Crowdfunded Business of the Year 2014: Meet the finalists
Startups unveils the shortlist of businesses armchair investors have scrambled to back
It’s no exaggeration to say that the rise of online crowdfunding platforms in recent years has driven a revolution in how we see investment.
No longer do entrepreneurs have to convince a besuited bank manager or investor that their innovative new business model has potential – now, they can turn it over to ordinary people, and let the crowd decide which businesses to back.
Our Crowdfunded Business of the Year award recognises those young businesses which have done exceptionally well out of crowdfunding – they might have had an oversubscribed pitch, raised money in record time, or simply used their crowdfunding investment to great effect.
Companies tend to do well with crowdfunding when they have a proposition where their appeal can be summed up in a single sentence, and this is certainly the case with F-Board. The wooden scaffold board has been an immovable fixture on construction sites for more than a century, but F-Board could change that with the world’s first ecologically sustainable scaffold material (made from 100% recycled uPVC windows). With the potential to be “the most significant change to the industry in 40 years”, it’s clear why more than 50 armchair backers invested £1.7m in the business. Unusually, this didn’t come through mainstream crowdfunding platforms, with F-Board hosting its own private round allowing friends, family and other interested parties to participate.
It’s not difficult to see why this company was so popular with investors on Crowdcube. Doing away with the old self-storage business model – in which you pay for a whole unit whether or not you use all of it and have to drop off the goods yourself – LOVESPACE allows users to buy physical storage by-the-box, collecting it direct from their doors from just £1.95 per month. The business model has the potential to disrupt the entire self-storage industry, so it was not too much of a surprise when investors on Crowdcube backed it with an enormous £1.6m – 270% of its original pitch target.
One of the UK’s own crowdfunding pioneers, Seedrs sets itself apart from competitors through its uniquely international approach – it is the first regulated platform to operate throughout Europe – and its nominee shareholder-based approach to investing, which takes a lot of the usual risk and stress away from an investor’s point of view. Having hosted countless successful pitches, it seemed only natural – although no less impressive – that the platform managed to raise an eye-watering £2.5m within a week, smashing its original £750,000 funding target on the site.
Startups founder David Lester heads up this high-profile list of judges, which include former tech entrepreneur and award-winning angel investor Dale Murray CBE, Bangladeshi-born food and magazine entrepreneur Iqbal Wahhad OBE, Greg Ingham of leading Bath-based publisher MediaClash, and Chris Slater of the Startups Awards’ headline sponsor Simply Business.