About this episode

My guest this week is Helena Murphy, founder of Raising Partners. Raising Partners is an investing firm seeking to make it easier for startups to raise early-stage capital. They do this through expert guidance and direct connections with her wide network of investors.

Helena, and the Raising Partners team, boast a 98% success rate on fully managed campaigns. They have helped brands like Thread, Equipsme, Penfold and many raise about $41 million, or £30 millions for my UK listeners.

You and I both know, or have at least heard, that there is money out there to be had and is ready to invest. Yet there are also tens of thousands of startups pitching their decks hoping to get a chance to pitch in person. Well, much like anything else in this world, who you know truly does matter. And Helena has built a business around helping startups and making introductions to those that she knows and the network is extensive.

In this episode, you'll hear:

  • Helena shares how she grew up in a small town in Glasgow from a working-class family. Her parents had split when she was young and she didn’t experience entrepreneurship until she was older.
  • Helena shares how she has always been driven to do better and at the age of 8 knew that she wanted to study at St Andrew’s University. She worked from a young age to save up and to be able to support her dream and when she found out she got in she left her small town.
  • At University she did a degree in Sustainable Development and in her final year she had her first entrepreneurial experience though Entrepreneurial Scotland. With this, she had the opportunity to go to America and work in a startup. This sparked her entrepreneurial interest and when she returned home she knew she wanted to start her own startup. Helena started an Ecommerce business selling sustainable clothing.
  • She shares how she made multiple mistakes which lead to the company folding. This took a toll on her mental and physical health but she quickly picked herself up and was determined once again to find the root of the problem. Helena spent 12 months speaking to investors about why the company failed and how she could have prevented it. The answer was that she didn’t know how to keep track of the bottom line data and numbers.
  • Helena shared how she took this information and started to help other people with their startups for free, then with the vast amount of clients approaching her for her help she was able to monetize the business. With this, her company organically grew through word and mouth.
  • She shares how Raising Partners is helping startups in all areas of investment, from creating exciting and informative pitch decks to understanding why investors don’t invest.

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Episode transcript

Helena Murphy: Hi, I'm Helena Murphy. I am the founder and CEO of Raising Partners. And this is MY startup story.

  • Every wildfire began with a spark. Every superhero has an origin story. And every single startup has a moment that they point to as their beginning. And every founder has a purpose that drove them in the midst of all obstacles. THAT is The Startup Story. *


James McKinney: Hello, everyone and welcome to another episode of The Startup Story. And before we jump into this week's episode, I want to share an opportunity that you have to bring your business and brand to my audience of 85,000 listeners, and it's absolutely free. If you want to plug your brand in an upcoming episode of The Startup Story, then all you have to do is leave a written review on Apple podcast and make sure to plug your brand in that written review. That way when I read your review in an episode, it will be like a free ad within an episode of The Startup Story. Again, this opportunity is completely free and it just takes a few moments of your time. Yeah, you heard that correctly. You can promote your social media account, your URL, or your brand to my audience of 85,000 entrepreneurs and wantrepreneurs for completely free.

In fact, here's a great example from a review by the ReSistering show that was just posted last week. They gave the show five stars and wrote: "Extremely helpful. Thank you for the insights on your podcast. It really helped us get ideas together to keep the momentum going for our podcast, The ReSistering Show." First off, thank you for the review and the five star rating. It truly does help with being discovered on the Apple Podcast platform. Now for everyone who loves podcasts, maybe you want to check out The ReSistering Show on your podcast platform of choice. And for everyone listening, by simply writing a review on the Apple Podcast platform, The ReSistering Show was able to plug their new podcast to my entire listener base of 85,000. So if you want this free plug then just visit Apple Podcast and leave a written review.

And just a reminder to make sure you subscribe or follow the show on your favorite podcast platform because we have some amazing episodes that will drop in the coming weeks and you're not going to want to miss any of them. In fact, I teased one of our upcoming episodes last week in the intro so you're going to want to take a listen to that if you want to know more about it. Now let's jump into this week's episode.

My guest this week is Helena Murphy, founder of Raising Partners. Raising Partners is an investment firm that is seeking to make it easier for startups to raise early stage capital. They do this through expert guidance and direct connections with its wide network of investors. Helena and the Raising Partners team, they boast a 98% success rate on fully managed campaigns and have helped brands like Thread and Equipsme and Penfold and many, many more, raise about $41 million, or for my UK listeners 30 million pounds. You and I both know, or have at least heard, that there is money out there to be had, that it's ready to invest, yet there are also tens of thousands of startups pitching their decks hoping to get a chance to pitch in person. Well, much like anything else in this world who you know, truly does matter. And Helena has built a business around helping startups and making introductions to those that she knows. And the network is extensive.

And I was thinking there are so many lists that magazines come out with right? Lists like the Fortune 500 and Inc 500 Fastest Growing Companies, and the Top 40 under 40, and so many more. They should make a list like Top 50 people to know if seeking investment capital. And if they did, I am sure Helena would be on that list. Yet despite how connected she is, she isn't where she is today because of calm seas. No, a seasoned sailor becomes great because of their time navigating challenging seas. And Helena's story is definitely one that includes numerous challenging seasons.


Helena Murphy: I grew up in I guess a separated home. My parents split when I was very young, and I was raised predominantly by my mom. I'm an only child and she had, until she retired, a very traditional, stable good job. Like that is my mom's bread and butter. She is so risk averse it's unreal. She has a heart attack every time I talked to her about business and like what's happening. She worked for a university and the third, sort of kind of in Scotland that's like the third sector, public sector. Very stable, traditional, you know, she knew how much money she was going to be paid at the end of every month. And she had a very kind of linear traditional climb a ladder of sorts into kind of a middle management position. So no, not surrounded by an entrepreneurial background at all.

I guess the first exposure I had to there could be something different was when my dad, who worked as a town planner at for a local council, was made redundant. And my dad's default position, he's a bit crazy in lots of different ways, quite eccentric. But he just casually decided one day that he was going to buy, you know, he was going to become a manager of a franchise business. So already existed, so he wasn't an entrepreneur in the sense that he had an idea and he started something. But he did take a huge risk in the sense that he then became the general manager of a fairly young franchise opportunity in Hong Kong. And he lived in Yorkshire in the middle of England, like so far away from Hong Kong. He had never been there. And he was like, "I've been made redundant. And I'm going to go to Hong Kong, I'm going to run this business." Like he was in charge of this brand in Southeast Asia. And that was my first exposure to anyone in my life close to me doing something completely different to the norm of, I guess, going to school (my parents didn't really go to university), you know, getting a job, training up, going to middle management. That was my family, that sort of background. Before that, I am from an extremely working class background. My family are coal miners and people that work on rivers, that kind of thing. Entrepreneurship I guess really started with that, I guess, catalyst of my dad doing something instead of him being made redundant and getting another job. I don't know what he was reading at the time, or what he was doing when he just suddenly decided he was going to up sticks and go to China. But that was my first real exposure to that.


James McKinney: That's incredible. And real quick, just for my listeners, where are you? Where were you raised? And where are we talking to you now?


Helena Murphy: I was raised in Glasgow, I was born in a very small town that no one will ever know in like the kind of Northeast of England. My accent has changed, because I moved to Scotland when I was 9. And I am back in Glasgow now, so I'm in Scotland right now.


