IT IS cloudy again in Londontown…

Posted: July 2, 2011 by rhaberthomson in Uncategorized

As Wimbledon comes to a close, people open up an extra browser on their computers to watch who will be in the final on Sunday.  Aside from tennis talk, these past two weeks at Bridges Ventures in London have been as unpredictable as the first two – filled with excitement about the next new opportunity, or disappointment when a deal just days from closing, does not pan out.

Bridges is a social venture capital fund of about thirty people. They provide growth capital to businesses located in the most deprived 25% of the country as well as businesses in the education & training, environment or health sectors. I am working primarily in the Ventures team.  They expect the same financial returns a normal VC would, although every investment also requires there to be a social impact. Bridges has two other funds under management: a sustainable property fund and a social enterprise fund.  Bridges is often mentioned in impact investing publications, and the interesting history of Bridges can be found here.

From my first day I began to see first hand the process a VC undertakes when assessing a potential investment. Before turning on my email, I was already off to meet a passionate management team in soho to hear their business plan and how they will make a positive impact in the world. Later that same day, I attended the weekly pipeline meeting, where the whole team, from the associates to the CEO, review all the potential investments to assess the feasibility of investing in each opportunity.  Following that meeting, a renewable energy company came to the office to pitch their plan to the internal Bridges team.  This happens relatively early on in the investment process, giving the Bridges the opportunity to highlight both the positives and the risks of investing in that company. The team then makes a collective decision on whether or not to pursue the opportunity and begin with due diligence analysis.

The learning curve has been steep. A month in and I have met with several interesting prospects, found a few dead ends, researched industries I did not even know existed, attended board meetings of their portfolio businesses (to help them out with their strategic plans), dove deep into term sheets and deal structure, witnessed some difficult but interesting negotiations and had meetings all over London including inside a large electric mobility vehicle.

Until next time, as I anxiously wait for the sun to shine, and hope that at least one of the deals I am working on might come to a successful close…



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