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I was at a big trade show last week called NextGen. This is the show for existing and future technologies in the alternative energy arena – everything from hi tec wood burning stoves to waste to energy plants. It attracts companies from all over Europe and was very busy with over 500 exhibitors and a wide range of lectures from the technical to policy. All good stuff and I thought I would find some interesting UK companies to whom we could deploy our bond funds. Well there were a few but compared with the German and Austrian exhibitors they felt small, inexperienced and amateurish.

Why is this I wonder? Is this the consequence of years of neglect of this sector by policy makers or just an accident of history? In Europe this sector has been thriving for the last 20 years. Well as an ex policy wonk my impression was that 20 years ago the alternative energy market was seen as small, hokey and irrelevant. We had oil and gas and what was the point of bothering with alternatives! Now we are scrambling to catch-up. History may now be repeating it self with the Cameron administration – political expediency substituting for long term energy policy . The energy sector has always been seen as” difficult” for governments. Investment decisions have very long lead times so short term costs incurred in one Parliament lead to long term gains that might not show up for two or three Parliaments. So a standard response has been to kick difficult decisions into the long grass and wait for a crises which can then be blamed on previous Governments. Perhaps energy policy is too important for Governments and should be set by an independent body with representatives from all parties – a variation on the Office for Budget responsibility.

By Richard Turner


We have been pondering the current debate on open technology and the relaxing of the rules regarding intellectual property protection. It throws up some issues that appear to present a Catch 22 type problem. The argument is that current IP protection i.e. patents stifles innovation and encourages monopoly power. The issue was thrown into stark relief by the recent Samsung Apple court battle. Apple was awarded initially $1.2 billion for infringements and Apple is now seeking a further $707 million.  Apple is seeking a permanent ban on 26 Samsung smartphones and tablets. Samsung has responded by seeking a new trial. As a report by Reuters has stated, Samsung said in its filing to the U.S. court; “It is unfortunate that patent law can be manipulated to give one company a monopoly over rectangles with rounded corners, or technology that is being improved every day by Samsung and other companies.”

On one level it is clearly absurd that Apple should be able to act as a road block further developments of existing technology and be able to patent a simple shape. On the other hand as investors we are seeking IP as a form of competitive advantage.  There can be a clear conflict between IP protection and the wider good. As ever the answer lies in a more sensible application of the law. The key question is:  when is it a matter of standing on the shoulders of innovation and when is it theft? We all use and incorporate  previous technology – if we didn’t then we would still be living in caves.  That is not the same as stealing ideas and directly exploiting them without adding innovation.

By Richard Turner



Rockpool creates tax-efficient investments for individuals. As a network of successful entrepreneurs, who invest their own money directly, Rockpool is well aligned with the types of companies that Catalyst works with.

 Rockpool’s main focus is to:
• offer access to high quality UK private companies
• make investing in private equity and other alternative investments easier
• ensure that information on the performance of your investments is always at your fingertips

Funds or direct investing:
Rockpool’s range of tax-efficient funds is designed to offer portfolio diversity and the least possible hassle for investors. Qualified investors – generally those with £500,000 or more to invest – can also invest directly in individual Rockpool opportunities by joining the Rockpool Network.  In this way you can build your own bespoke portfolio of investments.

You can find out more about Rockpool at their website. If you are interested in becoming an investor please get in contact with us.


Richard TurnerThe past month has indicate that a feeding frenzy may be about to begin. Facebook (founded 2004) bought Instagram (2009) for $1 billion. Earlier, Zynga (2007) acquired OMGPop(2006) for $200 million . The feeding frenzy is a result of collective paranoia and greed. Facebook and Zynga recognise that just as they came from no where to being giants of the web so other companies can achieve the same. The strategy appears to be as soon as another company raises its head above the parapet and gain some traction acquire it. The fear stems from a strong belief that unless you are on the curve you will lose the edge and the head space of the target audience who value the new and the different ahead of the traditional values of brand, reliability etc. Innovation is all and Facebook and Zynga know that large companies are always behind the curve. There is a view that Facebook is old school , Zynga not yet but both have the same challenge of remaining on the edge.


Richard TurnerThere is much discussion at the moment about the Banks not willing to lend to SME’s. Government has proposed to help SME’s by subsidising loans to the tune of £20 billion. This will reduce the interest rate on loans made by participating banks by 1%. Is this likely to stimulate the SME economy?

The answer I am afraid is not by much. Our worms eye view at Catalyst is that the problem is not the cost of debt but the absence of debt. There is in effect a binary problem. If your project leaps the banks hurdles then you get the finance if it fails then you don’t. The problem is the that the bar has got higher and higher – what was sensible and fundable in 2005 now fails absolutely – not because the outcomes are different but because of a climate of fear .

I am not arguing for a return to the wild and woolly days merely that the cost of debt needs to reflect the risk of the project. Banks used to pride themselves that they understood risk  and could price it.  There even used to be what was called mezzanine debt which ranked below senior debt but above equity.

This finance would have interest rates of 15% with an equity kicker. Risk is not binary – often projects do not fail in an absolute sense: the investors may have to wait for a long time to get their money back; debt may have to be rescheduled. Debt providers need to re-learn how to price risk and be more creative with financial instruments.


Richard TurnerThere has been much discussion on the News and in the Press on how to fuel growth in the UK. Most commentators agree that SME’s will be a major source of future growth . So  it seems reasonable to ask what is holding back SME’s from growing and diversifying?

Our experience at Catalyst suggests that while many factors affect SME growth and company foundation the major source of constraint is finance. This is both cash flow finance and investment finance.  Until this constraint is tackled then removing regulation, providing tax incentives, and creating enterprise zones is merely papering over the cracks.

