Founders seeking investment should chase customers rather than awards if they want to secure funding.

That’s the message of serial entrepreneur and principal of Manchester Angels Network, David Levine, who advises businesses on raising investment.

Levine, who is speaking at the Tech Barometer event on September 12th, said too many entrepreneurs think winning awards is the key to unlocking investment.

“Investors don’t care about awards,” he said. “They might say that they do, but they don’t. The only traction is when real customers use the product.”

Levine, who is the founder and ex-CEO of award-winning DigitalBridge, said founders need to ask themselves if they’re a ‘vitamin pill or a painkiller’.

He explained: “Is your business solving a real painful problem or is it just something to make you feel a bit better?”

Levine has helped four companies in the last six months secure investment, including data infrastructure solutions Versori raise £2.75m and Sheffield-based ChipFlow, which raised £1.2m in seed funding.

KPMG’s Ed Prior to speak at Tech Barometer event

“Investors like big markets,’ he said. “People go top down but you need to identify who your customers are, how much they’re likely to pay, and do that from the ground up.”

Levine advised founders to build a ‘defensive moat’ around their business to increase the barriers to entry for potential competitors.

He explained: “Make sure you’re building something that has a defensible moat so you protect your business from competition.

“Investors like to see a line to profitability. They don’t like to see founders who aren’t all in. They have to be committed. You can’t have a side hustle. They must be open to coaching and being advised.”

Levine is one of seven confirmed speakers at the 4th Tech Barometer event, which is organised by tech specialist Fairmont Recruitment and BusinessCloud.

It will have a special focus on AI and investment trends.

Levine will be joined by Ed Prior, who recently joined KPMG as associate director in the North West corporate finance team. He previously spent nearly eight years at GP Bullhound and is one of the most respected names in the Northern tech scene.

The other five speakers are Martin Bryant, founder of UK startup newsletter PreSeed Now; Tom Eggleston, CEO of ProofID, which raised £15m in investment in May 2022 from Maven Capital Partners; Jennifer Atkinson, co-founder and executive chair at Travel Seen; Chelsea Slater, founder and CEO of InnovateHer; and Jack Donohue, CEO and founder of Fairmont Recruitment.

New date for bigger and better Tech Barometer

The event will be hosted by award-winning journalist Chris Maguire.

It’s free to attend but spaces are strictly limited so register here