How much does it cost to find an Investor?

Cost of finding investmentThe first question is should it cost anything? After all it is the Investors who have money, so why should they charge in order to pitch to them?

Well, actually almost all Investors don’t charge a penny for entrepreneurs to present an investment case to them.

Investors are not looking to make money from people presenting their opportunities; they want to make money from partaking in the business itself.


You may well ask in that case, where do the costs come in?

In theory, if you could identify and contact yourself prospective Investors, there would be no costs (other than legal or due-diligence fees by your own solicitor/accountant).

But not everyone knows such a person, so what if you don’t have access to an Investor? Whilst venture capital companies and funds can easily be found, they generally don’t invest in smaller businesses, or normal start-ups (exceptionally high-tech or bio-tech businesses occasionally get funded that way).

The normal young business has to rely on private individuals – Business Angels, for investment and these people do not want to appear in a public directory or people would be camping on their doorstep to talk to them, never mind the security issues.

They tend to work through intermediaries, who will protect their privacy and supply them with interesting potential investments. This is where the costs come in. The intermediaries will charge for the work of connecting people with opportunities to people who want to make an investment.

Who pays these charges? Surely the best placed person to pay them is the investor, not the entrepreneur. Whilst there are some Investors who are willing to pay for opportunities to be presented to them, most are not. They after all have the pick of plenty of investments, they don’t need to pay. Whereas the entrepreneur is competing against all the other places that an investor could place his funds, it comes back to supply and demand.

Right, so the person looking for the funds pays for an intermediary to help him find an Investor, how does that payment work?

There are 3 ways in which such intermediaries, sometimes called business angel networks, get paid. Firstly there is almost always an upfront fee, with no guarantee that you will definitely get an investment. This initial fee helps to pay for the preliminary work done and gives an indication that the person looking for funding has thought it out and is serious in what they are doing.

Why no guarantee? Just think of the range of proposals that will be coming through, some will be very good, but others will not be so good. Also, it depends on investors liking the business’s management and many other factors not controllable by the intermediary – it is not possible to guarantee that every proposal will get funded.

The amount of this upfront fee will vary a great deal. Some will charge many thousands; one of the most well known ones has an average upfront fee of around £5k. For that they will ring round their list of Investors and see if anyone is interested.

Where the interaction is by allowing entrepreneurs to come along to a “speed pitching” event the upfront fee is £800 (plus another £400 for every additional pitching event).

Depending on the company, you may get additional help in refining your proposal or pitch included in that fee.

So not cheap so far – but there’s more…

The second way they charge is to levy a “success fee” on top of the initial payment. This is around 4 – 5 % of any money raised. Many entrepreneurs might say they don’t mind paying a success fee, but don’t like the idea of an upfront fee, but generally that’s not going to happen, partly for the reasons mentioned above and partly because everyone would try for funding if it cost nothing initially. There would be a lot of low quality proposals and the intermediaries wouldn’t be able to handle the quantity for the price.

If that wasn’t enough, the third hit comes when some intermediaries also want 1 – 2% of the final company in shares. You can see that it can all add up to a daunting amount.

That is why when I set up Company Partners I looked for a more efficient (hence lower cost) way to connect those with opportunities and those looking for interesting investments.

After trying different models we arrived at the concept of a member’s site where a small monthly membership fee of about £30 was used and the site’s database was programmed to do most of the work, making it very efficient. I also did away with every other charge.

Now that’s good news not just for the entrepreneur, but also for the Investor, because when a young business pays thousands to be connected to that Investor, it doesn’t just come from the personal account of the person running the young company. It comes right out of the business that the Investor is putting his money into. In fact most of the intermediaries tell the fund seekers to add on top of the funds required, the fee that they will charge.


29 thoughts on “How much does it cost to find an Investor?

  1. Dan Somers

    As investors, we see this as a balanced representation. It is quite right that neither the investor nor the entrepreneur benefits from fees, but the intermediaries do fulfil a necessary role and if you do the maths, the returns aren’t usually that stellar for the intermediaries raising capital for small businesses. The fees do serve as a filter – there are so many inadequate and inappropriate business plans out there, and a trusted intermediary who has added value to the business plan also puts his reputation on the line to win the trust and get to the investors.


