Posted on April 11, 2019 by staff

‘We’re here for the long-term’ – Silicon Valley Bank


Technology specialist Silicon Valley Bank has underlined its long-term commitment to the North and spoken of the potential in the regions.

The California-based bank has a reputation for working with tech entrepreneurs and investors and employs 250 people in London.

Last year they made Barclays’ former head of Tech, Media and Telecoms Richard Faulkner their first hire outside the bank’s London office to lead their Northern expansion from Manchester.

Speaking at BusinessCloud’s Best of North West Tech event, at UKFast, on Wednesday, SVB’s head of venture and growth banking, Sonya Iovieno, said Faulkner’s appointment as managing director was a ‘statement of intent’.

“We have been in the UK for 12 years now and our only office in most of that time has been in London,” she said. “We’re actually quite a conservative bank, we dip into markets very cautiously and we only tend to extend to the people on markets when you have that real proven track of talent, of entrepreneurs, of investors, and capital.

“The Midlands, the North and particularly around Manchester, Birmingham and Liverpool, we’re seeing local government, we’re seeing universities, we see funds come into that market on a regular basis and there’s some pretty big PLCs around here as well with the likes of Hut Group and GBG.

“Richard was a really stand out talent and we were looking on the banking side of this market. We want to spend a lot more time here because we think there’s still a lot more to go for here but the depth of talent means that we certainly intend to be here for the long-term.”

The event, which was attended by 125 people, followed publication of BusinessCloud’s North West 251 Tech list, which showcased some of the best digital firms across Manchester, Liverpool, Cumbria, Lancashire and Cheshire.

Iovieno said: “We work with tech companies from a very early stage, they usually have to have some traction because we focus on working with high-growth companies and we support them through a series of evolutions, they may go the venture capital route in terms of raising external equity, and I run that part of the bank in the UK.

“The other interesting part of our business is that we also have a choice of funds in the US, so we bank about 60 per cent of venture capital from about 50 per cent of private equity, which puts us right in the heart of ecosystems.”

She said the tech sector needed specialist banking knowledge. “The bank is actually formed by a number of extremely successful entrepreneurs out of tech businesses who reinvested in start-ups but found that other banks didn’t understand very high growth trajectory,” she explained. “Rather than SMEs, these businesses were maybe turning over a million in year one, 5, 6 10 in year two, 40 million in year three and normal banks can’t really cope with that.

“Raising external equity isn’t for everyone, there are lots of very successful bootstrapped businesses, but if you have an appetite for high growth, if you have an appetite for building a business of real scale, then it’s very difficult to do that slowly if you’re funding yourself. “

Silicon Valley Bank has worked with successful furniture business and fashion platform Farfetch, which has grown from a start-up to a unicorn – although Iovieno insisted they couldn’t take all the credit.

“I think the fact that we’re super laser-focused on technology means that we understand how these businesses tick,” she said. “We speak the language that the entrepreneurs speak. Because we spend so much time with investors and the entrepreneurs, we know what good looks like.

“Many of our clients in the UK will look to expand in the US, and we will do everything we can to use our network to help them do that. Lots of people fall when they go to the US, by either location in the wrong place or hiring the wrong people. We will use our offices in the US to find the right search firms so that they can help them out there, or make contact with local networking groups.”

  • The other speakers were Zoe Ross, founder of Mind Moose; Chloe Barrett, CEO and founder, Digidentistry; Martin Cutbill, chief business development officer, Alertacall; Andy Kent, CEO and founder, Angel Solutions; Chris Haralambous, director of commercial partnerships, Laduma; Ryan Bryers, CTO and CIO, CarFinance247; Kristina McGuirk, head of marketing, UKFast; Dawn Embry, head of strategy and planning, Mobica; and Nick Black, co-founder and chief commercial officer, Apadmi.