Numerous young entrepreneurs attended an event on the availability of funds for start-ups titled ‘Start-Up Strong: Access to Finance’ at the Malta Chamber on 13th November. The event which was organised in collaboration with BOV, formed part of SME Week.
Welcoming a packed hall of new and aspiring entrepreneurs, Malta Chamber President Frank V. Farrugia, urged the audience to persevere through the inevitable hardships that one will face during the initial stages of a business’ lifetime, as the result will always make one proud.
“I wish all entrepreneurs, and would-be entrepreneurs with us today the courage and determination to fulfil their dreams. Through your hard work, I hope that you will contribute to the economy, and create international brands, innovative ideas and services that will make Malta proud” he said. The President also urged those present to maintain strong ties with the Chamber as it strives to offer services of relevance to the new breed of entrepreneurs.
Albert Frendo, Chief Business Development Officer (Credit), BOV, explained why established banks tend to tread cautiously when requested to finance start-ups, noting that high risk profiles do not usually fit within the risk appetite established banks.
Mr Frendo presented BOV’s Risk Sharing Instrument ‘JAIME’ which allows start-ups to access bank financing with lower collateral requirements and lower costs. He also stressed BOV’s commitment to support the (new) business community within the bank’s risk parameters and in a sustainable way.
Maria Micallef, Managing Partner, RSM Malta, provided expert insight on how to build a business plan that guides one’s start-up to growth and success, while also providing the necessary information to potential investors.
Ms Micallef highlighted that the business plan is not a set of financial projections but is instead a process that helps entrepreneurs analyse risk and put projects into the context of the market.
Moira Attard, Director General, Measures and Support Division, presented the Business Enhance Grant Scheme of relevance to start-ups namely the SME Consultancy Services Scheme, the Start-up Investment Scheme, the e-Commerce Scheme, the SME Internationalisation Scheme as well as the RD&I Scheme.
Ms Attard provided information on the application and selection process as well as the gateway criteria for the schemes while also noting that around 40% of beneficiaries thus far have been start-ups.
Karl Herrera, Chief Officer Incentive Management, Malta Enterprise, presented ‘Business Start’, ‘Start-up Advance’, ‘Start-up Finance’ and ‘Micro Invest’; four unique support mechanisms offered by Malta Enterprise to start-ups at different stages of development.
In terms of key requirements, Mr Herrera noted that applicants must either propose products/services that have potential to be marketed and distributed internationally or produce products/serviced that are now or substantially improved compared to the state of the art in the local industry. These requirements actively serve to elevate the quality and innovation of Maltese businesses.
The presentations were followed by a panel discussion dedicated to alternative forms of finance and support. Adrian Galea, Head of Finance and Deals at GoBeyond urged stakeholders, particularly investors, to consolidate current fragmented practices efforts and to foster a strong business angel investor mentality and network within the local scene. Matthew Caruana, Manager, ZAAR noted that crowdfunding is viable alternative form of financing the initial stages of a business but as a practice it is still in relative infancy locally. He explained that crowdfunding will be bolstered by the forthcoming introduction of the MFSA’s crowdfunding regulations.
Julian Azzopardi, CEO, JAYE, stressed the invaluable importance of mentoring, education and exposure related to entrepreneurship even at an early age. He explained JAYE’s role in guiding many teenagers in possession of raw entrepreneurial talent and ambitions to succeed through practical experience.
Concluding the event, Hon. Aaron Farrugia, Parliamentary Secretary for EU Funds and Social Dialogue, noted Government’s ambition to have an agile and growing economy supported by both EU grants and various other financial instruments. He noted positive developments in the fact that the EU Commission should be boosting the EU funds budget for SMEs in the next budget.