WHEN it comes to growth business, Michael Vassallo knows a thing or two. His entire 19 year career has been dedicated to working with private and listed companies and since 2014, Michael has been a senior investment executive on SME investment funds in the region, where he has led on more than £10 million of funding.

It comes as no surprise then that private equity house Maven Capital Partners was keen to hire Michael to manage the £20m Finance Durham Fund set up by Business Durham on behalf of Durham County Council and the £27m North East Development Capital Fund, supported by the European Regional Development Fund. The funds provides a platform for growth for entrepreneurs across the region.

Despite being in a time of economic uncertainty, Michael believes now is more exciting than ever for SMEs across the North -East.

He said: “The UK has the reputation as being a hotbed for innovation with plenty of opportunity for growth. Nowhere is that more striking than in the North East and County Durham, which have a rich history of entrepreneurship and more recently in areas like specialist manufacturing, science and technology.”

Michael has recognised that as well as the natural attractions of the region, some of the county’s most dynamic young businesses are developing exciting new ideas and products. This innovation is evident by the fact that the North-East is now the fastest growing region outside London for tech-focused start-ups and the leading region for engineering start-ups; the North East is clearly a hive of activity.

Michael has found that some of those same ambitious small businesses are often still struggling to access the growth finance and strategic support they need to take their products and services to the next level. It’s clear that the small business sector in the North-East could do with better access to growth finance and support, which has in the past not been central government’s main focus. This imbalance of resources has meant that Northern England’s cities and towns have previously been left with little support, despite its rich industrial heritage.

“The North of England has historically been of great significance, but we’re still guilty of neglecting the source of much of that remarkable achievement, small businesses.”

Although increased lending by banks has helped to improve the situation this does not provide small businesses with the flexible support they need while they are growing. Michael is helping to support entrepreneurs to get their businesses off the ground through Maven-managed, government-backed regional funds such as The North East Development Capital Fund, providing investment capital of between £400,000 and £2m to help North East SMEs and The Finance Durham Fund which offers between £200,000 and £2m to support the growth of business across the County Durham.

As well as access to funding, Michael has also been providing local companies with proactive, strategic business support. Maven’s strong regional presence with offices in Newcastle and Durham means that Michael and his investment team is on hand to help guide business development, provide support on strategic decisions as well as help navigate complex fundraising options.

“The benefit of being a part of a regional investment team, such as Maven, is that I can be on hand to help its businesses to establish an active role in the local community as well as identify key growth opportunities.”

Five Minutes with Michael Vassallo, of Maven Capital Partners:

Favourite North-East building and why?

The Theatre Royal. It’s a fantastic piece of architecture and I have a prime view of the building from my office window, which I never tire of.

What was your first job and how much did you get paid?

I joined Ernst & Young straight from Oxford on a training contract to qualify as a chartered accountant and I was paid £13,000 in my first year.

What is the worst job you've had?

Cleaning out a pigeon loft for £5 pocket money.

What would you cook for me if I came around for dinner?

I’d provide a selection of toppings and the bases and we would make our own pizzas.

What would your superpower be?


Name four people, dead or alive, who would be at your perfect dinner party.

Vince Vaughn, Robert De Niro, Frank Sinatra and Amy Schumer.

Most expensive thing you've bought - other than car or house - and how much?

As a single ongoing problem, satisfying my idea that the right equipment will make me a better golfer. Cost, too much or not enough depending on how you look at it.

Who is the best person to follow on Twitter and why?

I’m not an expert on twitter but I would recommend @Maven_NorthEast.

Favourite book?

The LA Quartet of books by James Ellroy.

When did you last cry?

Will Ferrell movies usually have me crying with laughter.

What is your greatest achievement?

Establishing the Maven offices in Durham and Newcastle and investing in a number of great businesses in the North East. The region is home to some outstanding entrepreneurs and it is a privilege to work alongside them and drive returns for our investors.

What's the best piece of advice in business you've ever been given?

There are two pieces I’ve been given. The first – under promise and over deliver, from my old boss at Brewin Dolphin. And from my father, always trust your gut.

Favourite animal and why.

That’s an easy one. Our two year old Cavapoo, the best dog in the world.

Most famous person on your mobile phone.

My partner Samantha. She owns and runs a highly successful marketing company and is in the press a lot more than me.

What was the last band you saw live?

Black Stone Cherry.

Describe your perfect night in.

Pizza, movie and some good red wine.

In another life I would be...

A Formula One driver.

Who would play you in a film of your life

Robert Downey Jnr.

What irritates you?

Bad drivers.

What's your secret talent?

I can play the intro to Bon Jovi’s Wanted Dead or Alive on guitar.