I set up my own security company in 2003 whilst still studying at university. Crowd funding was not available back then; I relied on my student loan, my overdraft and some very clever use of our cash flow. My initial total investment was just £2000. As the business has grown over the years we have mainly relied on the bank for financial support. At times this has been great and we have utilised overdraft facilities, factoring agreements, hire purchase loans and even a mortgage agreement.
As the recession hit in 2009 it looked like the bank was potentially going to withdraw some of the support we required to make a couple of acquisitions that were key to our business growth, and so we decided to pitch to some angel investors- offering 10% of the company for a £75,000 investment; a few months later we found ourselves on BBC’s Dragon’s Den, nervously stood in front of Peter Jones, Theo Paphitis, James Caan, Deborah Meeden and Duncan Bannatyne. We were astounded to receive offers from all five of the Dragon’s! Although in the TV studio we shook hands with Peter and Theo it turned out that the bank came through for us and we didn’t need to part with any of the companies shares in return for investment. After a couple of meetings all of the parties involved decided not to take the investments any further and left on good terms.
Four years later and my business continues to flourish. I have found I have a little bit more time on my hands and am also fortunate enough to have a little bit of spare money. I like to save for my future and hold a variety of investments including a SIPP and my ISA’s, or NISA’s as they are now referred to. I also invest through a couple of VCT’s and recently found myself spending some time on a variety of crowd funding websites, keen to take advantage of the amazing tax breaks you get from investing in EIS or SEIS schemes. I decided I would make one or two SEIS investments each year so long as the opportunity seemed right and had a fair valuation. Investing in start-ups like this is not my primary means of investment, I make sure it is money that I can afford to have tied up for several years and also money than I can afford to lose. It is quite exciting though, and reminds me of how it felt in the early days as an entrepreneur with my own start up.
Looking through all the different crowdfunding websites was a bit of a minefield – I found myself spending quite a bit of time registering on several of them. I spend a little bit more of my time carrying out some basic due diligence on a few also. When I saw Business Agent I thought – “What a brilliant idea. I wish this had been around when I started looking into crowd funding and also when I am looking for acquisitions!” and decided to send an email via Angel’s Den to ask the Business Agent team a few questions. I received a few emails back and had a chat on the telephone with Sacha who had recently set the business up and then I decided it was worth a punt; my £3000 investment equates to a 0.5% stake in the company. I am confident that Business Agent is a great idea and also confident there is a fantastically experienced team behind it who will give this their best shot. There are no guarantees in business but I see Business Agent having many of the fundamentals required to succeed.
Investing in a new start-up company felt good; I know my investment is playing a small part in helping to create more jobs in the UK and I have assisted a great team in establishing their vision. Sacha has said if I have any ideas I can forward them on to him and that they are to organise a party for the initial investors. It feels like I can get involved as much or as little as I want – although I think I shall leave it to the experts! I wish the team all the best with the website launch and look forward to receiving quarterly updates as to how they are getting on.
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