05 October 2011

Venture Hothouse - a Sort of Virtual Silicon Valley

Yesterday afternoon I met David Bagley at a seminar on private equity funding and initial public offerings hosted by Cobbetts at their spanking new offices in Leeds. David is a chartered accountant and a director of a number of companies including Finance Yorkshire which is how I got to know him. Over drinks he told me about Venture Hothouse of which he is chairman.

Venture Hothouse describes itself on its website as "a wealth of information for all those involved in business" and a cursory once over of the site certainly suggests that to be true. In the "Resources" section I found guidance on
The blog section has articles on such things as cloud computing and project management. A "useful documents" page has all sorts of useful precedents from confidentiality agreements to consultancy contracts.

However, to get the best of the site it seems you have to register and that costs money: £180 per year for entrepreneurs and £300 for investors such as angels and VCs, professional advisers such as accountants and law firms, mentors and business service providers. A downloadable booklet explains what subscribers get for their money:
"The core of the ‘Entrepreneurs’ section is the ‘Investment Profile’. The ‘Investment Profile’ is a secure, private web portfolio which can ONLY be accessed by the subscribing entrepreneur - and by third parties nominated by the entrepreneur, e.g. potential investors – via a secure a username and password. The ‘Investment Profile’ can be assembled quickly and easily, and contains all the documentation which will be required by a potential investor to assess an investment opportunity."
Investors and service providers appear to get advertising or at least a listing which brings them to the attention of investment ready businesses whose financial statements have been prepared using tools available to subscribers to the service. Glancing through the directory I noticed that there were quite a few angel syndicates, patent agencies, accountancy practices and, alarmingly, insolvency practitioners on the list.

While explaining it to me yesterday David described the service as a sort of forum for entrepreneurs and investors. "A sort of virtual Silicon Valley?" I suggested. David beamed "I suppose so. I never really thought of it that way, but yes it is." "Ah well" I replied "if you ever do use that term you can pay me a royalty." "OK!" he promised. I think we have a contract there, don't you.

David has offered to speak to the Leeds and Sheffield inventors clubs so I am sending copies of this article to Ged and Stef in Leeds and Lynn in Sheffield so that they can issue invitations. I think quite a lot of members of both clubs would be interested in Venture Hothouse.

Returning to Cobbetts' swish offices, one of the most intriguing features were lifts with no buttons. Visitors have to choose a floor from a key pad outside the lift. Imagine the queue at 08:55 when everyone in all the offices of the building turns up for work or at 12:55 when everyone wants to grab some lunch. If anyone from 1 Whitehall Riverside reads this article, perhaps they would like to tell us how this system works in practice.

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