Business

NiCap vows to improve finance landscape for high-growth smaller businesses

British Business Bank senior manager for NI Susan Nightingale with Tech Nation Investment lead Gary Davidson (left) and former director of funding at Catalyst Alan Watts. Picture: Brian Morrison

SOME of the most experienced operators across the access to finance ecosystem in Northern Ireland have united to help connect local innovative businesses to a network of global investors.

NiCap (www.nicap.co.uk) is a collaboration of organisations and individuals committed to improving the access to finance landscape for smaller high-growth businesses.

It was established last May by British Business Bank senior manager for NI Susan Nightingale, Tech Nation investment lead Gary Davidson and former director of funding at Catalyst, Alan Watts,

With a mission to map the funding and support pathway for ambitious Northern Ireland founders to scale, NiCap has begun work on its three main initiatives.

Firstly, the NiCap Investor Forum, a forum of highly experienced investment individuals that, following an initial assessment, will provide companies that require access to external funding, with warm introductions to a network of UK, US and global investors.

Secondly, the NiCap Accelerator Network is a network designed to improve collaboration between Northern Ireland's business accelerators - the organisations who provide mentoring, investment and training to start-up and early-stage businesses.

And the final core workstream will see the development of the NiCap Interactive Roadmap which will aim to provide guidance to scale-ups to source suitable funding and support.

The Investor Forum and Accelerator Network both launch this month and will operate on a pilot basis through to the end of April.

NiCap chair Susan Nightingale said: “We have many organisations and individuals across Northern Ireland working tirelessly to improve access to finance for our smaller business population.

“Forming NiCap and developing these initiatives is a positive intervention that harnesses the membership's collective resources and multiplies our effectiveness through true collaboration.

“With such an impressive list of organisations and individuals involved, there is a great opportunity to make a real difference to those high growth businesses that require access to global investment and bespoke support.”

Alan Watts believes the Investor Forum has the power to improve the connectivity between investors and the founders of innovative high-growth businesses in Northern Ireland.

He said “Northern Ireland is home to a number of innovative start-up businesses who have real potential to compete on the global stage, and while we have a healthy and evolving equity landscape here in Northern Ireland, when it comes to larger investment rounds there can be a reliance on external investors.

“The NiCap Investor Forum will provide an excellent opportunity for smaller businesses to get support from a very experienced group of individuals completely free-of-charge as well as offering invaluable introductions to a network of UK, US and global investors, who, we know, are keen to invest in high-growth companies from Northern Ireland.”

Hoping to see an increase in the number of investment deals between local companies and global investors, Gary Davidson said: “We want announcements like Cloudsmith's recent $15m Series A funding round led by Tiger Global to become the norm here in NI.

“Working with the stellar companies we have here, the Forum has the potential to make this happen. If you think you fit the bill then don't hesitate to apply, if we can help you, we will.”

On the associated launch of the NiCap Accelerator Network, he added: “Whilst it's the accelerators that will participate in this programme, the improved collaboration and communication that it will deliver is for the ultimate benefit of NI SMEs.”

Other embers of NiCap include: Gillian McColgan (ex CTO HilCo IP Merchant Bank/angel investor), Kieran Dalton (head of scaling, Catalyst), Richard Reaney (lending & investments portfolio manager, Innovate UK), Mary McKenna (global deal maker, DIT/co-founder Awaken Hub/angel investor), Michael Black (experienced CFO), Michael McQuillan (CEO Enterprise NI), Wayne Horwood (director, HNH) and William McCulla (director of corporate finance, Invest NI).

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