James McKinney: So that's a great tee up of your early days. And so the fact that there was a glimpse of risk taking really I mean. Your father's journey kind of gave you this vocabulary, if you will, that okay it doesn't have to be this linear path that your mom had. But it still doesn't necessarily tee up the idea of entrepreneurship. So let's continue on this journey to see when this unfolds. So at the end of your high school years, right, it's again, yeah, it's a natural chapter, life decisions have to come into play. What was your next step? And what did you think you want to do or become?


Helena Murphy: So I guess it kind of started a little bit before the end of high school. And I would say my natural catalyst of what I did after that goes back to, again, when I was very young, when I left high school, I went to study at the University of St. Andrews, and I first decided I was going to go to St. Andrews when I was about eight years old. My mum took me there on a holiday with my uncle. And I remember walking around and being like, "I am going to come to university here." And I remember my mom saying, "It's really difficult to get in, you're going to need to do a lot of reading," and I was like, that's fine. That's okay, I can do that. I am going to go here. And I worked all the way through school and through high school I went to not a great high school. State funded doesn't have the best reputation for context. It's probably one of the only schools I've ever heard of where people actively used to throw fireworks at one another in the halls.


James McKinney: Oh my goodness.


Helena Murphy: So it was great. Yeah, it was pretty dangerous. And I remember speaking to my guidance counselor, I'm not sure what they're called in the states, but like your careers advisor person, and I told him, "I'm going to go to St. Andrews," and I remember him saying, "You should aim lower. No one from this school has ever been."


James McKinney: Wow.


Helena Murphy: And I was like, "Okay, well, I decided I was going to go there when I was eight. So I'm going." And he was like, "Okay, well, you're gonna need to get straight A's and write a really good personal statement." I was like, I can do that. That's fine. And so I did, I didn't get straight A's. I got four A's and a C and I was talking to one of my friends the other night when she came around for dinner and she was like, "I remember the day you got your results and you cried because you thought that was it, you weren't going to St Andrews." And I managed to get in.

I wrote a really good personal statement in the UK when you apply to university you have five shots of getting in, you have five places you can apply for. Most people kind of spread their bets and apply to five different institutions. I applied five times for the same course at St. Andrews. I think actually no, I tell a lie, I applied once to Edinburgh because they made me. They were like, "You have to use one of these spots for like a different university." So I did that. But I wrote in my personal statement, which goes to all of your application, "I would like to go to St. Andrews because I visited when I was eight years old." And so I yeah, I went to… I got in. I wrote this very hopefully convincing personal statement that kind of showed how much I really, really wanted to be there.

And I got in for all of my placements and I kind of went into school and was like, "See you guys. I'm off." and I left six months before everyone else did from my high school because I had my grades, I had my place at university. And I was like I told you I was going, so I'm going now, thanks, bye. And I used that time to work. I got my first job when I was 13. I've been financially independent from my mom and my parents since I was kind of 16. I started out washing dishes in a local cafe that's still there now. And yeah, I've kind of always made my own money. So when I reflect on my entrepreneurial journey, it started out very young in that sense of, I'm always going to make money for myself and work really hard and get to it. Like I set a goal and I'm going to get there. And that's what I did when I left high school was go to St. Andrews and I worked throughout school to be able to pay to go.


James McKinney: Wow, that's incredible. So but again, back to the question, when you go to St. Andrews, what did you think, again what's the reason you're going there besides desire? What did you want to learn or degree did you want to attain because of x? And what was that?


Helena Murphy: I started out doing a language degree. And I think I immediately I want to actually be a translator. And I think that's because I'd watched a lot of foreign like French and German films and Spanish films. And I was like, that looks really cool. I'm going to be a translator, I want to work in the UN. I wanted to definitely work abroad and experience other people and other cultures. And I just thought how amazing would that be to speak with such fluency in another language. I got a term into studying a foreign language at university and realized how incredibly hard it was and switched my degree to a different subject, which was sustainable development. And that is something that I'd always had a kind of underlying passion for. I'm kind of quite renowned myself and my mum for boycotting brands that we don't like because of their sustainability credentials. Like there's very few places I can shop and things that I can do, because I find out about their sustainability practices and then I'm like, "I'm not buying from them anymore." I'm extremely limited in what it can do.

And so I switched my degree to sustainable development. And I think the goal was still probably always to work in like a government position, advisory. I remember looking at jobs for kind of green investment banking and sustainability. And I thought I was going to maybe go, again and work abroad, but in a sustainability capacity rather than in a language capacity. And that is roughly what I wanted to do right up until my third year of university. And that was when a pretty life changing event happened for me when I was looking at, in my penultimate year, my internship opportunities for that summer before graduation. And as I've said, I am not from in any way privileged financial background. So my options were limited to places that could pay me to do work for them over the summer, which in internships, most people do those that are free. And that wasn't an option for me.

And there's an organization in Scotland called Entrepreneurial Scotland, which is a charitable organization that funds scholarships, paid internships for a 12 week internship program over the summer for promising young graduates with entrepreneurial mindsets, and they put them into companies that have a specific either relationship to Scotland or they have some connect, maybe the CEO has a connection to Scotland, but really what they're looking for in their students that they can go and execute on a project that has got something entrepreneurial within it. And I was very fortunate to go on one of those internships to a startup in San Diego. It used to be called Envision Solar. Now it's called Beam and they have solar trees that you charge electric cars under. And that was my first exposure to real kind of scale, growth startup business. And I was so fortunate that the founder and president at the time took me to every meeting that he went to. I went to sales meetings, board meetings, investor pitches, he let me see all aspects of that business and really understand the nuts and bolts of what made that kind of business grow and what was really possible.

It was amazing. Not only was I in the States, I was in California, the weather was fantastic. It was such an eye opening experience and really broadened my horizons beyond anything I'd ever seen before. And when I returned to Scotland after that summer, I was like, I'm not going to get graduate job or go and work for a government, I'm going to run a business, this is going to be great. And I kind of threw all my eggs in one basket and was like, I'm not going to get a graduate job. I'm going to run a startup and I started my business at university and then when I left again, I didn't get a graduate job. I just turned that what was then any ecommerce business running on eBay into an e commerce site selling sustainable fashion brands. So combining what I learned in my degree with what I was kind of already doing as a sort of side hustle throughout university and I've been doing for a very long time and was like, "That's it, I'm going to run an e commerce business," and kind of off I went.


James McKinney: Okay, there's so much in that that I want to unpack, it's fascinating. And I definitely now we know how you got to entrepreneurship. But I want to talk about this program for a bit because part of what makes The Startup Story unique is, again, part of hearing the journey of people's entrepreneurial journeys. You hear these opportunities, whether it be for capital, for employment, for subsidy, labor subsidies, whatever the case may be. Let's talk about this entrepreneurial, you said it's called Entrepreneurial Scotland


Helena Murphy: Entrepreneurial Scotland, yeah.


James McKinney: Right. So in my mind, as you were talking about it, I was like, okay, so they're going to pay for you to be an intern in some startup within Scotland. Then you pull out San Diego, and I'm like, wait a second here, wait are they funding…? So can you unpack this program as how a San Diego startup can leverage this organization in Scotland one, how do they find it? And then two what are some of the mechanics of that for the again, for those listening, that we can say wait a second, I can find top talent in Scotland to work during the summer in my US startup? What is this program?


