Wednesday January 1st 2020
Workplace Pensions October deadline | Ed Wray, Investor | UK Film Industry Success | Fintech Funding: Insurance + Banks | Nurole NED Recruitment | R&D Tax Credits | Microsoft + AI | Cyber Security Start-Ups | Lending to Exporters | Entrepreneurial Story-Telling | French VC Partech | Burger Boom Bombs? | Kings Cross Music + Tech @ Tileyard
Digest of news and trends in the GRID marketplace in July 2017:
WORKPLACE PENSIONS OCTOBER DEADLINE
How to take the pain out of workplace pensions |
Laura Onita, The Sunday Times. July 30
Auto-enrolment was introduced in 2012, at first for larger companies. The deadline was three months ago for companies set up before April 2012. Although the first cohort of owners who had to enrol employees is drawing to a close, about 500,000 have yet to comply. A third of small businesses still do not know what it is ….One in four has missed its deadline. What you need to do:
• From October, whether you are a hairdresser or an architect, once you employ at least one person you will have to put them into a pension scheme and pay into it from the start.
• Check that they meet the criteria for age (22 to state pension age) and salary (more than £10,000 a year).
• Choose a pension scheme that can be used for auto-enrolment. If you do not know where to start, the Pensions Regulator and Federation of Small Businesses can guide you.
• Write to each member of staff to let them know how auto-enrolment applies to them.
• Complete your declaration of compliance online. You must do this within five months of the start date of your duties.
The Pensions Regulator names and shames those who do not offer a pension scheme and can impose fines, from a £400 fixed penalty to a daily escalating fee ranging from £50 to £10,000.
David Brackin found it tough to enrol his 20 staff alongside running STUFF U SELL in Acton, west London. So … went to an online platform, SMART PENSION, which is free for employers but charges staff about £1.50 a month. “Now it’s simple,” said Brackin, 43, who set up the business in 2004 with Fraser Pearce. Stuff U Sell turns over £3m and pays about £2,500 in pension contributions a year. “It’s not a huge cost and I don’t begrudge the aim,” he said. “I just wish the process was easier.”
Andrew Mackay, 47, who owns and runs three hotels in Scotland … asked a pension consultancy for help — and got a shock. To set it up would have cost him about £14,000 up front and a further £3,500 a year for his 100 staff. He called the FEDERATION OF SMALL BUSINESSES (FSB), which has its own workplace scheme in conjunction with Legal & General. It offered to set up the plan for £1,400 and no fees thereafter.
From October, anyone setting up a company or taking on staff will have to pay up instantly, although they can have three months’ breathing space. “It’s a cost I imagine many were not aware of and it will have an impact on cash flow,” said Karen Thody, 40, who has a team of five at her procurement agency CAMERON CONSULTING in West Malling, Kent.
Many small businesses warn that the extra expense and admin of auto-enrolment will put them off hiring. Minimum contributions from employers are scheduled to rise from 1% of salary to 2% in 2018 and 3% in 2019. There is no guarantee the employer’s contribution rate will not rise further in future.
ED WRAY, INVESTOR
Kiki Loizou, The Sunday Times. July 30
Ed Wray, 49, … the BETFAIR co-founder …is one of the godfathers of Britain’s tech industry, quietly giving a helping hand to some of the country’s most promising entrepreneurs. It’s been five years since he left Betfair, the online betting exchange he launched with Andrew Black in 2000…
Wray has a significant wad of cash to play with, thanks to his share of the spoils from Betfair’s £1.4bn stock market float in 2010 and its merger with the bookmaker Paddy Power two years ago. The latest Sunday Times Rich List put his fortune at £250m.
He has backed more than 20 start-ups to date, placing early bets on successes such as the peer-to-peer lender FUNDING CIRCLE and the currency trading platform LMAX EXCHANGE, where he sits on the boards. … the former JP Morgan banker is drawn to fledgling companies in the financial technology sector. About 18 months ago he backed CURVE, which combines a user’s bank and credit cards into one card or app with a single Pin. He is also on the boards of the crowdfunding platform PROPERTY PARTNER and student lender PRODIGY FINANCE.
It was the venture capital funds’ initial rejection of Betfair that encouraged Wray to become an angel investor. If his great business could be overlooked, there must be others ready for investment.
