Simon Thorpe: The digital Invested Investor

Podcast transcription - 20th October 2017

Peter Cowley:                  Well hello again. Peter Cowley here, and we're here for another podcast, this time with friend, a close friend I met about five years ago, Simon Thorpe, who's done some tremendous stuff in our space. Simon, can you give us a bit about your background?

Simon Thorpe:                 Yes Peter, delighted to be here. Really good to talk to you on this subject, which you know I enjoy talking about. Yes, I started as, originally I started as an economics graduate. Studied accountancy, which I was persuaded was a good idea. I found it awfully boring at the time, but it turned out to be a very useful thing. Then I spent 22 years in the City, working with companies from all over the world, researching companies. Always been interested in the way that management teams would steer companies, and of course that led me to my current career, which is following micro-caps and researching and investing in angel, making angel investments.

Peter Cowley:                  I noticed from my inbox, we met five years ago, we've got to know each other very well since then. But I think you'd only been in angel investing for a few years before that.

Simon Thorpe:                 Yes, that's right. I supposed my first angel investment was probably at least 20 years ago. So I was very familiar with the concept of investing in early stage companies. But I've seriously been investing as a regular investor, making six or eight investments a year, since 2009.

Peter Cowley:                  Okay, and our audience is both angel investors and entrepreneurs. Why did you decide to become an angel investor, and what led you to be so active?

Simon Thorpe:                 Yes, it's a great question Peter, because I've always thought about being an entrepreneur myself. And in a way I am. My parents were both entrepreneurs. When I was 16, I was an entrepreneur, because I used to be, in the days before the digital world, I used to go auctions and bid for lots and then resell them. Break them up and then resell them. Sort of early stage eBay, I supposed.

                                             So I sort of had that in my blood. I sort of always wanted to run my own business, and in a way I am running my own business now, because I run a business investing in other people's businesses. But actually I enjoy really helping young people and working with young people and seeing them grow, seeing their businesses grow, being some part of their journey from start up to hopefully, mature company.

Peter Cowley:                  As I've said before, on podcast, I actually stumbled in to angel investing. It sounds like did some planning.

Simon Thorpe:                 Well I did a bit of planning, I did sort of stumble in the sense that I did have a specific idea of my own, which I then found, well actually found the SwiftKey guys and they were doing it much better than I could ever do it, so I decided it would be much better if I invested in their business, back them, than trying to do it myself.

Peter Cowley:                  And that was about 2009.

Simon Thorpe:                 Yes, that was actually 2010.

Peter Cowley:                  Okay, yeah. Yeah. We'll talk about some of your journeys, possibly the SwiftKey later on, but you specifically aimed to invest in the digital economy. Now I have my own view about that is, what's your view?

Simon Thorpe:                 Yes. So it's a great question. The digital economy, is for me, a very important starting point, because it's growing at roughly three times the economy as a whole. So six percent per annum as opposed to one and a half to two percent in the economy.

                                             And for me, the digital subscription is quite wide. But I use that as an umbrella term for really, technology companies, mainly being software, hardware. I tend to look at the main themes, the themes that we all know and love, internet of things, big data, data security, artificial intelligence, machine learning. These are terms that are bandied around. They're the themes, but of course within that you've got to look very closely at the companies that genuinely able to exploit some of those themes.

Peter Cowley:                  Which leads to two questions, one, do you do life sciences, because it could be argued that's digital. And secondly, do you do anything that is non-digital economy?

Simon Thorpe:                 Yes, so two questions there. The first one, absolutely I do look at the healthcare sector because it's a massive market, it's a massive opportunity, we've only just started actually digitizing healthcare. But, there's a big but, you do need to know something about it. And I think it is a specialist sector, and so I've done one or two things. If I do invest in that sector, I usually will be investing alongside somebody who knows far more about the sector than I do.

                                             Second questions really was around do I do anything non-digital. Yes, I have done. But by and large there's been a pretty strong trend that the non-digital plays have not worked. So, I've got I think three of my companies that have disappeared over the last few years, are non-digital.