James McKinney: Okay, before we continue on, I want to pause for a moment and talk directly to you, The Startup Story listener. Did you know that there were municipal channels to have top talent come and work for your business for free? That is what makes The Startup Story so unique and why hearing directly from other founders is so incredibly helpful. That is also what makes Grindology so special as well. Grindology is a brand extension of The Startup Story that delivers founder direct resources that will help ease your grind and fuel your hustle.

Now what exactly is included in the quarterly Grindology shipment? Well, first and foremost, every single Grindology shipment will include a copy of the Grindology tactical manual. And every single issue of Grindology will be chock full of real tactics from real business builders, not journalists. Within the pages of the Grindology tactical manual, we'll be delivering to you tactics and strategies that you can integrate into your business immediately. You know, our current issue that is available right now is focused on content. And in this issue, you'll receive proven tactics on how to leverage existing content that you've already created to drive new business and deliver new revenue.

You'll hear operational tactics that were used by a founder that saw nearly 400% growth in one year, and he attributes that growth to the tactics he shares in this issue. And in our previous issue, we had a SAS founder lay out exactly how he obtained his first 1,000 customers and another founder talked about how he leveraged his video to increase sales and lead conversions. I'm telling you founder direct tactics make all the difference in the world and that is exactly what you'll find in this issue and every issue of Grindology. Like I said, real tactics from real business builders. Our Q2 issues available now and you can access it at grindology.com. In fact, everything about Grindology is about helping to fuel your grind and your entrepreneurial journey so visit grindology.com to learn more. And of course, we will include a link to grindology.com within our show notes for easy access. Now, let's jump back into our episode with Helena Murphy, as she's just about to share about an organization that will cover the costs to have top talent can work for your business.


Helena Murphy: It's amazing, I love them so much. They're an organization very, very close to my heart. And this year, I'm actually taking two interns from that program. So it's kind of come full circle 10 years later. So the program is run by the charitable foundation and it's kind of underpinned by a network called the Global Scots Community. So they might be entrepreneurs, very successful, who are from Scotland or have had some kind of affinity to Scotland, they maybe studied here or have lived here in the past, or quite often some of them have met their spouses in Scotland, it just holds a special place in their heart. And they all came together as a group of entrepreneurs and looked at what can we do to kind of find, fuel, and spark the next generation of entrepreneurs? And what are some of the barriers to doing that?

And they found that well, fundamentally, the barriers are experience and access to opportunities. So they decided to create this paid for program where they would seek out top talent in Scottish universities and pay for them to do internships in originally their organizations that were based all over the world. So it started off with a primarily US based focus with lots of companies in New York and Texas and then San Diego is just happened to be where I went. But now they have institutions like HSBC, GSK which is a large pharmaceutical company, and the Wood Group. I believe they've got lots of offices in Texas, but kind of large huge organizations all over the world right down to kind of small, scrappy startups like the one that I was working in. And they offer all different kinds of internships in different areas, not just in what I did, which was quite broad around marketing and entrepreneurship, but also things in accountancy and engineering. And yeah, it was amazing. And for me, as I said, it was fully funded. So they paid for everything, my living expenses, a fair living wage whilst I was there. So for me, I was funding my life as a student, I was paying for my rent, and my food and all the books I needed for school, and all of that kind of stuff. And if I hadn't had that opportunity to have that experience and be paid for it, I wouldn't have been able to do it.


James McKinney: And also too you wouldn't have been able, you wouldn't be exposed entrepreneurship at that time.


Helena Murphy: No.


James McKinney: Maybe you would have found it later on, but definitely not in that period.


Helena Murphy: Definitely not.


James McKinney: This is just one of the many reasons why I love The Startup Story because like this program right here, nowhere in a million years would someone, just an average Joe, find it online as a resource. Like I wish there was some way to globally aggregate capital resources like this. Like most people have no idea in the US, you know, the Fortune 100 companies, almost all of them have a venture arm when it comes to venture capital. And most people don't know this or where to go. And you hear about these economic development centers. Within the US, we have them at a city level, you know, but all over the globe there's these economic development opportunities like this, to find again, whether be top talent, to find seed money, whatever the case may be. It's like, man, I wish there was just a global- And Google get on this for crying out loud, like anyone can pull this together, Google, you should be able to pull this together. But oh, my goodness, what a remarkable story.

And now let's get back to your entrepreneurial journey. So you come back from this. And by the way, for those to recap, as we did a little sidebar there, you're in San Diego, and you said here you are in California, but let me be very clear within California, there are many different climates. You happened to end up in what might possibly be the best climate in all of the United States, like San Diego is beautiful and absolutely spectacular.


Helena Murphy: It's the best. I would move to San Diego in a heartbeat, if you would happily let me in. Like I would go there.


James McKinney: It is beautiful down there. So now you're back in Scotland. And now you had a taste for entrepreneurship. I think you said you started with an eBay business. And then you moved it to a separate site ecommerce. And the focus was aggregating brands that you can support from a sustainability perspective, is that is that a correct synopsis of the first startup?


Helena Murphy: Yeah. So I was buying in wholesale sustainable brands, fashion brands, accessories, that kind of thing. And then I was selling them on my ecommerce site. So buying them at wholesale and just reselling them on a platform.


James McKinney: Okay, so you were actually holding inventory, this was not a drop ship.


Helena Murphy: Yeah, yeah, yeah.


James McKinney: This was not an affiliate marketing site. This was you were holding inventory to sell.


Helena Murphy: Yeah, yeah.


James McKinney: And what happened to that business? Because we're not talking to you about that right now, or we're not talking to you right now, because of that business.


Helena Murphy: No, no. So that business is, I guess it's my… I don't like to call it my failure, because I learned… I wouldn't have the business I have now without that business. And it taught, you know, if you think of all of the mistakes you can make running a business, you name it, I did it. Probably because I was also like, very young. I was 21, I was arrogant. I thought, you know, I was going to set the world on fire. And this is great, and off we go to the races, and it's going to be wonderful. But to begin with-


James McKinney: I'm not trying to use Scottish reference, but the first thing that comes to mind is everyone thinks they're Braveheart with their first startup.


Helena Murphy: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.


James McKinney: Everyone does. And again, it just happens to be that you're Scottish that it came to mind. But I'm just saying like, everyone thinks that they're going to conquer the world with their first startup.


Helena Murphy: Yeah, and I really did. And I think that was fueled by the fact that early on, I think, because I had that determination and drive I saw a lot of really early success. I was on an accelerator program. I was getting a ton of press. And you know, my friends and family were like, "Oh, my God, this is amazing. This is great. You're running this business and you're making money and you can support yourself and you're hiring staff." And I was going to cool events and awards and fashion shows. And I was buying in stock and I was hiring people and I had an office and it was great. But I was doing all this stuff, and I was like okay, I'm going to this event and this guy that I was sitting next to, he's like, "Oh, this sounds great. You need to raise money," and I was like, "Okay, cool." And he was like, "I'll invest," and I was like great. So I just got offered investment for my business because I was talking to him about how I needed to buy more inventory for the next season. He was like, "Oh, I'll invest and so will some of my friends," and that was my first exposure to raising money for myself anyway. And it was so easy. I went to a dinner, I sat next to a guy and he was like, I'll give you some cash. I was like fantastic. This is brilliant. You know I was part of an accelerator, I got support with my legal process, I got support with an accountant, I was like this raising money is just like so easy, this is going to be totally fine. So I did that, and I had some money, and I bought more stock, and I did more marketing, and I got more sales.