UK FILM INDUSTRY SUCCESS
Chloe Cornish, FT. July 29
Against a general background of sluggish growth, where traditionally strong industries such as finance have slowed, the UK film industry is shining. …. has moved from third to second biggest contributor to growth and last quarter expanded 8.2 per cent, compared with just 0.4 per cent for business services and finance.
….“motion picture and publishing activities”, as the OFFICE FOR NATIONAL STATISTICS calls them, have grown 72.4 per cent since 2014, against the EU average of 8.5 per cent.
The growth is partly from UK audiences flocking to the cinema. UK and Ireland gross box office takings from January to June were £679m — up 12 per cent on the same period in 2016. But it is also because more films and TV productions are being shot in Britain. ….the next Star Wars instalment and Tim Burton’s Dumbo are currently filming in the UK, hot on the heels of Beauty and the Beast and Danny Boyle’s T2 Trainspotting.
Generous tax breaks in place since 2007 have been a big help: producers can claim a cash rebate of up to a quarter of 80 per cent of their UK spending. HM Revenue & Customs says that 2,070 films have made claims since then and it has paid out £2.3bn in credits against £8.9bn of spending.
The weaker pound since the Brexit vote has also boosted investment. Overall spending on film production in the first quarter of 2017 hit a record £652m, according to the British Film Institute. Of that, £620m was inward investment by overseas filmmakers either independently or with UK partners.
At the same time, TV production is doing well. In 2013-14, 25 television programmes claimed tax relief, spending £169.5m in the UK. Three years later, this was up to 45 TV productions and spending had nearly trebled to £480m. Netflix’s big budget period drama The Crown was shot across the UK in locations including Ely Cathedral, while Northern Ireland hosted much of HBO’s Game of Thrones.
Meanwhile, a throng of British businesses serving film crews has grown in scale and sophistication. Dave Chorley and Mark Bunce …. CHORLEY BUNCE LOCATION CATERING … Jamie Cook, who runs London-based catering company FAYRE DO’S, “for a 12-week film the average cost of catering would be about £500,000”.
The film and TV industry have done particularly well for London and south-east England but other parts of the country have benefited too. Yorkshire and Humber, albeit from a modest base, was Britain’s fastest growing region for TV and film production between 2009 and 2015. Ben Hepworth set up PRIME STUDIOS in Leeds six years ago.
Former trucker Ian Kitchingman set up his own business AMROFACILITIES serving screen productions with one camera truck in 2010. Now he has 50 specialist vehicles and employs 10 people.
Sally Joynson, chief executive of SCREEN YORKSHIRE, a development agency that established a content investment fund in 2012 with £15m of EU funding. Since its first investment in drama series Peaky Blinders, Screen Yorkshire has financed about 40 productions in the region and is now directly involved in running Yorkshire’s biggest studio, at a former RAF base near Leeds.
If you have seen a blockbuster this year, the chances are that part of it was created by an animator at DOUBLE NEGATIVE, a visual effects company whose creations include a black hole for the film Interstellar that won an Oscar and generated two academic physics papers. ….has worked on films including Wonder Woman and Dunkirk. Alex Hope, managing director, will not say though what effects that digital artists at Double Negative added to the summer box-office success Baby Driver.
However, the competition is stiff. FRAMESTORE, established in 1986, won an Oscar for its work on The Golden Compass; THE MOVING PICTURE COMPANY, founded in 1974, recently won one for Disney’s new version of The Jungle Book. In all, UK companies have won the visual effects Oscar every year bar one since 2010.
FINTECH FUNDING: INSURANCE + BANKS
Lynsey Barber, City A.M. July 24
AVIVA is betting on virtual reality, artificial intelligence and blockchain when it comes to technology. The insurer has unveiled the first five startups to benefit from a multi-million pound investment into new technology with startup accelerator and incubator Founders Factory. Aviva "digital factory" in Shoreditch. …director of innovation and new business Serge Taborin. Aviva chief executive Mark Wilson has said it might even think of acquiring a startup in future. The company invests in the startups via its Venture arm through Founders Factory.
FOUNDERS FACTORY is hot-housing many startups with several high profile corporate partners, including EASYJET and L'OREAL. Founded by Lastminute.com entrepreneurs Brent Hoberman and Lane Fox, they have an ambitious goal of creating 200 successful startups over the next five years.
