Simon Thorpe is one of the most highly regarded Business Angels in the UK. He was voted UKBAA’s Angel Investor of the Year 2016/2017 and is a Fellow of Entrepreneurship at the Cambridge Judge Business School (CJBS).
Currently Chair of Cambridge Angels, he is also a member of Angel Academe, a predominantly female network; a member of the Manchester Tech Trust; a mentor for the CJBS and the University of Manchester (where he is also a non-executive director of the university’s Innovation Factory).
At Inngot, Simon is a non-executive director, and an investor in the company.
A qualified Chartered Accountant, he spent 25 years in the City with KPMG and then, for 22 years, with UBS, with a focus on equity research.
After leaving the City to set up investment, consulting, and mentoring company Delta 2020 in 2010, Simon has been an active promoter of the digital economy and has invested in 50+ companies (with a third founded/run by women). He has exited nine, with seven failures and 35 companies in his current portfolio.
Simon is a keen believer in building diversity, both within the Business Angel community and in the entrepreneurial space.
How did the switch from working in the City to being an active Angel Investor come about?
As an accountant, you learn the discipline of finance, and that reassures people that you know what the numbers mean, and you understand Profit & Loss statements and balance sheets. Then at UBS, I learnt to look at the figures another way – what’s driving the numbers, what are the assumptions behind the business model, how scalable is it.
But I really wanted to be an entrepreneur myself; both my mum and my dad were entrepreneurs. So that’s what I left the City to do. I came up with an idea, but I discovered someone else was doing it already – so I invested in them.
What's your track record with your Angel investing?
When I started in 2009, I could find revenue-generating companies valued at less than £1m. Now, companies at the same stage will be valued at £5m or more. I’ve had successes and I’ve had failures, but the former more than compensate for the latter.
Why is diversity important?
I believe diversity drives innovation and growth. We’ve seen progress in the startups world, with more women becoming investors and also more women involved with new companies.
Where more work needs to be done is in ethnic diversity. There are growing numbers of investors and entrepreneurs who are People of Colour, but the figures are imbalanced – Asian business people outnumber people of African heritage. We need to address that and boost the numbers from the African and Afro-Caribbean communities.
How did you become involved with Inngot?
I was introduced to Inngot by Mike Thornton of Grant Thornton, which provided Inngot with specialist input during the development phase of its valuation tools.
Why do you think Inngot’s approach to IP and intangible asset identification and valuation is important?
With the sort of early-stage companies I invest in – in tech and healthcare tools where their assets are intangible – you have to understand IP, you have to classify it, and you have to get an idea of what it’s worth. What is the technology? What is the IP? How well is it being managed? What is the IP Strategy?
Inngot has developed cost-effective tools to help companies and advisers catalogue their IP and other intangible assets, manage them better and get an idea of what they could be worth. That information can be used to inform business decisions and strategy, and to raise debt and equity funding.
But Inngot does a lot more than just help manage and value IP; it is working with governments, NGOs, IP offices, lenders and others in the financial services industry, as well as IP-rich companies, to tackle the massive challenge facing SMEs today – how to help firms access the cash locked up in what they know.
It’s a nonsense that in the 21st century, when the world’s biggest companies are mainly valued for what they know and the intellectual property they own and with all the talk about the knowledge economy, knowledge intensive SMEs are effectively blocked from leveraging their IP in the same way.