And then I had an accountant who was really a bookkeeper, you know, it was not her job. I didn't know this at the time but it was not her job to keep an eye on my cash for me, and tell me when I needed to buy more stock or when I needed to raise money. So it came to me needing to go down to London and place my next big order of stock for the following season. And I looked at the bank and was like, I'm going to need to raise some cash in about six weeks. So I went back to my investors like, "Hi, guys, I need to buy a million pounds." And they were like, "No, that's not how this works. Like, you haven't updated us on where you're at. We haven't heard from you in months, and you have not kept an eye on your numbers, you're burning through your cash at a frightening pace. Your sales are good, but they're not great. You've not done anywhere near as well as you should have done." But I think because I was just looking at all that surface level top line stuff and you know, all those vanity metrics around your top line revenue and how much press and PR you're getting, but that doesn't pay the bills. What pays the bills is the bottom line and what you're actually doing in your business.

So I was incredibly naive in that approach, and I started to really panic and think oh my gosh, right, okay, I've only got six weeks of runway left ahead of me, I need to buy all of this stock, my investors aren't going to invest or they'll you know, follow on modestly, but they're angel investors. You know, they're maybe in for another 20,000 pounds each. They're not in for the 1 million pounds you're asking for. And I kind of sat down and looked at everything, and I spoke to them and I had, that was really when I had a couple of light bulb moments of thinking I need to get my head out of the sand of hiding from the reality of these situations. And I need to get a grip of these finances, of reality, of the situation I'm actually in. And when I look today, it was not pretty. And I had six weeks of runway and I had all of these things that I needed to do in order to get money that I didn't realize were even part of the process. Because previously it had been here's a check. And it came in a couple of days later, it was not a long legal process, there was no formal pitching, there was really no due diligence. I mean, they were very brave to give me that money. So I had to make a decision about what I would do. And I just felt so sick. And I didn't know what I was going to do next.

And when I kind of sat down and looked at it all, I was like Well, I've really got I've got two choices, I can either try and raise this money, which I might not do. And actually everyone's telling me that logically, you can't raise a million pounds in six weeks and that's when you really need to do it. Or I can cut my losses now. And I can take on some debt, which I did to pay off my suppliers that I might kind of outstanding bills, I had to pay my staff, my outstanding suppliers. And actually I was able to repay my investors. So I was like, I am mortified that actually, the reason that this has failed, and I'm not raising money is my own fault. I could have done this had I been paying attention to the things that really mattered, which was the numbers, the cash flow, the real fundamental metrics of the business. So I made the decision instead of burning through another six weeks of cash and potentially failing that way to kind of bow out gracefully and wrap things up and learn all of the really painful, horrible, really hard lessons of running that business


James McKinney: Prior to this startup, and again, we heard a little bit about your academic background, but was there much financial training in, let me rephrase that, business financial training in prior to this point?


Helena Murphy: No, absolutely not. No.


James McKinney: So for the most part, prior to your investor conversations you were managing as a cash in cash out basis like it was, you know, you weren't leveraging purchase order financing or any of the other vehicles out there to help fund things it was I have the ability to buy this inventory, I'm going to buy it. Now my cash is held up, I've got to wait till I sell and then buy more inventory. Got it. So when you actually started looking at numbers, did you discover that like you weren't even profitable? Your margins weren't even there? Like you weren't selling things? You were selling things at a loss maybe? Like what were some of the discoveries you had where you were just like what the crap I did not know this?


Helena Murphy: Yeah, I think my main painful discovery was how much I was spending on customer acquisition. And how I was just because I was buying in stock and then just reselling it, I was selling a gross profit level fine, absolutely fine. Where I was making a horrible mistake was that bit in the middle of a profit and loss sheet of my expenses. And you know, I just had because I was running on a cash basis rather than just a business, I was spending an inordinate amount of money on marketing on really expensive PR, on huge retainers and huge amounts of money funneling into to Google AdWords, because we were kind of pre social media at this point. And it was just so incredibly expensive. And because I hadn't seen it all laid out on a spreadsheet, I just been like, yeah, I can afford five grand. And just thinking about it, I wasn't looking at it in any kind of strategic way. I was just doing it. And I was just signing off on all of these things that I was absolutely delusional. I thought it was really successful. And it was on a revenue basis, I was making money. It was hugely unprofitable, so unsustainable, ironically. And it was… yeah, I know.


James McKinney: I love a good pun. I love it.


Helena Murphy: And it was, yeah, it was bad, really, really bad. I had no understanding of how it worked in terms of as you've already said, kind of invoice financing, as we call it here, you know, creditors, debtors, how long they would have to pay something. I wasn't leveraging any of the tools or resources that most people would when they start a business. And that's probably because I just decided that I didn't need to because I was just so arrogant looking at the top line.


James McKinney: You know, I want to ask this question. And hopefully it doesn't hurt a little too much, but I think it's more for the benefit of my listeners than anything else, you know, and we like to be transparent and authentic when it comes to The Startup Story. You're thus far in your journey, you're an achiever. You've set out to accomplish something, you've done it, you've been scrappy the whole way. You've been like you said financial independence since 13. You knew you wanted to get to St. Andrews, you made it happen. You said to your friends and family, I'm out, I'm heading to St. Andrews, I got in. And you found a way to get yourself to the US for a period of time to learn. So you've been able to accomplish the things that you've set your mind to. And I said you're an achiever. So when this folded, when you had to shut this down, what did this do to your self perception, to your mental health, to your to your current state, to your value proposition? Because and I ask this question, partially knowing because I've sat in that spot, that we really kind of use those metrics as external validation for some false belief of ourselves. And so for you, what was the self realization that occurred when you lost it all?


Helena Murphy: I mean, I guess my immediate reaction, it was horrendous, it was so bad. And I think probably because I had done all of that, as you said, that achievement piece of, and I'd been quite arrogant and bold about it as well. "Look at me, I'm doing well." And so when I realized that I wasn't, the immediate impact on my mental health and my general health overall was I lost my hair from stress related alopecia, which I was hiding from everyone because despite the fact that this was all going terribly wrong, I was still pretending that it was all okay. And so I started to lose my hair and had a massive bald patch on the top of my head, which I was still trying to hide from everyone. And I had, I think it took me about four or five months of really, really painful reflection of that entire period on what it looked like. I spoke to my GP, I spoke to a counselor. And I was so disappointed in myself. And I think that really took me in some really dark places of being like you're not all that, and you're not good enough to do this. And it's a lot harder than you thought it was going to be.

And I think I bounced back from it relatively, you know, despite the fact that I was grossly unwell, I lost a huge amount of weight and I lost my hair which wasn't great. But from a resilience perspective and a mental perspective, I think I bounced back relatively quickly and being like, "Well, I'm never going to do that again. I'm not going to make any of those mistakes and let's look and spend the time that really analyzing what went wrong, because I'm not going to do any of that ever again. And I will run another business, but I'm not going to run another business like that." And that was then what I did next was spend 12 months of speaking to solicitors, speaking to lawyers, speaking to accountants, speaking to other business owners, other investors and asking them really horrible questions that I was too arrogant and afraid to ask first time around and be like, what went wrong here? What could I have done better? What should I do differently next time? And the stark reality of that was looking at my financials and my numbers and just being realistic about what's happening and not hide, you know, burying your head in the sand. But I think when you have done that for so long, and you finally come up for air, it's so painful to begin with, but then you do eventually kind of get through and think, Okay, well, this is way better, because at least now I can see what's happening around me. I don't feel like the world is going to collapse without me knowing about it.