And the two have also created their own startup together, ONCARE, aiming to take the paperwork out of social care. By records becoming digital they can also be better analysed and the startup is already running a pilot of the app with care agencies. co-founder and chief executive of Founders Factory Henry Lane Fox. ….told CityA.M. the insurer brought insight into the elderly care market, senior experts and access to care agencies, meaning it has already started scaling the business after just nine months since its inception.
The five startups:
1. PREVISE, which uses AI speed up payments to suppliers, helping plug the hole in financing for small business left by late payments.
2. SHEPHERD is also using AI to identify mechanical breakdowns and alert businesses to them earlier.
3. PSIOUS uses virtual reality to help deliver therapy to people and tackle mental health issues. Fox:" Studies have shown that experiencing these phobias in Psious' VR software has markedly beneficial effects on those patients. …we are exploring how Psious could pioneer a new technology to help Aviva better look after its healthcare customers - particularly when it enables treatment remotely. This makes treatment accessible to more customers and cuts costs for all parties involved."
4. LUTHER SYSTEMS a UK-based blockchain developer which has completed pilots with Aviva with smart contracts for supplier invoicing and has further tests of the distributed ledger technology planned.
5. FITWELL a Turkey-based startup is behind an AI-powered fitness coaching app.
Lynsey Barber, City A.M. July 10
Things are hotting up in the digital challenger bank space, with startups stepping things up a gear in recent months in terms of getting their apps in the hands of customers and offering them more features. And investors are attracted to these fintechs wanting to disrupt traditional banking: MONZO, MONESE and TIDE are among the fintechs to have bagged fresh investment this year.
It's understood TANDEM BANK is close to securing new funding after a crackdown on outbound investment by Chinese authorities resulted in £29m in funding being pulled by the owner of House of Fraser.
And peer-to-peer lender ZOPA raised £32m as it prepares to move in on challenger bank territory after applying for a banking license.
Meanwhile FIDOR, a German challenger bank which launched in the UK in 2015 and was acquired by French bank BPCE last summer, has partnered with startups this side of the channel. It will offer users alternative investments via NUTMEG and SEEDRS on through its finance marketplace.
NUROLE NED RECRUITMENT
Aimee Donnellan, The Sunday Times. July 23
Susie Cummings, a 30-year veteran of the headhunting world who is trying to broaden the gene pool in Britain’s boardrooms. Three years ago, Cummings set up NUROLE, an online “dating” website of sorts for non-executive directors. Its network now comprises nearly 14,000 successful people across 100 countries. While still an elitist organisation — you have to be invited to join — it is increasingly being used by companies to help find less-obvious candidates for positions on their boards.
It has been used by organisations ranging from the DEPARTMENT OF DIGITAL, CULTURE, MEDIA AND SPORT to private equity giant ADVENT INTERNATIONAL and FTSE 100 medical devices company SMITH & NEPHEW.
Traditionally, the list of candidates for boardroom jobs is decided by headhunters who leaf through their contacts books.
With Nurole, members fill in their CV details, personal interests and the types of role that may be of interest. They are then sent details of every suitable post advertised on the website as it becomes available.
“When a job description is posted on our site we can send it to as many as 4,000 candidates,” said Cummings. She is also helping young high-flyers gain experience of sitting on a board away from the glare of the listed company arena.
Charities can advertise board posts for £500 on Nurole, saving thousands of pounds in fees. The candidates they find are often energetic, ambitious young executives looking to broaden their CV with an eye to the future. A number of investment trusts — traditionally a dusty realm of clubby boardroom appointments — have also used the network to find suitably qualified candidates.
R&D TAX CREDITS
Laura Onita, The Sunday Times. July 16.
The taxman can help any company involved in research and development. Richard Hollingbery’s organic farming business, GODMINSTER received £44,000 in R&D tax credits over two years …thanks to the tax specialists at FORREST BROWN It had never occurred to Richard Hollingbery that creating a new cheese could shrink his tax bill. … 49-year-old Hollingbery has been producing dairy products at his farm in Somerset since 1999 for clients such as Waitrose and Marks & Spencer. He is constantly devising new cheeses, as well as sidelines such as vodka. …employs 27 people.
R&D tax credits for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) were introduced in 2000 to boost innovation. Businesses that spend money on developing new products — such as Hollingbery’s brie — or improving existing ones can get a reduction in corporation tax or a cash payment if they are loss-making. Up to 33p for every £1 spent on “advances in science and technology” can be clawed back.
