Tell us a bit about your business
The company was established to harness the valuable community using the LegalBeagles forum, which we founded over ten years ago. We decided to approach this in a highly ethical manner and built new free services for those consumers to access, such as JustBeagle, the UK's first all of market comparison site for legal services. Everything hinges back to the LegalBeagles forum which attracts 1.7 million visitors annually and plays a valuable role in helping consumers and SME's access justice.
Approximately how much did you raise and from whom?
We raised £750,000 in 2017 on top of £220,000 in 2016. Predominantly, we did this through individually introduced high net worth angel investors, but we also used the SyndicateRoom private angel funding platform to close our round, which worked very well.
What were you looking for in an investor?
We were looking for investors who shared our passion for making the world a better place and who respected our wishes to commoditise our assets ethically and fairly. We also sought investors who brought expertise and wisdom to the table.
What were the most challenging parts of the process?
In the early stage of the round we were invited to many VC meets which ultimately proved a to be a false start. We also found invitations to accelerators quite a distraction and quickly realised the whole process is a bit of a 'machine', often designed to create publicity and traction for other organisations.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs facing this particular challenge?
It is important to stay focused on the type of funding you need and remember that everyone you meet is ultimately going to try and make a buck out of you, whether it be by advising, introductions, coaching etc. We learnt to listen between all the hype and make decisions based on our real needs. Holding your nerve and being very objective about your business are essential qualities to a successful round closure.
Was there anything about the process that surprised you, or was unexpected?
Yes, a difficult investor who tried to 'take the whole round' and caused chaos in the process! It took good discipline to admit that this was not working for us. We also had some surprising comments, such as nervousness around the size of the (£30 billion) legal industry.
Is there anything you would have done differently, with hindsight?
One thing I would do differently is invest in a very well-designed pitch deck. One that can be adapted to various pitching situations, as we spent far too many hours producing new versions for each pitch event.
Overall, I am very happy with the mix of investors we gained and the wisdom we picked up along the way to meeting them. Yes, there are always things you would do differently but the stuff that didn't go perfectly created lots of learning for the future.
What advice would you give to other businesses thinking about fundraising?
Be very certain of what you are proposing, believe in it deep to your core and be passionate about it above all else. Investors often say that they invest in founders, not businesses; which is only partly true because no investor is going to back even the most charismatic founder pushing a terrible proposal. Even with our very solid LegalBeagles bedrock, we had to fight for every penny of funding. Also, be aware of the strain on your mental health - even the best days can be followed by a crashing low. Learning to anticipate and ride these moments allowed me to keep my sanity.