First rate tips from two decades of angel investing, transparent take-away

Podcast transcription - 5th april 2018

Peter Cowley:                  Welcome again. Today we've got Simon Blakey. I've known his brother for some years now and I don't know Simon that well. So, I will learn a lot from him in the next half-an-hour or so.

                                             First of all Simon, welcome.

Simon Blakey:                  Thank you very much.

Peter Cowley:                  Could you describe a bit of your background and then how you got into angel investing?

Simon Blakey:                  Of course. Very happy to. And, thank you very much for having me here. I actually started a long time ago as a biochemist and trained as a biochemist at Birmingham University. I loved dealing with data but I very quickly realized that it wasn't going to make me a lot of money and I didn't look good in a lab coat. And I probably, to be perfectly honest, didn't have the patience to do it.

                                             I then went to work at Sainsbury's and trained as a senior accountant. Worked around the business and then went up to Edinburgh to help with the newly-formed Sainsbury's Bank. But I was still working as an accountant and decided I didn't want to do that for the rest of my life. I moved back to London and joined the infamous Arthur Andersen Business Consulting as a financial services specialist. I was helping businesses who wanted to go in the consumer market, launching mortgages, personal loans, and the like.

Peter Cowley:                  This was late 90s early 2000s, was it?

Simon Blakey:                  This was mid-1990s, yeah. And then, whilst I was in London, I got involved in residential property development in west London buying flats, putting in halogen lighting, wooden floors, white walls, en suite bathrooms, and selling them more bond.

Peter Cowley:                  What was the property market? Was it on the rise?

Simon Blakey:                  The property market was booming at the time. It was quite easy to make money out of doing that. In fact, I realized I was making far more money out of doing that than I was actually working as a consultant. After a year in Moss Side, working with their tools at the time, I don't think they exist any longer, I decided that consulting wasn't my thing and I would give that up.

                                             But that then leads very much into the angel side of things because it was the start of dot-com one point zero. I've always tried to be a slightly contrarian individual and I saw all these people putting lots of money into web-based businesses. I didn't really get the business model. So, I turned around to my brother, who I'm very, very close to, and worked with for the last 18 years on this, and said, "I think there must be some unfashionable businesses out there with some unfashionable valuations. But, this angel investing thing sounds kind of interesting. I think I'm going to go and try and do this for a year. If it doesn't work out, then I'll go back to being an accountant. If it does work out, well, we'll see what happens."

Peter Cowley:                  So, which year is this?

Simon Blakey:                  I actually started the first of January 2000. Y2K hadn't crashed all our computers. I sat in a two-person regency office in Hammersmith and said, "Right. I am a business angel. Now, what do I do?"

Peter Cowley:                  And your brother joined you at that point?

Simon Blakey:                  No, my brother joined two years later. We have an unfair advantage because there are two of us. Over the time, we've realized what an advantage that actually is. He's always been 50-50 partner with me. I, in fact, can't to an angel deal without him and vice versa. So, if he says to me, "I do not want to do this deal," I cannot do it and vice versa. So, it stops you falling in love too much with it, which I think's good.

                                             We started and I spent a lot of time going around talking to lots and lots of people and this was the height of the dot-com boom. Trying to work-out what angel investing was all about. I didn't really have corporate finance experience, so it was really very much relying on the experience of others in that marketplace.

Peter Cowley:                  And there were deals around? Real rescue deals, I guess?

Simon Blakey:                  There were deals around. We didn't do any dot-com deals at all. We actually did our first Internet deal in 2007, so much later. The first deal we actually did was a company called OC Robotics-

Peter Cowley:                  Which you just exited?

Simon Blakey:                  Which we have only just exited-

Peter Cowley:                  It's 17 years.

Simon Blakey:                  It raised no further funding since our initial funding. It grew to quite a reasonably-sized little business. It had actually even paid us in dividends and we sold it to GE Aviation.

