Click here for FREE registration or Login to your account:

Network Locations



The Enterprise Hub Network focuses on companies with high-growth potential. Inevitably many of them face challenges in raising finance. Surrey Enterprise Hub Director Marilyn Huckerby and Business Champion Nigel Biggs consider the problems faced by developing companies.  

Marilyn Huckerby: Many of our companies have to go through early, proof-of-concept and proof-of-market stages, which is tough from the point of view of attracting investment, because most new investors won’t invest in a business until they are either actually generating revenue or very close to it.  

Many new businesses think their bank should be their first port of call to raise finance when the first “three Fs” – Friends, Family and Fools – are exhausted, but while a company is still pre-revenue most banks won’t be interested.   That’s where I think the Hubs have an important role – to help companies go out and convince potential investors that they should put money into the business. Importantly, that’s the point where you have to start writing a business plan, because you’ve got to sell the business proposition.  

Writing a business plan is a particular skill, which is one important way that Hubs can help.  

At the early stage most companies will be concentrating on trying to develop their products; it’s difficult for them to find the time to produce a business plan to convince a potential investor. They have to be able to demonstrate a whole range of things: from their understanding of the market and their understanding of the competition to where their first customers are going to come from. We can help them to produce a business plan that they understand and believe in and that will convince business people.  

Nigel Biggs: There’s a challenge in just writing the business plan and that’s a very large hurdle, but once they’ve got over that there are a lot of funding options – many more now than there were when I started.  

Marilyn Huckerby: What funding option they go for depends on the type of business they are in. One of the first things that we do is work through an investment preparation stage, often with the help of our colleagues at Finance South East, to see what funding is appropriate.  

So, if the company needs £500,000, a funding strategy will be developed to look at how they can get to that figure. If it’s a company that’s developing a very innovative new product then there are opportunities like the grant for R&D from the DTI; if it is a later-stage company trying prove the concept of its idea then we might be looking at Proof of Concept Funds (of which there are a few), later still we would be considering one of the pre-revenue or mezzanine loan funds managed by Finance South East aimed to leverage other funding from Business Angels or commercial banks. Eventually we might come to Venture Capital through trusts or funds. The important thing is that we help to focus a company on the right source of funds at the right stage, and we give help in applying for those funds.  

Nigel Biggs: Quite aside from having a good commercial idea, there’s a skill in knowing what to do to get considered. For smaller companies getting access to those skills can be a problem, as is working out what money is available, and where from.  

Marilyn Huckerby: The stepped levels of funding available are described as a funding “Escalator”, because they help to move you through the stages of company development, providing you with injections of cash at appropriate points.  

Nigel Biggs: But if you’re not involved with the Hub Network and its Directors you wouldn’t have any idea there’s an “Escalator”, or any structure to funding possibilities at all; there’s just money that you rush around trying to find out about and get hold of. It’s only when you get involved with the Hub that it’s explained to you and you begin to see how you can move through the funding process and take advantage of everything that’s on offer.  

If you were to ask me if there is any general lesson that companies seeking funding can learn, any shrewd investor will be looking for the same things: the company has got to understand its market sector; it has got to have evidence in its business plan that it is going to grow; and, perhaps most importantly, the management team have got to project their ability and commitment to the business.  

To be honest, whether it is £5,000, £50,000 or £500,000 it’s the same question “do I have faith that the management team will succeed?”  

Marilyn Huckerby: I would agree with that entirely. But it’s also important to have done your homework, to be ready for the questions when they come. And that's where we can help.  

Nigel on Marilyn “Marilyn runs the Hub day to day, and is responsible for its performance in supporting clients, and the leadership of our local Hub team. Marilyn has devoted enormous energy to making the Surrey Hub a focus for business support in Guildford and Egham.”   Marilyn is an engineer who learned about enterprise whilst working for entrepreneurs. She was inspired by this AND founded a software company with a business colleague, which they grew and ultimately exited from via a trade sale.  

Marilyn on Nigel “As the Champion, Nigel makes sure that we run officially as a company, but, more importantly, because he has been through the process of growing a business and knows the technology business and the hybrid-technology business sectors so well, he’s a great resource to me as a mentor.”   Nigel started Pixology in 1987, which went public in 2003. He has been the Surrey Hub Champion since its inception. He is currently Chief Operating Officer for Imagineer Systems and Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the University of Surrey.    

Contact: E

Contact: Ally Charles


Published: 07th November 2006

High Growth Business Coaching Website

Design Clarity