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Creating inclusive capital markets



June 21, 2023

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Andrea Lee, Marketing Associate, Aquis Exchange PLC
Did you know that between 2016-2020, less than 4% of UK IPOs were female-led, according to research by AskTraders? In the US this statistic is even lower, sitting at about 1%. Whilst institutional and cultural change is slow, at Aquis Stock Exchange we’re proud to say that since establishment 3 years ago, 7% of our quoted companies have been female-led and we hope to see this figure significantly increase by providing a more supportive capital markets environment.
Last week marked our first Women in Business event to create opportunity in a space where women have been severely underrepresented throughout history. A diverse cohort of women from across all areas of industry (founders, marketing, research, corporate finance, legal and more!) were invited to our offices for networking drinks and a panel talk featuring:
Lesley Gregory , Non-Executive Director of Aquis Stock Exchange & Chairman of Memery Crystal
Simone Westerhuis, Managing Director of LGB & Co.
Melissa Sturgess, CEO of Aquis-quoted Ananda Developments plc
Sara-Louise Porter, Director of Business Development at Aquis Stock Exchange.
We break down the insightful fireside chat’s key takeaways here:
1. The Benefits of Being Public
‘1 share, 1 vote’, high levels of corporate of governance and having an adviser to take care of your company and shareholders’ interests make public markets an appealing place to float a business, said Sturgess. The framework of management protocols required for a listing means shareholders can have confidence, whilst allowing founders to retain control.
2. How Do You Raise Money?
Sturgess, who forged an impressive career for herself across emerging markets in the mining and metals space across Africa, recommended venture capitalist and marketer Guy Kawasaki’s YouTube videos for pitching your business. ‘Stay laser-focused’, she advises – can you tell your story in a compelling and concise way? The competition for investor money and time is fierce. Cut the fluff!
Also, do you have a backup plan for when things go pear shaped? Few, if any, business journeys go 100% according to plan, and potential investors will want to see solid contingencies in place for all kinds of possible scenarios. If the last few years have taught us anything, it’s that there’s no such thing as being too prepared.
3. The Ideal Board Composition
From an investor perspective, Westerhuis noted she focuses on the management team. Are they passionate? Do they have the right background? The right vision and team chemistry? Having a good ‘numbers person’, i.e. CFO, is crucial. Experience – especially public experience – is valued over anything else. Being public is very different to private, and we often see difficulties arise because those in charge don’t know how best to run a public company. Westerhuis adds that the board should be proportionate to company size, so when starting out, consider having a couple of advisers and increase headcount later down the line.
4. Plan Ahead, Be Confident!
An audience member rightly pointed out that you should be building your network WELL before any fundraising attempts! Laying the groundwork early allows time to to ask for feedback, adjust plans and create valuable connections. If too many people say you aren’t ready, go back to the drawing board and return in 6 months. Persistence and patience are a long game, and being prepared will only pay off.
Another important piece of advice was ‘under-promise and over-deliver’. Investors have seen a thousand hockey-stick graphs before. Whilst it is tempting to get carried away with best case scenarios, stay realistic.
The final and perhaps most important takeaway of all was: confidence. Women (and in particular, women of colour and other marginalised groups) have a tendency to downplay themselves and their achievements. If our male counterparts can build a business plan, ask for funds and float it, then why can’t we? Whilst there’s an undeniably long way to go in terms of gender equality and the barriers faced by women in business in terms of accessibility and representation, we’ve seen encouraging strides of progress in recent years and we can – and should – be part of the change to drive that forward.
A huge thank you to our panellists and everyone who attended (despite the beautiful weather outside!). We will certainly be hosting similar events in the future, so keep an eye out on our social media @AquisStockEx and Aquis Stock Exchange for more info.
Aquis Women in Business panel
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