    I would add that there are some organised angel networks (such as ours) who do their own filtering and business plan creation and often do not charge those businesses whom they sponsor, as it is a means to an end. 

  2. Dipankar Purakaayastha

    It is very difficult and time consuming to find the right investor who does not charge any upfront fee and who can perform based on the good quality and viable socio-economic project internationally.

  3. simon keats

    This is always a contentious issue! Time = money so i think there has to be some sort of fee. Probably a small monthly fee and if the investment comes of a final fee.

  4. Lee Tracey

    Very interesting!  I am an old hand at raising money and have so far raised over £350,000 for my present company and am also in the process of raising a further £150,000, but I have never paid any substantial upfront money.  I did get caught by one which offered to list my details on their website for free and I would only incur a £100 fee if somebody or anybody replied and wished to contact me – I had to pay the fee to get the contact details.  You will not be surprised to learn that I was “contacted” and the fee demanded, I suspect that every advertiser was contacted and like me, from a phoney contact.  It was a scam to trigger the £100 fee.


    I like the idea of the ” pitching events” but have never taken part as I have never trusted the offers and the charges at the £800 a time rate are far too excessive for a small start-up company.  Also there is no guarantee that the ” investors” are for real and not just shams.


    I recently attended a new “Dragon Den” type operation in the North, having been invited to pitch at no cost ( being the first they needed some material ) and afterwards I was approached by three “consultants” looking for business.  Two Accountants touting for customers and a woman slashing out her trading business card plus a young couple after a free drink and sandwich – but not a single person actually interested in an investment.


    I have met the £5,000 upfront operation but if I could afford £5,000 with no guarantee then I would not be seeking investment money.  I do like the evening pitching or Sunday pitching but not the way they are managed at the moment and I would pay £100 to attend if I could be sure that the audience were genuine potential investors.  My system would be to first send out to all potential investors a single A4 flysheet of about 40 prospects and invite them to a meeting where all 40 prospects had a table.  The flysheets would establish prior to the meeting the level of interest so the potential investors would only go to those tables that represented what interested them.  Instead of pig-in-a-poke to every table.  That would produce £4,000 to cover the evening costs.   Each would sign an agreement to pay 5% of any money raised.


    My guarantee would be that if any table owner failed to get a table visitor then they would get their money back – this would have to be a straight deal and no “con” visitor.  The £4000 or even £2000 would pay the costs and the first 5% would be a large profit.


    The available money is out there and I am proof that it can be found, the problem is that the industry is a quagmire.  It needs a simple approach.  The big problem is to build the contact list of genuine investors.

    Lee Tracey

  5. Stefan London

    We are an investment partner firm which funds the costs of a company’s growth without taking an equity position or management control.  We typically get presented opportunities from a selected group of trusted referrers (i.e, attorneys, CPAs, reputable business brokers/capital brokers, etc).  We pay a finder’s fee to the referrer if they do not typically charge the prospect (not capital or business brokers who are a-client-seeking-a sale-or-funding fee  based business).


    It has been my experience that the vast majority of capital brokers promising secured funding for a company are in the business of charging upfront $500-$3,000 for “document preparation fees” to present to their lending base and a 5% success fee on the back end if funds were secured.  Hardly ever do they ever enjoy a success fee but are successful in gouging prospects for thousands of wasted dollars.  The select brokers who deal with charge a nominal up front fee ($200-300) so the prospective company seeking funding does not shop their deal to multiple brokers.  If the company seeking funding has a bit of skin-in-the-game,the capital broker does not waste his time or vetting costs (which are more than his fee).  They are in the business for the 2-3% success fee on the funding completion.

  6. Peter Hartley

    There is no simple answer. I totally agree with Lee that a list of genuine investors is paramount. Having been ‘stung’ by posh premises (Lloyds of London) and convincing vendors (names witheld, subject to legal proceedings), I now check every ‘opportunity’ via Companies House. That usually gets rid of 90% of ‘Investors’. Then you have to track the Investor’s history. No genuine Investor would mind that – if your ‘Investor’ objects, walk away. In my experience, no genuine Investor requires payment ‘upfront’. So, what it costs is your time and effort (which can be offset against HMRC). On average, I find that only 10% of ‘Investors’ are genuine.