Peter Cowley:                  Okay, interesting that. Can we just explore that slightly further? Is this because you think really, that growth from non-digital is likely to be less? And/or have you picked the wrong investments?

Simon Thorpe:                 Well it might be a combination of both, of course. I've certainly with hindsight picked the wrong investments, major wrong investments. That's clear. But I think many things have happened. If I think about specific examples of non-digital businesses I backed. One, the management team clearly wasn't up to executing on the plan they had.  Another one they had a great product, but they weren't able to get the channels to market right.

                                             And I think you face a tougher position as investor in those type of businesses because the natural underlying growth isn't actually there. It's harder, much harder.

Peter Cowley:                  There are three areas I think you're really interested in. We'll cover them one by one. STEM, women entrepreneurs and particularly the Northwest of England. So let's talk about STEM. Can you explain what STEM stands for in case people don't know?

Simon Thorpe:                 Yes, so Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. I think it's, some people call it STEAM, because they think they need to include Art. Well of course we need to be artistic as well.

Peter Cowley:                  Art. You know I've never heard that.

Simon Thorpe:                 Art. STEAM, including Art. But I think they miss the point. The problem in the UK, for example, and many other countries, particularly in the UK. We've actually got a lot of people who are good at art. We've got lots of people that are good at the creative industries. We're very good at that. But we've got the balance more towards STEM, which is why STEMs important.

                                             And it's particularly important in the UK when you look at the girls in schools because very few girls in the schools are doing STEM subjects. In fact, I think there's a well-known stat that only 50% of A-level physic classes do not have a single girl in them. We also know that if we look at entrepreneurs, I think 31% of women have a STEM degree and 67% of men have a STEM degree.

Peter Cowley:                  That includes all entrepreneurs, fashion, brand?

Simon Thorpe:                 That would be all entrepreneurs, yes. But there's a significant disadvantage for, in later life, in these industries if you don't start off with the right education. So it's really important to get more girls doing STEM subjects at school.

Peter Cowley:                  And why do you think, this is a deep question possibly, why do you think that is not happening? Why do you think that girls are not interested in STEM?

Simon Thorpe:                 I don't think it's the girls aren't interested, I think it's schools and parents are not encouraging girls to think that these subjects are relevant. So I do a lot of work experience for students that are generally 15 to 16. They come for the pre summer holiday and we have quite a lot of difficulty getting enough girls to come along. When they do, they get to the end of the week and they say, “I didn't realize that technology was relevant to me. But now I understand it is. So now I'm going to put it on my list of things that I might do in the future.” They not become a coding expert, but actually at least they've thought, at least it's a step in the right direction.

Peter Cowley:                  And you don't do that much life sciences or healthcare? Women are much more prevalent in my view in life sciences.

Simon Thorpe:                 I think that's absolutely right. I think they are, I think that's an historic thing because women have been much more likely to go in to the medical profession, either as doctors, surgeons, nurses, etc., because there's been that slightly more feminine caring culture, if you like. So, yes, absolutely right, there are many more in that industry.

Peter Cowley:                  And what proportion of your investments do you think, off the top of your head, have one or more female founder?

Simon Thorpe:                 So, I have got a portfolio of 30 companies at the moment. And roughly a third, ten have got a female founder or two female founders. So most of my companies will tend to have two founders. Most of them have two female or two male founders, as it happens. Not many have one female, one male.

Peter Cowley:                  And most of those, of course, STEM and or engineer, digital economy?

Simon Thorpe:                 Yeah. Yes, they are.

Peter Cowley:                  And business to business?

Simon Thorpe:                 Most in the business to business. One or two 'B to C', business to consumer. But generally business to business, yes. Yes.

Peter Cowley:                  So that's really covered STEM and women. What about, I struggle, I come from Yorkshire. And I know that you come, I think you come from down South, but you went North for your University. Of course. Can we talk about, generally together, why we're concentrating, so much in concentrated in the Southeast, and what we should be doing, what you're doing more than I'm doing, in order to support entrepreneurialism elsewhere in the country?

