British Venture Capital Association – A Meeting…

Michael D. Moberly   March 16, 2010

While in London recently where I served as one of the keynote speakers for the European Information Asset Protection Conference, I secured a meeting with officials of the British Venture Capital Association (BVCA) which serves as UK’s public policy advocate for the private equity and venture capital industry.

A significant percentage of my discussion with BVCA officials evolved around comparing and contrasting UK’s VC industry with the US, and the so-called ‘silicon valley’ model which my hosts did not advocate tyring to replicate in the UK.

Our discussion also explored possible differences between US and UK entrepreneurs.  One such difference expressed by BVCA was that some would be UK entrepreneurs may be more reluctant to start an entrepreneurial business compared to their US counterparts due to stronger personal concerns about the consequences of (business) failure.  It was said that a contributing factor to this perception lie in UK bankruptcy laws that are not considered particularly entrpreneur friendly.  That is, company and personal bankruptcies in the UK are generally considered indistinguishable, therefore a combination of business failure and bankruptcy may discourage, in a entry barrier context, more entrepreneurial activities because it elevates-carries a sense (probability) of personal failure.

While UK’s VC industry is generally considered to be the most advanced in the EU, BVCA officials suggested there are relatively few (UK-based) investors with the financial capability to fund promising (innovative) companies through each stage of their development.  If reality, this contributes to the perception that UK’s VC industry focuses more on later stage and more established companies vs. start-ups and early stage companies. 

In that regard, the BVCA concedes there may be structural problems (within UK’s VC industry) that need to be addressed to ease the flow of equity capital into early stage and innovation intensive companies particularly. With that, the BVCA is exploring-seeking ‘the most suitable type and/or correct mixture of interventions.

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