  7. Paul Berney

    I have been at this for some time now and absolutely advise my clients to not pay any up front fees for pithcing to any group. Pay for performance even if it is on the high side like 10% is OK but only for performance. Shares in he company is also an absolute NO as you point out, can be a hefty amount should the company be successful. The long and the short of it is simple….be prepared and have your documentation in order and pre sell or get beta testere to say they will buy as this may help with the Angels out there. No doubt beign in revenue is where the investers want you to be as they can quickly determine the scaleabilty and proof of concept but when your get that far you have to ask yourself….what do I need investors for. They big pad day is bootstrapping to success and keeping the all the marbles for yourself. Yes there are advantages or reasons to dilute your shares but they need to be well thought out.

  8. Steve Carew

    Raising money for a good investment should be relatively easy, unfortunately it is not. You can have every detail of a good investment covered, all the paper work in place and all the sureties that are possible and still not get a dime. People whom come from money or have raised money before and know where to go and whom to talk to will quite possibly succeed. However for the people whom know no one with investment funds they must use the shot in the dark method. I have had over fifty scam offers with my latest invention and a countless number of companies ask for money up front. I just keep the faith and keep trying.

  9. Richard Masters

    I see no reason why any entrepreneur should not be prepared to pay for an intro to a potential investor. Business is business! One is therefore paying for professional expertise, plus a level of actual work involving time in evaluating, advising and contacting.


    However, in order that the entrepreneur – who may have a very good and viable business plan – be protected from any “scam” company, that initial fee should be small, affordable and fair.


    Personally I would go for substantial payment in the event of success – be that in cash or shares (after all with that intervention the newco would not get off the ground. In addition I would suggest that the intermediary tell the potential investor that he gets paid only on successful completion, (And add that therefore they have really done their homework properly and thoroughly before contacting them) -whilst mentioning that, since they know that most private investors are interested in building a portfolio, it is very much in the intermediary’s interest to pitch only the best for that particular investor.


    I have been in business for some 16 years now and provide a range of business solutions to my wide and very varied client base. I have been very fortunate to work not only here from my base in France but also across the business world and therefore have been exposed to many business customs and practices. In relation to investment I am currently involved in projects which require funding of over £15m in total and feel the answer to your point may well be in the following.


    Investors are in the main only interested in 1 thing and thats “return” and this comes in 2 ways. Firstly there is gauranteed return where there is a minimum return clearly acheivable from the project invested in thus the return is secure. Next there is the speculative return, this in the present environment is clearly a higher risk and therefore returns required would reflect such. As an example, I have a cleint who needed £1.5m for a period of 18months and was offeringa secured return of £2.25m. He was offered £1.2m for a priavte investor but the return asked for was £3.87m, my advice was to reject it and look elsewhere. The investor new he was able to press my client into a position but the offer was not suitable for the longterm health of my clients business. Glad to say he took my advice and rejected it and now has raised £1m at better rates and conditions and the other 500k looks acheivable!!!


    Cost of the above 2 points is down to the individual need versus the individual investors baseline return criteria. My advice is simple and proven and that is to do more homework on those who offer finance than they will do on you, take a reference from others they have assisted and if needs be use bank references on the them and also the facilities via companies house. Don’t pay any upfront fees and only enter into discussions with those who can help you if you can see the whites of their eyes prior to agreeeing fee structure. Look abroad for investors, countries such as China, Singapore and Russia are pouring/offering money but do your homework.


    Last bit of advice which is crucial. Before looking to appoint an agent to find you funds have your business or business idea fully health checked in order to make sure what your asking for is what you need and also it is packaged and pitched to a high level.

  11. Tony A

    I have also recently been looking for Venture capital of about 50.000$ and along the way i have learnt a lot of things, First of all for the whole while i have been trying, it has been frustrating. Being from a developing world, third world country in Africa is a Huge disadvantage ,no matter how good, and realistic the business plan is, that is a serious challange,a challenge i cannot easily bet on, that will soon not be
    Secondly its very hard to get genuine and sincere investors, most appear to be scams, if they are not asking you 100$ upfront fees, they are asking to pay commission fees.

  12. Jonathan Geitner

    After several months of meeting, speaking and networking with angels & looking at third party intermediaries to help be introduced to investors I wasn’t sure at first what was right and/or what would more likely work.


    Asking the right questions though does enlighten things.  I posed the question to various third party intermediaries – how many investments are made through your network? And they would never answer.  This simply means to me there were none made.


