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Investor Spotlight: Simon Thelwall-Jones, MSIF

In Planning growth, Raising finance, Rapidly scaling - 6 months ago - 5 min

Investor Spotlight: Simon Thelwall-Jones, MSIF

Every month we talk to an Investor from our network, who invest in early-stage businesses seeking to raise up to £10m in equity and debt finance. This month we spoke to Simon Thelwall-Jones, Investment Director at MSIF, who are based in the Liverpool and North West region.

Simon joined MSIF as an Investment Director in 2016 to oversee MSIF’s larger loans and equity investments. Simon also previously worked on MSIF’s Venture Fund which closed for investment in 2008. Simon has a wealth of corporate finance, fundraising and venture capital experience, having bought, run and sold a number of businesses, both as an owner/manager himself, and on behalf of clients including a number of regional institutional funds.

Could you tell us a little bit more about yourself/your fund?

I am a qualified chartered accountant who has been involved in buying, funding, investing and selling companies for 25 years as an advisor, principal and funder. MSIF provides funding of between £500 and £2 million by way of loans, mezzanine loans and equity. Our value proposition is very clear: Personalised, simplified, satisfied. We provide a personalised service to our customers, who find the fund raising process really straightforward and simplified, and who end up highly satisfied by their experience of working with us!

How big is your portfolio? And how much do you typically invest?

Across the MSIF business we currently have more than one hundred investee companies. For us there isn’t really a typical investment size. We might provide a £10,000 start-up loan or, equally, £1.5 million to fund a management buy-out.

Keep shooting for the stars, but also be realistic

What are the top three things you look at when considering a new investment?

Personally, it starts with the quality of the management team and their track record. Then I look for a really compelling “value proposition” – I don’t believe in USPs! Why would someone want to buy the businesses’ offering? From an equity investment perspective, I would then look at the entry and exit valuations.

Are there any companies you’d like to highlight that you’ve worked with?

As a fund we have backed some really fantastic businesses. Blue Prism, which is now valued at over £1 billion (which we funded as a start up), and Vitaflo, spring to mind. More recently, the MBI of Delta Rock Holdings. We backed a young MD, Scott Davis, to buy the business and after less than 12 months he repaid us!

Any companies that got away that you wish you’d backed?

There have been a couple recently that nearly got away! CiiVSOFT and Extreme Low Energy. I really liked both businesses and was really disappointed when our investment process with both didn’t move ahead. They initially turned us down, but after a continued close dialogue, they realised the value we could add, and both came back to us. We recently completed an equity investment in both.

What are the big red flags for you when reviewing investment propositions?

Poor management, no clear value proposition and a very high entry valuation.

I wish I saw more…

… local businesses that I think could genuinely be “unicorns” (young businesses that grow to be worth more than $1 billion very quickly)! We backed Blue Prism and have recently backed a business called VTime, which I believe has the potential to become one.

I wish I saw fewer…

… pre revenue businesses where we are offered five percent of the equity for an investment of £1 million!

What I wish I could tell every founder…

… it is really really hard to grow your business quickly. If a founder can create a company worth £10 million within five years they have done a truly exceptional job. Keep shooting for the stars but also be realistic.

How should a business seeking finance approach you?

We can be contacted by telephone, via our website or through social media. I always think it’s best to pick up the phone, so call us on 0151 236 4040.

If you are thinking about raising investment for your business and want to understand your options, get some free guidance from one of our team today on 08081 722350 or drop us an email: G.Enquiries@uk.gt.com