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Should you subscribe to an investment platform or build your own?

Always-on, digital investment platforms allow companies to easily promote their investment opportunities to investors who, from the comfort of their home, can discover and evaluate deals. These platforms remove many of the barriers and challenges that offline promotion presents while enriching the experience for the user through a host of features including secure data rooms for deal documentation, investor/founder online Q&As and online pledge tracking.

For those networks ready to adopt a digital platform and offer an enhanced experience for both companies and investors, the big question looms: should you build your own platform or buy one?

Here, we explore three reasons why, when it comes to a digital investment platforms, buying is your best bet.

1. Technology development is not your speciality

There is a principle popularised by journalist and author Malcolm Gladwell that it takes 10,000 hours to be good at something. This is generous because in this context ‘good’ means a baseline grasp. In reality it takes much longer to master any skill.

So, if you’re an investment firm or an accelerator, how many hours will it take you to be good at technology development?

The answer is too many. You need an array of skills and resources to design, build and run an investment platform.

While you may have an idea of your requirements, turning that into a high-functioning product is a difficult task. There are many decisions to be made – all of which require subject matter expertise. For example, how much of your budget should you spend on design versus build versus testing? How can you ensure data security? What language should you build the platform in? How can you future- proof it?

These are all questions technology businesses have the answer to but, starting out, you’ll have to learn as you go and that will be both expensive and time consuming.

2. Building a technology platform is expensive

Building a technology platform is an expensive endeavour. If it weren’t, surely software-as- a-service (Saas) wouldn’t be a multibillion-pound industry? But perhaps you feel the level of control you’ll get from creating your own system is worth the cost. But how much will it cost?

You’ll need an expert team of software designers, developers, and quality assurance analysts to turn your concept into a minimum viable product (MVP).

Depending on the emphasis you wish to put on user interface design, you may also need to bolster that team with user experience (UX) designers. The MVP stage is only the beginning. Once you have a functional product, you need to go through a process of user testing and refinement before you’ll have a product good enough to launch.

On top of this, you need to consider system maintenance. This cost can be considerable. Nothing exists in a vacuum and you’ll need a tech resource on call to assist with bugs, outages, security threats and software updates.

3. Saas providers give you more than just software

Working with an expert software provider, you will get much more value than just the technology itself. Depending on the partner, you’ll get additional support in a number of areas that can benefit your business.

Regulatory cover

Promoting and brokering deals are activities regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. While there are some exemptions, it is a good idea to follow the baseline rules to protect your organisation.

A good off-the-shelf investment platform will have this built in. Typically, this includes investor self-certification, appropriate risk warnings and audit trails.

You also need to comply with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and Know Your Client (KYC) and Anti Money Laundering (AML) requirements. Again, off- the-shelf products will include this and ensure the system stays up to date with changing regulatory requirements.

Deal sharing and distribution

Many of the Saas investment platform providers include options to share your deals with other networks on the platform. This offers benefits in terms of increasing the number of investors who have access to your deals – and thus your chances of closing a round of investment. You can also accept deals from other networks to share with your investors. This can reduce the burden of sourcing deals and provide a mechanism to keep investors engaged.

A community of peers

Being part of a connected digital network allows for shared learning and resources. In addition to guidance on how to launch your digital platform and on engaging investors, you can benefit from shared knowledge, whether that be on deal marketing, setting valuation or investor relations.

On top of this, many providers provide community events. This allows you increase investor engagement and eyes on deals.

Regular updates

Saas providers regularly roll out new features. This is a huge benefit to subscribing to such a service. For no additional cost or effort, you will find your platform getting richer and richer with new features.

Many will also allow customers to request features and good providers will dedicate a percentage of development time to implementing customer requests. Of course, your requests are not guaranteed, but if your ideas gain traction with other users there is a good chance they will be added to the roadmap.

So, while it is tempting to build your own platform, it is much easier said than done. And when it comes to delivering a great customer experience, networks are better off focusing on what they are great at – helping match companies and investors – rather than trying to become tech companies themselves.

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