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Business spotlight: optimising the fundraising process for entrepreneurs

Author: ICAEW Insights

Published: 23 Sep 2020

Mountside Ventures managing partner Jonathan Hollis talks to ICAEW Insights about streamlining the fundraising process for startups, starting a business during the pandemic, and how the ACA helped him achieve business success (and marital bliss).

Jonathan Hollis is a big fan of the ACA, and the former PwC man, who recently co-founded tech advisory outfit Mountside Ventures with two colleagues from the Big Four firm, has more reason than most.

As the Mountside managing partner is amused to reveal, it was a ‘requirement’ of his in-laws – both ACAs themselves – to secure the qualification before he could walk up the aisle with their daughter.

Hollis duly earned his ACA spurs in 2015 and married Michelle, a lawyer, the following year. Before this, Hollis had set up PwC’s early-stage service propositions, leading its fundraising programme which helped startups raise their first big institutional cheque.

In April, after some eight years at the blue-chip Hollis, alongside fellow PwC alumni Jon Steinberg and Alex Reed, all amicably left the corporate behemoth after “hitting a bit of a ceiling” to pursue their independent dreams and help other startups raise between £1-10m from venture capital funds.

Despite launching as COVID-19 decimated the economy, the trio remained quietly confident as they had amassed nine of months of ‘runway’ through diligent saving.

Their new offering now seeks to optimise the fundraising process for European startups and investors by helping the most ambitious entrepreneurs raise their ‘next round’ of funding, with terms that are right for them, and causing the least amount of disruption to their business.

They also aim to connect the most promising venture fund managers in their black book of contacts with limited partners to increase the flow of venture capital throughout the UK and European business landscape.

“Essentially we make the whole fundraising process for entrepreneurs that much easier by giving them the tools, the know-how and the relationships they need to actually close that round of funding,” explains Hollis.

Inside track

Typically, an entrepreneur might have 100 meetings with a VC. Hollis and his team try to cut that down to 15-20.

“If you can match the amount they are raising, the sector they’re raising in, the geography they’re located in and the level of traction they’ve got with the right investor, we’ve taken a lot of the process out for them.”

Despite only securing their full regulation from the ICAEW in July, a process which took three months and an achievement that the majority of those advising at this end of the market have failed to do, the young startup has already secured 8-10 clients in its first two months of trading. The team hope to have around 15 a year, all in the B2B and tech space.

“We signed a client last month and got them a term sheet this week, so we’re really happy about that. Typically, it’s a six to nine-month process, so we don’t want to jinx it as they still have to go through diligence, but hopefully if they do get the investment we will have taken a six to nine-month process down to two months,” says Hollis.

ACA – passport to success

Hollis is adamant that the ACA has helped propel him on his path to business success. And marital bliss.

“The most important document when you’re raising finance as a startup is the financial model,” explains Hollis. “And that’s because when you’re pitching your startup to a VC it’s not their own money - they’re essentially investing on behalf of someone else.

“And there’s a lot of rigour that’s required to ensure that the business has suitable motivations, ambitions and that the investor can show a return if they invest, and the financial model is the most important aspect and the only way to really understand how a business works is through a qualification like the ACA. I am genuinely a big fan of it.

“It was actually my future in-laws that pushed me to do the ACA in the first place, as initially I wanted to get straight into the startup world when I left university, but they thought it was a good thing to get the ACA first.

“And interestingly, they made it a requirement in order for me to marry their daughter, which was quite fun”.

Currently homeworking and occasionally via a We Work space in Waterloo, the team is driving the business at an accelerating pace that defies its lockdown beginnings but encapsulates the energy and drive of its founders.

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