It takes HM Revenue & Customs four to six weeks to process a claim. Godminster is one of 40,000 small companies that have made claims since the tax credit was launched. In more recent years, variants of the scheme have been devised for larger businesses. In the 2014-15 tax year, £2.5bn of R&D tax relief was claimed, up from £675m the previous year. SMEs accounted for £1bn, up from £325m. The increase in uptake is encouraging and 18,630 SMEs made claims in 2014-15.
However, a lack of awareness and daunting jargon deter many companies from applying. Only 5% of small businesses had used R&D tax credits, according to a recent survey, compared with 50% of large companies.
Forrest Brown …Simon Brown, a chartered tax adviser, set it up in Bristol in 2013 and has so far helped 2,500 ventures get cash back in return for a fee worth 20% of a successful claim. His clients have won £50m of R&D tax credits this year alone, he said. He employs more than 50 people.
Chris Walker, chief executive of DIAMOND HARD SURFACES, a material technology company in Towcester, Northamptonshire. …has claimed about £200,000 since 2008 with help from his in-house accountant. But he acknowledges that it can be tricky to navigate the detail. Work that may seem like ordinary client service can qualify as R&D, allowing offsets for some staff costs, software, prototypes and testing. “If we need [to devise] a new component for a client, a certain amount of work will be done to prepare that part,” said Walker, 54. “That’s development.”
Alan Ramsay, 51, finance director at DARTINGTON CRYSTAL, is well versed in the scheme. When he joined the Devon-based glassware business in 2014, he decided to take advantage of it because the business was innovating. Like Hollingbery, he worked with a consultancy to claim more than £100,000 retrospectively.The cash allowed him to make 166 handblown, hand-finished crystal decanters in the shape of the America’s Cup yachting trophy — known as the Auld Mug — for the rum maker GOSLINGS this year.
MICROSOFT + AI
Lynsey Barber, City A.M. July 12
MICROSOFT would love to find another SWIFTKEY, the UK startup it acquired last year for $250m …executive vice president of AI and research Harry Shum told City A.M. Microsoft is stepping up its AI research, forming a new business unit for the up-and-coming technology last autumn led by Shum.
In addition to Swiftkey, which boasts AI expertise, it has made several acquisitions in the space: GENEE, a virtual scheduling assistant based in California and Canadian startup MALUUBA which is researching general AI - technology that can effectively think on a par with humans, drawing on what we would term memory and commons sense.
Shum said the tech company, which has its third largest research base in Cambridge, is keeping an eye out for startups in the UK and elsewhere. "England has become such an AI innovation hub, not just the with the big tech giants, but the startups and the research."
Rival tech companies such as GOOGLE, APPLE, FACEBOOK, TWITTER and INTEL are also pursuing M&A in the race to develop AI technology. More than 200 private companies using AI algorithms have been acquired since 2012, with 30 of those in the first quarter of this year, according to CBInsights. Microsoft has been the joint third biggest acquirer. Other high-profile acquisitions of UK AI startups include Google buying DEEPMIND, Twitter buying MAGIC PONY and Apple buying VOCAL IQ.
But Microsoft has also partnered with several of these rivals to form an industry group, PARTNERSHIP ON AI, to ensure the technology is being applied for good, tackling ethical issues and public understanding of it. The work of Google's DeepMind and the NHS hit the headlines over the way it shared private patient data, which the information watchdog later ruled was illegal.
Microsoft today launched a new AI-powered app, Seeing AI, which narrates the world for the visually impaired simply by pointing a smartphone camera at items and people. It can read documents out, and even recognises people's age and emotions.
CYBER SECURITY START-UPS
Hannah Kuchler, FT. July 12
DARKTRACE is one of a number of cyber security start-ups raising large rounds, as they seek to make the most of corporate demand for new defensive technologies. …has raised $75m in a fundraising led by INSIGHT VENTURE PARTNERS at a valuation that makes it one of the largest British start-ups in its field.
In the US, four large cyber security start-ups have raised at least $100m each in recent months, including
- CYBEREASON, which also uses AI to detect intruders;
- CROWDSTRIKE, a cloud security platform;
- CYLANCE, a next generation anti-virus software maker;
- ILLUMIO, which secures data centres and cloud services.
