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Thursday, 28 February 2013

[Gazette Profile] FundTheGap Latest Platform to Offer Equity Based Crowdfunding for Small Business

Crowdfunding has always proven to be accessible and effective for one off creative entrepreneurial and altruistic projects. The rise of equity based crowdfunding, especially in the US thanks to the passing of the JOBS act, small businesses and startups can also benefit from crowdfunding. The latest platform to join the ranks of those providing equity based crowdfunding services is FundTheGap, a platform that offers crowdfunding resources and enabling better communication and management between project owners and investors.

FundTheGap was founded by Derek Uittenbroke, Christian Elmes, Martin Sherwood and Ken Ford who have garnered extensive experience in all aspects of finance, technology and fundraising. Between them the founders have amassed over 50 years of experience helping small business and startups secure a total of £500 million in much needed funding. FundTheGap looks to connect businesses with qualified investors and goes beyond conventional crowdfunding by enabling the investors to forge a strong relationship with the project owners and create a community built on collaboration. Amongst the ventures seeking funding are a Babraham-based Cell Guidance System in need of £200,000 for a 12.37% share. Other projects include a local authority initiative to increase the range of broadband internet in rural areas and a pub regeneration project.





Business and individuals to looking secure funding through FundTheGap must be incorporated in the UK and then submit to the the funding committee a detailed business plan for consideration. The business plan should include financial projections and supporting documentation. A meeting ,is then arranged between at least one director and the funding committee, in addition to some company checks being carried out.

Once the screening process is concluded and the committee is satisfied with the outcome, the entrepreneur will then receive help in creating the pitch, which must reach its funding target. Project owners can engage with potential investors directly, who in turn will be vetted by the platform founders to ensure they too are qualified and have the necessary funds to invest. Qualified investors can browse for suitable projects to support based on whatever criteria they choose such as sector interests and local geography.  They can also communicate with the entrepreneur throughout all stages of the funding, receiving updates and even offering feedback. FundTheGap also acts as a nominee service providing administrative support to investors and for the entrepreneurs a single shareholder. 
We have been watching the alternative funding space develop with interest. With other 50 years experience and having secured over £500m for small businesses throughout our careers, we are confident that FundTheGap will provide a complementary source of funds at a critical time for cash-starved UK smaller businesses. - Christian Elmes, Co-founder
Cash starved businesses and ventures could potentially raise £2 million through FundTheGap, which the founding members would co-fund from as little as £500 up to £50,000. Investors benefit as they would qualify for tax relief of up to 78% of their original investment under the UK's Enterprise Investment Scheme, and the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme.  All in all the founders of FundTheGap have created a collaborative crowdfunding community protecting as well as benefiting entrepreneurs and investors alike, thus alleviating concerns of crowdfunding security. The platform stands apart as its founders clearly do not accept projects they would not be willing to support themselves, a position supported by their co-funding initiative. 

Image Credit; Ganderssen1

Saturday, 23 February 2013

[Novels] Getting Started on that All Important First Novel

That is one of my many writing goals for 2013. Everyone has that one good book in them and as if trying to establish myself as professional freelance writer is not challenging enough, I want to add author to my list of achievements. At the end of  the day I am a writer and each type pf writing whether it be news article, copywriting, short story or even the ultimate nemeses that is the novel in waiting, present a plethora of challenges that a writer with the calling cannot and should not ignore. So without further ado it is time to blow the dust off all those novel ideas languishing in development hell and help them see the light of day. 




Quest Story (Possible Trilogy)

I have always been heavily influenced by eastern philosophy including Taoism, Buddhism and of course Zen. The principles of these revolve heavily around self-discovery, essentially letting life experience be your teacher rather than be dictated by dogmatic scripture. Much of the stories and teaching of eastern philosophy contain plenty of intrigue and mysticism, with ample material for a story arc. Bruce Lee penned a script for a film called The Silent Flute with the idea of showcasing Zen Buddhist ideology. Sadly he died before he could do so although the script was picked up, polished and turned into a film five years later which although didn't quite match up to the Dragon's initial expectations. Nevertheless it provided a breath of fresh air to the usual revenge martial arts flick. 

My quest story will draw equally on such influences, centering on a young lad travelling the wastelands on a spiritual quest. The young protagonist will make some friends along the way, face an assortment of trials (some of them deadly), and learn a few lessons, some harsh others humourous. Bonds will be forged and broken, and just about everything will be thrown at our young hero, designed to test him and help him grow all at the same time. This is the project I have set aside for NanoWriMo 2013 and already I have sketched out some outlines and characters. There is still some tweaking to do before the marathon event in November. Initially I want it to be a stand alone story but leave just enough scope for further stories and into a complete trilogy.

I also hope to flesh out some of the characters and the world the novel will be set with a short story or two. Some will be prequels whilst others will be side stories in conjunction with the main one. 

Scout

I was never a big fan of Westerns as a child mainly because I had read extensively about the history of the old west and how badly the American Indians were treated. Whether they were Apache, Sioux, Mohawk or Pawnee I always sided with the Indians even when they shot a dozen arrows into innocent members of the wagon trains and scalped the soldiers who tried to push them into reservations. I am esepcially a big fan of James Fenimore-Cooper's Leatherstocking Tales (with my favourite being Last of the Mohicans) in which the Native American is by and large treated with a bit more respect. 

