Raising Finance

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Firms for the future find investment through speed dating

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The event is always oversubscribed apparently, despite an £800 fee (plus VAT) to attend. Beer & Partners prides itself on representing the fund-seekers, rather than the fund-givers.

They even have a money laundering officer to make sure prospective investors are kosher. What a job! Columbian drug lord calls up and says, “I want to invest £100,000. I don’t care which company.” And you get to say, “I’m sorry, sir. Your credentials don’t check out.”

There were 30 start-ups sat at low tables – a bit like the ones you see in examination halls. The investors were circulating, trying to sniff out the brightest spark with the strongest business plan. It is a bit like speed dating, I suppose. There were a couple of forlorn entrepreneurs sitting opposite empty seats. Wallflowers with blank dance cards.

Still, there were also some fascinating companies; a veritable Dragon’s Den of products and services. Here are a few of companies that piqued my interest. The Specialist Washing Company manufactures a widget called the Wuduseat. A washing appliance for Muslims to use to cleanse themselves before prayers.

It’s a compact seated basin, which basically saves having to get your feet in the sink. MD Nigel Bromilow is targeting big corporates, so you could see the Wuduseat in blue chips by next year.

Then there’s the Totseat, which turns practically any chair into a highchair for babies. It’s squashy and foldable, with lots of straps to keep rock-a-bye baby from falling down cradle and all. Handy.

Oh, and I loved this one. Ger Hayes and Alan Haymes are taking on the emcumbants in the “stop-smoking aid” aisle with Nicobloc. It’s a liquid that you apply to the filter of your cigarette and it reduces the amount of nicotine and tar you smoke. It’s tasteless too, so you still feel like you’re getting the full whammy. The idea is to wean yourself off slowly, I hasten to add, not to smoke more.

Deals are rarely struck on the day, so it’ll be a while before I know whether these participants have received any cash, but there’s a 33 per cent success rate at these things. Ten of the firms should find the moneyman of their dreams.

And for the wallflowers, it’s quite fitting that the fair was held at the Masonic lodge at St James. It’s a weird and wonderful building, with stained glass windows bearing the motto: “Lapis Reprobatus Caput Anguli”. An apt sentiment: “the rock which was rejected has become the headstone at the corner”. Some consolation to the start-ups that fail to hustle some cash out of the bigwigs – their time will come…

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