Simon Thorpe:                 Yes. I think, it's really an interesting question Peter. Because much of the UK is very much focused on London and that's because London has become an international financial centre. And because it's international, it's global, it's created wealth from the UK from that global business.

                                             And of course it's the cluster effect, much business in the Southeast is gathered around London. Then you, of course, got the academic excellence which is of course, Cambridge, Oxford, some of the other major cities, like Bristol, like Manchester. But much of the England investment scene, as we know, roughly 65, 70%, is really around the golden triangle. So that's Cambridge, London and Oxford. So it is very concentrated. And I think many people have tried to work out how do we actually make the North much more involved, much more of a material player in this, in the digital world in the UK.

                                             Now in fact, Manchester, I've just joined the Manchester Tech Trust, which is aimed at, it's a charity, it's aimed at actually trying to develop the technology, businesses in the North, particularly around Manchester. But the realities, you've got four or five very major cities in the North that are all trying to build their digital presence. And Manchester's already got a strong digital presence. It's already very, very strong and creative industries, the BBC moved up there many years ago, got lots of flack at the time, but actually was a very wise move to do that.

                                             And so I think there's going to be a lot more focus on actually building digital businesses, there's the Graphene Institute, been set up around the University, and the Manchester Tech Trust is thinking very hard about how it can develop that, develop more material sciences at that big site, just south of the City.

                                             I think there's lots of opportunity, but we need to work quite hard at developing those cities, and putting investment in around those sorts of businesses that will grow in the digital economy.

Peter Cowley:                  Thank you Simon. Let's now go back to angel investing, some successes and one or two failures. SwiftKey you mentioned a lot, I think you're very close to the founders. Can we just talk a little bit about that journey, where angels got involved, both in terms of capital, and assistance?  The grey hairs or, that's an unfair term, but certainly the experience assistance.

Simon Thorpe:                 Well I've got plenty of grey hair.

Peter Cowley:                  Just as much as me. You've got more hair than me as well.

Simon Thorpe:                 SwiftKey's a good example. I mean, just to sort of set the context a bit. I've had, I've been fortunate enough to have five exits, of which SwiftKey was one. I've also had five companies that have failed. Fortunately you should expect the successes should very significantly outweigh the losses that you make from the failures.

Peter Cowley:                  And the failures generally occur before the successes do.

Simon Thorpe:                 And the failures do, that's right. The worst failures are the companies that drag on for years and years and years. That's not a good outcome for anybody. Certainly not the entrepreneurs. So I think being honest with the entrepreneurs is always very important.

                                             But I think on the successes, SwiftKey is a good example because it's, it's a very clear journey of what you should expect to see with UK companies, going from literally, start up, because with John Reynolds and Ben Medlock, the two founders. They went from two people in 2008, they had an Innovate UK grant, they brought angels in, including me, very early on, they had a couple of angel rounds. They then brought in Octopus as a VC in the UK, then they brought Index and ACCEL from the US, together with Octopus again. It was a clear journey of a sequence of funding rounds.

Peter Cowley:                  And were the, each round was a higher share price than before?

Simon Thorpe:                 A very significant rise in value each time. With demonstrable commercial attraction each time. That's obviously very important, it's very easy when it happens like that. Because as we know...

Peter Cowley:                  That's rare.

Simon Thorpe:                 It's relatively rare. Relatively rare. The other feature I think of that story, was that the company went from those two people to 160 people in quite a short space of time. But the two founders were very good at hiring good people around them. And they hired a very talented engineering team and by the time the company was approached for acquisition, it had a very, very good team of people. And it because an artificial intelligence play, as opposed to what it started off with. As purely a predictive text for touch screen devices. The story had widened, it was seen as being a company that could do many more things than it started doing.

Peter Cowley:                  And would you regard that as a pivot, or was, how much planning went in to, not reinventing themselves, maybe AI became in to the vocabulary, while they were already doing machine learning?

