Have you dipped into Dragons' Den
recently? The cult telly show can offer a quick financial fix that must seem sorely tempting to any venture working out just how to get out of this lingering global pandemic. Practically anything really, I suspect, to get up-and-running once again. The cherry on the commercial cake must be actually getting an invite to pitch to the dragons.
is a BBC2 stalwart – in its 18th series – and consistently attracts ratings upwards of three million. Recent pitches have included a range of 'active shapewear' and an idea for an ethical clothing verification programme. Another a virtual escape room business, in which dragons were invited to participate. Also, a genetically personalised milkshake (I kid you not). The den isn't for everyone though.
To discover that one of a 36-strong cohort at Scotland's premier investor showcase EIE21 – shorthand for 'Engage, Invest, Exploit' – out of Edinburgh has turned the Den
down, not once but twice, is somehow impressive. GoBubble has neither the time nor inclination to appear on TV. Far too busy to bother with gimmicks either, as it helps build a safer world via internet/mobile channels for children. A hot topic.
The enterprise operates out of University of Edinburgh's Bayes Centre and London, and provides online 'real time' protection from 'inappropriate content and behaviour'. GoBubble's CEO and a former police sergeant Henry Platten: 'I know. What entrepreneur in their right mind would say No to the opportunity to appear on Dragons' Den
. Truth is, we've done just that and moreover not once, but twice'.
They prefer to, hopefully, raise fresh financial backing via the EIE investors' get-together, originally devised by Informatics Ventures. GoBubble works closely with educationalists, schools and communities in around 70 countries. One partnership involves a five-year agreement with MOBICAST to make the internet a safer place for 26 million young people in Vietnam, leading to better digital health all round.
It uses smart machine learning software to analyse language usage on social media/websites anywhere on the planet, apply deep image scanning to photos, and cutting edge checks on all aspects of image and audio online. Up until now, GoBubble has relied on crowdfunding and is looking for £750,000 from EIE on 10 June when the grouping of company founders pitch for investment from seed to £2 million funds.
This raises an interesting question – the big question really. Where do budding entrepreneurs go to secure those vital funds in such a critical period as now? It's the fortunate ones that manage to ride the Covid wave and emerge relatively unscathed. This appears a far from easy task when one checks out the background statistics.
EY ITEM Club reports that UK banks lent firms a total of £35.5 billion in net terms last year and maintain that by the end of 2021 they will have borrowed over £60 billion through the term of the pandemic. The Bank of England says that a profound scarcity of cash means many are unlikely to even start repayments until 2024. A rise in business lending is particularly marked for SMEs with net loans in 2020 that stands at a mighty 30 times higher compared with the previous year.
One solution appears to be to attract the eye of a business angel. LINC Scotland, the national angel capital association, reports £9.7 million for January-March this year was the second highest on record, after a 2019 fourth quarter (Q4) peak of £10.9 million. Angel syndicates are increasingly attracting co-investors to deals like venture capital and corporate venturing investments, and appear stronger in Scotland compared with the rest of UK.
The marketplace cannot rely on this route alone. Wisely, the EIE21 global investor panel is very much a blended affair, including Scottish Equity Partners, Silicon Valley Bank, UK Business Angels Association, BGF, Old College Capital, Archangels, TusPark UK, and Robert Bosch. Mind you, dragons also attach themselves to the more traditional investor routes. So GoBubble may find itself with one after all.
Former Reuters, Sunday Times, The Scotsman and Glasgow Herald business and finance correspondent, Bill Magee is a columnist writing tech-based articles for Daily Business, Institute of Directors, Edinburgh Chamber and occasionally The Times' 'Thunderer'