Peter Cowley:                  And the X and the IRR? Have you worked those numbers out?

Simon Blakey:                  Yes, I have. It was about five times cash-on-cash return. I've not really going to worry about IRR-

Peter Cowley:                  The listener can work that out.

Simon Blakey:                  Exactly. He was interested in what I was doing. He was a silent investor and then after two years and we did another deal which was quite significant, he said, "I want to come and do this as well." And so, that's exactly what we did. He did a deal, and then I did a deal. And then, after a few years, we actually decided that we weren't really concentrating on our core strengths. My brother is very, very good at going out networking, deal sourcing, which, as you know, is one of the key attributes that you need to do as an angel and it's usually the bit that angels really, really hate doing.

                                             But, my brother, and I'm sure he doesn't mind me saying this, is not a detail person, is dyslexic, and really doesn't like paperwork. I'm the boring accountant, so, he said, "Right, you take all the operational side of things and I'm going to go and do the deal sourcing." So, he goes and finds a deal, sees if he likes to work with them, and thinks the valuation is reasonable and the expectations are reasonable, he then passes it over to me to have a much more detailed look at it. I then get involved with the businesses on much more detailed basis. I do the deal. I deal with the lawyers, the other angel investors. I keep him regularly updated as to what's happening, and keep him informed if and when one of the portfolio companies are going to need further financing so you can speak to other investors and say, "We've got this that might be coming up. Are you interested in taking a look?"

                                             We did a deal in 2002, I think it was, and it again comes back to things like the contrarian. It was just after the sale of the 3G licenses, which again, dates me slightly. One of the great things about angel investing is there are fashionable sectors and non-fashionable sectors. And Telco, after the sale of the 3G licenses, which everyone thought had been overpaid for, went completely out of fashion. But we came across this company called Omega Logic run by Dale and Simon Murray, a husband and wife team, which a lot of people know. We invested in that business. It was an interesting business. We had what we would call an "Oh Shit" board meeting after the first board meeting that we had because we found all sorts of, not problems with the business, but problems in the investor base. But we invested in that and we grew it and we sold it very, very successfully 18 months later.

Peter Cowley:                  That's all? Eighteen months? That's a very short journey.

Simon Blakey:                  Eighteen months. Very, very short journey. And it's worthwhile saying at this point to anyone listening, that's not the usual time period you should be expecting. But, as it was replacing paper-based top-up vouchers for pre-paid mobile phones with electronic top-up, so we were installing software into the likes of Carphone Warehouse and doing the electronic top-ups and then taking a tiny slice of it in each transaction. So, as the market grew-

Peter Cowley:                  The technology must be developed before you invest it.

Simon Blakey:                  It was.

Peter Cowley:                  You can't develop a technology and get it to market and make any money.

Simon Blakey:                  Absolutely was, it was. But, it's an also a telling point is you were very much reliant on the large telecommunication companies to push that service out. We were brought in through a fantastic couple of brothers called Nitin and Milan Shah, who started Pepe Jeans, that we'd met them and they've taken us under their wing and kind of said, "We're showing what you need to do." We were brought in because the business was not growing as fast as they expected because the telcos weren't pushing out the services fast as they expected. And there were some very sticky times within that business, but ultimately-

Peter Cowley:                  In 18 months, so you didn't even have enough cash in there to last 18 months?

Simon Blakey:                  No.

Peter Cowley:                  That's again another lesson-

Simon Blakey:                  Yes, absolutely.

Peter Cowley:                  Must be sure, not raising enough cash for 12 to 18 months-

Simon Blakey:                  You really, really do need to do it. But, the founders found people who were willing to buy it out at a very healthy price. As we always do, say, "Well, if management want to get out, they are the core asset of a business. We should back them and do the exit."

