How long have you been an Angel Investor for?
1 year investing in startups and working operationally at Dream Factory.
What's your backstory how you came to be an Investor?
The long story (kept reasonably short) is that my family and I grew Lovehoney, the online sex toy retailer, into a global brand and household name in the UK.
It was a lot of fun bringing the message of sexual happiness to the masses, and knowing that we’d helped bring (probably more than just) smiles to millions of people was very satisfying, albeit in a very different way.
Having sold more than my fair share of sex toys, and also recognising that the company needed to be taken to a completely new level, I exited my position to a private equity firm called Telemos Capital in 2018. It was incredible to see how this event improved the lives of my family and my close friends.
I took some time to travel but then started looking for the next thing to get stuck into… After a lot of head scratching (and excellent mentorship!) I eventually realised how great it would feel if I could help other people share a similar success that my family and I have had.
So I started getting involved with the founders of early stage startups, whether as an advisor, investor, or coach.
Which is where I am now - getting hands-on operationally with my first investment, Dream Factory, the content creation studio for startups. We’re going to grow to be the huge success that it deserves to be.
What's been your highlight as an Investor at Dream Factory?
There’s no better feeling than when a founder comes into Dream Factory for the first time, gets a good vibe from the place and starts getting excited about shooting some content for their startup. Quite often their jaw will drop when they think it’s £4k per month for unlimited content creation and I explain that it’s £4k per year, lol.
What about a lowlight?
There are always going to be high points and low points, in life and in startups. I think, for me, so much of it is about people. Making sure that everyone is appreciated, and that we’re moving in the right direction. Transparency and accountability are key, and we should be learning from the wins as well as the misses.
How did you came across Landscape?
I first met Joe Perkins (founder of Landscape) at Dream Factory while it was still a construction site. He’s a mate of Graham Hussey’s (founder of Dream Factory). We had a beer in the sun. Then we had a few more.
What do you think is the biggest thing your industry needs help with?
The government needs to create policies, incentives, and infrastructure to make the UK’s startup and tech industry competitive internationally. To say the UK’s economy has suffered since Brexit and the pandemic is putting it lightly, so we need to do all we can to attract talent and investment to build even more amazing companies.
Biggest mistake you’ve made so far and what did you learn from it?
One of my very first investments was in a company I didn’t know very much about but I wanted to dip my toe in… I saw it as a learning experience. A company called Click It Local - they were going to be the Deliveroo of independent high street retailers. A brilliant idea but it didn’t quite take off. They went bust earlier this year. My learning is to have real conviction whenever I’m investing in a company. Doing it as a learning experience wasn’t a good enough reason.
Piece of advice you would give to other Investors?
Relax, have fun, make sure you’re enjoying it… otherwise what’s the point? 😁
Most frustrating thing you find about the startup fundraising ecosystem?
Fundraising is painful and takes a lot of time, and not everyone’s built for it which sometimes means companies that should get funding don’t. I’m really excited for Landscape’s new OpenScout platform to remove a lot of the friction in fundraising and let founders spend more time building their company than knocking on investor’s doors.
What you would like to see change in the startup fundraising ecosystem within the next 5 years?
I’m very keen to see a renewed focus on profit and loss and cashflow in late stage startups. The relentless pursuit of growth and market share dominance has already been shown to be unsustainable at the cost of late stage institutional and retail investors, which will eventually have a negative effect on the funding of startups throughout the whole ecosystem as various actors get burned along the way.