Start-ups raise £33m in capital - but potential £50m funding gap remains

A survey by Catalyst Inc fears there is a funding gap for start-ups

COMPANIES in the north raised £32.8m of equity capital in 2017, but are failing to attract larger rounds of investment, according to a new study.

The NI Deal Tracker report, produced by Catalyst Inc, revealed that 51 companies raised investment of at least £100,000 last year, with the average investment at £607,000.

But there were no investments over £5 million into a single company, says the report.

It was launched by Catalyst Inc at an event at the KMPG Soloist Building where an investment panel debated the question "How will NI reach £90m Venture Capital investment by 2030?"

The panel included James Foster, investment lead at ADV; Conor O'Connor, managing partner at Enterprise Equity; and Audrey Osborne, investment manager at TechStart NI.

The largest investment highlighted in the report was secured by B-Secur, which has created a patented biometric technology which uses the human heartbeat to unlock everything from finance and healthcare, through to cars and buildings (it received £3.5m from investors including Kernel Capital and ADV).

Another first was the investment by Business Growth Fund (BGF)/First Derivatives partnership into AuditComply, who developed a risk & performance management platform which is used by global clients including Coca Cola and KDD.

Alan Watts, director of Capital Match, said: “Within Catalyst Inc we've concluded that the main challenge we face is how Northern Ireland can attract approximately five times more non-NI institutional funding by 2030, which means a rise from approximately £10m to £60m.

"The local funds are doing a great job at distributing funding at the seed stage but are limited in size, so we need to build more relationships with funders outside the region. Building these ties will help turn our £1m businesses into £10m or £50m businesses.”

James Foster, Investment lead at ADV, added: "We've spent the last 18 months getting to know many ecosystems and the smart people within them. Northern Ireland is one of the most cohesive and a place I'm hoping to get to know much better over the next 12 months and beyond. The B-Secur investment represents perfectly our patient venture approach to supporting industry-defining companies with great co-investors."

Following the launch of the report, the next generation of innovators were battling it out to secure their place in the final of Invent 2018, the prestigious annual competition run by Connect at Catalyst Inc and sponsored by Bank of Ireland UK.

Getting through to October's final presents them with the opportunity to win a share of the £33,000 prize fund and a place on the NI Tech Mission to California.

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