James McKinney: Oh, man, I love that. One, thank you for answering that question. Because I think a lot of people need to understand that there is a grieving process.


Helena Murphy: Oh it's huge, yeah, absolutely.


James McKinney: And for those of us who try to, you know, when I say fake the funk, like we try to go along like things are well, there's both a mental wear down that takes place and like you shared a physical wear that takes place, and people just need to start having those conversations. Those are the conversations that do not get told.


Helena Murphy: Absolutely.


James McKinney: I mean, those are the elements of entrepreneurship that people do not hear. And that's why I created The Startup Story as I was, to your point you mentioned going to those who have succeeded and asking, where did I go wrong, what did I do? That's the origin of The Startup Story. I mean I did the exact same thing coming off of a failure. It took me about five years to get back on the horse, because it was a bad, bad season, a dark, dark season. And so as those people poured into me and gave me insight, I started understanding a bit more about okay, here are some of the changes I'm going to make the next time around. But it is within us that we have to get back on that horse. And so as you started learning, before we move on from this, from this season, this chapter and this learning, in those conversations, is there one thing that stands out as just this golden ticket value that someone delivered to you in a knowledge piece, in a learning, in an anecdote, whatever the case may be, is something that someone shared with you during that exploratory period for you that you will never let go of?


Helena Murphy: Yeah, I think the thing that really… I mean, there were so many nuggets of wisdom, but really the event that really sticks out for me, and I remember the day so clearly, I remember what I was wearing, I remember that it was raining, because obviously I'm in Scotland, I went to meet this business advisor, who I still know and I have a huge amount of respect for, in Edinburgh in a cafe. And he sat down and he was the first person ever. And he spent about three hours with me walking me through a financial model, and how to put in numbers and what they meant. And he took my numbers from my old business, and he put them in and was like, "Do you see what happened? Do you see where you should have planned?"

And that was the first time I ever really understood how a P&L, so profit and loss of cash flow and a balance sheet, work together. And where you could clearly see where you needed to forecast and raise money or where you would hire more staff or buy more stock or you know, things like for me in ecommerce, you know, sell through was a really important metric. How much because I was holding inventory, how much of it was I selling through, how much would I be discounting. And he spent a really long time, knowing that this was a business that was failed, and wasn't just showing me how that worked, and what that meant. And I'll always be hugely grateful to him for that time.

Because I needed that and I think I see it a lot in the role I do now. Numbers can be something that are really scary to people, especially if you think I'm bad at maths or any of those stories that you tell yourself about how you're bad with numbers, I don't like Excel, that's not my strength, I'm not an accountant or whatever it is, you know, people have a genuine hate for Excel. I think it's great tool, use it everywhere. And but because I told myself this story I'd hidden from it. And he really showed me that I didn't need to hide from what is essential. You know, it's an easy tool once you get to know it. So that's yeah, that's the thing that really sticks out of all that learning that I did when I really saw how numbers worked and where you would need to raise money.


James McKinney: So once you decided, once you've worked through the grieving process, once you've decided okay, now it's time to figure out my next step, my next venture, how do we get from there to Raising Partners?


Helena Murphy: Okay, well, I guess it's all born out of what I learned from running my first business in that when I did that reflection piece, really my weaknesses were financials and they were an understanding of raising money and what that meant. And I knew that I wasn't alone in that. I mentioned I was part of an accelerator in my first business and so I had a lot of other friends and peers that were also running businesses who I knew had the same challenges. And I was fortunate that I was connected to a couple of investors and they're like, "You know, what we can see this coming down the track for a couple of other people that we've worked with. They're busy growing their businesses, they need to raise money, you should go and work with them and help them raise."

And I went into a couple of businesses to really, in an in house role to help them raise money, that's what I was there to do, as well as marketing and various other things, because they were ecommerce businesses. But really the core function of my job during my time there was to help them raise funds, and really taking all those lessons and learnings and bringing out the bandwidth to help them raise money. Because I had just been through that painful experience of not doing it successfully and learn everything from, you know, this is what investors are looking for in an investor deck, this is what we need to have in place in terms of financial modeling. This is the massive list of investors that I've researched over the last 12 months that are investing in all these different areas and the people that we might want to go to. So I did that for a couple of in house roles.

And then Raising Partners grew really organically out of that. Once you have raised money a couple of times and done so successfully, and also unsuccessfully, right, because I learned a huge amount from not raising money. Word kind of got around and people started to come to me to be like, "Oh, you help this person raise money? Can you help me? I'm looking for…" "Oh, I saw on LinkedIn that you're connected with this person at this fund. Like, can you make an introduction for me, this is my business." I'm going to be like, sure, send me your deck, let me have a look at what you're doing. And then I was seeing the same mistakes that I had done coming up in their materials. And they would say, "Have a look at my model." And I'd be like, Oh my gosh, right, you're missing all this stuff, because I've just spoken to them about what they're looking for. And we need to spend some time working on X, Y, and Zed. And I was doing all of this for free for 18 months, and helping people to just get their house in order to raise money. Because on the other side, I'd been speaking to all these investors about what I had done wrong.

And then I was just organically connecting people. And I realized how much of a demand there was for, I guess, professional support and services in helping people to solely raise money in the early stage of the investment landscape. Because there's a ton of people who can help you sell your business and can acquire your business and that kind of mid market M&A, and help you IPO, and all that great stuff. There's not many people that can help you fundraise at an early stage that are constantly in the market, that understand how it's evolving that know investors and what they're looking for, where they are in their fund cycle and what they've invested in previously, and would this be right for you, and all of that good stuff. And that's where Raising Partners really came to be very, very organically. And I always draw the comparison of you wouldn't draw up your own legal documents, you wouldn't try and make your own investment deal writing, googling and downloading templates to do your investment round. And I don't believe you should be trying to raise money if you've never done it before, or if you've only done it once, because you don't know what's happening in the market right now. And that's where Raising Partners fits in.


James McKinney: So right now, my listeners are probably trying to connect the dots to all the different things that Raising Partner does. And I think it's fairly simple for them to understand, but let's encapsulate it for them. What does Raising Partners do for a startup?


Helena Murphy: Sure. Raising Partners is an investment firm that really works on the client side. So we work very closely with entrepreneurs, to help them inform what the best investment strategy is for them, we'll work on their financial model. So in the sense, we will build it for them and educate them on what it means. Help them on decision making on what funding might be right for them. Is there a better way of funding their business, you know, is that equity, is that debt? Is it a specific investor? How long is their runway going to be? We'll work with them on their valuation, we'll work on writing their pitch deck, and then we'll work on introducing them to investors.

And then they've kind of sideline to that is our Angel network. So we also now make investments in businesses that have a sustainability thread. So our portfolio companies are making an impact in one of three key areas so people, processes, and the planet. So we're now in the fortunate position to have an angel syndicate based on the last 10 years of me being in the market raising money, where we make investments in early stage businesses.


James McKinney: Now, from a persona perspective, is it safe to assume probably just up to maybe Series A if not pre series A? Who is your target demographic from a startup perspective?


