A Network of Radical Entrepreneurs
We are on the cusp of ‘machine age’, where new technologies will alter almost every facet of our lives. These are the people making it happen. London Innovators is an elite community of 1,000 founders & investors; a connecting force for radical entrepreneurs. We’re religious about innovation, and highly selective about membership. Members come from all kinds of backgrounds; from teenage prodigies, to high-flying ex-corporates, to scientists, medics, and engineers, to serial entrepreneurs with IPOs on their CV.
London Innovators began in 2013 as a network of entrepreneurs doing extraordinary things; many with exponential growth potential. Members are all pursuing highly ambitious, highly innovative ventures; from quantum security, to IOT, to material science, medical technologies, challenger banks, robotics, social enterprise, clean tech, gaming, to virtual reality, and artificial intelligence. It remains both sector and stage agnostic. The key principle is to help one another to succeed.
Business Club 2.0
We seek to dramatically advance members’ interests through high value connections. Members are able to meet extraordinary people, of a similar mindset, who can help in all kinds of ways. London’s 17th Century coffee houses gave birth to breakthrough innovations including The London Stock Exchange, Lloyd’s of London, and the great auction houses of Sotheby’s and Christie’s. London Innovators is much the same thing; a forum for digital-era businesses with global potential. We create opportunities for highly innovative people to cross-pollinate with one another, as a peer group for pioneers.
The key driver for creating London Innovators was London’s lack of forum for highly ambitious entrepreneurs… a clubhouse, where founders can connect, share and collaborate. While there are many meatmarket startup events (Silicon Drinkabout, Minibar, Startup Grind), and various organisations aiming to boost startup activity (Tech City, Google Campus, NESTA), there was no go-to organisation for entrepreneurs to come together as a community. There was no ‘coffee shop’ for radicals to congregate in. And very little quality control. So most networking activity in London is a waste of time.
Curation is Critical
It is hugely important for founders to have an informed peer network to go to for advice and support. Curation is critical – otherwise it doesn’t work. We needed to create an invitation-only model that wasn’t pretentious, or easily corruptible. Private Members Clubs like Soho House, Groucho, or Maddox don’t have this kind of remit, culture, or client focus, so they are not much use to startup entrepreneurs. They are also very expensive, and full of spivs.
Prior to London Innovators, it was far too difficult for founders to network effectively, partly because London is such a big city, but mostly because the way that people have approached this problem in the past was wrong. The idea of a ‘digital social network for entrepreneurs’ is a seductive concept – but it doesn’t work (although congratulations to Angel List, which is still worthwhile – every rule has an exception). There’s no substitute to meeting in person. Events companies don’t cut the mustard either, because their key driver is ticket sales. Enter Mr Spiv, Mr Accountant, and Mr Bad Idea. The quality and relevance of people attending most startup events is a lottery. And lotteries are a tax on stupidity (Voltaire). Successful networks are ruthlessly protective for a reason.
Equity Market Failure
For founders seeking investment, the Angel Investor & VC markets are highly intimidating, inefficient, and fragmented… there are sharks in the water. And far too many spivs. It takes months for emerging entrepreneurs to learn about fundraising – full fluency in equity finance is expected. It takes months – or years – for some innovators to connect with suitable patrons. Investors are not easy to identify, or to approach. VCs are terrible at marketing. Most of them are window shopping, even if you do get to meet them – it is hard to know who is serious in this market, and who is wasting your time. Getting finance for an innovation is very very hard, because it is still done through clandestine networks, and Chinese whispers, under the pretence that quality opportunities somehow ‘float to the top’. Bullshit. A lot of talent is handicapped because the ‘marketplace’ for innovation is so dependent on who you know. Investors are also succour (like all of us) to emotional decision making (see Cialdini’s 6 Principles of Social Influence), so they are waiting for introductions from authoritative sources. Good luck going direct. Is it any wonder that the median result for a VC is failure?
The best way to learn about business is through conversations with people who have been there, and done it before. Entrepreneur-to-entrepreneur. We’re seeking to create the best possible environment for emerging technologies and innovations to succeed. That means looking after the Founders. It means bringing extraordinary people together.
