Pitching companies: In or out?

Watching Dragons Den always makes me think of Serge Gainsbourg. All the dragons are toing and froing between ‘For that reason, I’m out’ and ‘I’m in… I’m going to make you an offer.

Why Serge Gainsbourg? Well, obviously this bizarre music video for ‘Who’s in, Who’s out?’ which is NOT about popular BBC show Dragons’ Den or even pitching businesses to investors but about turning up to clubs before or after curfew…

Still… It’s a good song.

At Capital Cardiff next week, there’ll be a whole session which gives 9 businesses the chance to pitch to a panel of ‘dragons.’ We’ve got all 9 of their pitches in advance of the event. Which ones would you invest in?

Boomrider Studios

Gaming’s a huge deal right now. This studio based in Cardiff is run by entrepreneur Steven Stockford. They’re already working on a game called Helfen and are pitching for investment to help them build a staff of high tech people to help them grow a computer games community in Wales.

“The games will be marketed and sold worldwide by the specialists Rebelplay and ultimately would be ported into other consoles including the soon to be released Sony hand held unit,” they write in their brief. “Parallel with this would be porting the game into phone apps and seeking the ability to play it on the web on a pay per play basis. To do this we are bending established 3D games software, the Unreal Engine, to create a 2D platform game.”

Sounds interesting.


Neil Cocker, who is a regular Plastik contributor, is better known as MD of Dizzyjam, a company which prints merchandise for bands using an innovative system. Bands don’t pay anything for the merchandise and don’t have to order stock. They log onto the website, upload their graphics and then wait for fans to buy them. Dizzyjam takes a cut of all sales for its profit.

This business has super duper high potential for growth because it’s not at all limited to a place or a single niche market: all over the world bands are looking for a service like Dizzyjam.

That’s exactly what the business is pitching for: “We are seeking investment to allow us to market globally, and to help us expand horizontally taking advantage of other niche markets that require merchandise, such as universities, societies or sports clubs.”

Life and Education Affiliates

It’s refreshing to see a company like Life and Education Affiliates. Even though their name doesn’t scream it, this company is quite a friendly looking thing which provides a social network for people with learning difficulties and also a safe social networking site for schoolchildren (who might be too young to use Facebook).

The company, base in Talbot Green, is looking for £200K to grow their two networks Specialfriends and SmileyTalk which already have several hundred thousand users monthly and brings in a small revenue through subscription charges.

Perceptual Technologies

One of the companies we spoke to last week, John Jupe’s Perceptual Technologies brings a whole new dimension to 3D: perception. Jupe’s technology uses a rendering method which draws attention to various objects in an image and makes it more like our own vision rather than a picture on the screen. When the team at Perceptual Technologies had the intellectual property analysed, the result was that they found 200 commercial applications across 12 industries. Those applications range everything from the obvious usage in cinema and television to uses in military training (flight simulators, for example) to use in advertising.

There’s a lot of potential for big money here. We would hand over a pile of wonga.

Siop y Bobl

Siop y Bobl, based on the People’s Supermarket in London is one of the coolest ideas we’ve heard in a long time. It’s a super market that’s run by the people who own it with spaces for community building, co working and innovative businesses to have offices.

It’s not a revolutionary idea, but it’s very on trend in Cardiff right now. We’re really excited to see how this one progresses and hopefully spending some cash on some delicatessen.


When interviewing some people about their pitches for Capital Cardiff, a couple of people asked what other companies were pitching… when I told them ‘a cure for cancer’, they laughed before realising I was serious.

Theryte is a company based in Cardiff which is looking for £4-5M to help fund their research “allowing the creation of novel, first-in-class anti-cancer drugs with efficacy against difficult-to-treat tumours, whilst not affecting normal human cells.” But visit http://sideeffectsofxarelto.org/xarelto-lawsuits/ to know which one is good.

The company writes in its pitch, “Theryte obtained an RD&I Grant from the Welsh Government in November 2011, and further equity funding from its investors.  Its lead candidate, THR-93, is currently being tested in cancer models, with in vivo proof-of-concept (PoC) to be demonstrated by the middle of 2012.”