Helena Murphy: Yeah, I guess it's we operate slightly… There's a huge differences between raising money in the US and raising money in the UK. Really, for us, you know, the US is the dream model. You guys do it really well, there's a reason why the best business schools are in the States. But from a UK perspective, we would say we generally invest kind of post product pre revenue. So for us, it's very much a seed round, second seed rounds, and maybe you've had some money before, or this is your second round. Generally, we're looking at this round of investment should get you to revenue generating, wherever that comes on the spectrum for your business, depending on what it is that you do. And so we've worked with a couple of renewables companies that are incredibly capital intensive, where their Series B, they're still pre revenue, and they're a long way from making any cash. So it really depends on the specific industry. But generally, post product pre revenue is where we are.


Helena Murphy: And your startups, you only work with UK startups?


Helena Murphy: We only invest in UK businesses. Yeah.


James McKinney: So you only invest in UK businesses. But does that mean the connections you have, the investors you work with, the firms you work with, do they only invest in UK businesses as well? Or do they-

46: 38

Helena Murphy: No, not necessarily. They will invest generally worldwide. There's lots of specific funds that actually in the UK, where the UK office is the satellite office of the US based investor. So we can do things for US firms. It depends on what their objectives are. Are they trying to raise money from UK specific investors? Or are they trying to raise money from global investors? It depends on what they're looking to do. We've done a couple of deals in the US over the last few years, but not a huge amount. Our sweet spot, our easiest bread and butter is UK business, UK ambassadors. But we do more and more international stuff now.


James McKinney: Okay. You know in looking over your website, prior to our discussion, I saw a few mentions of crowdfunding and I just want to make sure from a vocabulary perspective, in the states crowdfunding has a certain picture to it. We think of the Kickstarter, Indiegogo, even possibly Angel list is where we might think as well. Is crowdfunding have the same meaning in the UK?


Helena Murphy: No, so there's two kinds of crowdfunding. There's rewards, which is your Indiegogo, your Kickstarter, to get your product to market. And, you know, people are essentially pre buying whatever it is you're going to make. And then in the UK, we have a large equity crowdfunding market. So there's two main players, platforms regulated FCA platforms where it's essentially, it hundreds of thousands of registered angel investors and the platform's act as the legal nominee structure through which the raise is conducted. So in the UK it's seen as a very efficient way of gathering lots of smaller investors together. And by smaller investors, I mean, anyone from 10 pounds up to as much as you like 100,000 pounds, 150,000 pounds into one round. And to do so in a time bound way, the same as Kickstarter and Indiegogo. But instead of investing for rewards, or pre buying products, they're buying equity. So it works in the same way, they're very much seen as, alongside institutional VC funds, crowdfunding is in the same category in the UK.


James McKinney: See, that's interesting, because as you mentioned, that I'm reminded of a startup that's probably three years old, called Republic here in the States, they are that model. And that is fairly new in the US like that is not … I mean, prior to that it would be closest would be a syndicate, but an angel investor is leading that so it's not a platform driven open to the public, where a general non credited investor can participate, whereas Republic is that model. So you guys were ahead of us when with regards to that model. So it's awesome. Again from a startup perspective too it makes it a little bit easier for a startup to get into that seed space. But you have tremendous knowledge when it comes to fundraising. And so I want to capitalize on our time together and ask you, if you could from a US and UK perspective if possible, kind of unpack for us and demystify, if you will, the fundraising process in order to help prevent startups from failing in how they engage and execute and even approach investors? Can you can you share some of your key learnings in that area?


Helena Murphy: So in terms of demystifying the entire process, I think there's a ton to go through there. But the process is broadly the same regardless of whether or not you're raising 150,000 pounds or your first seed round, you know, whether or not you're in the US or the UK, or you're raising 15 million pounds Series B from venture funds, the steps are the same pretty much every time. And the first thing I always say to anyone is start way sooner than you think. The most amount of failures I generally see when it comes to reasons why people don't raise the money that they need is because they don't start soon enough, because they're not aware of financially what's going on. And they think the same way that I did, you can raise money quickly. Just today, I saw a post from a guy on LinkedIn, saying, "I'm going to raise one and a half million pounds in 10 days," and he had a little cardboard sign, I was just thinking in the nicest possible way, I hope you do it but I think that's a very high risk strategy. And there's a huge amount of chance of you failing at doing that.

So the first thing I always say is look at your financials, make sure you leave enough time, at least four to six months. Slightly different in the US because the US are, it's a more mature funding landscape, and it works slightly differently. And there's not as much education needed of investors. US investors tend to be pretty hot on new markets, new technologies, are a lot less risk averse than UK investors. So doesn't take them quite as long to get comfortable with a new market as it might if you're if you're operating in the UK, but generally I say leave four to six months to raise your money. And then really it's underpinned by your financials and really understanding your financial model in a huge amount of detail so that you can answer questions super, super quick, and you know it all.

And then the next layer I think of in terms of areas that I really see people struggling in is, what should I be sending investors? How do I contact them? What should I be putting in my pitch deck? And that generally comes down to there's no quick wins. I really wish like you did, and you said at the start about this, worldwide web of all the resources of entrepreneurship. And I'll come on to how we're solving that a little bit at Raising Partners in a moment. But there's, you know, there's not this kind of quick win to raising money. There's no magic potion, or no magic formula that you don't know that everybody else who's raising $10 million on $100 million pre money valuation, they've got that article in Forbes, there's no special secret or formula that they knew that you didn't know. It's just the reality of how long it takes to execute on something like that, and investing the time and money in the process that it really deserves. It's not a quick win. And that's not a popular answer, but it's the truth.

And it's spending the time on getting a great deck put together, getting it written well, getting it designed by a designer so it captures the attention and interest of investors who are seeing hundreds and I'm sure in the US thousands of decks in a day. And you've got to stand out from the crowd and everyone else who's competing for money. Because I hear a lot about this rhetoric of there is loads of money out there in the market. There's loads of investors and rich people, they're going to love my idea. But there are hundreds of thousands of people pitching for money every year, and investors are looking at hundreds or thousands of deals every year, and there's only so much that can be done.

And really when it comes to demystifying investment, I think it's so underpinned by education. And the problem or one of the problems I see with the funding landscape at the moment is that it seems to be this veiled in mystery thing that I talked about of how did that person raise $10 million at $100 million valuation because you only see the highlight. And there's nothing there of this is really what it's like to be raising money, and these are all of the steps that you're going to need to go through. It's going to take you six to eight weeks - be realistic - to get your house in order, to get your financial model and your deck, and your data room all together. It's going to take you eight weeks to pitch to people. It's going to take them eight weeks to give you an offer and a term sheet and go through the legal process. And then sometimes on the back of that they might decide to sit on their money for another six weeks, which is another six weeks out of your cash flow. And that's the real situation. It's not $10 million on Forbes. That's not how this works.


James McKinney: I love it. Absolutely love. That was tremendously helpful for all the listeners. But you know, I'm reminded that you're a startup founder as well, in the midst of all of this. Granted your business is significantly different than your first one. You're now in the service side of things. What were some of the challenges you had personally in growing a service business versus an ecommerce business?


Helena Murphy: Great question. I've always been a people person. I love talking to people, I love having really great relationships with people, I love helping people. I love saying I can do something and then doing it and making people happy. So in that sense, I'm really well suited to running a service based business. I want nothing more for my clients than to make them happy, for them to love me and be like, "You guys did a great job." But in that I have learned a huge amount about actually the formal process that you need to go through when someone is parting, let's face it, cash strapped startup founders, whether I'm asking them to invest in us and part with some of that much desired runway to trust me with some of that money, so that I can help them raise more of it.

