Intro Crowd: Gregory Baker
Believing it can help aid the housing shortage, this serial entrepreneur talks to Startups about his strategic land investment business
Name: Gregory Baker and Chris Merriman
Company name: Intro Crowd
Location: South East
Date launched: 27/04/16
No. of employees:7 plus 2 non-executive directors
Tell us what your business does:
Intro Crowd are pioneers in strategic land investment.
Strategic land is the name for greenfield sites adjacent to existing settlements in areas that have experienced a high growth in population. Through our crowdfunding platform we give investors an opportunity to invest in strategic land and share in the profits when it is sold for housing development.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
Crowdfunding for residential property has proved extremely popular, but ours is the first platform to give individual investors a way of investing in strategic land.
How did you know there was a market for it?
The chronic housing shortage in the UK is far from being resolved. The government says the UK needs one million new homes by 2020.
We believe that crowdfunding can provide a way of meeting the pressures to make more land available for new residential developments – whilst also benefiting individual investors.
What were you doing before starting up?
In 2008, I set up Hermex FX, the City foreign exchange specialist, growing the company from zero to its current £140m turnover. I have spent my career building high performance teams in sectors such as technology and financial products and the real estate sector.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
I see myself as an entrepreneur and take great satisfaction from building companies from scratch, as I have done with Hermex. I see a similar opportunity with Intro Crowd as the demand for land can only keep in growing.
How did you raise the money?
Set-up costs for Intro Crowd were about £250,000 which was drawn from my other business interests. We have also made our first land purchase to kick-start the launch of the crowdfunding platform.
Describe your business model and how you make money:
Investors hold shares in an Investment Vehicle which owns the strategic land proportional to the amount they put in. After the land has been funded by members of our platform, we manage the planning permission process.
Typically, obtaining planning permission causes the value of land to increase – at this point the land will be sold to a housing developer and the returns distributed to investors. The entry level for investment is £1,500 and then in further increments of £500. There is a 2% investment fee, and a one off initial management fee which varies across different sites. Intro Crowd also takes a 2% success fee on land sales.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
The main challenge is finding greenfield sites with the very best prospects, and we are fortunate to have Christopher Merriman as our land planning director. Chris is a highly experienced chartered surveyor having completed 40 planning applications resulting in creating 3,000 homes.
What was your first big breakthrough?
Without doubt it was learning the ropes in the City and then using that experience to launch my own FX company.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
To spot the opening in the market and go for it!
Where do you want to be in five years' time?
We have already purchased our first greenfield site at Cam, near Dursley in Gloucestershire. We have plans for three more sites and hope to progressively grow the business steadily from there.