Scout will definitely be a trilogy set in and around actual events with a Mohawk scout for the British Army as the hero of this series. This will be more action orientated (as much as a book can be) with adventures that will pit the hero against an assortment of enemies threatening his allies, friends and family. A real authentic wild west adventure with the Native American at the heart of it all. This has stuck in development hell principally down to research. I know my American history fairly well but the key is in the detail and although the story is fiction, the setting will be ingrained in history. The last thing I want is Simon Schama berating the historical accuracy of my published work.

There are other ideas in the pipeline but these are the ones I would love to see finished and who knows possibly in print donning the shelves of Waterstones and Topping Book stores. Unlikely but hey I can dream. Just seeing the stories come to fruition will be rewarding enough and considering this is coming from the author himself, I am eager to see how they turn out.


Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Crowdsourcing Work for UK's Unemployed

The use of crowdsourcing to hire a skilled work force to perform certain tasks is not entirely new. Platforms such as Microtask and Clickworker have successfully tapped into the potential skill set of the crowd. Using crowdsourcing principles and mobile app technology, UK based Sooqini has created a an effective and unique means for unemployed people to find work and for small & medium businesses access to a cost effective and skilled source of labour.



Based in London, Sooqini was launched in 2011 by Tiago Mateus (COO), Raj Singh (CEO) Nick Williams (Head of Product Development) and Scott Collen (Marketing Director). The goal was to create an online market place for people and organisations to effectively seek out people willing to carry out small tasks on their behalf for a fee, inspired by an instance in which one of the founders was in urgent need of a tennis partner. Out of this was idea was born an enterprising way to get the UK's unemployed into the job market, earning money putting their much sought after skills to use.

Whether you need someone to run errands, help with research, administration tasks, or even help organise catering for an event, a business or individual simply post the role or job on Sooqini. Registered users looking for work can respond if they have the right skills and/or experience stating the price and terms under which they would be willing to undertake the role. The customer could potentially have a large number of responses to choose from making it easier to find a suitably qualified individual for the right price. Sooqini can be used to hire individuals to carry out just about any task. These include help build Ikea furniture, attend a class and take notes on your behalf, personal shopper, or even cleaning jobs. 
With over two and a half million people unemployed and a further nine million economically inactive Sooqini is the perfect solution to get them contributing to their local community -  Tiago Mateus - COO Sooqini
Whereas many crowdsourcing platforms used to source labour can do so from anywhere in the world, Sooqini ecnourages the buying and selling of skills and time in this manner to help keep money earned within the local economy. At present Sooqini is focused on serving the needs of the time-strapped resident of London, however there is scope for expanding beyond the UK's capital.

The potential of Sooqini goes beyond merely outsourcing menial business and personal tasks a bevy of budding workers waiting to jump into action. Sooqini can inspire the budding entrepreneur to build a solid profile as a service provider thus opening up the door to a wealth of potential clients. This appeal to the next generation of budding Alan Sugars is how Sooqini came to the attention of The Princes Trust, the organisation that invests and embodies belief in the entrepreneurial spirit of the country's youth, and to which Sooqini contributes 10% of every transaction. With this support along with that of the UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) Sooqini offers a much needed lifeline to the UK's skilled unemployed and the budding entrepreneur.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Crowdfund Your Projects & Build Communities with Crowd Valley

The pending implementation of President Obama's JOBS Act and the rapid growth of crowdfunding platforms, particularly in the US look to make crowdfunding highly competitive. Some individuals and organisation are building their own platforms but those without the time and resources could find themselves left behind. Crowd Valley offers a means to build a crowdfunding and/or investment platform that is cost effective and enables startups to build up investment communities and even link with others to create a dependable financial ecosystem. 
Crowd Valley is part of the Grow VC (Venture Community) Group, made up of various professional advisors experienced entrepreneurs. The aim of the group is to make accessible  a variety of crowd - based alternative funding and resources to enable startup investment and marketplace development, especially during an uncertain economy in which traditional lending is still proving difficult to attain. Each of the group members provide a specific service or resource to help fledgling businesses, such as software developer ChangeLab23 who use carefully selected and tested resources to develop innovative user friendly solutions. The founders of Crowd Valley, Markus Lampinen (CEO), Paul Higgins (CMO), Alessandro Ravanetti (CMO) and legal Dan McNamee, identified a problem in the rapidly growing alternative crowd based funding market. 

Despite so many platforms emerging following the passing of the JOBS Act it can be difficult trying to find a crowdfunding platform suited to funding needs. Building your own crowdfunding platform or hub can be costly and without the proper resources that need to be regulatory compliant, difficult and inaccessible. Crowd Valley provides the solution, an infrastructure in which an individual or organisation can build their own platform that will not only be highly functional but compliant with all the necessary statutes. The user can implement their own terms and limits, even be able better target potential donors or investors. Typical customers can includes crowdfunding platforms, universities, angel networks, and events organisers.

Unlike most crowdfunding platforms, which are better suited for one off funding venture projects, Crowd Valley is about building a community within the customer's chosen area e.g. a life science venture that invites medical professionals who are accredited investors. Through a single profile the investors and project owners alike can connect with other network partners to create a community or financial ecosystem. This increases exposure for the project or market place owners and for the investors, a greater choice of viable ventures to support. By operating in this open and interconnected manner, Crowd Valley hope to encourage better choice as well transparency and a more democratically themed online financial community.

To date Crowd Valley has amassed over 300 businesses enrolled as network partners. It offers resources to enable creation of a fully customiseable crowdfunding platform for less cost and the opportunity to connect with other ventures and investors. As crowdfunding becomes more competitive, Crowd Valley offers start ups and organisations the opportunity to compete for funding from the crowd on a more even keel.