Monday, December 14, 2009

Britain Is Becoming VC Unfriendly

One of the things that I most enjoy doing in life is helping other people build their businesses. I currently have two non-exec roles and will probably add a third in the New Year. Asking experienced entrepreneurs to help nascent companies is a tradition in British business which has served the economy well, in my belief.

But there's a fly in the ointment. Generally, fees in undertaking these roles are comparatively low, since preserving cash is essential to developing companies, so the balance is often made up in share options. The problem is that share options for non-execs are treated like income, so will, from next year, attract 50% tax and 13.5% NI - an effective tax rate of 60%.

So, a 2% share in a company originally valued at £1m and sold for £5m will generate £32,000, which might reflect three to five years' work.

On top of the changes in CGT taper relief, the UK is fast becoming a very unfriendly place to be a start up, with the R&D tax credit allowances being one of the few remaining reasons to justify starting a company in the UK. The UK has tens, if not hundreds of innovative companies in the IPTV and internet TV space, following on the heels of world class companies such as Pace, ARM and NDS, and they need to be encouraged.

With the government pumping hundreds of millions into venture funds via regional development authorities it seems that they're playing the old trick of giving with one hand then taking away with the other.