                                             And that gave us a taste, because we all know, that your lemons ripen fastest, as the saying goes, and you really have to go through some quite fallow years before you see a potential return. So often, you and I will speak to angels and they'll go, "We're not doing any more investments until we see a return from our current portfolio." Because, unlike BCs, we're capitol-constrained more often than not.

Peter Cowley:                  So when did that exit occur and how many years-

Simon Blakey:                  That was 2003, I think.

Peter Cowley:                  So you got an exit already, a good exit. So you're almost cash-and-cash up at this point.

Simon Blakey:                  Yes. So, it was completely not usual for our market. But, it convinced us to stay in the market and gradually grow the amount that we were looking to invest. When we first started off we were investing 25,000 pounds into a deal. Now, our average is probably 100- to 150,000 per initial round, but we'll go from anything from 50,000 to quarter-of-a-million.

Peter Cowley:                  And you might such as much as what, half-million or three-quarters-of-a-million then in any one?

Simon Blakey:                  In any one deal, across several rounds of financing. But we're equal as well happy to say, "No, we're not going to support a future funding round." Our natural tendency, our default, is that we will but not always.

Peter Cowley:                  So, a lot of deals have been done and I want you to pick out of one or two, just to tell us the stories. Some interesting and some lessons that you've learned.

Simon Blakey:                  Well, I supposed I should really just pick the failures because you actually learn far more from failures than you do from your successes.

                                             We invested in one company, and we made the mistake of being the sole funder in the business. Not only were we the sole funder, we found that the two founders actually didn't like each other very much. We got to the stage whereby one of the founders said she wanted a separate office to the other founder, which is quite incredible when you have a company of only five people. And, then we found that one of the founders was so anti the other founder that was trying to bring the business down by sending secrets to a third party and then blocks further funding by the company because the founder owns more than 25 percent. Twenty-five percent is a key metric that you'll remember.

                                             We suspended on behalf of gross misconduct for leaking trade secrets. We were then threatened with libel because of what had been said in the letter. And then, a very senior person who's well-known in the industry but I can't, of course, say the name, came to try and do a shake-down in the office to say, "Pay-up to a charity of my choice, otherwise I'll take you to the cleaners." We stood there and went, "Uh, actually, no."

Peter Cowley:                  The business didn't survive? So let's have lessons learned. Lessons learned.

Simon Blakey:                  Lessons learned. If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys on the legals. The classic being on this was we suspended for gross misconduct but there wasn't a method for either negating voting rights, not suspending. Or, even giving the company power of attorney to sign on behalf of the person who'd been suspended. So, you do really need to go for a lawyer who understands this space. Every lawyer will love me for saying this, but the legals are there for a reason. They're not there for when things are going well. They're there for when things don't go so well. Do try and use a lawyer who knows what they are doing and someone can reference.

Peter Cowley:                  What about the founders' relationship? Could you have worked anything out before you wrote the check to invest?

Simon Blakey:                  It's an interesting point that you raise. I think that one of the lessons I've learned, slightly tangential to that, is the maximum leverage you have when you do a deal is before you put the money in. I did a deal, couple of years ago, it was co-founders. They were like, "We are co-founders," and that's all fine. I said, "One of you has to be CEO." "Oh, it doesn't matter!" I said, "Yes, it does and I'm not putting investing until one of you decides, doesn't matter which one, but, one of you decides to be CEO."

                                             We've had now two definitive cases where founders have fallen out and sometimes you feel you're a relationship therapist, rather than a business angel investor. But, that's an important part of what you do as an angel. Being an angel can be a lonely business sometimes. But, being founder is an incredibly stressful and an incredibly lonely business and sometimes you just need to sit down, hear someone, talk about the issues they have with the business, and say, "Have you thought about doing this way? I've come across this. Oh, you've only got six weeks of cash left in the business? Don't worry about it. I've seen worse. What can we practically do together to actually get through this?"

Peter Cowley:                  And you do this often as a, well, hopefully not too often, as a board member or board director? Board observer? Or a crystal friend as a shareholder?