    In my opinion when a 3rd party charges more up front, its because they don’t close any deals and take the % finders/success fee. Any 3rd party who is successful, would make enough money through succession fee’s so wouldn’t need to charge the entrepreneur much money up front.


    I also can’t understand how third parties expect entrepreneurs, who are out looking for money to pay so much. The reason they’re looking for money is because they don’t have any!


    Its all a bit of a con in my opinion.  I’m aware of the argument that an investor only wants serious entrepreneurs and therefore a serious entrepreneur would pay higher fee’s up front to be able to pitch, however when signing up you simply don’t know who these “angels” are and I’m sure half of them are friends of the owners of the intermediaries to just make some cash off the entrepreneurs. The issue is entrepreneurs are vulnerable, they’re passionate about something they believe in and will do anything to try and see their project work (within reason).


    The other issue I’ve come across via third parties and some “speed dating” style pitching events is with the angels I know, who are very busy and hugely successful, they would never go to such an event. They like the personal one to one introductions.  The angels going to these type events are more of the “wannabe” investors but rarely put their money where their mouth is.


    I’ve spoken to angels and am presently in the midst of VC discussions / pitches for an early stage start-up, although the VC actually found & contacted me which makes this quite interesting.


    Personally I love the VC’s only since these guys are so professional and know exactly what their doing, its quite refreshing.  They ask the right questions, understand markets and so forth where I’ve simply found Angels not as commercially savvy. For many VCs can be daunting, but I love the no-nonsense approach.


    On that note, I believe an online “dating” website format for a reasonable monthly fee where entrepreneurs are connected up to angels is smart way round all this. There needs to be a good volume of investors and people should shout about success rates more.  If third parties expressed how good they were in terms of successes, many entrepreneurs would be attracted to that.


    I’d happily pay £100 to pitch at an event but only knowing the number, level and quality of investors attending.  I’d want to see who they were, their profile, previous investments made, how they made their money and all that. This would make me believe there were real investors in the audience and I’m not wasting my time or money. I’d also be happy with a success fee.

    Jonathan Geitner

  13. Peter Salkeld

    This is a good summary of the situation but remain to be convinced of the success of the monthly payment system.  It depends very much on the number of registered investors and their interests, which is an unknown. Unfortunately, this seems to be the only economic way to proceed. The TV series “Dragon’s Den” seem to invest somewhere between Angel and VC amounts so not sure whether they are VC’s or Angels.

  14. Duncan McFadzean

    We operate in the £25k-£50k investment area as investors and so are at the lower end of the amounts put to work. We don’t charge up front fees, albeit I can understand why a network does. The challenge is simply this – how do you cover your overhead in the period until you can realise your investments if you don’t charge any fees? That’s fine if you are an individual investor, as you rely on other sources for your income most likely. But if you are an institution or corporate investor then you will find that difficult. I’m a big believer in no up front fees until you have enough pipeline that you need to use a fee to scare away people (it’s an effective way of removing the not so serious people) but I do believe that a completion fee is appropriate to reflect the work put in to do the deal (it comes out of your own capital anyway usually) and that can be 1-5% of funds raised, dependent on the structure of the deal. If the startup is not willing to pay any fees, there is a question as to how much they really value you as a partner? After all, have you ever known a founder say they’ll take no wages and will solely rely on capital returns in 5 years time? So why are investors shunned for saying we’ll have a little money now and the majority from the capital returns? It’s about aligning interests and sharing in the rewards.

  15. Peter Salkeld

    In answer to Duncan McFadzean, if you choose the right investment and a proper % of the equity, surely your reward comes by way of a good dividend and a high capital gain on your investment.

  16. Sean McConville

    This article is great and points out one of the big challenges in companies seeking investors. It’s easy to say that there should be no money up front, but given that most proposals proposed do not get financed (1 in a 100 maybe?) how does the person/company earn a living for their contacts/skills and have the income to pay their rent/mortgage while they do their work?


    I believe that if there is a legitimate service, a company that has access to investors and can help you improve and present your project to to said investors, etc. then that deserves a fee. Those companies may well exist, or will do, the trick is to do due diligence to find out if they are genuine AND capable or not. If they are, I believe a fee to be one of the most important executives of your company is fair. So I think it boils down to what do you get for that fee? If the service is genuine and is capable of getting financing through their list of investors it is fair I believe because the odds of them getting a finders fee is small and back end points aside from taking years to collect are also unlikely.


