The early stages of a business’s lifecycle can be challenging. After a business owner has used their own capital and money from family and friends, they’ll often need other external finance. But in these early stages they’re less likely to get funding from more risk-averse providers.
This is where angel investment comes in. Angels usually invest in early-stage businesses, meaning that they’re a key source of risk capital. The funding they provide, combined with their business expertise, is vital to supporting small business growth. Through backing entrepreneurs and fostering innovation, angel investment is playing a significant role in the UK economy.
Just how large is the economic impact? In 2021 investors doubled the amount of capital put into private UK companies, raising the total to £22.7bn compared to the £11.3bn in 2020. Not only did the amount of cash increase, but the number of deals did also.
The year 2021 ended up with a closing number of 602 deals, compared to just 359 in the previous year. For the first time this surpassed the number of deals raised on crowdfunding platforms. There were also similar increases in company valuations and in product life cycles, with the largest being in the company’s growth stage.
In this article, we explain why individuals decide to become angel investors, what syndication is and the benefits it offers, and the government incentives available for angel investors.
We'll also discuss the angel community in Wales and what Angels Invest Wales are doing to support it. In terms of location, 57% of business angels in the UK are based in London and the south east. A high majority (80%) of London-based angels then go on to make at least make one investment inside the very same city. Angels Invest Wales is helping to change this, encouraging more angel investment and supporting economic growth in Wales.
Firstly though, if you want to find out more about what angel investment is and who business angels are, read our blog post, What is an angel investor?
Why do business angels invest?
We’ve mentioned that angels most often fund early-stage businesses, and this can come with a high level of risk. So why do they do it?
Ultimately, the motivation for investing varies from individual to individual. But it’s often a combination of some of these reasons:
1. There’s potential for high financial returns
Business angels will often expect a higher rate of return on their investment. Compared to other forms of finance, it’s a high-risk, high-reward opportunity.
2. They can diversify their investment portfolio
If an investor puts all their money into one asset category (such as stocks, bonds, or property), they’re more likely to be negatively impacted by market volatility. Spreading their money across various assets helps investors to reduce the risk, as each type will respond differently to market changes.
Adding start-ups (an asset category in itself) to a portfolio of investments can be a good way of diversifying. Investors can also invest in start-ups in various sectors to further mitigate the risk.
3. It’s fun
Being a part of a start-up’s growth journey can be both exciting and rewarding. Angels can take a hands-on role and apply their skills and knowledge to guide businesses to success. They also get to meet and work with interesting people along the way.
4. They’re able to support what they care about
Knowing that their money is helping to bring about positive changes is important to many investors. Through what's commonly called ‘impact investing’, angels back companies that are tackling the world’s social and environmental challenges.
5. It’s a way of giving back
Lots of investors have a desire to ‘put something back in’. By investing their money into local businesses they help to promote entrepreneurship and economic growth.
For many of the angels we work with, a passion for Wales and helping to foster innovation and prosperity here is a key motivation.
What tax incentives are there for angel investors?
The UK government recognises the importance of angel investment as a source of capital for early-stage start-ups, and the risk that angels take on.
That’s why they highly incentivise start-up investment for angels who pay tax in the UK through very attractive tax relief schemes and benefits. The two main schemes are:
Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS)
This encourages investment in early-stage, higher-risk businesses. Investors can claim income tax relief of 30% on up to £1 million of investment per tax year. They can invest up to £2 million a year if anything over £1 million of the total is invested in ‘knowledge-intensive’ companies.
Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS)
This is designed for investment in very early seed or start-up stage businesses. It offers income tax relief of 50% on up to £100,000 across all investments per tax year.
Read our blog post, The benefits of EIS and SEIS: Q&A with angel investor Patrick Nash for more information on tax reliefs.
What is syndication and what are the benefits?
Syndication is considered the current best practice model of angel investing. A survey commissioned by the British Business Bank found that almost four out of five business angels invested as part of a syndicate.
Syndication is where a group of business angels come together to make an investment. There are various reasons why angels choose to join forces with others, including:
- Pooling of finance. This allows angels to invest in more than one business or in larger deals
- Spreads the financial risk
- Sharing of due diligence and workload
- More expertise, knowledge, and business experience at hand
- More time to grow a diverse portfolio of investments
- More interesting. Investors get to work with like-minded individuals and have fun
One angel in the syndicate will often be identified as the ‘lead investor’. This individual plays a more active role than the other co-investors - before, during, and after the funding round. They typically act as the representative of the syndicate by taking a board position in the company.
To find out more about syndication from the perspective of an experienced angel investor, read our blog post, The benefits of syndication: in conversation with Nelson Gray.
Angels Invest Wales
Launched in May 2018, Angels Invest Wales is helping to grow the angel community in Wales. In our first year, we facilitated £3.27 million of angel investment across 20 client deals into businesses, and over 60 new investors were registered to expand the network.
We connect experienced investors with Welsh businesses seeking private investment through our digital platform. Investors have easy access to a range of carefully selected and ‘quality controlled’ investment opportunities.
Through regular social events and investment masterclasses, we enable like-minded potential investors to connect, share their experiences, and develop their knowledge and skillset.
Business angels can come together through syndication and make an impact, regardless of the figure they individually invest. By investing small amounts in each deal, angels can de-risk and diversify by having several investments. It also means that they don’t need to be ultra high net worth to participate.
We have a high-quality investor network of over 250 business angels, supported and enhanced by being an integral part of the Development Bank of Wales.
Syndicates of investors (managed by a pre-approved lead investor) can apply for co-investment from our £8 million Wales Angel Co-investment Fund. As co-investor we can contribute up to 50% of the total deal.
Visit Angels Invest Wales to learn more about joining the biggest angel network in Wales.