Hunting unicorns

Interview with Glen Waters, Head of PwC UK Raise

Interview with Glen Waters, Head of PwC UK Raise, whose team helps family offices meet early stage scale-up businesses that fulfil their tailored investment criteria.

As a board advisor and mentor to a number of entrepreneurial businesses, Glen knows how challenging it is for management teams scaling up to get investor-ready alongside staying on top of the day-to-day running of the business. He works with scale-ups and potential investors, helping them find the right match and reach their potential.

Question: What is PwC UK Raise?

PwC UK Raise helps UK scale-ups secure Series A funding by helping them get investor ready and introducing them to select venture capital firms and family offices. Investor-ready can mean a coherent pitch-deck, credible business plan and robust financial metrics. We can support scale-ups either through an intensive 8 week programme followed by a pitch to a room full of potential investors or by one-to-one investor readiness and capital raising support. We charge a percentage of funds raised, so our success is dependent on working with the right business and helping them to find the right investors.

Question: How does PwC UK Raise help investors?

We work with businesses we believe can successfully raise funding. They have to meet our criteria, which includes demonstrated revenue over £1m per annum, a scalable business with a large addressable market and a strong management team. The Raise team has a wealth of start-up and scale-up expertise from financial, commercial, interim Chief Financial Officer (CFO), deal negotiation and due diligence. We look at the equity story, business plans and financials along with what our portfolio of investors have told us they are looking for. Once the scale-up signs up with Raise we are committed to getting them investor-ready and finding them the right investment partner.

It is really important that we introduce businesses that meet the criteria of our investors, and our access to the PwC global network certainly helps. We invest a lot of time into understanding the investment strategies of the family offices who want to be involved in this space.  

Personally this is one of the most rewarding elements of being an intrapreneur: the PwC global network provides our UK team with a truly global outlook. Recently we have been using our PwC UK China desk to help our UK tech companies source investment and access the Chinese market.

Question: What is the role of a minority investor in a scale-up?

There isn’t a typical role of a minority investor. Some family offices take a completely hands off approach and simply require monthly reporting. Others can take a much more active role. Something we are starting to see more of is the next generation of the family taking an active role in these types of high risk investments and even in the scale-up themselves. We recently worked with one family office where a family member will become the CEO of the business to scale it up. The benefit for the founders is a committed investor focused on their long term success and for the family office it is an opportunity to upskill the next generation.

Question: Are we seeing an increase in the risk appetite of family offices?

Most family offices have a unique set of requirements based on the purpose of the family wealth, so I am not sure we are seeing an increase in risk appetite. It is really important to remember that many of these investments are higher risk and that investors have to be prepared to take a long term view. We often see family offices set up separate funds with a higher risk appetite for these types of investment.

There is certainly a growing interest in technology-enabled start-ups, but then the majority of scale-ups these days are technology enabled! While some family offices are investing in technology scale-ups close to their core family business, others are looking to move further away. Deals origination however, can be a challenge because of the private nature of family offices and they also don’t necessarily have the required resources and expertise in-house.

Question: What is your proudest moment so far as Head of PwC UK Raise?

It was immensely satisfying working with a tech company which was sceptical of the value PwC UK Raise could bring and seeing how they took on board our advice to enhance their business. This was top down from the long term strategy through to the financial monthly reporting and key performance indicators. We were able to introduce them to a carefully curated investor base and position them for the next stage of their journey.

You can find out more about PwC Raise UK here.

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