And I am so… one of the biggest lessons I've learned is actually just how precious that cash is, and how it's not enough for me to reassure someone in a phone call or to send them nice emails, or whatever. It's about constant communication with your client, and what is happening because raising money is scary. And if you've not done it before, even if you've done it a few times, it's the most important thing that's going on in your business. Because without it, you're failing, it's not going any further for most businesses that aren't bootstrapped, and you're not growing organically. If you're fundraising for growth, then oftentimes it can be this or go home, and it's bust. So I have really learned to put in those kind of formal processes of holding someone's hand and being like, "It's going to be okay, look at all these things, this is what we're going to do, these are all the steps we're going to take, I'm going to be here, and so is the rest of my team for all of this. And we will get to the end point all together."

But for me, I think the biggest lessons have definitely been around those formal processes, people need to hold in touch something to understand that, Okay, great, these people have got me and it's going to be okay. But that was, I learned a huge amount, every deal we do, every client we work with, about how we can refine our processes and work with people better, and deliver a better client experience that leaves them feeling loved and supported and cared for because that is what I want for the founders that we work with.


James McKinney: You know, obviously there are no commitments in anything when it comes to the investment landscape. Yeah, so for yourself, at the end of an engagement, what does success look like to you? Because it's not always going to be about investment capital.


Helena Murphy: No, no, and I'm fortunate that most of the time, 98% of the time that people that we work with it's they've got the money that they wanted, but sometimes on the odd occasion, that's not the outcome. And really, then what success looks like for us is are they happy? Do they understand why it didn't work? Did they get enough feedback? Because it's never going to be if someone doesn't get investment, it's not because Raising Partners did something wrong, it's because of something, whatever that might be macro economic factors, you know, the business has not reached this point in traction, they need to have this, we try and gather as much feedback from investors as possible if they're not investing, why they're not investing, and when they would potentially consider investing in the future.

So most of our clients, in fact all of them, tend to leave with a security of, "Okay, I didn't get the money, but I understand why I didn't get the money and this is what I can do about it next so that I could fundraise again in the future." Or is this equity deal isn't right for me, and sometimes it's not, sometimes we might engage a client really early on, do a financial model for them and then say, "You guys shouldn't raise equity. You should get some debt financing to cover this little bridge here. And then you're good to go. You don't…" You know, I never advocate raising equity if you don't need it. Why would you do that? Grow your business from debt, pay it off. Great, keep all of your equity and that actually happens quite a few times as well, where we would look at something and say, "Honestly, you don't need our help, you don't need us to work with you, you should do this." And off they go and they do that. And that's the right decision for them and their business.


James McKinney: What is your customer acquisition model now? Because obviously, it's not Facebook ads, that's irrelevant.


Helena Murphy: No, it's not. All of our clients come through referral. And so they come through referral of previous clients or from investors, or from someone that's maybe heard about us somewhere and said, "Hey, you should speak to this person, because I heard them talking about it." I do a lot, I try and add as much value as possible into the ecosystem and impart as many of my pearls of wisdom as I possibly can so that people can generally advance and access capital. So people generally hear me talking about it somewhere, and then they might refer someone on to us. So that's how we… we're very fortunate, we don't do any paid marketing. People just find it find us, which is great.


James McKinney: That's awesome. I love that. So as you're building this business, though, the shadows of past experiences never truly go away. What are the things that you're constantly reflecting back on from your previous startup to just always be staying aware in your current one?


Helena Murphy: I mean, I feel like I sound like a broken record. But I am obsessive about numbers, about metrics about modeling, about cash flow.


James McKinney: But numbers are a bit simpler for you now, though.


Helena Murphy: Yeah, yeah, numbers are simpler for me now. And I think just because I have become so financially literate, because I forced myself to be, I forced myself to look at it every day, and I still do that now. I look at our bank account, our savings account, how much money we owe in taxes. Even though that doesn't change on a day by day basis. I look at our sales, and I just look so I'm aware of what's happening. So I'm very financially conscious now, which is, it's a great thing. And I definitely, that will never change. Even we, you know, we're fortunate, we're very financially stable company. But, you know, that doesn't change, it's still there that I have to look every day. And I'm obsessed.


James McKinney: You know, my listeners, as our time comes to an end, I want to ask a few more questions about the economy, if you will, the industries of focus within the UK, because for the most part, my major markets are the UK, Australia, US and Canada. Obviously, the US are most of my listeners, but those other markets are significant enough that I see them all the time on the downloads and the subscriptions. And so for those who are not in the UK, there is sometimes an appeal to go into a different country to build their startup because what you're working on is a really high interest in that market. For example, you know, I was in talks with the country of Luxembourg for a period of time because of fintech. They want to draw more and more fintechs to Luxembourg. Those conversations didn't end up going anywhere, but from a UK perspective, what are some areas of interest that if you are a US, Australia, or Canada startup, you might want to consider planting a headquarters in the UK because you service this market or this sector? What are the things that are of high interest in the UK right now?


Helena Murphy: In the UK, but actually, this is probably globally, is anything broadly in health tech, health technology, health care. And obviously, we're very well renowned for our national health service. So anything that is supporting the NHS is genuinely a hot area of investment. I actually know an investor very well, who's one of his key metrics is, if you think we can sell this product into the NHS we'll invest. So anything health tech, health technology, medical devices as well. And then sustainability, renewables, alternative fuels, electric vehicles. We have got if you look at the sustainability commitments that not only do we have in the UK, but we've got as a broader global society, if your business serves some of these fundamental shifts that we have to make as a country, not just as a country but as a global society, to address things like climate change, then there is a lot of investment interest in those areas. So yes, synthetic fuels, electric vehicles, renewable energy, battery storage. If you think about the fact that we've got to completely change our infrastructure so that we can cope with an entire nation of electric vehicles by I don't want to get the date wrong, but whatever that date is, I want to say 2030, 2040, whatever that date is got to be, that's a huge wholesale infrastructure change of this entire country that has to happen to be able to do that. So those are the kinds of things that investors are looking at


James McKinney: Are CPG startups a big deal in the UK? In the US, the consumer packaged goods industry is in the trillions of dollars. And so there are hundreds, if not thousands… I'm going to at least say conservatively hundreds of startups every year, that are building a CPG brand. Is that a big focus in the UK?


Helena Murphy: It is. it's not as hot an investment space, I think, because it is so competitive. And in all honesty, when we look at things in investment market in the UK, we do look straight at the states to see what is happening, because we know from a brand perspective, if a business wants to come from the states to own our market, they will and they'll do really well. So you can generally, it's very difficult to be a US backed competitor version that could decide to come to the UK market. And so that's if it's competitive in the US, then that really puts off UK investors. So maybe two or three years ago, it would have been a very hot investment space, but less and less now. And even more so in that kind of wake of COVID.


James McKinney: Yeah, that's great insight. That's good knowledge to know. So you know, I want to honor your time. This can't be a three hour episode, unfortunately. And so but at the same time, I want to honor my listeners who look forward to my final three questions every time and that first one has to do with the general idea of entrepreneurship. Do you believe anybody can be an entrepreneur? Or is there a genetic makeup of sorts to what it takes to be an entrepreneur?


Helena Murphy: I don't think it's genetic. I think you can, you know, anyone can be an entrepreneur. It's whether or not anyone wants to be an entrepreneur. Because it's, I think it requires a very specific personality. And probably like you've uncovered in my story today, and I'm sure all of the other episodes of your podcast, you hear the stories of these moments of impact that make people entrepreneurial. And it's whether or not you have that then gives you these intrinsic qualities around resilience around your ability to stick at something, about your undying passion for something.