Simon Thorpe:                 It didn't have a pivot in the way that we would view a pivot, but what it did do, it realized early on that it needed to be a business to business, business, but it cleverly worked out that in order to go to knock on the door of Samsung in Korea, it needed to have some commercial traction and so it actually went and created a B to C business to consumer app, and it sold the app, and the app was so successful that then they were able to go and knock on the door of Samsung as say, “Look, we've already got this commercial traction and actually you should talk to us.” And of course they did, and then they were able to negotiate B to B contracts.  So that wasn't a pivot, it was quite a clever strategy to get to where they wanted to get to.

Peter Cowley:                  But it was sold for strategic reasons to a large extent, to Microsoft.

Simon Thorpe:                 Yes, it was. It was exactly sold for strategic reasons and by then of course the big players like Microsoft, Google, Apple, etc., were all looking, because as we know, the last two years, artificial intelligence, AI, has been one of the buzzwords, and of course all the major players were looking to get in to that space, and they were looking to hire the most talented people in the UK. And of course, SwiftKey had a 160 very talented people. Many of whom, at least 100 of which were engineers.

Peter Cowley:                  I found out from one my, in fact Allen, who's helping me run this project, the term FOMO, fear of missing out, I remember him telling me about this only a few years ago, when I was in to my 50s. I looked carefully at investing in SwiftKey, along with another group of angels, and we decided against it. This was a combination of deciding that a keyboard is not going to grow, you know, which clearly the exit was a lot to do with the team and the strategy and the AI that were doing, and secondly, that we had a lot of other things on our plate and we didn't get round to making, to consummating the marriage, and buying some shares. But, as an angel, one cannot do that, one can't live on regret.

Simon Thorpe:                 No, I mean, you, absolutely right. You've got to look forward, not look backwards. If you do look backwards, then you've got to say, “Well, what did I learn from not making that decision?” But you have to make decisions, and the worse decision is making no decision.

Peter Cowley:                  Exactly, yes. Let's talk about failures, because this, many as we know, you've been quite lucky, you've had a bout of massive failures and successes. My failures outweigh my successes by about two to one. Can we talk about why, we don't need to be too specific, but why some of the businesses you've invested in have failed?

Simon Thorpe:                 There are obviously a range of different reasons and, but if I think about the main reasons, sometimes it's purely timing. Timing is a bigger factor than many people think. Both in terms of successes and failures. But I've seen, and I've got one or two companies in my portfolio now that I still think are too early for the market. I think they'll get there, but they're too early, and so they should have probably been started five years later than this.

Peter Cowley:                  And of course, if that's the case, they're not producing profit either I suspect, so they're reliant 100% on equity then, aren't they?

Simon Thorpe:                 They are reliant, absolutely 100% on patient money.

Peter Cowley:                  And the patience and the availability of money, whether it's from angels or from VC's, etc.

Simon Thorpe:                 So, timing's important. Often it will be the management team is not able to execute on the vision that they had at the beginning. And that may be because they're greater at creating the idea, but they're not good at hiring good people around them, they're not good at growing the business. They're not good at carrying people with them to buy in to their vision. That can be a very significant issue.

                                             Sometimes it can be because they don't have the right balance of skills within the core team, I think I'm very much like you Peter, I tend to like to back two founders starting a business. It's a pretty lonely place being an entrepreneur as two of you, but if you're on your own, it's a very lonely place. And if there are four of you, it's often too many, and you start with two diluted an equity and then by the time you've taken in new money you get diluted down too quickly.

                                             So, two founders are ideal and ideally those two founders are highly complementary, so one will be technical, and one will be commercial. That's the definition.

Peter Cowley:                  That's unfortunately rare in Cambridge to get.

Simon Thorpe:                 It is, but that's what happened with SwiftKey. That's what happened with CentaStage, another software business, and that is the ideal model. Now of course, that's the ideal model, doesn't always happen, doesn't mean you can't make it work in other ways, people do make it work in other ways, but certainly those complimentary skills are key. And when you don't have those complimentary skills, that can mean the founders fall out, and they can't keep on going on executing the strategy.