Many cyber security companies predicted a rise in sales after the fallout from the WannaCry virus — malicious software that swept through major companies and the UK’s NATIONAL HEALTH SERVICE, demanding a ransom for the return of encrypted files. Since then, multinationals including MAERSK have been hit by another major cyber attack, which cyber security experts believe was the work of a nation state, disguised as ransomware. RECKITT-BENCKISER and MONDELEZ warned last week that the cyber attack had hit sales at the consumer goods companies.
LENDING TO EXPORTERS
Emma Dunkley, FT. July 12
The UK government has struck a deal with Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group, Royal Bank of Scotland and Santander to extend millions of pounds of lending to small businesses as part of broader plans to boost exports and buoy the economy after Brexit. … will give banks a government guarantee to reduce some of the risk that they take on by lending to smaller and, therefore, riskier companies.
The deal means banks can provide export-related trade finance, such as working capital loans and bonds required by overseas buyers, to SME customers. The guarantee involves UK EXPORT FINANCE, a government body, taking on 80 per cent of the risk of the working capital loan or bond. The funding will be available to exporters and is being extended to include their suppliers, which are typically smaller companies that might need finance to buy equipment or increase the number of employees to meet the demands of large exporters.
UK Export Finance is expected to increase lending, as the process for obtaining funding is more efficient through a bank than the government body, according to one person briefed on the plan. The government body began offering trade finance in 2011 and has, to date, provided 300 companies with £500m to generate “several billions of pounds” of overseas contracts, according to the department for international trade. High street banks pulled back from lending to smaller businesses after the financial crisis, as regulatory changes made offering finance to SMEs less economical.
Jonathan Moules, FT. July 10.
Going global is our theme for a fourth series of Financial Times Start-Up Stories, a podcast in which I talk to successful founders.
When visual effects company FRAMESTORE launched in 1986, William Sargent and his fellow founders could only afford two 10 sq ft rooms as office space, wedged between sex shops in London’s Soho. But they had big ambitions. Sir William, who reveals how his team turned Framestore into a major Hollywood player — winning Oscars for special effects on films including Gravity — with a turnover of £64m last year.
Silicon Valley founder Cal Henderson explains later in the series how a failed idea for an online game morphed into SLACK, the messaging service used by more than 5m people worldwide.
Irish design graduate Jane Ni Dhulchaointigh talks about the complexities of converting a former button factory in east London to make the putty-like fix-it material SUGRU, and how she created a brand now sold in more than 5,000 outlets from Singapore to South Africa, with minimal marketing spend.
The value of sharing stories is now recognised by those who teach the techniques of starting a business, for example to explain to investors why a founder acted in a certain way. Stanford Graduate School of Business, which topped this year’s FT ranking of entrepreneurial MBAs, teaches storytelling on its strategic communication and reputation management courses.
Jamie Waller, founder of debt collection agency JBW GROUP, admits in an episode of Start-Up Stories on business ethics to being taken hostage at gunpoint during a recovery visit. He sold the business last year for £24m, but had earlier shared his intention to do so with other entrepreneurs at THE SUPPER CLUB, a private networking group.
Will Dean, co-founder of the endurance contest franchise TOUGH MUDDER, explains in his episode the process of growing his idea for an alternative fitness challenge from an MBA project at Harvard Business School into a global brand. Brooklyn-based Tough Mudder, whose participants are forced to scramble under live electricity wires in order to prove themselves, almost fell at the first hurdle in its entrepreneurial journey when Billy Wilson, a former soldier in the British army, sued Mr Dean, claiming that he had stolen proprietary information from his much older Tough Guy assault course business in the UK. Tough Mudder and Tough Guy eventually settled out of court, with Mr Dean’s company paying a reported $750,000. With hindsight, the experience was the making of the business and made him more determined to be an international success, according to Mr Dean. Last year, Tough Mudder generated over $100m in revenue.
You can listen to the new series and previous episodes at ft.com/startupstories, available through the FT app, iTunes, Stitcher and other platforms.
FRENCH VC PARTECH
Lynsey Barber, City A.M. July 10
A French venture capital firm which has previously backed online furniture retailer MADE.COM remains bullish on startups in the UK despite Brexit after raising a fresh €400m (£354m) fund. The UK remains strategic market for the firm which also has offices in Berlin and San Francisco, while rival cities still have some way to go to catch London as the tech capital of Europe.
