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STANDING OUT FROM THE CROWD

Why angel investment can still give crowdfunding a run for its money

Finally, you?ve done it ? you?ve thought of that million dollar business idea. There?s just one problem, you haven?t got a penny to get it off the ground with. You need funding, but where do you go to look for it?

There was a time when starting a new business venture was a veritable impossibility for anyone without a heap of cash or connections. Luckily for you this is no longer the case. You now have a number of options available to you, including venture capital funding, angel investors and, in recent years, crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo.

Realistically, VC investment probably won?t be suitable, as they are set up to provide funding for high risk ventures and would ordinarily expect to invest a minimum of $3M. Friends and family are probably the riskiest option of all, if you value those kind of relationships. So that leaves us with angels and crowdfunding, both have pros and cons, but which one?s right for you?

One of the biggest advantages of crowdfunding is that none of your ?investors? actually receive shares, so you won?t have to give away any control. Angels on the other hand are seasoned, successful business people and will expect a significant stake in the company. They will also insist you provide solid proof of business potential such as market research, a business plan, and projections.

So far, crowdfunding sounds like a lot more fun right? You get to make a promotional video, the investors have zero control and all you have to give them is a few trinkets and a free sample or some other ?reward?. Plus, you gets lots of publicity to boot. And yes it?s true, crowdfunding can be incredibly liberating, but that?s not always necessarily a good thing. Sometimes this kind of freedom can also allow many to jump in with two feet, where they should tread more carefully. There is a temptation with crowdfunding to get too caught up in the sheer accessibility and buzz, and forget that you?re not building a SimCity fictional business here, but a real enterprise.

The thing about real businesses is that they?re not all fun and games, they?re actually a lot of hard work. This is what securing an angel investor prepares you for. An angel will ask you to face hard facts, like how quickly can you realistically produce your product, and when you do, whether there will be a real, sustainable market for it. Now, you might say that crowdfunding is itself a form of research, but don?t forget that crowdfunding folk usually consist of early adopters and are therefore rarely representative of the mainstream public.

The most important thing to remember however, is that the true test of a company comes once all the funds have been raised and it?s time to actually run the business and get customers in. Crowdfunding cannot and will not ever be able to offer you the knowledge, experience and networking opportunities that come with a savvy entrepreneur with a serious stake and therefore, interest in your company.

If this is the kind of support you feel your company requires, then an angel investor may just be the answer to your prayers.

And yet – we will get into ICO’s at a later stage.

REELING IN THE BIG FISH WITH A SMALL HOOK: HOW TO ATTRACT BIG TALENT TO A SMALL AGENCY

Attracting quality candidates to a small agency can seem like a mammoth task at times. Without the natural lure of blue chip brands, international awards or large salaries ? many smaller shops often feel like they?re facing an uphill battle. So how can a small agency sell itself to potential employees?

To answer this an agency really needs to ask itself the most important question of all ? who are we? As Rick Webb Co-Founder of The Barbarian Group says, ?Culture is the number one reason somebody goes to work somewhere? if your company doesn?t stand for something, nobody?s going to want to work there.? This is where building a strong brand, a unique tone of voice and a progressive company culture with opportunities for growth pays dividends.

A good example of a UK agency doing this well is, Karmarama. From small things like referring to staff as ?Karma Krew? to ?Karma Life? ? a section of their website dedicated to ?regular updates on the comings and goings of [their] talented and lovely people? ? Karmarama sells themselves first and their work second. This approach is not only a great way to attract and retain talent, but clients too. After all, everyone knows the best work comes from happy, fulfilled staff, not the overworked, under appreciated kind.

Speaking of which, something to consider when developing this culture, is the appeal of work-life balance when recruiting. In fact, according to a recent Vodafone survey of senior employees quoted in The Guardian article ?How SMEs can recruit the talent they need?, work life balance and flexible working hours are now thought to be more important to UK workers than financial compensation.

Yet, flexible working hours of course bring their own challenges ? such as how to cope when staff are out of the office? The solution here lies in managing client expectations and developing a relationship where clients trust their agency to do a great job, and respect them enough to allow adequate time to complete it.

Another important point, and one that we at Entegrate live by, is the vital need to keep brave and unusual clients on the books. These clients may not be your biggest earners, in fact, some may even be pro-bono. However, if you want to appeal to the creative elite, you need to offer them the opportunity to do some interesting and potentially award-winning work. Something we all know is a lot more achievable with a smaller client and a less scary budget.

So there you have it ? brand, culture, work-life balance and a few interesting clients ? arm yourself with all these things and poaching the big guns should be as easy as shooting fish in a barrel.