                                             I think those would be some of the main reasons why I've seen failure. The other thing would be product market fit. So quite often, the founders don't have a great idea, or as a good an idea of the marketplace that they're in. And, so that can be an issue. And actually finally, I think, another issue is around the size of the market. Sometimes the market just isn't big enough. It's a great idea, great piece of technology, but the market's just not big enough.

Peter Cowley:                  So, these failures, would it be fair to say that, in all cases or some cases, the founders would have continued if investment had been available, or do you think one or more of those, the founders sort of got to the end of their road with that particular investment? I'm sorry, that particular start up.

Simon Thorpe:                 I think it's been a mix actually. My experience has been a mix. Some have very definitely realized themselves that the business model they are pursing isn't going to work and they've sent hands up, we're going to go no further.

Peter Cowley:                  But pivot is always a possibility.

Simon Thorpe:                 But then you get the next stage where actually, if you're an experience investor, you should be saying, “Well have we, together, considered all of the possible pivots.” And I've been through at least two of those exercises, where we've actually sat down, spent two hours around a white board and said, “Okay, what could we do?” And we've either concluded there is a sensible pivot, in which case we've carried on, and we've attracted new investment, or actually, no there sense in pivot at all, we're going to close the company. That's very much driven by the founders own aspirations. And I think it's good when founders do say, “That's enough's, enough, I'm not going to go out and raise more money from investors because I really don't buy in to the vision that we've got. It's not fair to do that.”

Peter Cowley:                  Yes, we've already got set up a couple of podcasts recorded from founders who have, that had businesses that have failed. Be interesting to see what they say.

Simon Thorpe:                 Yeah.

Peter Cowley:                  This podcast is about teaching angels and entrepreneurs how to work together. Can you come up with some things that you know, I often give lectures and talks now days, which are titled, “What I wish I'd known 10 years ago.” Can you give me an idea what, roll the clock back, not with 20 years when you first started, but say 10 years ago?  What have you learned from your journey?

Simon Thorpe:                 Lots of things, obviously. Probably the first, probably the most important point is you've got to have a longer time horizon than you think. So the reality is every company comes along and says we're planning an exit in three to five years. It always used to be three years, it seems to be three to five years now. The reality is that a really good business will probably take seven to ten years.

Peter Cowley:                  I say eight to twelve years when I talk to people.

Simon Thorpe:                 Yeah. Eight to twelve. I wouldn't disagree with that. First thing, the timeframe is longer than you think. So you need to plan for that. The second thing is that you think, many people come along and they invest in a company and they think that's it. But of course you've got to expect three, or four, or five, or six more rounds.

Peter Cowley:                  17 in one case. Not mine, but I've seen 17.

Simon Thorpe:                 I've never, that is 17. But I've got a few with 5 or 6 rounds. And when you look at those companies, right at the beginning, if you'd said to me, do I want to invest in this company when I have to invest every year for 6 years, I think I'd probably take a different view to the view I took at the time.

                                             However, if I'm looking at it today, I'm looking at the company, I'm saying, “Actually is it still doing what it said it was going to do at the beginning? Do I still think the team is as good as I thought at the beginning? Yes. Well, why wouldn't I continue to back them?” And that's how you need to look at it. You've got to look at it today, you have to look at it as it is now. Rather than looking back six years. But that's the second thing you've got to learn. Is that you must plan ahead for second, third, fourth rounds.

Peter Cowley:                  And yeah, and you, I mean, I say you should at least have as much, three times the initial investment available because you'll need to invest again, whether that's because of something not working, which is most of the case, or because of great growth potential. Would you say three times to plan for?

Simon Thorpe:                 Roughly. Roughly three times.

Peter Cowley:                  So, allocate, if you're going to invest 20K to start with, or 2K even, then allocate three times that.

Simon Thorpe:                 Allocate three times that.

Peter Cowley:                  Against that investment.