Simon Blakey:                  So, the rule of added-value invest is probably one of the greatest used terms by both angels and possibly BCs. Everyone says, "I will add value." We, though, are definitely active angel investors. I'm not going to give you some money and say come back in a few years' time having made me lots of money. We know that that just doesn't work. So, as a minimum, we say we will take a board observer position-

Peter Cowley:                  For every investment you make? You get information rights at least? You can turn-up at board meetings?

Simon Blakey:                  Absolutely. If then we're investing alongside angels that we've invested before, a syndicate. As I mentioned before, we made the mistake of investing as a sole-investor in that company. More often than not, this is gutting, would you become the lead investor? And the first time you're offered lead-investor statement, you think that's great. The 10th time you're offered it, you go, "Oh, really, do I have to?" It's like herding cats. It's a pretty thankless task. Our top priority is helping the entrepreneurs that we invest in. In fact, in 2014, I think we had something like 12 companies in the current portfolio in the UK, because we also have now Singapore, as you know. And, my brother was sitting there going, "We've got to do more deals. We've got to do more deals." And I'm sitting there going, "No! I can't! This is just not remotely..”

Peter Cowley:                  You first induct scale?

Simon Blakey:                  No, so we actually said no deals for six months. Let's just sort out with issues. We're in a poor family of 12 early-stage companies. You're going to have issues. They're not all going to be going well. The ones that are going well don't need any help. There's the ones going badly that need all the help. Our top five focus has to be on helping those companies. So, yes, we do take board positions when it's appropriate. We always ask for board observer. And, actually, if someone turns out, and we had this recently, and said, "We'll take your £150,000, thank you, but we've got a VC coming on board and we don't want you to have the board observer." We go, "That's fine, we won't put the money in." Because, you never have to do, as an angel investor, a deal.

Peter Cowley:                  Exactly.

Simon Blakey:                  And, I think one of the points I would make is, so often you'll meet a new angel investor and they'll go, "How many deals have you done?" And it's almost a matter of pride. "I've done 6 or 12 or 24," whatever the figure is. Sometimes it's braver not to do a deal than it is to actually do a deal. In 2006 and 2007 we went for 18 months without doing a single new deal. I thought I'd lost my touch. My brother couldn't find any, deal source ... 2007 came along and actually it worked-out that we were properly right culling the market. We'd have been bit, valuation was a bit too high.

Peter Cowley:                  I love the analogy done in aviation that taking off is optional, landing is mandatory.

Simon Blakey:                  I've got my private pilot's license. I know exactly what you're talking about there. Yes.

Peter Cowley:                  So, Simon, let's talk about some successes now.

Simon Blakey:                  Oh, yes, those. They're like buses sometimes. You'll go for ages without any and then you get a lot at the same time. We've been very, very fortunate we've had four successes, four profitable exits, in the last year. I think the one that certainly gave us the biggest multi-million pound return, and also was a salutatory lesson on how to turn a potential failure into success, was a business called ByBox. We invested into ByBox in 2003. We put 150,000 pounds into the business. And, very simply, ByBox was providing boxes around the country, almost like left-luggage lockers, which engineers could visit and get materials out for service calls. Such as for Sky Engineers. You go to your box. You get your materials for you five, six, seven jobs per day, and then you return any excess to the box at the end of the day.

                                             We invested in that. We invested on the back of a big contract that was had with Hayes and six weeks, eight weeks after we invested, Hayes announced that they were going to divest themselves of the non-core parts of the business which included our part. My brother, I remember very clearly, turning around and saying, "Well, this might be the shortest investment that we've ever made." Even for back in those days. And, the management, to their complete and utter credit, went to Hayes and said, "We'll take that underlying business off your hands. Of course, it's not profitable, so you'll have to pay us a dowry." And, they did. We took it on. We turned it around. The business, when we invested had a turnover of 100,000 a year. We sold it August 2016 for 105 million pounds, having grown it to a turnover of 75 million and profits of 30 million. After several strategic acquisitions and no further funding.

