Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Taking the evenings in London

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I’m making trips into London every week to meet with potential investors and to pitch institutional and angel groups.  I’m also well into the final leg of solidifying my residency status.  I currently hold both NL (5 year) and UK (Tier 1) work/residency visas, but only the British process leads to a dual passport.  To put pressure onto the process. my UK visa expires in January and the Government is no longer offering renewals.  Failure to convert will mean being forced from the country.

So I’m working hard on my Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR), a frustratingly expensive and detailed review process that takes lots of huddled prep with my immigration advisor to complete.

After the day of investor and advisor meetings, then, I am ready for a good airing out, walking the boulevards or visiting a museum. 

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Christmas displays are up, twinkling blue and white bulbs offsetting red buses and incandescent storefronts.  London’s damp streets are always crowded, High Street stores full of shoppers and alleyway pubs overflowing with commuters.

I’ve made a few preliminary forays into the larger stores, my father and my daughter celebrate birthdays in the coming weeks and it’s a good chance to get a sense of what might match up with people’s lives and interests.

London’s Christmas Market along Southbank has relocated to the Tate Modern this year, crowding the booth into the central courtyard against the featureless exterior.  I’m reminded of the markets in Koln: each culture clusters their booths around the skirts of their temples.

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The booths are consistent echos of previous years, with very credible Krakauer sausage and mulled wine on offer, but they get me thinking about the German and Limburg versions that I always enjoyed.

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The Winter Wonderland is setting back up in Hyde Park, and the lights displays are coming to Kew Gardens, so there are some good events on offer after the 1st.  But for tonight, it’s just a break before the commute home.

WP_20141008_030 (1300x682)Traveling off-peak with my Railcard gives me a huge discount, but forces me towards afternoon meetings and evening returns.   So, for tonight, it’s National Rail at 1930 and a drive down from Basingstoke, an hours run by podcast to Poole and dinner at 2200.

‘Fingers crossed that the visa and the fundraising both close in the coming weeks.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Cold Copenhagen

WP_20141118_007It was a grey day in the Denmark:  low clouds, white foam seas, an arctic taste in the stiff winds.  However, in the spirit of dong what it takes to secure financing, I’m  following up on an invitation to meet with self-described ‘last funds standing with the courage to invest in healthcare opportunities in Europe’. 

Maybe.  The abandoned power plant alongside the deserted marina didn’t feel promising.

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The airport, n contrast, was warm and affluent, indirect lighting over polished wood floors, a golden cast of the iconic Little Mermaid looking on.  It’s got some of the best concourse shopping I’ve seen, an invitation to slow down and browse in contrast to Stansted’s maze of obstructions that I just want to shoulder past.

WP_20141118_010I’ve been reading the biographies of Jeff Bezos and of Steve Jobs while traveling.   Both built profitable companies, innovative products ad services attracting warm legions of followers, yet both men were personally cold and professionally demeaning.  

Are the two necessary complements? 

Neither Jobs nor Bezos seem careful (at all) about tempering their emotional extremes or social intolerance: their stories are filled with unnecessary arrogance, umbrage, and self-pity.

In Copenhagen, the presentations go smoothly enough.  The questions show that people have read the backgrounders and listened to the pitch. 

However, the doubts persist.  What will our funds be used for, what assets will be created, how are exits being created: is long-term value being built.

WP_20141118_009With each pitch, the answers get sharper, the objections less significant.  But it is a hunt to find funding prospects, to close them, quickly.  Otherwise, the runway could dwindle, leading to a Dutch Auction or an involuntary change of control.

Or worse. 

I got a call the other night: a broker representing a high net worth individual prepared to take the whole round.  He is sold on the idea, wants to meet, but insists on background diligence being done first:

Please send £4500 so that we may perform the necessary checks, and then we will arrange the meeting.

If it seems too good to be true, check.

My CFO, Chair, and I do our own diligence. No registration at Company’s  House, no web site, no references, no offices.  It’s a bottom fisher, trying to snare some quick cash from the unwary, unlucky, and outright desperate.

The meeting breaks up, shake hands, exchange cards, promise to follow-up.  I’m back at the airport four hours before my outbound flight, negotiating for something earlier. £100 on Norwegian, £150 on EasyJet.

WP_20141118_012For £25, I can check into the lounge: food, drink, wifi, quiet.  I snuggle in and prospect a few leads, nurture a few contacts, stretch a biertje.

We’ll get there, even if it means going to Copenhagen for the day.