VCs and Angels (counter to conventional wisdom) are mostly inaccessible. It’s an opaque, and mysterious market. The spivs are thriving. Some of the deals being done involve horrific terms. It’s also clear from many accelerator and VC portfolios, that great innovations do not often reach the best investors, and vice versa. That’s not good for anyone. As founders, we need a better model, and a network to counter the systemic bias in favour of capital.
London Innovators make strategic introductions to high value people. We can demystify the fundraising process for emerging talent too – insulating first time entrepreneurs from naievity, bad investors, and bad deals. In many respects, London Innovators is the inversion of a traditional Angel Network; investors come to us looking for opportunities.
There is no cost to membership. London Innovators is free to join, and our innovation events are (practically) free to attend. We have a fundamental long-term interest that is worth far more than ticket sales or membership fees. Our purpose is to build and sustain an elite network. It is in our interests to accelerate the success of our members. This gives us access to tremendous opportunities. Anything that might compromise the quality of the network is eliminated.
Fundraising is a tough business, and many members have asked us for help. London Innovators has connected dozens of founders and investors to one another for free, since launching in 2013. We will continue to do this, because that’s what we do. It’s good for the members, and it’s good for the network.
We can also help founders to communicate more effectively, and to connect to the right investors, as an expert professional service. This can accelerate the fundraising process by months (warm strategic introductions, 1st class pitch preparation). It can help to secure offers from the best investors (make it competitive, negotiate in parallel), and to secure founder-friendly terms (better valuations, no ‘gotcha’ clauses). We only do this if asked by Founders (no hard sell, members only), on a success-based commission. Get in touch if interested.
The Penrose Awards are positioned for significant growth, and present a high value sponsorship opportunity for the right brands. The awards identify 50 extraordinary companies a year – championing pioneer entrepreneurs on the way up. This opens up international PR opportunities, among other sponsor benefits.
It’s All About The Future
Old establishment business clubs (IOD, CBI, Chamber of Commerce) are world’s apart both culturally, and economically. They tend to have a broad, retrospective membership remits (ideal for middle-aged white males). Traditional business clubs are busy chasing membership fees, and event revenues to survive. We don’t do this, because it’s a 2nd rate business model, and it’s a barrier to entry. They need to do it because they have high overheads to cover. We don’t.
Our purpose and design are completely different. We are a peer network of radical entrepreneurs, welcoming newcomers with extraordinary potential. It’s prospective. It’s free. It’s gender neutral. People are invited to join. We don’t care much about a members’ background, because breakthrough innovations come from all kinds of unpredictable places. It’s all about the future.
New Members Welcome
London Innovators is vibrant community made up of +700 pioneer entrepreneurs, and 300 (or so) Investors. Membership grows at a steady rate. We’re not interested in volume or growth hacking; this is a high quality network, by and for Founders. We’re looking for innovations that can scale rapidly (many are already doing so) or deliver a 10x return on investment. ‘Me too’ businesses won’t cut it – there needs to be a differentiating factor between the business and it’s competitors… an unfair advantage (which should be pretty obvious).
The vast majority of founders in the network have been introduced in by other members – through peer recommendations. A good number have got in touch via the contact form on our home page… Just be sure to articulate your suitability when writing in. Members are constantly contributing one another’s success: sharing entrepreneurial know-how, making valuable introductions, sense-checking ideas, recommending new technologies & tools, sharing talent & sales leads, and connecting into investor networks. We take a principled approach, and hope that our commitment to transparency undoes any cynicism you might have. It’s our intention to be genuinely friendly and un-intimidating.
Criteria for membership is simple. We apply 3 tests, and make a judgement call on each. We’re interested in:
Highly Innovative Ventures - from concept to IPO
How innovative is your business?
Extraordinary Entrepreneurial Potential
Attitude + Aptitude
What’s the business model?
The membership model excludes almost all businesses. It’s an essential part of the design.
Outlier members (non-founders/investors), are typically senior corporate innovators (IBM, Deloitte Digital, Thomson Reuters, Bloomberg, Accenture as a few examples), technology experts, or innovation specialists at companies like IDEO, The Future Laboratory, or Seymour Powell. We like to think of these members as ‘radicals’. They all have a significant stake in innovation, relevant expertise, and valuable networks.