Clear Books seeks crowdfunding for stakes

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The founder of a web-based support service for accountants is attempting to persuade his clients of the value of crowdfunding by offering them the means to buy a stake in his business.

Tim Fouracre, founder of Clear Books, is confident of success having already received thousands of pledges from his customers amounting to a capital injection of almost £2m after seeking expressions of interest.

He is now formalising this process by publishing a share offer document with a target total of £840,000 to expand his small team of development and marketing staff in west London and introduce various services for his clients.

If successful, Mr Fouracre plans to spend part of the money on developing a crowdfunding toolkit that will then be offered as a service to his customer base so that they can raise money for themselves through share issues.

Mr Fouracre believes that he has crafted the proposal in such a way that it will be even cheaper for him to raise the money than if he had gone through one of the existing crowdfunding platforms.

Users of these platforms can be hit with fees of 6 to 7 per cent of the funds raised, Mr Fouracre notes. Although this is far lower than the 15 per cent a company can expect to pay for a conventional stock market listing, Mr Fouracre believes that the cost of his method will be closer to 1 per cent.

“We are lucky because we have a customer base that we can reach out to do this ourselves,” Mr Fouracre said. “However, many of our customers do not so they could really make use of the crowdfunding platform we are planning.”

Mr Fouracre said he had gone down this crowdfunding route partly because other methods of raising finance had proved too costly or unavailable. He admitted that he had not had much joy when speaking to his bank and so decided to take this alternative route.

“We are eating our own dog food,” he said. “But we hope that we can then offer this to our customers in order to help them grow without spending so much money.”

Mr Fouracre, who trained as a chartered accountant, founded Clear Books with two friends from college. The company started as a simple payroll service but has expanded into a suite of services, building a client list of about 5,000 small accountancy businesses.

“We are focused on start-up businesses,” Mr Fouracre said, adding that there are about 10,000 accountancy firms that have been trading for less than three years.

“What is attractive about those accountants is that they don’t have any legacy systems so they are more likely to embrace a cloud platform like ourselves.”

Source: Jonathan Moules – Enterprise Correspondent


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