Howard Simms, Apadmi Ventures CEO, describes why Ventures was set up and what’s planned for the future.
Apadmi Ventures is the investment arm of the Apadmi Group, putting money, advice and technological expertise into early-stage, highly-scalable technology companies.
That’s a mouthful, but basically, we’re in tech. We have been for almost 10 years (although some of us for much longer). We can build pretty much any software solution you could ask for – from cloud to mobile, with a strong in-house UX skillset too.
But the fact we’re in this unique position allows us to ask the question: “what should we be building?”
Rather than looking at helping any client or company that comes along, we’re able to focus on what excites us, and that’s really where the idea behind Apadmi Ventures started.
Great investments only work with expert collaboration
We’ve always invested in ideas. In the early days, we learnt how to fail fast, before realising that collaboration was the way forward for us.
Our first investment was something called First Circle – it was created for the yachting sector and sailing community, and allowed you to see if you were close to friends and acquaintances when out on the water.
It was a great idea, very unique, but we learnt the hard way that the route to market in this instance was paramount – and not something we had in place to the point where we could make it a success.
Fast-forward a few years to RealityMine, and we saw technology and route to market align perfectly. The difference? Rather than just an entrepreneur with bags of enthusiasm (as is the way with so many great ideas), we were joined by a sector expert.
Lesson learnt; the approach worked so well, and taught us the importance of that strong relationship and collaboration across industries. So, we did it again, and again, and are still using this model across a variety of investments, from market research to retail and sport.
Investing means so much more than money
It’s incredibly exciting to play a part in highly-scalable businesses like these.
Our position as a strategic technology partner means we’re able to make a valid and often substantial contribution to our investments – and not just in terms of finance.
We have tech experts on tap at the core of our business who can help with UX design through to brand marketing – but over the years and as part of our other business endeavours, we’ve developed our own connections with many highly-active business angels, as well as a series of investor networks of early stage funders too.
They’ve all got invaluable sector expertise to offer start-ups – sometimes it’s that ability to just pick up the phone to the right people that can make all the difference. It’s not all one way though; we also provide tech due diligence on the start-ups that such business angels are considering substantial investments in.
This is a service we’ve been providing for a number of years; we look at the current technology in place, inform the investors of the tech requirements they’re inheriting, and advise them on the right solution that should be built to ensure scalability in future.
“Brilliant ideas don’t always mean brilliant business opportunities”
We’re involved with many different sectors – market research, advertising, retail, property, music, sport, travel and even dating to name a few – but we didn’t get where we are without turning down opportunities too.
The hardest lesson for us, and for many investment groups, is learning what to say “no” to. We’ve learnt what to look for, asking: “what ingredients are necessary for success?”
All this means we can make a logical decision on which ones to support – we know we’re only ever backing highly-scalable businesses that have the best chance of success.
Brilliant ideas don’t always mean brilliant business opportunities. Yes, there’s a risk attached, there always will be – it’s knowing what makes a well-thought-out, educated risk and considering what has the right chance for success.
It’s fascinating – you’re given the earliest opportunities to scrutinise potentially some of the highest growth companies out there, offering advice, guidance and expertise.
You give them everything they need to fly. You become the enabler.
You can pivot ideas, changing a company structure in a matter of hours.
We did that recently with someone from the sporting industry. We took her business model, completely turned it on its head, and added a whole new, innovative and exciting concept, potentially transforming her business into one of staggering potential.
Invest, scale, exit, repeat
We love what we do – we love building relationships with start-ups, growing our networks with funders, and watching these businesses flourish.
These are some of the best partnerships to have, because there’s an equal respect and appreciation for both business acumen and sector expertise on both sides.
We’re not stopping now – we’re just getting started with Ventures.
The most important thing for us is that, with every new venture we back, we believe in it, wanting them to grow and succeed.
It may sound a little tongue-in-cheek, but the best measure of that success is lots of exits – that means we’ve done our job!
And that’s the plan for us going forward – we want to invest in lots more businesses, nurture them and help them to scale-up into large revenue-generating companies, before making an exit ……and then we do it again, and again, and again.