I had the pleasure of interviewing Hazel Moore, co-founder and chair of FirstCapital, an investment bank which provides mergers and acquisitions, private equity and growth capital advice to high growth technology companies. FirstCapital is based in London with offices in Menlo Park and Dublin. In 2017, Hazel received an OBE in the New Year’s Honours for her services to entrepreneurship and innovation.
Jean: Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share your story about how you got into the VC space?
I “fell” into the VC and M&A space almost by accident. At university in Cambridge I studied natural sciences, and my first job was as a scientist with GEC Marconi. I dreamed of breaking the glass ceiling and becoming a captain of industry. However through a variety of circumstances I found myself in Hong Kong, looking for a job and as Hong Kong is a major financial center I started in financial services. I specialised in tech in Asia at a time when the telecom markets were liberalising and opening up. At the same time the Asian “Tiger” economies were growing helter-skelter, and it was a tremendously exciting period of growth. Coming back to the UK in the late 90s, after a short stint in the City, I decided to strike out on my own, and started working with tech entrepreneurs helping with fundraising. FirstCapital was born out of that.
Jean: What kinds of startups do you typically work with?
We work with high growth tech startups from across Europe, typically post series A, ie they have product and revenues, although they may not be profitable. They typically want to do a transaction to accelerate growth, either through raising funding to invest in expansion or to exit to a larger tech company with the resources to scale.
Jean: From your experience, what do investors look for in the management team of their investment companies?
Investors are looking to back a strong team that they believe can deliver, with ambition and drive. They want a CEO who can lead, and can attract, recruit and retain top talent, but who will also listen.
Jean: Can you share a story of a successful Angel or VC investment? What were some of the highlights?
Some of the best successes come out of adversity. We worked with a company called Zeus Technology, which was a software company started by two graduates from the University of Cambridge, which developed a very successful web server technology in the heady days of the dot com boom. A stock market flotation beckoned. However the market crashed and competitors started to offer similar products for free, so the company had to pivot and to reinvent itself. The investors who came in to recapitalize it in 2005 put in just £3mn, and in 2011 it was acquired by Riverbed for up to $140mn, generating a great return.
Jean: What is one piece of advice you would give a startup?
Understand the power of story-telling. It is important to capture the attention and imagination of investors. First impressions really matter, so make sure you have a really compelling pitch. If you haven’t sold the investor in the first meeting then you are not going to get a second chance.
Jean: Do you have a favorite book that made a deep impact on your life? Can you share a story?
I’ve always read a lot, in particular as a child I would read anything I could get my hands on. As my father was a big fan of World War 2 stories like “Escape from Colditz” I grew up reading about the incredible resourcefulness and bravery of the prisoners of war, as well as their ability to use humour to cope with difficult and uncertain situations.
Jean: What are your “5 Things I Wish Founders Knew Before They Pitched To Me” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1. Why are you talking to me? I’m always amazed at how few people take the time to work out who they should approach. Do your basic research. Investors are not all the same. There’s no point approaching someone whose fund only invests in growth deals in North America and who is focused on the consumer sector if you are a seed stage enterprise software company based in the UK.
2. Cut through the noise. VCs get literally hundreds of plans a year and so it’s hard to get noticed. Unsolicited business plans are often auto-deleted or given the most cursory of glances. I’m much more likely to pay attention if you are introduced to me by someone I know, so try really hard to get a personal introduction from someone in the ecosystem, whether that is a professional adviser (lawyer, banker) or a CEO or NED from one of their portfolio companies.
3. Be hot not shopped. VCs are competitive and everyone wants to win. Try to create buzz and momentum with news, events and awards. Run a competitive fundraising process and keep it tight. No-one wants to invest in something that everyone else has already turned down.
4. Have a great team. Going through any transaction can be very time consuming so you need to have a good team and enough resources. If the company performance starts to suffer because you are spending all your time with potential investors, that is going to negatively impact the outcome of the deal. Get a great lawyer who’s experienced in these types of deals, not your local high street firm.
5. Don’t be boring. Always keep in mind that the fund raising process is a sales process. You are selling an opportunity for an investor to make money, so the more interesting, exciting and credible you can make it, the more likely you are to be successful.
Jean: Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂
I’d love to meet Melinda Gates. Obviously she’s an incredibly talented, intelligent, successful woman, which would make a conversation with her interesting in itself, but it is her compassion and her focus on trying to make the world a better place, particularly for those who are less able to help themselves, that really resonates for me.
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Jean: This was really inspiring! Thank you so much for your time.
-Published on August 25, 2018
Originally published at medium.com