Crowdcube presents an interesting angle on an idea I’ve been pondering for a while:
“How can we open the door for armchair investors to (partially) fill the funding gap suffered by UK startup businesses whilst providing a more interesting and varied investment opportunity compared to say traditional pension or ISA investment offerings?”
Business angel investor networks are well established, however, these are normally aimed at high net worth individuals (broadly those with income of £100,000+ and/or significant assets) who are willing to write cheques for more sizeable sums than those accepted by crowdcube – in fact crowdcube is willing to accept investment cheques from just £10.
Zopa already provides an innovative peer-to-peer banking exchange for individuals e.g. to pay off credit card debts, buy a new car etc from individual lenders who can lend in small parcels of cash (typically no more than £20 per borrower) to minimise the credit risk. By cutting out the middleman (aka banks), Zopa can pass on cheaper interest rates for borrowers and higher income for lenders – a win-win.
Can Crowdcube pass this on for small business?
The answer right now is I’m not sure. But I’ll be keeping a close eye on it and may well try the service to see how it works.
Here are some initial observations:
- The site clearly needs more investment opportunities but this should come over time.
- I like the idea of implementing video presentations etc in the future to give added depth to the pitches (more like the Dragons Den experience).
- I am unsure about the forthcoming trading exchange for exiting investments as its not really in keeping with the nature of private company investing – its a medium term play at best and short-term thinking is the sort of mentality that’s got us into the recent financial mess. Still, if it gets more individuals interested in supporting small, private companies then this can only be a good thing.
- I would like to see more on the tax benefits of EIS brought into the investment process – especially given the recent announcement in the Budget 2011 – although the mechanics of applying this in practice could give its own challenges given the low levels of some investments, tracking / admin plus education and support required.
Overall, I think that Crowdcube is a great and welcome addition to the funding network for start ups and fast growth UK companies. I look forward to seeing how this service unfolds over the coming months.