The Start-Up Series: “Easier than securing angel investment”
Michael Chapman of February winner Builders Bay reflects on The Start-Up Series competition process and accessing "invaluable" funding and expertise
Founders: Michael Chapman, Paul Cartwright, Colin Stacey, Michael Brown and Chris Forte
Company: Builders Bay
Description: An e-commerce platform battling construction waste by enabling businesses to sell surplus materials to builders, renovators and DIY enthusiasts
The story behind Builders Bay
A £110bn industry, the UK’s construction sector provides us with the homes we live in and the offices, stations and social spots we frequent. Yet the trade also has a hidden side of dangerously excessive waste, with tons of leftover materials dumped every day.
Historically, attempts to solve this problem have been few and far between. This changed in June 2016 when business development consultants Michael Chapman and Paul Cartwright were approached by their friend and builder, Colin Stacey, who wanted to find a solution to excess waste of building materials.
Chapman explains: “There’s hundreds of millions of surplus materials and products on sites, in stores and from supply chains which literally just go into landfill. It’s been an ongoing problem for these businesses. One supply chain is actually building their own incinerator to get rid of surplus materials.”
United by the opinion that such wastage shouldn’t be necessary – and aided by Chapman’s experience with tech start-ups – the trio, along with fellow co-founder Michael Brown, founded Builders Bay.
An e-commerce platform enabling businesses to sell excess materials to customers ranging from professional builders to DIY fans, Builders Bay retails items at a fraction of the usual cost. For instance, Chapman tells us that the site offers marble worth £3,000 at a cost of a mere £200.
When it comes to competitors, Chapman is confident that Builders Bay is the first service of its kind and “the go-to marketplace for businesses looking to capitalise on their surplus”.
Discovering The Start-Up Series competition
Before launching Builders Bay, the team’s first step was to find a cash injection so they approached an angel investor and received “a small amount of seed funding.”
With this, the team were able to recruit their fifth co-founder and technical director Chris Forte. However, this angel round only covered enough funding for the founders to test the market with a prototype, and more investment was required to kick-start Builders Bay in earnest.
It was then that a friend mentioned The Start-Up Series to Chapman and it caught his attention. The Start-Up Series is the UK’s largest seed investment competition of its kind, ran by Startups.co.uk and Worth Capital, which offers £150,000 equity SEIS seed funding to one exceptional UK start-up per month.
Chapman admits he was immediately intrigued by The Start-Up Series: “It’s very good practice to enter lots of competitions. You get judged by a panel of business professionals, meaning you often uncover weaknesses that you hadn’t anticipated yourself.
“We also needed that money, and it was the right level of money for us.”
So, what is entering The Start-Up Series really like?
Having applied, the co-founders breezed through a telephone interview before progressing to the final stage of the interview process: a face-to-face ‘deep dive’ into their business plan with Worth Capital.
“The deep dive was very friendly; the whole process was very relaxed and enjoyable. We ended up having a really creative strategy meeting at the end of it, which was fantastic. We left feeling that we wanted to be in business with these guys anyway.”
In fact, Chapman tells us that he had a better experience securing funding through The Start-Up Series than dealing with angel investors:
“It was harder to raise the initial angel investment than it was to enter The Start-Up Series. The competition was really user-friendly, and Worth Capital were supportive throughout – it was an actual pleasure.
“Compared to going out to find angel investors, who are very cautious generally and have you jump through a lot of hoops for not a lot of success, we found this process really great.”
Soon after, Builders Bay was crowned a Start-Up Series winner, much to the delight of Chapman and his founding team:
“We’re over the moon. Not just for the funding that we’re getting, but for the support we’ll receive from Worth Capital and Startups.co.uk.
“Being able to leverage their expertise will be invaluable – just as important as the money – and we’re looking forward to driving this journey with them.
“Worth Capital understood that there is a problem in this day and age with waste; I think they saw this as a potentially huge multinational opportunity.”
Building a vision with the help of The Start-Up Series
So what will Builders Bay use its £150,000 equity investment for?
“Growth,” Chapman says simply. “We’re going to use it for some very cool marketing activities, to increase staffing, to continue to develop the product, and we may need to increase our technical team.”
With these plans now in place thanks to the competition, Builders Bay is closer to becoming the multinational platform that Chapman hopes it will become within five years.
So, would Chapman recommend The Start-Up Series? Without a doubt – “We’d recommend this process to any entrepreneur or young business looking for funding. It has a thumbs-up from us!”