Like I genuinely believe that if I won the lottery tomorrow, I would still do this job, I'd still run Raising Partners, I'd still help people raise money, I'd just go on nicer holidays, and I would invest more money in businesses. So you have to want to do that thing so much that when your hair is falling out, and you failed, you're like, "Okay, this is going to be totally fine. I can keep doing this." So yeah, I don't think it's genetic. But I do think that you have moments of impact throughout your life that make you more entrepreneurial than other people than for example, my mom who is incredibly risk averse.


James McKinney: I love it. Absolutely love it. You know, one of the other narratives that we like to break down here on The Startup Story is this idea that entrepreneurship is an isolated journey. Like it's just you, you on your on your friend's couch pounding away at code, and you just come out when you're massive success. Now, there's those stories that are anomalies, those stories do occur, but they're not the norm. And so when you look back at your entire entrepreneurial journey, who are the people that you point to with such tremendous gratitude for their contribution to where you are today?


Helena Murphy: Another great question. I suppose, my mom, I know, everyone probably says that, but my mom has a huge role in terms of despite her being so incredibly risk averse, she'll always be like, "Okay, if you say it's going to be okay, like, you can do that. That's totally fine." I had a great boss when I was 16 and I worked in a clothing store, and I think about her a lot. And she probably will not remember me at all. But she was my kind of… she was the store manager and I just worked on the shop floor. But she had such an incredible passion and work ethic and she genuinely, she loved that shop. She loved what she did. And she was so motivational and she had such an incredible dedication and hard work and work ethic. And she really taught me what that looked like. So I would definitely, I think about her a lot. And she definitely had a huge impact on my life and what it means to deliver great customer service, and make people feel happy.

Entrepreneurial Scotland, that entire organization and everyone that funds that underneath that. All of those entrepreneurs that gave to that organization at the early stage that I was involved in, that meant that I could go to San Diego, have the experience that then showed me that I could be an entrepreneur like them. I guess the last person that's had the most amount of impact in me being an entrepreneur is probably my partner who I met at the end of my first failed startup. And he was like, "You can do this. And you can go again. In fact, you're definitely going to go again. In fact, you know what, you're going to make this whole business out of that failure." And I would never have done this, if he hadn't sat down and be like, "You know, all these people are asking you to help them raise money, like, that's totally a business." And I was like, "No, it's not, I'm just doing it for free." "No, you have to do this as a business. Like you're making these people millions of pounds a year in investment, it's a business. There's a need, you should start this." And yeah, so that's I guess, a summary of the… and the countless others that I can't even remember.


James McKinney: Yeah. But and I love that question, because it helps people to understand that yes, again, there are the anomalies where it's an isolated journey, and they find massive success. 99.99% of the time there is a community of people surrounding that successful entrepreneur, and that's why I asked that question. Just to let people know, do not operate in a vacuum. Share your ideas with other people so that you can get feedback. Pour into the people that you just want to vent to, so that you can have that mental stability when you just need to like vent and let go.

And our last question is really a mentoring minute of sorts. Due to the scale of the show, I could not ask for you to afford a 20 minute conversation with all of my listeners, that would just be unrealistic. But this is that moment. So if you were having coffee with one of my listeners, and maybe because of your area of expertise and your personal journey, maybe it is the person that is absolutely terrified of numbers, because they're always struggling, they're scratching and clawing a little bit. They're making things happen. But it's just always a battle for them financially, whatever the case may be, that they just don't want to look into it. What would you say to that person, if you're having coffee with them right now?


Helena Murphy: I would say do the difficult thing. And I know it's so hard. If you need to have a couple of tequila shots to like take the edge off a little bit, do that. Sit down, get some space, and rip off the band aid, the plaster, whatever you call it, and look, because the worst position you can be in is not knowing right? So the first thing is to just be aware of what's happening. And then you can decide what you're going to do about it. But if you feel like you're not conscious of what's happening financially, and you're afraid of the numbers, so you're just not looking at them, you're ignoring them and hoping that it's going to be okay, then the first step one is to look and have that awareness of it. And then step two is to get some education about what it is that's going on, and how you can help people.

And actually, this leads me to one of the reasons why we started the third element of our business beyond investing in companies, which is Runway. So Runway is our digital media platform that's a ton of free content. It's essentially a download of my brain and my team's brains on everything it means to raise money. Whether you're in the UK market, the US market, Australia, Canada, wherever you are, that content is relevant for you and is accessible to everyone completely for free. So we walk through this is what it is to have a financial model, this is what it means, this is what a good one looks like. Let's do a video and walk you through that and this is what term sheet looks like etc. But if you're looking at the financial side of things, like speak to some people, don't be afraid to ask for help. And I think so many people are afraid to ask for help. And that's one of the reasons I always put myself out there and I make myself available.

I would love to have 20 minute conversations with 85,000 people or however many listeners that you have. Because I genuinely love to help people the way that I have been helped. You know that guy that took three hours out of his day to show me how a financial model worked, has had such an enormous impact on my life that I always try and give that back to as many people as I possibly can. So those people do exist for you, wherever you are in the world. Seek them out, speak to them. Most people are very generous with their time if they know what you're asking them for. So work out where are your gaps and try and get help, and free help if you can possibly get it in those gaps. And just ask people to… you know you don't ask, you don't get. If you stay where you are and isolated and hiding from your numbers, or your reality of your situation, then you're always going to stay there. The only thing you can do is look up, breathe, rip off the plaster, move forward, keep swimming.


James McKinney: Once you've had a few moments to process all the value that Helena Murphy brought us in this week's episode, please hit me up on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Instagram and share with me your thoughts on this episode. And if you've been around The Startup Story for any length of time, then you know how much emphasis I put on the idea that entrepreneurs support other entrepreneurs. In fact, when I asked Helena how I can ask each of you to show up and support her, all she said was, "Don't worry about it. Let me just give them a ton of resources." So if you visit raisingpartners.com you're going to see the word Runway in the top navigation menu. Click Runway, and you're going to then find a treasure trove of content that will help you in your investment pursuits. Again, just visit raisingpartners.com and click Runway in the top navigation menu. And of course, we're going to include a direct link in our show notes for easy access. Again, Helena has provided these tremendous resources to help you. So why don't we show up for Helena, check out these resources, and reach out and connect with her. This is what I mean when I say entrepreneurs support other entrepreneurs. Man, I love this community. And I just have one last request.

The Startup Story community has been so incredible about sharing our podcast with others, but we have more stories to tell and more people to reach. We too are a startup and word of mouth is everything, so please follow us on Facebook and Instagram @TheStartupStory or on Twitter @StartupStory_. If you're on LinkedIn, please search for The Startup Story and follow our company page. LinkedIn is a really powerful way to raise awareness of the show. But the most impactful way you can help us grow our audience is to leave a review on Apple Podcast. Or if you listen to the show via Spotify, then please simply share the podcast directly from your Spotify app or wherever you listen to the show.

These simple actions can make a huge impact in getting these amazing founder stories out to the masses. And please make sure to tag or mention The Startup Story when you do share so that we can connect with you and say thank you directly. I'm so incredibly appreciative of the fact that you listen to the show each and every week, and I look forward to sharing these amazing stories with you every Tuesday with hopes of encouraging and inspiring you to start your story.

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July 13 2021
Helena Murphy, founder of Raising Partners

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