LFP189 – Navigating Through The Thicket of UK Govt Aid To Firms Inc >2,000 Grant Schemes w/Bhavik Chauhan VP OKR Financial

This episode is a sign of the state-centralist times. Fintech grew in a very different world from our ever-expanding State, super-high tax-burdens, massive regulation et al. However why should SMEs leave all the food on the table for better-resourced BigCos to take? Especially when it falls into that vital category of “non-dilutive funding”. In this episode Bhavik guides us through the plethora of schemes – in particular how to approach tax credits and grant schemes. OKR was set up in Canada by two entrepreneurs who solved a funding problem they had one day with a grant in Canada and gradually grew from there.

In this episode Bhavik guides us through the plethora of schemes – in particular how to approach tax credits and grant schemes.  Did you know musicians can get £5k grants for going on tour (that’s some good beer money)? Did you know new authors can get grants? Did you know Cities give grants? Good to know where taxpayers money goes.

However back in the real world BigCos ace tax credits whilst I’ve heard of founders who even when they get them end up in a thorny bush. How to address this (&the inevitable funding gap)? How to apply and get grants even without matched funding without eating into your “build, build, build” time? All this and more…

So sad as it might be to see a business climate that is the very antithesis of that which led to Fintech forming in the UK, we are where we are, and complexity will keep expanding until we end up like all those places where such happened in the past. To take a simple long pre-Covid example under Gordon Brown the UK tax code tripled in length. Osbourne came in promising to simplify it. And promptly doubled it in length. It is just this kind of ever-increasing complexity of environment that so tilts the table in favour of BigCo at the expense of SMEs. However as there is a private sector left help is at hand and, sad to say, I do think every Founder needs to know, indeed needs to have a way to get this gripped the opportunity for important funding from the plethora of State schemes.

Topics discussed include:

  • the normality of the business world in Canary Wharf
  • efficiency vs being human, connection, serendipity and such which get crowded out in a world of Zoom rather than real interactions
  • Bhavik’s journey from being born in London to emigrating to Vancouver and staying there
  • “It blew my mind how much money the Canadian Government gives to businesses to grow”
  • “The more and more I learned it is all around the world. Small companies are not utilising this funding but large corporations are, and they don’t even need the money but they get it.”
  • the exponential increase in scale and complexity of the State
  • the asymmetry between BigCos which have the resources to apply to all these schemes and founders who are super-busy and most do not even consider govt funding
  • many consulting firms in UK that specialise in navigating this landscape
  • many operate on a success-fee basis
  • “I don’t think the country is doing a good job of promoting [these schemes, other than to the big boys]”
  • OKR was established five years ago after needing just this piece – government funding via in that case a tax credit
  • OKR now have 8 funds, combined just over C$140m to help tackle the cashflow aspects of govt funding – ie the gap from being awarded it to actually getting it
  • Case Study of EU grant application to receipt process and how that was navigated
  • “90% of the programs out there are £:£ matched” 
  • thus many founders without the original funding think they cannot apply – but there are ways around this
  • governments focus/motivation
  • most programs take roughly between 1-5mts to get approval
  • how , when and how to apply and in what circs to apply
  • main categories of UK State aid
    • British Business Bank
    • Angel Co-investment Scheme
    • CBILs et al – covid-related [NB knock-on effect on tax credits – “can’t double-dip”]
    • Tax credits
    • Govt grant programs >2,000 schemes
  • can your accountant help with tax credits? What are the challenges?
  • technical rite-ups and pitfalls therein
  • specialist tax credit consultants – need not just to tick right boxes but use correct language (! ffs…)
  • example of a grant scheme – up and coming musicians can get £5k towards a tour :-O
  • writers can get assistance… [good to know where one’s taxes are going]
  • Fintech world grants start with R&D and carry on from there – an elaboration
  • in Canada only ~30% of entrepreneurs know about govt schemes, 20-25% perhaps in UK
  • programs change every month
  • impact of US media/movie control in not sharing the notion of govt schemes as US not into them anywhere near Canada/UK
  • there are govt funding portals in the UK
  • county and city grants on top of central State grants
  • educating about this whole landscape
  • the importance of grants et al as non-dilutive funding
  • OKR provide bridge loans and ways of sorting the lack of funding in match-funding schemes
  • the amazing way how a lack of funding for match-funding can be addressed in most cases :-O
  • OKR’s expansion into financing contracts
  • OKR work with about 20 firms in the UK that help founders get govt financing
  • OKR’s new UK fund

And much much more 🙂

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