Reflections from a Deal Sorcerer

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Cambridge Angels Emmi Nicholl

Emmi Nicholl Deal Sorcerer

In this article, she shares her valuable insights as the Deal Sorcerer from Cambridge Angels, a leading UK business angel network. We learn about how Cambridge Angels operates and Emmi offers key advice for founders looking to raise investment.

Tell us about your background and how you got involved with Cambridge Angels…

I have an educational background in Applied Linguistics, which I still find to be a fascinating field, but my career path always led me into operational roles. I have worked in finance, consulting and telecoms across two continents, and I have been fortunate enough to work for a tech start-up as COO. This has given me the advantage of being familiar with the start-up journey, and the pains (and joys) of trying to bring a business to life.

During my career, I was fortunate enough to get to know some of the Cambridge Angels members through the wonderful Cambridge ecosystem, so when there was an opportunity to be part of the group and help to drive its success, I was delighted to be involved.

What are the key things founders should know about Cambridge Angels?

Around 75% of Cambridge Angels members are exited entrepreneurs. They know the journey of the tech founder, and can be an invaluable source of knowledge and experience, as well as sharing their networks.

An investment from a Cambridge Angels investor really does mean ‘smart money’. Our group seeks innovative teams, and our members invest in a wide range of start-up and scale-up businesses with a particular focus on technology, internet, software, hardware, and tools and technologies supporting healthcare.

What does your role as Deal Sorcerer entail?

As a ‘Deal Sorcerer’, I am pretty sure I have the best job title in the world!

I run the angel investment group, Cambridge Angels – some of Europe’s leading early-stage investors – sourcing and completing deals in innovative technology companies seeking global impact. My role is to help Cambridge Angels develop its reach by building networks to attract high quality investment opportunities. I get to talk to founders who are seeking funding and learn a lot about a huge variety of tech businesses.

My skill set lies in my ability to assist businesses to execute on strategic goals, so my career has consisted largely of going into small to medium businesses that are undergoing transformation and helping them solve the challenges inherent in growth and change.

So, in the words of my mum… “She sits in the middle of things and fixes stuff”.

What advice would you give founders raising Angel investment for the first time?

The best advice that I have is to try to get a warm introduction. Angel groups see many hundreds or thousands of applications in a year so it’s no surprise that a warm intro will be helpful.

There are many things that smooth the path, but here are three quick tips.

  • Proofread the deck (and get someone else to have a look before you hit ‘send’) – spelling and grammar errors might not seem that important, but it really can affect the first impression.
  • If your company trading name is not the same as your registered name, provide the company registration number somewhere on the deck. Looking up the company records is a pretty standard first step for people like me, so it just helps ease the friction.
  • Another standard lookup is for the founders’ LinkedIn profiles. I’d suggest making sure the founding team’s profiles are current and an accurate reflection of the present.

What are the most common mistakes you see founders making when they apply to the syndicate?

Investing in an early-stage business is so much about the team. It’s critical that an investor truly believes that the founding team is the one that is going to deliver on the promise that they see in the technology. Clearly stating the problem, solution, market size, differentiation and traction are fairly standard and well-understood, but I think founders sometimes don’t answer the questions, “Why this team? Why will they succeed where others might fail?”

What kind of follow-on can investee companies expect from Cambridge Angels members?

Our investors like to be hands on, and provide mentoring, support and access to their networks. Our group generally follows on into subsequent funding rounds and continues to support the founding team through the stages of growth.

Anything additional you think readers should know?

Founders should do their due diligence on investors, just as much as investors will do due diligence on founders. I know it’s not always that easy, but if you can, spend a bit of time looking into the backgrounds and portfolio of the investors that you approach, to make sure that they are the right investors for your business.

How can people get in touch with you?

Our website provides a comprehensive view of the group. You’re welcome to get in touch via