    Here is an article I wrote that is relevant to this post.

  17. Linton Ricketts

    In this day and age I think it is essential to have a company like Company Partners. Lots of small companies make a big impact on our economy. But the problem a lot of them face is that you need money to make money, getting that cash is often a major factor a lot of people leave their dreams on the shelf.

  18. Richard Masters

    I notice that there have been some that say a share option as fee is an absolute no-no.

    What about those individuals with a good plan, the ability to see it through and a viable market place but who have zero contacts and little or no knowledge of fundraising outside the High Street banks etc. I hate to think of all of the potential money-spinners that have never taken off through blinkered viewing by the investor community. For such an entrepreneur any success in funding via a share option to a third party is equivelant to ten birds in the hand compared to a bare bush.

  19. Peter Salkeld

    I agree absolutely with Richard Masters above, but such investors need vision and imagination as well as the financial means.

  20. Max Morecroft

    Having been in a position of talking to investors with a number of products, all i can say is financial investors or/money angels/ are in the main no more than money sucking leeches.
    they will interview 10 candidates, and maybe 1 will survive but the price he will pay to get half the capital he requires will be anything up to 75% of his company for at least 5 years, then they want an opt out clause that gives them more money.
    i personally think these people are worst than the worst loan sharks.
    i attended a meeting quite recently where a business angel was addressing us, and he said they would normally take about 40% when i asked if they had ever taken 40%, his reply was no I was just giving that as an example.

  21. Lee Tracey

    A lot of sense coming from a mixed bag of interested parties.  I think I know how to solve the key issue but am not sure of the mechanics of how to go about it.  My solution would be to have a thoroughly checked register of “investors” that a funding seeker could access to find out if the investor was for real and also how real.  The protection for the investor would be that the funding seeker would need the permission of the investor to access this information and would pay a nominal fee of about £10.  Any genuine investor looking at a project that was of serious interest would then allow the funding seeker to access his ( the investor ) filed history and report. If the investor was not registered or refused permission then the funding seeker could draw whatever conclusion he desired.  I have put this plan up to two regular investors I know and both have said they would accept it without reservation as it would prove their standing and would only be available to fund seekers they were really interested in.  As one said:-  ”…if you are skilled in the financial world you will know how to check me anyway so why should I be afraid to allow a serious prospect also check me; I will check him.

    Such an organisation could also offer a professional service of setting up test “Dragon Den” covens round the country where, for a nominal fee of about £100, you could test your pitch and scheme and get torn to pieces but without any consequent damage other than your ego.  You would not get money from these “covens” just a Beta test run before pitching to the real investors.  The coven would give you marks out of 100 for each test undertaken and when you receive a high number you could quote this to potential investors and allow them to receive a copy of the your coven report.

    It would be a start to remove all the false investors from the scene for so many of the speed pitching operations only have phoney investors – they are just after your fee money.

    If anybody out there thinks the above has legs, contact me.

    Lee Tracey

  22. Lee Tracey

    Further to my response above it could be a further service to have a record of experiences so that new seekers could evaluate.  For instance I paid £400 to be listed on the ANGEL NEWS system but did not receive a single viable response – I did receive four scam replies from Nigerian style scam artists.  I also paid to appear on EQUITY ASSIST but did not receive a single response. Was my proposal a dud?  I do not think so for from a different system I raised nearly £300,000 in 30 minutes.  The problem with the system which funded me is that it does not want to be promoted as it has only genuine wealthy Angel members and only accepts through an introducer who carries out in-depth pre-screening.  I was not charged anything upfront.  So this says, when coupled with my comments above, that pre-screening of both investors and seekers is an issue that needs to be addressed.  As a seeker I do not object to paying an upfront fee of £100 provided I am guaranteed that the audience I am pitching to really do have the muscle to invest if they like what they hear.

    If I was an investor then I would soon get tired of listening to hours of rubbish.  In learning my pitch I spent  time as a ( pretend ) investor – yes I admit the deception – but I sat through hours of impossible crap and hopeless schemes.  It soon became obvious that in many cases anybody could pitch if they paid the fee.