Simon Thorpe:                 Yeah. Yeah. Now of course some people are hoping they'll crystallize another exit. So, therefore they'll have that liquidity coming back and therefore they'll be able to use that money. But of course, the nature of this business is it is quite lumpy, it's a bit like London buses. Nothing happens for years and then they all come at once.

Peter Cowley:                  For you, you had your four exits in one 12-month period.

Simon Thorpe:                 I did have four exits in one 12-month period and there's been a gap now for a year. But I've got a couple of things up my sleeve, so... It shouldn't be too long.

Peter Cowley:                  Oh really, okay, oh well. Talk about that off mike. So what else, this is patience obviously, what you are describing in patience. It takes longer, you've got to be patient. You shouldn't be angel investing unless you can learn, understand that patience is so important.

Simon Thorpe:                 And that's right. Hence, the whole theme of patient capital. That's exactly why it's called that.

Peter Cowley:                  I mentioned team size, tech, other criteria that you've developed over the last ten years?

Simon Thorpe:                 I've used, and this is something that I probably developed from my old research, heritage, if you like. Which I have a research template, I call it a research template, but it's my own way of doing my due diligence. That is all the usual things in a research, who the competition are? Researching the business model. Researching the people, and so on.

                                             Doing the technology due diligence, the commercial due diligence, all those good things. I have my own template to look at that, and I use various proprietary tools to pick up the information and make sure you've done your homework.

Peter Cowley:                  Let's talk about tips you can give to entrepreneurs. So they'll be entrepreneurs listening to this podcast. How can you, as a very sophisticated experience angel, help the entrepreneur approach us angels and work with us?

Simon Thorpe:                 It's a key question. The first thing is entrepreneurs actually need to be able to listen. And they need to absorb information quickly. They're not going to take every piece of advice, obviously, but they need to work out very quickly who are the people they can go to, who do they trust, who can they go to for good information? Good advice. And how can they build the best possible team around them?

                                             The best entrepreneurs, I see, recognize what they're good at, and recognize what they're not good at. And then go out and seek those skills in people and hire those people around them to find those skills that they're not good at. I'm also looking in entrepreneurs for people who are able to articulate very clearly what they do. They need to be that great combination of technical. They don't necessarily need to be the most academic person in the world, it does help if you're academic. But you don't necessarily need to be. But they do need to be intelligent. They do need to have strong emotional intelligence, and they need to be able to work with a wide range of people and be very flexible and adaptable. And of course they need to be very well motivated.

Peter Cowley:                  Right, let's talk about how you have been involved with entrepreneurial journeys. So this is from the point of investment, to the point of exit, stroke failure or on going. There are a number of roles one can take. One can be close, one can be distant, so just cash, I suspect now there's too much of that. Close to the founder, Board observer, Board Director. Let's take those four, so first of all, are there many of these investments where you don't have that much contact?

Simon Thorpe:                 Sometimes I'll be what I call a passive investor. And that will largely be with an agreement at the outset that, that's what I'm going to be. And it might be because I have a very strong contact with somebody who's going to be a much more active investor. And they sit on the Board, or may be an observer. It might be because I've invested through a fund, so I'm an investor in Cambridge Enterprise and that's been very helpful to actually discover the existence of some of these early stage companies.

                                             Sometimes I'll agree at the outset that I'm going to be a non-executive on the Board, and that can mean lots of meetings a year. It can mean two or three or four maybe, strategic meetings a year. Again as you know Peter, that can buy, and occasionally I sit on as an observer to the Board, representing an angel syndicate. And there I'm pretty much acting as a Director, but I don't have the legal liability of being a Director. And I sit in Board meetings and I give input in just the same way as I would as a Board Director. But I'm always thinking, I'm always reporting back to a number of shareholders that I'm representing as the observer.

Peter Cowley:                  I believe in SwiftKey, you were neither a Board observer or a Director, were you? But you were still quite closely involved. Can you talk through that relationship?

