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Step forward angels, we need you says West Midlands

14 February 2024
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Back – Alex Toft and Mark Hart; Front – Paul Whitehouse (Aston Centre for Growth), Aleks Subic.

The West Midlands has to up its game when it comes to angel investment in order to support more start-up and scale-up businesses and grow the regional economy.

That was a key message from the first West Midlands Angel Symposium, a joint initiative between Aston University’s Centre for Growth team and Minerva Business Angels, part of the University of Warwick Science Park

Professor Aleks Subic, Aston University’s Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive, opened the event, held at Aston University’s John Cadbury House.

He said: “We have some incredible talent in this region, and it is about matching that with people who have experience in business who want to invest and support their innovative endeavours.

“The need has never been greater for more angel investors to step forward, and it is up to all of us to work even harder and collaborate further to make that happen to help our businesses and economy grow.”

Richard Parker, the Labour mayoral candidate in the May 2024 elections for the West Midlands, also attended as a keynote speaker advocating for the importance of angel investors and their contribution to helping to grow our local talent. He also shared his ambition to grow the West Midlands economy with the audience.

The event included speakers and panellists from the British Business Bank, Midlands Mindforge, and the UK Business Angels Association (UKBAA), with the overall aim of encouraging more angel investors to come forward. 

On top of that, the audience was given an insight into a shortage of female investors coupled with a low percentage of women-led businesses receiving investment.

Alex Toft, who heads up Minerva – the most active angel investment network in the West Midlands – said the region would only rear its own ‘unicorns’ and boost its economy if it engaged more individuals to come forward.

He said: “Through our network, we see the huge benefits our angels bring to businesses – not only through the cash they inject but also the expertise they bring. 

“There are many reasons for angel investors to get involved. For many, it’s about their enjoyment and interest in helping a business grow. There are also tax incentives for investing in this way. 

“Of course, there is an opportunity to achieve a positive exit, and we’ve had many of those with Minerva. 

“But we have to engage more people to come forward and invest in this way in businesses that are doing exciting things. We need to be competing with the likes of London and the South East or even Manchester when it comes to angel investment. Worse than that, investors in this region are ‘exporting’ their money elsewhere in the country, so we have to engage them.

“Without angels, we won’t be able to nurture our very own unicorns!”

The symposium also heard from Professor Mark Hart on the challenges SMEs face, while Phil Mitchell of Harbour Key discussed the tax advantages of angel investing.

Manjit Jhooty of Jhoots Pharmacy; Lisa Smith of Midlands Mindforge; and Sam Tubb, an angel investor, explored the reasons for investing during a panel session with ‘giving back’ as one of the most common objectives.

Sam then joined Tracy Sherratt of the British Business Bank; Jenny Tooth, OBE of the UKBAA; Samantha Niblett of Labour: Women in Tech; and Mandeep Soor of Bendi on a panel to discuss how to encourage more female investors to come forward and also get more funds into women-led businesses.

Kameese Davis, who secured investment through the West Midlands Mayoral fund delivered by Midven for her hair care products business Nylah and has since picked up funds through Minerva and other sources, said her company would not be where it is today without that kind of support. Kameese is also an ambassador and supporter of the Minerva Birmingham Pitch Up competition which she won at Venturefest in March 2023. For more information on becoming an angel investor, go to


Nicky Godding is editor of The Business Magazine. Before her journalism career, she worked mainly in public relations moving into writing when she was invited to launch Retail Watch, a publication covering retail and real estate across Europe.

After some years of constant travelling, she tucked away her passport and concentrated on business writing, co-founding a successful regional business magazine. She has interviewed some of the UK’s most successful entrepreneurs who have built multi-million-pound businesses and reported on many science and technology firsts.

She reports on the region’s thriving business economy from start-ups, family businesses and multi-million-pound corporations, to the professionals that support their growth and the institutions that educate the next generation of business leaders.

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