    Lee Tracey

  23. Duncan McFadzean

    Peter (Salkeld), if that were true then why isn’t it fair to say the same to the founder, and that they can’t have a wage? They’d start to tell you how they have to pay the bills and buy food to live – so they need an income, which I’m happy to fund (to an extent) – so why’s it different from an investor looking for overhead recovery?

  24. Duncan McFadzean

    Lee, I think you’re talking about something like Angel List - which is rapidly taking off in the US. Or seedsummit in Europe, formed by the guys behind Seedcamp. Both of these are tech focused.

  25. Duncan McFadzean

    Max, thanks for branding all investors (sorry, in the main) leeches. As one of the aforementioned leeches, can I run some alternative numbers past you. The typical return for an angel in the UK is around 22% studies have shown (similar in the US). That’s not an exceptional return. 90% of the investments made usually return at best the money made. And that’s after the average angel turning down 6 out of every 7 things they look at. So we have on average a 1 in 70 success rate, throw in a ton of time to 69 things that flop, and end up with a mere 22% return. Of course, not all angels are average. It’s all about finding the exceptional play, not the average play. Average plays don’t give that level of return. We’re not all leeches, but stats show that we have to throw out the majority – to be fair I’ve been pitched some stuff that no-one would fund anyway at points. 

  26. Pip Errington

    We advise individuals and small groups looking to invest in new and emerging technologies. Angel/Seed type investment in the UK suffers from being less competitive than other markets. Government could really help in a couple of ways:
    Leveling the playing field, so that investors in new business in the UK benefit in the same way as they do in other countries (for instance; tax breaks and other incentives are 2/3 times greater in real terms in several European markets)
    Reduce and simplify red tape until the business has achieved a reasonable size and turnover (penalizing companies for taking on more people and growing whilst still very small is a real disincentive!)

    As already mentioned, we too have found that most seed and early stage investment network providers take advantage of the inexperience and/or desperation of people seeking funding. Unacceptable charges up front and demanding an unreasonable equity share being two of the more obvious examples.

    However, we have also found that too many people seeking funding, have totally unrealistic expectations of their value and abilities and their idea’s value. We often act on behalf of private equity groups, providing an overview of the overall viability of the company they are considering investing in. Frequently a very quick review of the business shows that the idea may be good, but that it will never work with the management in place.

    There is another area where the seed/early stage funding model in the UK falls down. In other markets it is quite normal to structure an offer based on a business model that ensures funding for appropriate management expertise and adequate promotion of the product. All too often a quick analysis of why a business is failing, or has failed, shows inadequate management and insufficient promotion of the product to the market.

    There are ways of structuring a business model that provides the business with the resource it needs. Entrepreneurs looking for funding need to realistic about what ‘their baby” is worth and what they may have to give up if it is to flourish, but government needs to cut red tape and investors take a measured view of what return can be expected by when.

    - :
    - Simplified regulatory/legislative requirements making the UK genuinely comparable with other countries.
    - Real tax incentives for investor, until , making the UK = less operating cost and

  27. David Landsberg

    Intermediaries are an important filter and can often sort dreamers with fanciful ideas from those with a credible proposition and an ability to deliver. The Intermediary can target specific investors by interest, and present a plan in a format that can be understand at a glance – however – when it’s not seed funding, but investment into a trading business that’s required, many investors (Jetland included) like nothing more than to stumble upon it in the raw, without being sugar-coated by an intermediary. These tend be to be discovered rather than introduced by Intermediaries….

  28. Zulfiqar Deo

    I agree intermediaries need to be compensated for their valued services. I also feel they tend to use models which discourage them from looking at new ways of funding what they do. The conservative model being an upfront fee and a success fee. A standard model being a success fee. However, I have come across companies who charge no fee before or after ! The last category tends to have companies that are trying new ways of encouraging the interaction between the investors and startups. They seem to have found new ways of paying for their services.

    I hope the last of the three starts to replace the others as the main stream way of helping startups.

    Look forward to your comments.

  29. Maarten van der Walt

    Is their any Investors?? I am three years bussy trying to raise caputals for my project, Game Breeding project in South Africa with no luck, many scam investors all over the world. I already lost thousand of dollars. Their is scam middle men all over the world. I also shall not pay upfront fees.

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