Over 400 people booked their place at Crowdfinders Live (#CFLive) held in London on 15 October 2015. A blend of personal and company investors, entrepreneurs seeking funding and crowdfund platform providers spent the day networking and hearing industry updates, panel discussions of topical issues and some live pitches from companies seeking equity funding. This is not a summary of the whole day, it’s selected items that resonated most with me personally.
Will Broome, a respected figure in the events and hospitality industry and creator of londonlaunch.com in 2001, had the role of MC. In his first of several entertaining sessions at the microphone he reckoned that having a good idea made up about 1% of a successful crowdfund project – 99% being hard work! This was a comment I used in one of several tweets during the day (@Cliveref) which were shown on the big screen behind the speakers and panellists.
Nicola Horlick, CEO of Money&Co, a person-to-business lending platform, was the first speaker. Banks are generally still not lending to SMEs, in part due to recent rules on bank capital requirements to support their amounts on loan. So there is a demand for business loans and through its high net worth clients who are looking for good investment returns there is a source of funds available through Money&Co. There is the risk of business failures among start-ups, though the latest average gross annual yield for Money&Co investors is 9.1%. For those of us of more modest means, a new Innovative Finance ISA will allow individuals to invest up to £15,000 a year in loans to small businesses in a tax-free wrapper.
Next speaker was Christian Mouyesset, co-founder of Hummus Bros which raised £500,000 this year (against an initial target of £250,000) through equity platform Seedrs. He stressed the importance of pre-selling to guarantee some early funding to give a project momentum. Whether it’s for equity or donations crowdfunding, empirical evidence shows that successful projects receive 30% of target within the first few days. This gives strong encouragement to others who may be thinking about investing or donating.
Kiki Loizou, Small Business Editor at The Sunday Times, chaired a panel session covering topical issues in equity crowdfunding. Sound-bites included:
- A lingering unresolved issue is how new companies go about establishing a credible valuation figure – some are simply outrageous. Julia Groves, Chair of the UK CrowdFunding Association said investors should just reject those projects, so that the marketplace would cultivate responsible behaviour.
- Case studies of failed projects as well as success stories should be examined to identify common reasons for failure to reach target. I tweeted whether doing this and making the results easily available should be within the remit of UKCFA?
- There are people looking to invest more money than is required by current good opportunities.
- To encourage continued growth, perhaps there ought to be case studies from an investor perspective as well from the companies that receive funding. Another UKCFA task?
- Equity crowdfunding is maturing fast, though perhaps more should be done to educate potential small-scale investors about possible risks and the length of time they may have to wait to cash out their investments.
In a second panel session, Michael Wilkinson of CrowdCube repeatedly stressed how important it is for crowdfund project owners to understand the need for effective marketing to drive a big enough crowd of the right type of people to their project. This is a very good piece of advice that was also identified by business think tank Nesta as often being a bit of a problem, which I pointed out to conference delegates via Twitter.
The afternoon session showcased 15 minute pitches from seven fund-seekers.
David Brabham, several times winner of the Le Mans 24 Hour Race and son of Formula One champion Sir Jack Brabham is using crowdfunding as part of his plans to revive one of the most famous names in international motor racing.
Kelvin Mackenzie (right), formerly editor of The Sun and owner of talkSPORT radio station, is raising funds for his price comparison site A Spokesman Said. The site also champions the consumer rights of ‘little guys’ who believe they are being bullied or ignored by big companies.
Former TV Apprentice challenger and qualified lawyer Lauren Riley (left) wants £150,000 to develop TheLinkApp, a version of WhatsApp designed for the legal industry to improve both their profitability and their clients’ quality of experience.
Husband and wife team Rufus and Charlotte Pearl already have a thriving business selling their Pink Lining brand products to the Mother and Baby market. In the UK they are stocked in 300 stores including Harrods. They are also stocked in Paris, New York and Tokyo, and are big in South Korea. They want to expand further. Strong social media networks are vital for crowdfunding success , and they have a customer database of over 100,000 people and 55,000 Facebook fans.
The other pitches include a dog-sharing website called Borrow My Doggy, a UK based asset management company called Alquity which invests in sustainable ethical projects in Africa, and Mayfair Brands. Mayfair Brands has achieved national USA distribution for their high quality gin, vodka and rum produced in Clapham, London. Now they need investment to create the stock levels needed to soon meet the American orders.
And Mayfair Brands products were available in the post-event party where I got together with several other delegates, some of the speakers and panellists, and Luke Davis (pictured on the left), CEO of Crowdfinders who organised the event.
If you want to discuss your own thoughts or plans for crowdfunding with a specialist independent adviser then please send me an e-mail to [email protected] or call me on 07788 784373.