Pitching for Management’s round-the-country roadshow landed in Oxford today, hosted in Grant Thornton’s modern and functional offices near the BMW/Mini plant.

Grant Thornton kicked off with a talk on SEIS/EIS. This was particularly useful for me, as I realised that some of my investments didn’t currently qualify for these tax breaks – for easily-fixed technical reasons. This information alone was well worth the journey! You’ve probably heard plenty about this topic already, but the schemes allow you to get substantial relief on income tax, and protection from CGT, if you invest in qualifying unquoted companies. EIS has been more successful as a scheme than SEIS, which has been undersubscribed compared to expectations. However, it’s early days yet for SEIS, and demand may pick up. My personal view is that all these complex reliefs, with all their messing about, are really just a fudge to get round the hideous bureaucracy and high taxes in Britain. They distort the market for investment significantly, favoring bad firms which qualify over great firms which don’t. Far better to move to a lower-tax, flatter-tax environment generally. In countries where this has been tried, tax receipts have risen. The only people who would lose from this simplification would be the accountants (sorry, Grant Thornton).

The Adam St. Club plugged their venue. This is a co-working and members bar in a trendy-but-dingy vault near Charing Cross, which suits trendy entrepreneurial types (and vampires). Memberships are £50 per month.

Market Invoice promoted their factoring solution. If you’re trying to get your sales ledge financed, but you can’t get your bank to fund it, you can always turn to factoring. Big name factoring brands often won’t take ‘funny’ debt, e.g. export, so Market Invoice gets around this by selling the debts privately on their digital marketplace. If you’ve got some outstanding invoices you want to get paid on, but are hard to fund, then they’re worth checking out.

First of the pitching firms was Tedipay. They promote themselves as ‘chip and pin for the internet’. It’s a physical dongle to control access to devices, particularly for transactions. Coupled with PIN or password access, this gives secure, two-factor authentication to a market which could really use it. The system works like square, with a headphone socket plugin. (Square is widely used in the US, but isn’t in the UK.) I’d personally be very happy to use this technology, so I hope it gets developed as an easy-to-use ID dongle for the modern age. Their pitch was somewhat unusual, as they were looking for a CTO with specialism in information security. This is not typical of the PfM pitches, which tend to focus on the commercial side of management.

Wizzmoni look to provide banking services to unbanked and under-banked customers. Ex-prisoners, bankrupts, and people without an address often have serious trouble getting banking services. At present, the likes of Wonga try to serve this market, and have attracted much controversy. These sub-prime services are very pricey, because of the risks inherent in handling customers in this market. Wizzmoni’s pitch is to try to provide something which could perhaps be considered less exploitative of customers, whilst still providing the financial services that these demographic groups lack. Their pitch was for a full C-level team, ready to build the business for investment. At present, many of the key partners of the business are already in place – so this isn’t a pipe-dream, it’s definitely a work-in-progress.

Single Marketing are a firm which helps foreign high-quality and health food brands access UK markets. If you’ve seen something impressive on the shelves of a foreign supermarket or specialist store, Single Marketing are the a firm who can get it into your local Waitrose. Their business model is to take title to the products they represent, and to have exclusive territorial rights to them in the UK. They also sort out all the UK logistics for the exports. The pitch was for a new leader for the firm, due to pending retirement.

Boing stands are a typical niche innovation firm, who (surprisingly) manufacture in the UK. They make musical instrument stands out of bent metal rods, encased in polymer coatings. Some designs are shaped like people, giving a novelty product which is both functional and ornamental. They were looking for a mentor and commercial director. I’m confident that they’ll find many markets beyond their traditional music niche.

PfM events are held regularly throughout the UK, so check their website for details of forthcoming events. Prices are around £45 for London events, with regional ones usually cheaper. Food and drink is usually provided.