We at Catalyst have launched two “credit crunch” products: the first through our partner company – Catalyst IFG helps ease companies cash flow constraints. The second our Bond aims to provide investment funding on reasonable terms.

Richard TurnerAt Catalyst we receive many proposals a week from entrepreneurial companies in various stages of growth. Sometimes it’s obvious that the company is on the fast track to raising finance but in most cases there are obvious – and often simple – ways to improve a proposition. Here are my top 10 tips for fundraising;

1. Understand where you are in your company development i.e. are you at the seed stage (pre-revenue),  Start-up (initial revenues), early stage (below £1m annual revenues), growth stage (£1m plus annual revenues).

2. Have a scaleable business model with demonstrable economies of scale and scope

3. Have ambition to achieve revenues of £10+ in five years

4. Get the right management team. You need to have a management team with the right experience and track record.

5. Research your market make sure you understand how it works from the bottom up – who are your competitors, how big is the market, what is its growth rate and key drivers.

6. Write a realistic business plan using bottom up estimates of growth and a detailed analysis of to whom you are going to sell and why they are going to buy.

7. Have a detailed understanding of the routes to market and tactically how you are going to sell through them’.

8. Get all members of the management team on side and signed up to the plan.

9. Match your fund raising focus to sources suitable for your stage: Seed stage – friends and family; Start-up – Angels and early stage funds; early stage – venture capital; Growth stage – Venture Capital, VCT’s , Bond Finance etc

10. Build a board of industry heavy weights who have invested in your company.

If you would like to discuss a proposal or indeed get more information on any of the points raised above please get in touch for a chat. We are always happy to hear from successful companies who have an interest in raising finance for growth.








A new Accelerator programme launched by entrepreneur and CEO of Hamilton Bradshaw, James Caan, is offering first class business support and access to multi-million pound funding for the UK’s most innovative green entrepreneurs.

The Berti Green Accelerator programme, supported by James Caan’s Hamilton Bradshaw Impact Partners (HBIP), is searching for three successful low carbon businesses to award six months of first-class business support from HBIP and the opportunity to receive funding of up to £1million each from Berti Investments.

Whilst UK economic growth has substantially slowed since 2008, venture capital investment into the UK’s cleantech sector increased in 2011 for the sixth year in a row, to over £350million. With considerable work still to be done to reach 2020 carbon reduction targets, significant opportunities lie ahead for green entrepreneurs.

Berti Investments believes the low carbon sector can drive impactful growth that serves a triple bottom line: profit, people and planet, but green entrepreneurs need access to the right kind of business support and finance in order for this to happen.

The Berti Green Accelerator programme is open to any conceptually good, low carbon UK business with growth potential and a proof of concept. The three successful businesses will have to demonstrate that their business aims to tackle climate change by sustainably reducing carbon emissions.

James Caan, founder and CEO of Hamilton Bradshaw said:
“The Berti Green Accelerator programme has been developed by Berti Investments and HBIP following a shared commitment to making a difference through impact investing. The programme combines my desire to seek out and support potential high growth businesses with my interest in impact investing.

“The impact investing market place is growing, but many entrepreneurs struggle to become investment ready due to lack of experience or knowledge about certain aspects of their business, such as financial or operational know-how. The Berti Green Accelerator programme tackles this by blending bespoke business support with access to capital. It’s what we call intelligent capital.”

Jeremy Leggett, Berti Green Accelerator judge and founder and Chairman of Solarcentury said:
“Renewable and energy efficiency technologies will have to replace fossil fuels far faster than most people currently anticipate. In the UK, we have the potential to source all of our primary energy from renewables, such and solar photovolatics, wind and marine technologies, but to do this we need an explosive growth in all renewable and energy efficient technology markets.

“The UK needs fast-growing domestic renewable energy businesses more than ever, and programmes like the Berti Green Accelerator, that provide investment and support for cleantech businesses, are vital for encouraging growth and stimulating this sector.”

Applications for the fund are now open with a closing date of 17th April 2012. Shortlisted candidates will pitch to a Dragons’ Den style panel of judges including James Caan, Jeremy Leggett (Founder and Chairman of Solarcentury), Michael Liebreich (Founder and Chief Executiveof Bloomberg New Energy Finance) and Jacques Tredoux (Berti Investments).


Richard Turner will be taking part in ALPHA TECH FEST 2012                                                                                                                           

LONDON, 16th March 2012

The Annual Festival for tech ventures looking for funding & growth

The Alpha Tech Fest brings together venture capitalists, angel investors and ground-breaking tech ventures every year to discuss funding options and to build their network in an informal setting.

This year, the fest has the opportunity to host leading VCs; seed, early & mid-stage investors and venture directors who have actively been investing over the last year.


More and more VCs and investors are following a model of progressing discussions with ventures whom they have met and had an opportunity to learn more about. Having a business plan submitted by email hardly has the same impact as a face-to-face interaction.

At Alpha Tech Fest 2012, all participating ventures have their own allotted interaction space, so investors & visitors can look them up for an initial chat. VCs and angels will also be taking the time to have focussed interactions with each participating venture through scheduled investor tours.

These initial meetings could form the basis of follow-up conversations and meetings – attend ATF2012 to draw attention to your ambitious ventures and network with the best in the field.


Once you are registered to participate in ATF2012, the organising team will be in touch to discuss on-day logistics and scheduling for the investor tours – both for tech ventures and investors.

Read more at: http://alphaversion.co.uk/atf-2012.html




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