Lord Leigh of Hurley, Senior Partner:
To put it simply, the UK is a great place to start a new business. We have a disproportionate rate of Unicorns, innovation is everywhere, often cultivated in small and new businesses and especially prevalent in our thriving technology sector, and the OECD ranks the UK 3rd in the world for start-ups.
We know that one of the hardest challenges for small and relatively new businesses is to obtain finance, as assets rarely exist and this makes borrowing very difficult. In many cases, the business has yet to achieve revenue, let alone profitability, which most investors normally like to see before they make a personal investment.
The Government has created the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) and Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS) to help small businesses raise funds tax effectively from retail investors.
Whilst these schemes have been incredibly successful, helping to raise some £2bn a year for around 4,000 companies, more could be done to facilitate investments and consequently add to the UK’s already strong growth prospects.
Additionally, from our work here at finnCap Cavendish and indeed across the finnCap Group in partnership with The ScaleUp Institute, we are very aware that scale-ups face challenges in attracting finance in the UK, and part of the reason has been the restrictions on the EIS and SEIS schemes. One example is the investment caps imposed on the schemes and many other restrictions such as a prohibition on the percentage owned by an investor and the investor’s family and a ban on eligibility for companies with over seven years’ trading. The sunset clause on the scheme is also a great concern.
The legislation is very long and highly detailed. It means there is a lot of admin and often delays before the necessary permissions are given. Many of the restrictions which I would argue are uncommercial were imposed to satisfy EU State Aid rules and the EU Risk Finance Guidelines.
Now we are liberated from so many EU restrictions we should be looking to streamline and simplify the EIS and SEIS rules to rocket boost new entrepreneurs.
For example, the cap of £150k as a maximum a new company can receive under SEIS is clearly woefully short of the amounts most need.
I have raised these concerns in the House of Lords in a short debate I instigated this month and I am hopeful that the Treasury will meet me soon to discuss some specific proposals I have in this area.