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Kaiku: Helping start-ups get investment ready (Alex Balderstone)

This start-up was founded by two Warwick students, Alex Balderstone (BSc International Business with French) and Trishna Nagrani (BSc Economics). In this article, Alex describes the genesis of the idea, and reports on their progress since then.

Kaiku (previously AGORA) helps start-ups with their early stage funding. Born during my final year at Warwick, Kaiku originated from the idea of having a central resource for new start-ups to both prepare for investment and find investors. To date, we have helped raise funds for several start-ups, and have built a successful start-up community through a series of events across the UK and throughout Europe.

On course to release an early-seed focussed funding platform in the coming months, Kaiku aspires to re-invent online early stage funding, and become the UK’s destination for start-ups to get investment ready.

How did the idea come about?

My Co-Founder Trishna Nagrani, who was Director of Warwick Incubator in 2017/18, shared my vision of helping start-ups from all parts of the UK gain the much-needed knowledge in building a start-up and gaining access to finance. My experience came from founding and running one of Warwick’s largest student conferences, Warwick Congress, with little access to external support. Trishna brought the contextual and market knowledge in running a start-up focussed programme and knowing the UK’s start-up ecosystem.

How did Warwick Enterprise get involved?

Warwick Enterprise was crucial in providing very early stage grant funding through the Student Enterprise Fund (supported by Santander), which helped us to facilitate the concept and get the ball rolling. Coupled with workshops, events and hands on support, the Kaiku team was guided to our current state where I and my COO, fellow Warwick graduate Shanil Shah (BA Hispanic Studies and Economics), are now working full-time on the project.

What is Kaiku’s funding platform?

The main focus of the Kaiku platform is funding, envisaged to facilitate early stage deal-flow and allowing for both retail, institutional investors and corporate funds to access the UK’s earliest stage projects. For over a decade, the UK has lagged behind the US in terms of early stage funding with the term ‘pre-seed’ only really having been coined in the last few years in the UK. Whilst crowd-funding platforms have (to an extent) changed this scene in the UK, they still reject 95% of all applications that they receive, requiring on average 50% of funds to already have been raised, and so often creating skewed CAP tables.

Kaiku’s approach is to enable investors to find new opportunities, while managing risk, in early stage ventures in the knowledge that their venture investments have been brought up to an investment ready stage before looking to fundraise.

How does Kaiku help prepare start-ups for investment?

Kaiku offers several services to help prepare start-ups for investment. Whether a start-up wants to fundraise on Kaiku or not, they will need to complete several steps before investors will be willing to invest in their business. This includes preparing a pitch and an accompanying pitch deck, becoming an incorporated company, and applying for SEIS or EIS. Kaiku is able to complete SEIS/EIS applications and complete the company formation. We also offer a pitch deck consultancy and design service. These services ensure that these very core elements are complete before a start-up approaches an investor.

What next?

Kaiku are already beginning to see a diverse number of start-ups come to us looking to fundraise, and therefore are managing a comfortable amount of manual deal-flow. Getting over the various regulatory hurdles and the build of the main platform is now our ongoing focus.

Alex Balderstone – Co-Founder @ Kaiku

Alex is Co-Founder @ Kaiku, an early stage VC platform and network. He is also MD of SeedReady™, a startup venture builder for digital business founders, and a Partner at Birmingham Enterprise Community Accelerator. He is a graduate of Warwick Business School & HEC Paris. Connect with him on LinkedIn.