Here’s hoping they get their investment. They’ve also got the nicest logo out of any of the companies pitching.

Time for Medicine

Carrying on in the medical trend, Time for Medicine is a spin out from the university hospital which hopes to cut hundreds of millions of pounds in expenditure for the NHS. They’re going to do that with a piece of online software that they’ve developed which helps to manage the diagnosis and treatment of ‘a large number of ilnesses’.

They’re looking for 500K to make the software a commercial reality.

Training Check

Another web based tool looking for investment is Training Check. It’s a business which provides a feedback tool for training programmes, events, seminars etc.

Like many other web tools, Training Check has had most of its success on the freemium model invented by the magazine industry (so proud) which allows a certain number of features for free with add ons etc available at cost.

Currently, Training Check has over 500 customers in 23 different countries. Not bad!

Trust Mico

Joining a couple of huge potential web businesses that have come from South Wales, TrustMico is a social recommendation engine which offers a payment tool in addition to its directory services.

If you need a plumber in Cardiff, you can use TrustMico to find one that people have recommended rather than just picking one out of a telephone book or googling.

The social recommendations market is getting increasingly full though with apps springing up like mushrooms in the dark. We wonder whether Trust Mico will be able to differentiate itself.

So there you go – all 9 companies pitching for investment at the Capital Cardiff event. It’ll be interesting to see such a diverse blend of companies all competing for investment and good feedback. If you’d like to come along and watch, or find out how they do, you can sign up here.

How to be more social with your media

I’ve got a constant pursuit. I love searching for blogs that have the right balance between well written content and nice but not dominating design. They’re actually quite hard to find – most people are really good at one, but not that good at the other. Take a look for yourself. CSS Tricks (geeky) is one of the websites I read most on the internet, but everything on it is trying to grab your attention (http://css-tricks.com/). Then look at The Sartorialist (http://www.thesartorialist.com/) which is easy to look at but Scott Schumann could be doing so much more to accompany his beautiful photography with some quaint little stories about his shoots.

Striking a balance is very very hard and it’s not one that many people are hitting. However, throughout my search, I’ve found quite a few great sites that are now part of my daily reading.

Strangely, most of the people running these sites are entrepreneurs who are particularly good at raising money to fund their projects through sites like Kickstarter.

They’re incredibly social and they’re good at putting their business out there on the internet using social media. So what is it that makes them great?

Social Media is important, but so is media that’s social

We should really start blurring the lines between social media tools like Twitter, Facebook and Google+ and media which is social.

The former allows us a chance to interact with friends and get a short message out quite effectively. Last month, one of @plastikmag’s top tweets received over 20,000 impressions. That means 20,000 people saw us write:
How to be less invisible: five ways to network in Cardiff involving @chaptertweets, @TEDxCardiff and @CapitalCardiff plastik.me/5-ways-to-netw…

However, if there wasn’t a top-notch piece of writing on the other side of that tweet, it would have been a pointless exercise.

We’re social about our media – but it’s the media which really matters, and whether it be video, article, blog post, news story or whatever the future may bring to us, you’ll have to adapt your idea of using social media too.

Transparency is important

As if you needed to be told, the times have changed and now people want to know about where their products are coming from, who is making them. Lots of people want to know every single detail about the company that they’re supporting by using or purchasing a product/service.

No where is this better illustrated than in the crowd funding community.

Take a look at what Craig Mod did over on his incredible (and I think one of the best on the internet) blog – http://craigmod.com/journal/kickstartup/ – when he was writing about his experience at getting his book made. He shared an incredible amount of personal and financial information with tens of thousands of people. Ultimately, this worked out for him as he raised $24,000 in just one month with pledges of upwards of $25 being normal. Here’s what he had to say about the experience:

“A mere five years ago it would have been unthinkable to use social media to drum up $24,000 for the republication of a book. We accomplished not only that, but have been able to price the book sustainably, launch a publishing think tank, sell direct to our audience and buck traditional distribution channels. We are, undeniably, in an era shaping the future of publishing — how it happens, with whom it happens, and on what terms it happens.”

