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James Layfield’s £1m swap

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James Layfield, the entrepreneur who earlier this year for offered 10 per cent of his lifetime earnings in exchange for £1m, has seen the project take an unexpected turn: by trying to avoid the traditional VC route, he has actually become a VC himself.

Layfield’s exposure from the £1m project led several startup owners to contact him to ask for his help and expertise. Interestingly, they’re not after any money – just his brain – and are offering up to a 50 per cent stake in their businesses.

“They approached me to ask if I would be a part of their business,” he explains. “This wasn’t what I’d planned for, but I’m good at realising money for other people, at realising value. I can help them take their great ideas to market.”

Why does he think the idea will work? He says he’ll have fingers in many pies – he’s hedging his bets, not focusing on one sector. “None of the businesses are guaranteed to succeed – and some just might not work out at all – but I’m convinced that some of them will be very successful. All it takes is one great idea to make a great return.”

Layfield, who has already raised £100,000 of investment from his accountant, also plans to continue with his plans to raise £1m. “I’m absolutely committed to it,” he says, and the fact that his accountant has enough faith in him to invest a hundred grand proves that he’s serious.

For example, he recently decided to go back to the drawing-board for one of his ventures, Grand Central, where he’d planned to open an entrepreneurs members’ club on Golden Square. “We realised we weren’t thinking big enough. Sure, it would have been a grand building in a cool part of Soho, but it would have held us back – we have higher aims now.”

Indeed, instead of opening his Golden Square members club, Layfield has designs to take on the big office-space providers such as Regus and co.

“It’s a bigger opportunity with a high street concept. In the next five years, we’re going to open 20 centres throughout the UK – smaller venues, but who can accommodate more people. It takes the serviced-office space idea 1,000 per cent further than the competition.”

The first of the venues – called City Lounges for now – will open in October, outside of London, somewhere in the south of England. Layfield is currently raising the £700,000 of funding needed to get the project going.

To help him reach his goals, Layfield already has a solid support team behind him, which he aims to build.

The staff from his Neverever Limited holding company and other successful ventures are already getting involved, and he’s now putting together “an A-Team style” team to take advantage of the many opportunities he’s working on. “There is so much out there, I can’t do it on my own,” says Layfield. “The team will get a piece of the action – equity – in return for their expertise.”

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