Peter Cowley:                  One round?

Simon Blakey:                  Just the one round.

Peter Cowley:                  That was certainly more than 10X.

Simon Blakey:                  Yes. And it made a lot of people a lot of money. But, it was actually a private equity auction that we went through. We prepared the business very carefully for that sale.

Peter Cowley:                  And for what period was that?

Simon Blakey:                  We planned out two years for that. We were clear that actually it was time to give the angels an exit. And, the management team, who are brilliant, all of them, are still with the business. They have, we invested and gone on with the private equity buyer. And, I was on the board right the way through that whole period.

Peter Cowley:                  For 13 years?

Simon Blakey:                  Yes. And it was never a board meeting. It was very much a board/management meeting that went on for quite some time. But, they were always a pleasure to deal with and business transformed and grew massively what it was doing over that time. But, we've had successes in complex procurement, software. We've had successes in cosmetics company which probably wasn't expanded for us. Robotics, we had a marketplace called Buzzmove that we sold last year which was a removals marketplace which we sell very well. It's true to say that group businesses find good exits. You just have to stay the course and realize they don't generally come around as quick as you would like. We've had exits in 18 months, as we've talked about, three-and-a-half years, and then gone right the way up to 16 year marks. So, it has to be, as Manchester also always goes, it has to be patient capital that you're putting in. You've got to enjoy the journey as much as the destination.

Peter Cowley:                  Very different from not to be patient unless there're secondaries anyway, isn't it?

Simon Blakey:                  Yes. And I would say that secondaries are definitely a way of getting liquidity back into the market. We have taken the opportunity for secondaries because I think angels are best focused on the early stage part of the market. You have to be very cognizant and respectful of the venture capital business model which doesn't necessarily always fit with the angel business model. Sometimes we will follow-through and we've done A-Rounds and B-Rounds. But sometimes, we'll sit there and go, "Okay. We've done our bit now. We'll take the money out and we will recycle." It purely depends on circumstances.

Peter Cowley:                  And if you do an A- or B-Round, you go in with preference shares if appropriate, don't you?

Simon Blakey:                  Yes. We do. We very much look along the lines of, we'll go in, in the same paper that the BC is investing so we have some protection from boards and SCIS, EIS, but then we take some of the protections of the later rounds as well.

Peter Cowley:                  Going back to 2001, you've got bored with property.

Simon Blakey:                  Yeah.

Peter Cowley:                  You're obviously doing quite successful. You wanted something to stretch your mind? Is that where you started? The fact you're on the journeys of angel investing for the enjoyment of the journey rather than the capital results?

Simon Blakey:                  Oh, I think I was definitely not aware of the length of time it would take to get exits. I think we had a taste of it when we sold Omega Logic in 2003. We sold Commerce Decisions very well and this other company, Pout, very well in I think 2007, 2008. But then we had a bit of a fallow period after that. As I said, if everything went horribly wrong, I would say, "Well, okay, lesson learned. I'll go back to doing property or being an accountant." But it won't be nearly as interesting or as stimulating as doing the angel investing. Fortunately, we have done reasonably well out of doing this and we will continue to do it.

Peter Cowley:                  Now, your brother, for personal reasons, moved out to Singapore, didn't he? And I've spent some time with him out there.

Simon Blakey:                  Yes.

Peter Cowley:                  Deal flow out there is probably much more available, is it?

Simon Blakey:                  Yes. It's an incredible opportunity and I have a huge amount of respect for what he did. He said, "You started up Avonmore." He's always been a 50-50 with me. But he wanted the chance to do the same thing. Actually, moving to Singapore, for a variety of personal reasons, seemed the right place to go. You have the rule of law in Singapore, which is very similar to UK law. English-speaking, huge growing, affluent market, very, very good educational system out there as well. When he first went out there, I went to visited a few times and it was definitely a nascent market, mildly, it was very similar in fact to 2000-

Peter Cowley:                  This was six years ago? Five years ago?

