Venture Capital Trusts: What the Heck Are They, And How Can They Help?

Wondering what a Venture Capital Trust is? As a founder, should you even be worried? We've got you covered with this overview


We Are Founders Staff

An image of someone putting money into a piggy bank, while the money "explodes" out the top of the piggy bank

In a nutshell: A Venture Capital Trust (VCT) is a fund that invests in young businesses for potential growth, offering tax benefits to investors while bearing higher risks.

Fortune Favours the Brave

Imagine you're an investor looking for exciting opportunities to make your money grow. Well, a Venture Capital Trust (VCT) is like your special tool for doing just that. It's a bit like a company that you can buy pieces of on the stock market. But what makes it super cool is that it's all about helping young and risky businesses take off and become successful.

Risky business might have a hard time becoming more established, so VCTs step in to provide essential capital and expertise, fostering their growth. While investing involves risks, VCTs offer potentially bigger rewards, as well as unique tax benefits for those that are brave enough.

It's not just about the money, though, as these VCTs are also like expert coaches for startups that are just starting out. They give them money to grow and also share their super-smart advice, such as strategic planning, business development, market insights, and networking opportunities.

There's a catch though.

VCTs generally only focus on picking companies that have big potential for growing quickly.

They function as a group of enthusiasts who invest their funds in these small companies, having faith in their potential to achieve significant success. VCTs offer opportunities to startups on the cutting edge, to give them a chance to shine even when other investors might be too afraid to venture.

Are There Different Types of VCTs?

  1. Generalist VCTs: These invest in a wide variety of small companies in different fields. The goal is to lower risk by investing in different areas. This is the most common type.
  2. AIM VCTs: These invest in new shares of companies listed on AIM, a market for companies that don't want the strict rules of the main stock market. These companies might not be small startups, but AIM VCTs often aim for growth and income.
  3. Specialist VCTs: They focus on just one field, like media or healthcare. Since they don't spread investments, they could be riskier than other VCTs.

Can VCTs Invest in My Startup?

Well, that depends.

VCTs primarily invest in small, dynamic businesses spanning various sectors, from early-stage tech startups to high-end niche manufacturers, retailers, and fashion brands. Some prominent companies supported by VCTs include Deliveroo, Mindful Chef, BrewDog, and HelloFresh.

These enterprises can be privately owned or listed on AIM, the Alternative Investment Market operated by the London Stock Exchange.

To qualify for VCT funding, a company must adhere to rigorous criteria set by HMRC:

  • It must engage in a legitimate trade.
  • It should be relatively compact, possessing gross assets of around £15 million or less and employing fewer than 250 full-time staff.
  • It should be relatively youthful, typically under seven years old.
  • In certain cases, flexibility in the rules might apply.

A VCT is required to allocate at least 80% of its raised funds to companies meeting these criteria.

It's important to note that VCT regulations have evolved over time, becoming progressively stringent. For instance, a decade ago, VCTs could finance the management buyout of larger, established companies or invest in government-subsidised projects like solar farms. However, such investments are no longer allowed. Nevertheless, if such investments remain in a VCT's portfolio, new investors might still gain exposure to them.

The larger and more established the VCT, the greater the likelihood of a diversified portfolio, encompassing a mix of equity investments, loans, and companies of varying sizes.

Can Anyone Invest in VCTs?

Sure! Any UK resident can invest up to £200,000 per tax year, but going beyond that limit means missing out on tax benefits. The minimum investment varies by VCT, usually around £5,000. Now, investing in VCTs is like joining a thrilling adventure - and it is worth remembering that it's a super risky investment strategy.

However, if you're thinking of investing into a VCT, it's likely you're okay with this level of risk, and are more attracted to potentially helping the next big thing come into fruition.

VCTs aren't for everyone though. They're a bit of an advanced level of investing, and usually only reserved for more experienced investors who know the ins and outs of risky investments. These investors have a lot of money to play with and can handle the ups and downs that come with supporting startups.

But guess what? The government loves these superhero investors, too. So much that they offer them special rewards. When these investors buy shares of VCTs, they get some of their tax money back – up to 30% of what they put in. It's like a thank-you note from the government for supporting these startups. And if these investors get money from their VCTs, they don't have to pay extra taxes on it.

It's like getting a bonus and not having to share it with the taxman.

Options Are Always Good

So, Venture Capital Trusts are like a mix of superheroes and treasure hunts. They help young businesses grow, and in return, experienced investors get special rewards from the government. It's a high-risk, high-reward game that's not for the faint of heart, but it's all part of making the world of business more exciting and full of possibilities.

There's really no doubt that VCTs have played a pivotal role in nurturing the growth of various enterprises. With their strategic investments and guidance, startups have transformed into successful ventures. So, if you're a startup owner with a promising idea and potential for growth, keep in mind that VCTs could be your partner in turning your vision into reality. It's all about finding the right fit at the right time to propel your business to new heights.

So, should founders pay attention to this potential source of funding? Absolutely - in order to scale to new heights, you'll want to keep an eye on any source of additional funding. Startup owners should keep VCTs on their radar because these trusts offer a unique avenue for funding and growth. This is especially the case if your business is young and ambitious.

Remember they're providing not just capital but also valuable guidance and expertise. If you're a startup owner seeking investment to take your business to the next level, understanding VCTs and their potential benefits can be a game-changer in your entrepreneurial journey.

About The Author

An image of someone putting money into a piggy bank, while the money "explodes" out the top of the piggy bank
We Are Founders Staff

We're on a mission to share the founder's journey, your journey, with other founders. To fuel and inspire the next generation of builders, thinkers and those who dare to do.


The latest from We Are Founders

Raising Money? Then You Better Work on Your Sales Game
June 10, 2024
Read More
Customer Acquisition
How These 6 Startup Founders Scored Their First 100 Customers
July 2, 2024
Read More
AI Innovators to Watch: Emerging Leaders in the AI Landscape
June 3, 2024
Read More
The Bootstrapped Founder's Marketing Journey: Navigating Uncharted Waters
May 24, 2024
Read More
Fool's Gold: Could No-Code Lead Your Startup Astray?
May 21, 2024
Read More