our other sponsors and our “entrepreneurs-in-residence” also contribute coaching and training sessions for our startups. I cannot stress enough the requirement for business plans to be robust and realistic and relate to tried and tested technology. Our investors want to enable ideas – and have fun – but this doesn’t mean we accept fantastical plans. No one has money to burn, after all!

Do you have a mentor?

I don’t have a specific mentor. Rather, Angel Academe has given me a fantastic network of experts from a wide array of fields whom I can go to to workshop any conceivable professional, commercial or strategic issues. I also have a fantastic advisory board whose insight has been critical to our growth and direction.

What are your future goals for Angel Academe?

Over the next year we are looking to: make more investments and grow our portfolio; to increase the funding we raise overall; enable more women founders in tech; and introduce more women to the world of angel investment. 2018 was our most successful year-to-date. Our membership is growing and I feel that we’ve achieved this by identifying and lowering many of the barriers to angel investment for women who otherwise would have looked elsewhere to grow their wealth (without the symbiotic benefit to other women in business). It’s been a privilege to play a part in a wider transformation, which will only gain in momentum. Only 9% of angel investors are women, although we own 48% of UK wealth, and I am determined to see this change!

Why did you start working with haysmacintyre?

I approached haysmacintyre as I’d known about their involvement in the technology sector and their support of startup and scale-up businesses for some time. They’ve been a sponsor of Angel Academe for several years now, delivering briefings to our investors and startups, offering insight through advisory board member Mark Pattenden, private client partner, and use of the event space. All in all they’ve been a hugely supportive partner for us.

Awards and Accreditations

Accounting Excellence Large Firm of the Year 2023
eprivateclient top accountancy firm 2023

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