“It’s the largest ecosystem in Europe and we don't see it changing in the immediate future,” co-managing partner Philippe Collombel told City A.M., adding that it is “eager to invest more in the UK”. “London is more and more important to our investment strategy. You can’t be pan-European without the London market. It has all the ingredients still lacking in other European cities."
While Paris is “fighting hard” Collombel said the French capital still has some way to go to become the “city of choice” for entrepreneurs.
Software, applied artificial intelligence and regtech are areas of interest for the investor in London, where it will hold off on setting up an office until the outcome of Brexit negotiations with the EU. And is closing in on a deal to fund a UK-based SaaS (software as a service) company.
The latest fund is the seventh for PARTECH VENTURES - its fourth since the start of 2016 - and will be used to invest in firms at the series A and B stage across Europe and in the US. It has more than €1bn under management and will be on the look out for emerging technologies such as virtual reality, blockchain, robots and cyber security.
BURGER BOOM BOMBS?
Daniel Dunkley, The Sunday Times. July 9
BYRON is considering shutting four of its burger bars as it grapples with a profit slump and growing financial pressure on the sector.
Rival HANDMADE BURGER CO went into administration on Friday, putting 900 jobs at risk. The company said it would shut 9 of 29 of its restaurants.
Byron, owned by private equity firm HUTTON COLLINS, is considering closing the restaurants because of the introduction of the national living wage, rising food costs and sterling-related price inflation, sources said. The chain of about 70 restaurants, which last year faced a backlash over immigration raids on its workers, is understood to have held talks with restructuring specialists. Hutton Collins did not respond to requests for comment.
The buyout firm bought Byron in 2013 for £100m amid a boom in demand for gourmet burgers. Yet profits have been squeezed by a flood of rivals and wider industry pressures.
Byron made a pre-tax profit of just £194,000 in the year to June 2016, down from £5m the year before, according to its most recent accounts. It has debts of £45m. Industry sources said Byron would need to shed several loss-making sites to boost profits. Founder Tom Byng was replaced as chief executive in December as Dalton Philips, former boss of Morrisons, was brought in as chairman.
KINGS CROSS MUSIC + TECH @ TILEYARD
Phoebe Luckhurst, Evening Standard. July 6
TILEYARD is the starriest co-working space you’ve never heard of: the 100,000sq ft site caters to musicians, AI entrepreneurs and whip-smart start-ups …just off York Way …literally the wrong side of King’s Cross’s overlapping tracks.
And it is gilded with star power. Mark Ronson has a studio here — it’s where he recorded his multi-multi-platinum single Uptown Funk. Lady Gaga has recorded here, as has Mick Jagger, and Kanye West has visited. Liam Gallagher’s clothing brand, PRETTY GREEN, is based on-site and Lindsay Lohan recently turned up for Friday night drinks at music start-up Platoon.
Nick Keynes, a musician by trade, one of Tileyard’s four co-founders. “It’s referral-based,” he explains. “We don’t advertise.” …what Keynes loves about Tileyard …there is a lot of cross-pollination between the businesses here: “It’s this idea, which Google has pioneered, of people walking around an office, meeting, colliding and collaborating.” Coincidentally, Google has an office up the road, and is planning another in the area. Many co-working spaces have the clinical, temporary feel of a departure lounge, but teams tend to stay at Tileyard. “We’ve only lost about 12 people in the past six years,” says Keynes. “Mainly because their companies became too big.”
There are currently 82 studios populated with “around 150 creative companies”, though Tileyard is in talks with Islington council to expand. When Tileyard opened it was populated exclusively by musicians, but now it’s about 60 per cent music industry, Keynes estimates, with technology companies the next biggest occupants.
Some of Tileyard’s precocious companies include PLATOON, LOCALGLOBE, a venture capital firm that has invested in companies including BLAZE cycle lights, PACT COFFEE and CITYMAPPER, and SODA, SCHOOL OF THE DIGITAL AGE, a tech retailer for high-end, innovative gadgets, which will launch online and in Selfridges in September.
Platoon founder Denzyl Feigelson says: “There are about 1,500 like-minded creatives milling around, so it couldn’t be more perfect.” …with Platoon, he takes a “VC approach to helping artists build businesses”. On Friday evenings it hosts tequila and chocolate evenings for the Tileyard gang — the event that lured LI-LO to N1. Feigelson calls King’s Cross the “Northern Silicon Valley”.