Convincing vision fundamental to securing your investment
Telling your story well is critical when it comes to finding investment for your bright new business idea, according to Marc Cohen, co-chief investment officer at venture capitalist company Raw Wealth. Will Green met him to talk start-ups, AI and moving to Guernsey
SO, YOU’VE got a great idea. One that could change the world – and make you a living along the way. The problem is that scores of other people also think they have the best idea and, like you, are on the hunt for investment.
To this backdrop, what’s the best approach to take? Marc Cohen, co-chief investment officer at Raw Wealth, which focuses on fintech and financial services investment, believes that setting out a convincing vision of how you will execute your idea is absolutely fundamental when it comes to securing investment.
In his role as co-chief investment officer, Mr Cohen is part of a team that searches out and conducts due diligence on businesses to potentially invest in. After due diligence, a phone or video call or visit to the UK for example to meet the firm is the usual process before a final decision is taken.
‘You need to have a compelling story about where your business is going to go. And when I say story, I mean it’s not just what you’re trying to achieve. You do actually need to be able to tell a good story about it because you need to be able to convince investors and you need to be able to convince people who are coming to work for you to come and work for a business to do something that doesn’t exist yet,’ he says.
‘If you’re not able to convince people to do that, actually it doesn’t matter how good your idea is, you won’t get the investment and you won’t be able to persuade people to come and work for you.’
Mr Cohen suggested taking the following approach when thinking about setting out that compelling story – from it being new, filling a gap in the market and making a decent return for investors. ‘You need to be able to convince people that you have the ability to execute on this,’ he added.
‘Just having a good idea isn’t enough. There’s a lot you need to do to get from A to B and your experience, your enthusiasm, your ability to explain these things is very important.
‘It’s as much, particularly when you’re doing early stage investment, if not more about the individuals as it is about the idea. Because anyone can have the best idea in the world, but if you don’t have the ability to execute on it, it doesn’t matter. And if your idea isn’t perfect, actually if you’re good enough at executing you might go: “OK, the right way to do this looks slightly different” but you’ll get there in the end.’
He also highlighted how in the start-up phase of a business that the validation is from the people rather than from the yet-to-be created business – underlining again the importance of being able to cut through potential competitors with a compelling story.
The growing role of AI
Mr Cohen, who has a master’s degree in artificial intelligence, also described how AI would increasingly become a common feature for all businesses – including start-ups. He has previously built AI-driven systematic trading systems. While not focusing specifically on AI businesses in his role, he said it was useful to have expertise in the field as the technology becomes an increasingly core part of all companies.
‘One of the theories about AI is that it’s going to become like electricity,’ he said. ‘It will just be a thing that everyone uses and we all kind of use in our day-to-day life anyway. You’ve got a smartphone, occasionally you speak to it. Lots of people have smart speakers. If you have ever used translation services on your phone or anything like that, they’re all using AI. So, we all use it already largely without realising that we’re using it.
‘I think that’s what it will look like. It won’t generally be that AI revolution being that: “Oh, everything has changed”. It’s this gradual integration that it becomes more and more a part of everything that we do.’
All businesses would eventually end up using AI to a certain degree. ‘It’s just another way of doing data-driven decision making, which we’re all trying to do in everything we do. Every business wants to make informed decisions. Informed decisions mean you’re making them from data.’
A move to Guernsey
After moving to the island last year, he met Richard Avery-Wright, the founder of Raw Wealth. As a result of that meeting, the pair developed a strong working relationship in terms of Raw Wealth and sister company Raw Capital.
Mr Cohen invested into the mortgage fund and then came the opportunity to invest in Raw Wealth and become an advisor on the investment side. He joined Raw Wealth as co-chief investment officer. ‘Sitting here, I could see the quality of the people involved and that they are genuinely nice people,’ he added.
He was also full of praise for Guernsey, saying. ‘We arrived in June last year, but I’ve had a very positive experience from the business side and the schooling side – which were the two key drivers for us to arrive in the first place.’