Why the University of Surrey started an angel investor club

Ten years ago the University of Surrey established S100, an angel investment club that’s raised over £75 million for spinouts, start-ups and businesses. Should your institution do the same?

The S100 Club is an angel investment club established by the University of Surrey over 10 years ago. It provides companies and investors alike with untapped opportunities and has a unique offering for both parties. But what makes it so special? Should other universities consider a similar approach?

The S100 Club is one of the few angel investment networks of its kind in the UK. Formed at a time when the county had an influx of technology experts and others who were securing good exits from companies and had money to invest, the club brings these high-net-worth individuals together and at the same time helps the university advise students, spinouts, start-ups and businesses with the expert insight of the angel investment market.

It delivers high calibre, pre-qualified and investor-ready companies which have been through its version of an entrepreneur finishing school, with excellent mentoring and support from the SETsquared Surrey business incubator, the world’s top business incubator managed by a university. It also provides a collaborative environment for the angel investors who are encouraged to work together and learn from each other, supporting one another on deals.

Creating a winning combination

This unique blend has helped companies raise over £75 million from 50 pitch events since the club’s inception. Operating in a pitch presentation format in its early days, the club now meets as more of a roundtable, encouraging angels to share insights and work together in informal syndicates.

The club plays a starring role in supporting the university’s impressive track record in commercialising innovation, bolstering an innovation ecosystem that features an award-winning science park, world-leading research in space, digital technology, health technology and sustainability, a wealth of pioneering businesses and SETsquared Surrey.

It is critical to understand key goals at the outset: is the club to be a knowledge exchange mechanism or a financial vehicle?

From an investor’s perspective, the S100 Club is the perfect place for those who might want to make smaller investments in multiple companies, or have more direct access and control of investments. As a university-owned club, knowledge exchange is a key focus, as well as the ability to put forward prospects from the university network, so investors can have a first look at some very high-tech, high IP-reach companies. The club focuses on educating both investors and companies about the angel investment industry and is developing masterclasses for the investor members.

The S100 Club is ideal for companies who need access to investment and expert entrepreneurs but don’t want to sell their souls to a venture capitalist. Member companies receive dedicated support from expert entrepreneurs in residence at SETsquared Surrey, which greatly increases their chance of securing investment.

Understanding your core objective

If a university is considering starting an angel investment club, it is critical to understand key goals at the outset: is the club to be a knowledge exchange mechanism or a financial vehicle? The S100 Club team chose an education-first route to align with the university and does not charge for its services, however other universities have developed similar clubs to generate income. This decision is key in delivering a club that is successful in what it is designed to achieve.

The combination of education, technology and entrepreneurship is extremely powerful, as is seen in hugely successful ecosystems like Silicon Valley. The same potential and opportunities exist here in the UK, and this is exactly what the University of Surrey has created by working with SETsquared Surrey and the S100 Club.

 

Caroline Fleming is S100 Club Director and the Director of Innovation Strategy, focusing on Incubation and Enterprise at the University of Surrey. 

Peter Hornsby is the new chair of the University of Surrey’s S100 Club and an experienced angel investor and entrepreneur.


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