Interview with Paul Bedford

Paul’s career has spanned forty years in the leisure and entertainment sectors; initially as Finance Director for the likes of Simon Fuller’s 19 Entertainment Group and Cream Group (Creamfields Music Festival). For the last fifteen years Paul has been more directly involved in VCT and EIS fund management. In early 2016, he set up Edition Capital with three other partners to continue investing into the sector. Edition now has twenty investments within its Edition EIS portfolio.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your role?

I have always been driven by job satisfaction rather than financial reward. It’s the greatest feeling in the world to successfully exit any business and give investors a first-class return.

What's keeping you up at night?

I’m a perfectionist. We currently have twenty investments, but if only nineteen of them are performing strongly and one is below par, I will wake up at 4.00am thinking about ways to get that one underperformer back on track.

What makes your firm stand out?

We set Edition up three and a half years ago to stick to the basic principals of focussing upon areas of investment where we have a deep knowledge. We believe that we understand the leisure sector in all of its facets in a way that very few, if any, other operators do. It’s very different to the more generalist operators who tend to spread their investment funds across various seemingly unconnected sectors. The Edition Team are also extremely ‘hands on’ in terms of each investment to an extent that not many of our competitors seem to be.

What are investors saying about your firm?

The feeling seems very positive, which is supported by the sharp increase in the funds that we are taking in currently. We managed the exit of the Impresario Festivals EIS in our early days and obviously delivering a return in excess of £2 per share put a big smile on a few people’s faces!

What are three things you look for when investing in a business?

The people are at front and centre of any business and it is so important that we believe in them and, in turn, they believe in us helping them to make the most of the opportunity.

It goes without saying that the business must also have a commercial concept that resonates with the modern marketplace; which is why we don’t back start ups and only invest in businesses that have good proof of concept but need capital to accelerate their growth.

Lastly, given that we have a significant number of accountants in the business, we insist upon a potential investee business having strong financial processes. We are happy to help ‘professionalise’ in this area as we often do (Edition has a separate advisory arm), but there needs to be a firm commitment to strong budgeting and financial reporting processes.

How have the recent legislative changes affected your firm?

We are generally supportive of the changes as they play to our commercial strengths. It certainly differentiated us from a significant number of operators in the sector who were extremely scared of the new regime. There remains a frustration that EIS is still far from perfect in terms of assisting the delivery of growth capital to exciting young entrepreneurial businesses, but hopefully we can all continue lobbying to convince government that there needs to be more ‘can do’ in terms of breaking down the barriers to investment and encouraging businesses to grow.

What is the best piece of advice you've taken?

"Nobody ever went bust taking a profit". Selling a business at the right time and leaving something on the table for the acquirer is a crucial skill. Too many people hold on and miss the boat in terms of maximising the return from an exit and sometimes you are better off exiting a business for a small positive return and focusing your time and energy on other businesses.

How would your colleagues describe you in three words?

I asked around and most of them were unprintable, but loyal, generous and passionate were three of the polite ones.

This interview was originally featured in Co-Investor. You can read the full interview here.

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