Layline entrepreneur: “The Dragons missed out”

“When we applied for Dragons’ Den two years ago, we presented the BBC research team with two ideas,” explains 35-year-old Foster-Smith. “The first was for the Laylines bed sheet. The second was for our ‘serious’ business, FilmCircle – a DVD website.”

“The BBC team have to sift out the best ideas from more than 2,000 applicants. It became obvious that the Layline sheet would make better television. These days, Dragons’ Den is more about entertainment than hard business.

“We knew the Layline sheet would draw attention to us, so we decided to go ahead with the pitch. We were hoping we could slip our other idea into the Den as well. I even tried to hide the FilmCircle businesss plan in the duvet that I took along as a prop.”

But the plan backfired. “Nothing gets past the BBC crew,” sighs Foster-Smith. “Strict rules meant that the Dragons didn’t even get a sniff of FilmCircle.”

Foster-Smith, who runs a graphic design firm, says the idea for FilmCircle came to him when he was browsing through DVDs in a supermarket. “I didn’t know what to pick. Every film claims to be ‘great’. I wished I could buy a film, watch it once, then sell it on. Yes, I could do that on eBay but I’d have to pay to list items and the returns aren’t worth it.”

So he built FilmCircle, which he describes as “a rival to Blockbuster and Lovefilm.com”.

The business model is simple: you list the DVDs you already own, which are gathering dust on the shelf. Every time you sell one, you earn credit, which you can use to buy films off other members. The business makes money through advertising and by charging a £2 monthly membership fee.

Foster-Smith has ploughed around £30k of his own money into the business and has received £17k in grants from Business Link and Coventry University Enterprises.FilmCircle is due to launch in August this year. Did the Dragons miss out? Watch this space.

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