Selling yourself is not selling out

Layfield, a serial entrepreneur, was biking home from work last month when he came up with the idea – why not get investors to buy a stake in himself, rather than in his business?

“It was the day before my 36th birthday, and I was trying to make a list of audacious goals for the year,” recalls Layfield. “It hit me that investors don’t invest in excel spreadsheets and fancy presentations, they invest in people. I wanted to change the game.”

Here are the rules of Layfield’s offer: in exchange for £1m, Layfield will pay investors ten per cent of all of his lifetime earnings – although he does reserve the right to buy investors out at five times their investment, too.

Layfield’s original idea was to find just a handful of investors to raise the cash, but demand has been strong enough for him to open the gates so anyone can apply to be an investor, there is no set amount that investors must pay.

“It’s really turned into a ‘crowdfunding’ experiment, raising cash through a wide range of people,” says Layfield. Additionally, he’s set up some meetings with a few VCs and some high net worth individuals.

His hopes are pinned on his successful track record. “They buy into me, and my innate ability to get things launched and make money.”

Layfield certainly has an appealing background – he became Virgin’s youngest managing director at 29, in charge of Virgin Student, the social network, then set up Never Ever Limited, his umbrella company.

After buying Virgin Student from Branson – which he rebranded as The Lounge Group – Layfield set up a successful luxury airport lounge business, opening a lounge in JFK Airport, in New York, which he sold in 2008.

His latest venture, Grand Central – an entrepreneurial members club in Golden Square, off Regent Street in London – is set to open before the summer.

We were curious about what he intends use the investment for, but unfortunately he couldn’t disclose much yet.

“I’ve already got several projects lined up – a dotcom business and maybe even a TV show where we find and help entrepreneurs. It’s a sort of reverse Dragons’ Den, where we encourage and celebrate those who do well.”

Real Business, who had breakfast with Layfield this morning, has no doubt that he’ll easily reach the £1m investment target. Indeed, after only two weeks, he has already raised over £250,000 and demand is strong.

We like Layfield’s ideas – maybe we should also count our pennies to see how much of him we can buy?

Related articles:Capital raising 2.0Jos White, Notion Capital: "We’re the entrepreneurs backing entrepreneurs"

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