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Welcome to Scott’s blog.

I write about luxury family travel, 5-star hotel reviews, startup businesses and entrepreneurship. But I also blog about anything that interests me, including Tottenham Hotspur.

Crowdcube and Virgin Startup pitch event

Crowdcube and Virgin Startup pitch event

Crowdcube is a crowdfunding platform connecting investors with entrepreneurs and small companies looking for investment.

Virgin Startup is the entrepreneurial arm of the Virgin group who partner with Crowdcube and Tribe First who offer crowdfunding bootcamps for start-ups.

This live pitching event was organised by Crowdboost, the accelerator for start-ups looking to the crowd to scale and the seven companies presenting were part of the fifth cohort for Crowdboost.

This was my second time in as many weeks watching founders pitch for crowdfunding investors.

When: 26th March 2019, 18:00-21:00 GMT
Balderton Capital, The Stables, 28 Britannia St, WC1X 9JF, London

The format was simple:

  • 6 minutes of pitch

  • 4 questions by the hosts

There was no opportunity for Q&A from the investors until the post presentation networking session.

All views are my own and not investment advice.

6.15 pm

Learning some lessons from the Seedrs event last week, I arrived at this one after the official start time of 6pm, skipping the pre-event drinks and nibbles. The venue was easily accessible from Kings Cross St.Pancreas station but very different from the Seedrs location.

The space was very hot and stuff and with seating for only thirty people, the remaining fifty were left to stand or prop themselves against the bar.

6.30 pm

Jonathan Spanos, Head of Commercial and Innovation gave a quick intro about Virgin startup, followed by Darren Mulvihill, Senior Equity Fundraising Manager, Crowdcube who explained how they had helped start-ups raise £145 million.

The companies

Company 1 of 7 - Hardvark

J.J.Symons, Founder and CEO

Hardvark is the inventor of the merino wool performance shirt. The brand, worn by celebrities including explorers and James Bond actors, is re-engineering traditional wardrobe staples with outdoor performance technology.

Effectively pitched as technology and materials taken from active and extreme sports weal and translated into everyday clothing.

As a frequent flyer, the idea of high performance, micro-bacterial shirts that stay fresh for a long day is appealing, but there was no mention of pricing of margins or Intellectual Property or sales figures to date.

Can the materials and techniques be patented? Without protection, a big brand can take and retain market share more easily than a scale up with limited budgets.
— My question

Raising £375k | £2.7m valuation | will I invest - maybe

Company 2 of 7 - Mindberry

Sandra de Monte, Founder

From counselling and therapy to personal coaching, the MindBerry platform connects the world to mental health & coaching professionals.

While I didn’t find this a dynamic pitch, Sandra clearly highlighted the problem and explained how their SaaS solution would solve it. The investment would take the solution from beta to revenue generation and, although it's not an area I have knowledge of, there certainly seems to be demand, a problem and now a solution.

One in four suffers mental health. Mind-berry connects people with the professionals via chat, video and audio.
— How I see it

I believe it is a unique solution now, but one of the primary healthcare providers could launch with more traction than Mind Berry. Speed to market is of the essence for this opportunity to succeed, and the valuation felt high.

Raising £300k | £1.8m valuation | will I invest - no

Company 3 of 7 - LIHA Beauty

Liha Okunniwa, Founder

As seen in American Vogue, LIHA Beauty is shifting beauty culture by shining a light on African beauty and wellness secrets and philosophies. Launching on Net-a-Porter this Spring in 170 countries.

My wife spends more on beauty products that I spend on tech, she even has her own beauty blog and we’ve been to Seophora in so many countries, I’m surprised our pictures aren’t on the staff notice board. Maybe they are.

Despite getting the giggles, the founders knew their brand and market and I can see the opportunity. The claimed that “Black women spend 80% more on cosmetics than non-black counterparts.”
— What they said

The products were simple, sustainable and unique and I'm sure will grow to be a success, but it doesn't fit my investment portfolio or profile.

Raising £ tbc | £ TBC valuation | will I invest - no

Company 4 of 7 -

James Sadler, Founder

A new video sharing platform providing a safer, more social and fairer place for influencers and fans. Solving problems YouTube fails to.

James' presentation included a video, and his colleague Scott came on stage to answer questions at the end of the pitch. Mostly the concept was an alternative to YouTube that gave better returns to creators and less opportunity for negative feedback, relying on emoticons instead of text.

It’s like YouTube for millennials, without comments, I think.
— Me. Not a millenial.

My background is in tech, but I didn't really get this one, perhaps I'm just one generation away from the target market. Wotch did have a deal with Channel 4 for exclusive content, so maybe they see something that I didn't. But it seems like a huge valuation for a solution with just 20k downloads since launching.

Raising £300k | £3 m valuation | will I invest - no

Company 5 of 7 - Roqberry


Roqberry is big flavour tea for foodies who blend the rules. They have won 10 gold stars in the Great Taste awards and are one of the only companies to use biodegradable tea bags.

As somebody who only drinks English Breakfast tea, perhaps the problem of "no flavour innovation in the market" was never going to do much for me, but the 100% plastic-free packaging and claim that 40% of people take photos of their food when out. That related to me as I think about my post from Barnsley House.

Achieving 10 gold stars in the taste awards is a great reassurance for investors.
— Scott Lever

Raising £150k| £1.2m valuation | will I invest - no

Company 6 of 7 - Family Secret

Flavours of the World made for the busy people of today. A health-conscious sauces and snacks company who have fully biodegradable packaging stocked in supermarkets throughout the country, the team are now expanding their product range.

I have seen many sauces, rice and other foods on crowdfunding and wonder how scalable they are, or are they niche products that will only ever get so far. I suppose if you assume one of the larger food companies would be interested in an acquisition, that would be a sensible exit strategy.

Husband and wife travel the globe sourcing ingredient and testing recipes. I like that authenticity a lot.
— Scott Lever

If I wasn’t so focused on tech investment, I would seriously consider this one.

Raising £300k | £2m valuation | will I invest - no

Company 7 of 7 : Genuine Impact

Truman Du, Co-founder and CEO

World's first financial terminal to empower DIY investors with insights, security selection and portfolio management tools to analyse and enhance their investments.

It wasn't until five minutes into the six-minute pitch that I actually realised what this one. It's a fountain of knowledge and financial analysis to help home investors and stock market traders decide what to by and sell. Or go long and short if you're talking CFDs of spread betting.

I didn’t agree with the Unique Selling Points of convenient, trustworthy and affordable. There is a lot of free, details research from sites like Hargreaves Lansdown.
— Scott Lever

The founders were clearly very intellectual, but I'm not sure I see a sustainable business model or anything different enough to get market share.

Raising £700k | £2.8m valuation | will I invest - no

In summary

I left straight after the last pitch, a little underwhelmed. None of the companies got enough of my interest to warrant meeting the founder. Remember, this is just my opinion and not investment advice.

The Seedrs event last week felt much slicker and well thought through.

All the best to the pitching company on their investment round.

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