Funding the next wave of entrepreneurs and disruptors

With the pandemic dramatically reshaping the landscape for all businesses over the last 12 months, it has never been more important for Northern start-ups and SMEs to secure support.

This Invest North panel examined how these firms can access the funding they require to fulfil their potential – hugely important during the post-pandemic recovery.

It was sponsored by by OakNorth Bank & NPIF and chaired by Alex Turner, co-director of

Taking part were: Stewart Haworth, director of debt finance at OakNorth Bank, Grant Peggie, director of Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund (NPIF), Shaz Sulaman, founder of Solid Bond Capital and Jon Geldart, director general of the Institute of Directors.

Sulaman said during 2020 his own organisation had not seen a slow down in individuals and firms looking for funding.

“It’s been a mix of people who’ve been disrupting and coming up with ideas related to the pandemic and other businesses which are very robust and are still looking to continue to grow,” he said.

Peggie said while businesses had been focused on survival at the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, this had since shifted to an appetite for growth as company owners see “light at the end of the tunnel”.

“People are more interested now in starting up their own businesses, whether that’s through economic necessity because they’ve been made redundant or because they just want to head in a different direction.

“Certainly for us the last two quarters have been record quarters in terms of investing money across the North.”

Haworth added: “As we come into the recovery phase, people are wanting to get their turnover levels back to where they were pre-COVID and that will necessitate funding requirements.

“We’ve seen a lot of transactions in the first quarter of this year, and there are opportunities for businesses in certain sectors to grow through disruption.”

Geldart noted the huge economic hit the country has taken means businesses can expect to foot some of this bill – even if this reckoning is delayed.

“The general tone coming from the Chancellor is that somebody is going to have to pay, and at the end of the day we all know that’s going to be businesses,” he said.

“We’ve seen Sunak put the horizon out there for an increase in corporation tax in a couple of years’ time.”

He said despite the uncertainty over the last year, there has been an increase in deals and acquisitions.

He explained: “That’s down to the amount of capital which is still available. A lot of our members are looking differently at the marketplace and searching for opportunities that come from adversity.”

Sulaman said one aspect of funding has not changed much – the difficulties faced by early stage, pre revenue businesses when they seek financial backing.

“The whole landscape is very disjoined and broken and there’s a gap to be filled,” he said. “There’s too many people looking for the complete, finished article of a business founder.

“We don’t do that. Although we still look for clever, hard working, determined and imaginative founders we accept they may not have done fundraising before and might not know everything.

“We aim to provide support around those areas where they may have a few gaps, rather than detract from their abilities.”

Invest North is a one-day virtual conference bringing together more than 500 people including business and policy leaders to set the agenda for what comes next in the North.

The event has been curated by and backed by a broad coalition of organisations spanning the public and private sectors, led by EY, Squire Patton Boggs, Influential, and Impact Data Metrics.

Find out more here