Law firm founder tells Sheffield entrepreneurs what investors want

Patricia Barclay. Picture by Jacob Lotinga
Patricia Barclay. Picture by Jacob Lotinga
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The founder of an award-winning Edinburgh law firm shared a glittering career’s-worth of tips on the art of pitching to investors with Sheffield entrepreneurs and start-up founders, writes Jacob Lotinga.

Patricia Barclay of Bonaccord Ecosse – a name that combines the sixteenth-century Scottish merchants’ toast with the French for Scotland – was speaking on Wednesday evening at a central library talk hosted by the Sheffield Business and IP Centre.

Ms Barclay said that investors saw “dozens and dozens and dozens” of pitches every month, and that listeners must make their pitch stand out.

She told listeners: “You’re never the only option.”

Outreach co-ordinator Emma Taylor of the Business and IP Centre enthused: “She’s come all the way from Edinburgh and she’s come just for us.”

Ms Barclay, who worked with big pharmaceutical companies around the world before setting up Bonaccord in 2007, advised listeners to “look professional” – right down to “the paper you use” and business cards.

The seasoned lawyer said that listeners should make their business “sound exciting”, and that the presentation to potential investors should be “factual but not dry”.

Audience member Elena Liu (Chinese name Liu Yang), 26, from China’s Hebei province, said the challenges of starting a business had motivated her to attend: “I’m going to do a pitch in January.”

Ms Liu, who has lived in Sheffield for four years and studied Graphic Design, said that her company’s specialism was designing products for young disabled people and children.

Brewery founder Iain Kenny, 32, also attending the talk, said: “I’ve been running my own business for a while and am interested in taking it to the next level.”

Mr Kenny added that his company, North Union Brewery, was having to turn work away and therefore needed to attract investment.

Audience member Dimitri Konstantinidis, 27, who has lived in Sheffield for eight years and is from Greece, said: “I’m interested to explore funding opportunities for the company that I run.”

Mr Konstantinidis said that Homely Apartments, which he co-founded in March, offered serviced flats and flexible accommodation in Sheffield, and needed funding opportunities or partners in order to grow.

Non-profit co-founder Andrea Risden, 40, who lives in Sheffield and was also in the audience, said that her organisation, Supreme Origins, aimed to start a Sheffield carnival so as to “bring that street carnival vibe back”.

Ms Barclay warned the Sheffield audience: “It’s really hard to get money in Yorkshire.”

She said that Yorkshire had a limited range of angel funds.

Speaking on the day Donald Trump’s US election victory was announced, Ms Barclay said that most of her American friends were in the northeast, and she imagined they had not voted for Trump “from the unhappy emails I’ve had today.”

Referring to the EU referendum result, Ms Barclay said: “Brexit is not going to make life easier for high-tech companies.”

She voiced particular concern about the impact of Brexit on small life science and medical device companies.

When not offering tips to Sheffield entrepreneurs keen to sharpen their pitches to investors, Ms Barclay teaches Intellectual Property Law at Edinburgh University.

She added that she called her law firm Bonaccord Ecosse because the name Bonaccord - or Bon Accord - had already been taken by a lemonade company.