Simon Blakey:                  2013 we went down there.

Peter Cowley:                  Yeah, four years ago.

Simon Blakey:                  Very, very similar to the UK back in 2000, 2001. It was a very, very immature compared to where it is now. I was out there a couple of months ago and it has transformed. There is still very little early-stage funding out there. There's actually a lot of late-stage funding but relatively little early-stage funding. He actually decided to set-up a small fund down there, Cocoon, and it's almost a pre-paid syndicate. He doesn't charge any management fees or anything out like that. He just says, "Well, we've got these 25 family offices that said they wanted access to the Southeast Asian market. I am there, so this just allows me to write larger check sizes."

Peter Cowley:                  This sort of geographic space, you've got Singapore and the UK, unfortunately, most of the activity is in the golden triangle. We're all trying to change that. Where have you invested within the United Kingdom?

Simon Blakey:                  We have invested in London, Bristol, Portsmouth, Oxford, and it's quite telling that I live part of my time down in Wiltshire, so it's about an hour from all of those. Increasingly now, though, we think geography is irrelevant to our investing mantra. I've just had a week out in Germany, in Berlin and Munich, at various conferences, at meeting entrepreneurs. A couple of weeks before that, I was at Slush in Helsinki. I think what helps is having a strong lead investor in the local territory and we're increasingly building up our network for that.

                                             The other thing, though, I'm very conscious of is increasingly the teams that we have in our existing businesses are distributed. If you can't find the tech resource in the UK, you go to the Czech Republic, you go to Poland. Actually, I've come from a meeting this morning where a lot of the dev team is based out in Russia and are working from home. Boundaries become less-relevant given that technology advances we've seen over the last few years. It's nice to have SCIS and EIS relief that you get in the UK. But, I don't think that should stop you from doing a good deal in another geography if the stars align and you have a good lead in place.

Peter Cowley:                  Now, something you once talked about was Buzzword Bingo.

Simon Blakey:                  This was a phrase that came up in Berlin last week and I made a note of it because I thought it was such a fantastic phrase. It really, really does play to one of the great factors of the early-stage investment market, which is, there is fashion. Somethings are very much in-fashion and then you can be sure that they care very much out-fashion. I said I think right at the beginning I like unfashionable businesses with unfashionable valuations.

                                             Buzzword Bingo was done, and I think I saw this in Helsinki, a lot at Slush, the moment it's ICOs, it's machine-learning, but usually they call machine-learning AR because it sounds better. Oh, yes, if you get block chain in there as well in your company description, you've then got a full house. It's true, but you have to be careful. You can ride the wave. But be very clear that fashions change and what was fashionable now will not be fashionable in a couple years’ time.

                                             So, if you look, for example, at marketplaces, they were very fashionable for a while. Now you would have a hard time getting investors to look at them seriously. And we've invested in marketplaces. Don't get me wrong. We've done well out of them. But, it doesn't fit the investment criteria of a lot of people now. Prior to that, everyone wasn't launching an app. Or they were launching a social network. You name it. Things go in-and-out of fashion. Ultimately it comes down to what is the pain that your product is solving and will people pay you?

Peter Cowley:                  Lucky.

Simon Blakey:                  So, remove that pain. So the underlying business model is far more important than hitching onto the latest buzzword bingo.

Peter Cowley:                  Yeah, that's a European feeling, of course. And then the west coast of the States. Probably get away with building a business without working out how to monetize. Possibly, Facebook. Or Twitter.

Simon Blakey:                  Yes, there are always exceptions to every rule. I do like understanding what the monetization or the roots of monetization is going to be. And also, the slightly contrarian view as well is, if you do the same as everyone else, you're going to get the same return as everyone else. Investing in the latest AI company with the big valuation might work but I don't necessarily feel it's the right thing for us to do at the current time. Of course, always depends on the business model behind it.

