Plans are being developed to create investment opportunities for Cornish businesses that have popularised on the BBC television series Dragons’ Den.

Cornwall is set to establish its own angel investment network to foster the growth of local businesses as part of a joint initiative from Cornwall Chamber of Commerce and the British Business Bank, the UK’s economic development bank. 

The Bank launched the £200m South West Investment Fund in July last year following the success of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Investment Fund.

An angel investor is someone who invests their own money in a small business in exchange for a minority stake, or equity, in that business.

As well as investment, angels can also bring a wealth of experience, expertise and contacts, helping to drive the business forward.

British Business Bank Chair Stephen Welton CBE has hosted an event at the Lewinnick Lodge in Newquay organised by Cornwall Chamber of Commerce to bring together a range of existing and would-be angels to discuss the creation of a new Cornwall Angel Network.

The event was part of a three-day visit to Cornwall by Stephen where he met with local businesses, organisations, investors, and Cornwall Council to discuss economic growth and business access to finance.

The aim of the Cornwall Angel Network is to help establish a more diverse investment community to support the growth of Cornish businesses, and to stimulate and support higher levels of equity investment.

The network would complement other angel networks like Tech South West’s Angel Investor Programme, and funding streams like the British Business Bank £200m South West Investment Fund.

The network would also build on the success of the Bank’s Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Investment Fund, which funded businesses over the last five years and helped attract more than £100m of private investment into local companies.

Stephen Welton, the chair of the British Business Bank, said: “Business angels are an important part of the finance chain for small businesses, and we know from our investment fund experience that there is an appetite for more angel investment in Cornwall.

“We want to work with the Chamber of Commerce and other partners to help forge a strong community of business angels and potential angels in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

“This will improve the important role early-stage equity plays in bringing investment, skills and experience to Cornish businesses to help them grow, innovate and create jobs.”

Stephen said Cornwall had seen a significant uptick in equity investment activity in the last five years, with an average of 14 deals per year with a total investment value of £188m.

This compares to six deals a year on average in the five years before that, with a combined investment value of £45m over the period. This outpaces the growth rate experienced by the wider South West over the last decade.

As a result, Cornwall’s share of deals in the South West increased from 7% in 2014-18 to 12% in the last five years, and Cornwall’s deal volume now exceeds the South West average when measured against the concentration of high growth businesses in the region.

Kim Conchie, the chief executive of Cornwall Chamber of Commerce, said: “In recent years we’ve seen great strides to improve the equity landscape in Cornwall. 

“This includes our own innovation investment network, the British Business Bank’s South West Investment Fund and Falmouth University Launchpad which has fostered the creation of high-value, high-growth businesses. 

“We want the Cornwall Angel Network to be a dynamic part of the business growth ecosystem and are delighted with the positive response from the investor community.”

During his visit to Cornwall, Stephen Welton visited Falmouth University’s venture studio and business incubator, Launchpad Futures. 

It partners with businesses to offer expert knowledge, skills and facilities to accelerate growth.

Falmouth University has helped spawn a number of successful start-up businesses, many of which have benefitted from early stage equity investment from business angels and the British Business Bank.

Professor Emma Hunt, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive, Falmouth University, said: “We’ve seen first-hand the value that angel investors can bring to small businesses and warmly welcome the proposed Cornwall Angel Network.

It will complement our own commitment to bolster business growth in Cornwall through our Launchpad Futures programme and will be a great asset to Cornwall’s burgeoning entrepreneurial community.”

Stephen’s visit also included meeting Cornish small businesses that have been supported by British Business Bank programmes through its regional fund managers SWIG Finance and The FSE Group.

He also met with peer-to-peer lender Folk2Folk and visited Goonhilly Earth Station to learn more about Cornwall’s space, data and aerospace sector.

Those interested in finding out more about the Cornwall Angel Network should contact Cornwall Chamber of Commerce to register their interest.