Investors should be supporting entrepreneurs when they hand over funding says Intelligent Partnership founder Guy Tolhurst.
His company is an award-winning provider of accredited research, events, insights and education on a range of alternative investments. Part of this education is an emphasis on wellbeing and mental health.
There used to be a lack of capital in the UK, says Tolhurst, but by pumping money into the country the government has shortened the runway to investment and created another problem.
“It used to take around two years for an entrepreneur to take on investment – now it might be 12 months, which means the entrepreneur hasn’t built up as much resilience,” he told BusinessCloud.
“This means when things go wrong they can go really badly wrong if they haven’t had a chance to build that up.
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“I’ve met people who said ‘I went to market with a good idea, investors gave me a million quid and I thought it was the best thing that’s ever happened to me; 12 months later I realised it was the worst possible thing that’s happened to me because I wasn’t prepared’.
“All the tech innovation and disruption happening is great because we can get a taxi cheaper and get our food in three minutes but are we throwing the very people creating the ideas in the UK on the rubbish heap because we’re overcapitalising them but not supporting them?”
The issue of mental health in business has been well publicised says Tolhurst but it’s mostly coming in at a corporate level with big business who can afford programmes to protect their workforce.
“Where it isn’t coming in is in founders and CEOs because they ‘need to be strong and be the leader’. For them, it’s not ok to not be ok,” he said.
“A lot of them are suffering with mental health issues in silence so we’re shining a light on the small businesses with great people and fantastic ideas.
“We’re saying to investors that ‘you’ve thrown money at them but as part of that you need to take responsibility for supporting them through tough times’.”
To solve the problem Tolhurst wants to create investor wellbeing teams to look after investee businesses.
“Investors used to give entrepreneurs money and say ‘don’t lose it’. Now we want them to be saying ‘don’t lose it’ mentally instead,” he said.
“I’ve been running businesses for 11 years and I’ve suffered with mental health issues along my journey. I’ve often not known where to turn and been scared because I didn’t want my team or investors to think I’m not ok.
“Companies need the right advice and support to grow and if they get that they’ll create jobs and wealth, and boost optimism in the workplace and the country.”
Tolhurst and his team are currently working on a project called 100 Stories of Growth that is also aimed at showcasing routes to investment across the UK and helping entrepreneurs feel less alone.
“The stories are designed to inspire entrepreneurs at whatever stage they’re at in their growth journey,” said Tolhurst.
“They can say ‘I’m a tech business in the North West, let’s look at other businesses in the same sector and region and see how they grew and scaled.
“I hope it’ll inspire people to understand capital, take on capital and understand the options to help them scale.”
Investment education is vital, as Tolhurst has found a lot of the entrepreneurs interviewed for the project were scared of taking on equity because they see ‘investment’ as synonymous with giving up their idea and a portion of their company.
“A lot of people were fearful but if you look at equity in terms of growth capital then actually a lot of possibility comes with it,” he said.
“We call it ‘the board you can’t afford’, because the right equity at the right stage gives you so much more than money – it gives you access to networks and markets, experience from people who’ve done it before and may have invested in 10 other tech businesses like you.
“A lot of people are lacking education around investment options and benefits.”