Peter Cowley:                  And let's move on to tips. So, one or two tips for angels? One or two tips for entrepreneurs?

Simon Blakey:                  For angels, what I do say to angels is take your time. We do get introduced to people quite often who exited out of their business. They have played the requisite amount of golf if that's thing they've done. The traveling, they've bought the nice car. And, now, they want to work out what they're going to do next. I think a lot of them look at angel investing. And a lot of them look at angel investing for the right reason. They want to help. It's not just about making the money. They want to help.

                                             My point is, take your time. Go out. Speak to lots of people. As very silly questions because this is the perfect time to do it. Invest a little bit of money into a couple of companies you think might be of interest. If you can syndicate, syndicate with people perhaps have done this a bit more than yourself because I certainly learned a huge amount from investors that I co-invest with. Also, angel investing, you need to have that network of people with which to talk about the successes, the failures, the problems, the headaches, whatever it might be. Go out there and do the deal sourcing.

                                             Now, networking is key. If you just go to the angel groups, you are unlikely to find the good deals. The best deals come to us, either referrals from entrepreneurs, sometimes ones that we've turned down but said, "Look, you're value add investors, have you thought about making this company?" Or, quite often, from other angels and we do co-invest with the similar angels time and time again because cohesiveness amongst the angel group is absolutely vital. There are going to be enough problems that the entrepreneur has to deal with without having to worry about is angel investor A getting on with institutional investor B?

                                             Look at the business model. I'm always looking at a business model. What problem are you trying to solve. And are you trying to solve it for the people who've got money? There's no point in having a huge issue for an industry if actually budgets are being so squeezed that nobody's actually prepared to pay you for that-

Peter Cowley:                  Unless it's done by regulation.

Simon Blakey:                  Unless they're forced to do it. Absolutely. Look at margins. We had one business where it was actually growing really well, quite strongly. The problem was we couldn't raise further funding because it was working on a 15-20 percent margin. You really can't grow a sustainable business on a 15-20 percent margin. That's why, I think, marketplaces a lot of times do fail because they always talk about their gross transactional value rather than the actual revenue that's coming to them, which then they've got their cost of sales and have their margin met.

                                             Do think about your margins. I'm sure there are lots of others that I could go on. The list just goes on and on. These little rules that we've developed over time.

Peter Cowley:                  And for entrepreneurs?

Simon Blakey:                  I would say you're not going to know everything. But, the thing you've got to know is your industry that you're working in. I have invested in people very, very early stage who don't know much about accounting, don't really know how to put together the perfect business plan, but they have demonstrated an ability to understand their market. They've shown an ability to sell, to hustle. If someone sends me a business plan and then doesn't follow up, then how are they going to follow up in a sales situation? I like to see a bit of tenacity there. And, a willingness to listen.

                                             I'm definitely not going to be right but I sometimes, giving way, perhaps, a trade secret, I do try and be quite difficult in one of the meetings that I have as part of due diligence just to see what the reaction is. Is it you're a fool? I don't know why you're saying this. Or, is it, well, here is a very good reason as to why what you were saying does not make sense? I quite often know I'm not making sense. But, I'm just wanting to see what their reaction is to a challenge.

Peter Cowley:                  The entrepreneur's got to work out which meeting that is?

Simon Blakey:                  They still have to do that. They could say that it's every single meeting that I'm doing and I'm just not a very nice person.

Peter Cowley:                  Simon, that's been really interesting. I've learned a lot from that. We'll keep in touch! Thank you very much!

Simon Blakey:                  Thank you very much for your time.

Peter Cowley:                  Thanks for listening to another Invested Investor podcast. You can subscribe to all future podcasts via our website,, or via a number of online podcast platforms. And be sure to follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook to get the most up-to-date, interesting, and insightful content.