By Trevor Clawson,
St Katherine’s Dock is one of the areas of London that really feels as if it belongs somewhere else. With both Tower Bridge and the Tower of London visible on the skyline, we’re clearly in the heart of the capital but this regenerated slice of the old docklands has the feel of a marina in a coastal town – albeit a very expensive one.
An upscale development situated in the heart of a tourist Mecca is not necessarily a place where you’d expect to find too many small-scale startups,but London can be surprising. Overlooking the main marina, sits the glass front of International House which plays host to the splendidly named Rainmaking Loft, a shared co-working space offering relatively cheap and flexible deskspace to the next generation of entrepreneurs. And if similar spaces just a few miles away in Tech City tend to be funky, the Rainmaking Loft is cool, sleek and ever-so-slightly corporate. Frankly, if I was a budding entrepreneur, I could think of much worse places to invite potential backers.
So it’s an appropriate venue for a conference on the future of UK Crowdfunding. Organised and hosted by law firm MJ Hudson the February 19 event featured a panel of the industry’s great and good, including: Darren Westlake, CEO of Crowdcube, Karen Kerrigan, legal and finance director of Seedrs, Tom Britton, co-founder of the Syndicate Room and Richard Brookbank, a director of Investing Zone.
There was and is a lot to discuss. Following a period of consultation, industry regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority, is in the process of finalising a new regulatory framework aimed at protecting investors and this could well be a defining moment for the industry.
However, this event represented more than opportunity for Crowdfunding providers to talk to each other about themselves. With much of the audience comprised of startup founders, this was also an occasion on which entrepreneurs – both budding and experienced – could satisfy their own curiosity about a source of finance that is still very, very new.
Concerns about control
And talking to some the entrepreneur attendees ahead of the panel discussion, it was clear that in addition to wondering whether crowdfunding was a viable form of finance there was awareness that taking investment of any kind carries certain risks. And in the case of crowdfunding, a startup might raise finance from dozens or even hundreds of individual investors. So as one attendee put it to me: how can you ensure you ensure your business remains agile and focused when also catering to the timelines, expectations and ownership rights of multiple backers.