From bromance to finance: How Young Guns got me funding

Class of 2012 Richard Baister shares how becoming part of the Young Guns network has opened more doors than he could ever have imagined…

I was delighted to have been included amongst the Young Guns in 2012 – the annual list of the young entrepreneurs behind 30 exciting businesses in the UK. I’m an entrepreneur, so of course, I like awards.

The truth is, though, that I didn’t know much about Young Guns up until the PR team suggested putting me forward.

Three years on I can now see the real value of being on that list. It has played an amazing role in putting together the extended team for my latest venture, Brainwave Drinks.

In 2012 the crew from Growing Business held their Young Guns celebration event at the Kensington Roof Gardens and I remember arriving to find most of the people there sharply suited and formally attired for the occasion. In contrast my clothing on the day was ‘relaxed’ to say the least – a camouflage t-shirt and jeans.

However, amongst the shirts and shiny shoes there was one kindred spirit in the form of Matt Miller. Matt, or ‘Mills’ as he is usually known, told me that he’d dressed up for the event by putting his newest trainers on; luminous yellow Nike trainers to be exact. It was an immediate bromance and we spent the vast majority of the event in conversation.

I don’t feel I can move on in this piece without highlighting the fact that Mills took home the Top Gun award that day on behalf of Ustwo, an amazing digital design house that he co-founded with John Sinclair aka ‘Sinx’. Don’t let the yellow Nikes or the fact that he is a genuinely nice guy fool you – this man is on top of his game. I went to present to their staff on my experience in FMCG, we exchanged the odd email and generally kept in touch.

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Brainwave Drinks

Speed onwards to early 2014 and my plan for Brainwave Drinks was starting to get serious. I was also at another Young Guns event, this time at the Hoxton Hotel.

A chance conversation with one of the sponsors ended with a promise to make an intro to a contact who had solid experience in the soft drinks sector and may be ‘interesting to speak to’. A vague and mysterious description indeed. A short while later a call came from Nik Hrstic, formerly of Coca-Cola and Cott.

At first I thought Nik was selling me consultancy services and hilariously tried to get him off the telephone fast, a moment of comical misunderstanding which has since become the subject of a BT business advert. As it turned out it was quite the opposite, the Young Guns network had struck again and Nik was actually seeking to buy into Brainwave and help drive the business forward. Result.

The next week I went back to see my old friend Mills, to chat about Brainwave. He asked me a very simple question – what do you need and what can we help with? My answer was that, like all entrepreneurs, I always need more money and more contacts and true to their assurance of full support, that’s exactly what Mills and Sinx gave.

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Richard with Nik

Within a couple of weeks Brainwave had secured initial funding – 50% from Mills & Sinx of Ustwo + 50% Nik Hrstic = 100% from the Young Guns network.

The investment received is only a very small part of the contribution from the great people I’ve met through Young Guns. Nik is now COO of Brainwave Drinks Ltd and has been key in helping shape the business for rapid growth. Mills and Sinx have provided great creative feedback and full access to their networks. We’ve just closed a second round of funding which came through Nik’s network, with a contribution from a friend of Mills. I could go on.

Plus, every time I ask Startups.co.uk editor Ian Wallis for an introduction to someone within the Young Guns network he responds with the same kindness and makes it happen, for which I am very grateful.

Now I really can say that I am very, very pleased to have been included amongst the Young Guns in 2012. It has essentially facilitated and shaped an entire project in ways I would never have imagined when we were stood amongst the flamingoes on Kensington Roof Gardens in 2012.

I can’t wait to see what the next event brings.

Are you a successful entrepreneur aged 35 or under? You can apply to become part of the illustrious Young Guns alumni, alongside Richard Baister, here.

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