Simon Thorpe:                 Yes. Yes, I mean I think with SwiftKey again, it was another good example of where the angels had a reasonable sway all the way through the journey of the company, because even by the time we got to the exit, the angels still held roughly a third of the company, the VC's held a third, and the founders held a third. Very roughly. I don't know the exact numbers, but roughly.

                                             Whereas quite often angels, by that stage, own a much smaller proportion of the company. That was really one of the reasons why there was a good balanced outcome for all the different players and the interest of everybody were quite well aligned. But I was broadly a passive shareholder, but very close to a number of those angels at the beginning, two of whom actually sat on the Board, so we had a good flow of information, we knew what was going on. We had a good relationship with the original founders. I'd say my relationship with the founders is even stronger now, because I've done more things with them since the exit, than I had in the sort of couple of years before the exit.

Peter Cowley:                  So, what more does one have to give in terms of commitment and time, moving up from friend of entrepreneurs through observer to Director?

Simon Thorpe:                 I think it's really important, I always try to think about, “What value could I add to a specific company and specific individuals?”  And you work that out pretty quickly I think, because you work out whether the chemistry's good between you and the founder, or the founders, it may be one founder of the two that you help specifically. Either because the chemistry's better or just because I might be helping on commercial or I might be helping on some other aspect of the business. It just depends what that is.

                                             But I can now see the nature of my career has been, I've had quite a wide breadth of experience, so I can actually potentially help companies on lots of different things. It may or may not be of value to them, and so I'll try to work that out very early on where I can best help them. What I don't want to be, I don't want to be over involved with companies for the sake of it.

Peter Cowley:                  Yes, so I don't know whether you've done it, but because I'm just desperately over committed, I've spent some time with my wonderful life coach, business life coach on working out how much time I spend with these companies, so I can juggle the 168 hours a week. Any idea what sort of time commitment, it will vary obviously, funding rounds, crisis, hiring, etc.? What sort of amount of time per year do you think, or per month do you spend as a Board Director?

Simon Thorpe:                 Well, as a Board Director, you are certainly most, most of these sort of earlier stage companies would be expecting six Board Meetings a year. Some do one a month, 12 a year.

Peter Cowley:                  Monthly, yeah.

Simon Thorpe:                 That's a bit more onerous. But let's say it's 12 meetings a year, then it's going to be at least 12 days a year. And if there's something material happening, then might be more time for a period of time. The way I manage it, is I have a list of my companies, I have digital check sheet, check list sheet, have a drop box file. Like we all do, we have some form of list, it might be in Trello, or might be in Notes, or whatever technique works for you, but I have something where I'll be looking regularly at my companies and saying, “Have I been in touch with this company recently? Have I heard from them? Am I up to date? Is there something going on? Have I seen something that might be relevant to them where I can add some value?”

                                             Perhaps it's on a competitor, perhaps it's on a subscription which I have which I know they don't have. Perhaps it's a contact that I can introduce them to. That's a large part of the value I add, probably is actually adding, helping introduce new contacts in different fields.

Peter Cowley:                  You do that very well. That's what I like, I've known you long enough, you do a better job of that than I do, maybe because I'm more committed, over committed in other sectors. But the value add is excellent. Almost a paragon of what people should look up to in terms of the invested investor. You are so invested in the investments you've made. Because of the time and effort, you are, I mean, various terms floating around, like, 'super angel', 'professional angel', 'full time angel'. You are clearly one of these people that is very important to the early stage of the ecosystem.

Simon Thorpe:                 Well, it's nice of you to say so Peter, you've got a much longer list of companies and many more strings on your bow.

Peter Cowley:                  Must be too many. Anyway Simon, this has been really good. I've learned a lot from you over the last five years. I regard you as a close friend. Thank you very much for what you've contributed today. I should just apologize to the listeners, that Simon, we're working for an office here, near Stansted Airport, and a few planes have gone overhead. If you've heard those. And I look forward to the next podcast we will be recording. Thank you.

Simon Thorpe:                 Well thank you very much Peter. It's been great talking to you.