Be Real

One of my pet peeves about social media is how little some people really ‘get it’. It’s right there in the name: SOCIAL. Media.

Imagine how you would behave at a party. Would you show up and start advertising your product by standing in a corner shouting? Nope. You wouldn’t dream of it because that would:

  1. be embarrassing for you
  2. be embarrassing for everyone else
  3. alienate you
  4. alienate other people and make them not want to use your service

Being real on social media entails a lot of dialogue and discussion rather than just using your account as a billboard. You want people to know about your product rather than just know that it exists. The best way to help people to do that is to build a relationship with them based on an actual desire to have a relationship with them.

You don’t have to be best buds. They just need to feel like they’re not being used and you need to feel like you’re not using them.

Trust goes a long way and it’s not something you can build overnight.


So there you go, how you can be better at being social… with your media. It’s all about transparency, not taking yourself too seriously and interacting with people who want to like you.

There’ll be a couple of seminars at the Capital Cardiff event next week (you can still register) which will cover the subject of social media from a variety of angles including one by Allan Blair Beaton of What’s Next? event.

Definitely worth it.

How to be more quotable

One of my principal goals in life is to have a Wikiquote page. I have always wanted to be the kind of person who says quotable things – the sort of stuff that will get printed on t-shirts one day. So far I have failed.

Regardless, I plough on with trying to be the quotable type just like Woody Allen or Andy Warhol or anyone else on an increasingly endless list of people who inspire me. My latest effort is: “If you want to get something done, do it yourself – but if you can’t do it yourself, you’ll need some help.”

That’s not a particularly catchy maxim. In fact, it’s kind of rubbish – not catchy enough and doesn’t have enough room to move in it. It’s certainly no: “I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work; I want to achieve immortality through not dying.” (See Woody Allen’s Wikiquote page for more gems).


You may have noticed that we’ve been talking an awful lot about small businesses and innovation and startups in Cardiff over the past month. That’s because we’ve been supporting and supported by Capital Cardiff – a conference organised by Cardiff Council and the South Wales Chamber of Commerce to help businesses (small and large) in our city.

Plastik has always been interested in entrepreneurs and small business. From our second year, we’ve been writing about cool ideas that people in our little city are having. We’ve covered everything from new cafes to app translators to our most recent piece on a man who has invented a 4D cinema tool (among other applications).

We write about these things because they’re vital for our city to keep being creative. If we’re going to be branded as a great place to live and to work, we also need to be branded as a place that it’s easy to create or to, cornily, follow your dreams.

That’s why we support Capital Cardiff who are supporting our goal: “Plastik is a magazine of culture and things relating to creative culture. We represent the creative atmosphere of one of the world’s most vibrant cities – Cardiff. The city is upcoming and producing a vast amount of incredible creative talent. Plastik Magazine exists to document the flux of the city.”

Not only is the city producing creative talent in the form of the arts but also in terms of entrepreneurship and business. We could list names of people who will benefit from conferences like Capital Cardiff, but this editorial would be ten times as long.

It’s not just the people who are already in business either. Many graduates feel like they’ve got to get a temp job or employed by one of the big accountancy firms just because that’s where the security is.

They’re right – there is a lot of security in a 9-5 office job. You will get paid at the end of each month. You will get your weekends off. You won’t have to worry about paying your bills – probably.

But there’s also the satisfaction of doing something for yourself when you leave university. Putting that 10 grand education to good use rather than doing telesales for a living. If you really like telesales or direct marketing, take a leaf out of Freshflow’s book and join us in the self-employed pool.

We’re building a great city and we’re only at the start. Events like Capital Cardiff give us all a boost – whether it’s the networking opportunities that you’re interested in, seminars on designing your business, social media or finding funding, or maybe it’s the pitching opportunities you’re looking forward to – there’ll be a lot of influential people in those rooms. Whatever it may be, Capital Cardiff is a boost for the startup community in South Wales. It’s a building block for our city that we’re proud to be celebrating on Plastik Magazine.

Let’s try to be quotable one more time: “If you’re going to build a city, you’re going to need some bricks.” That’s a maxim I can live by – and hopefully it’ll land me my first Wikiquote… wink, wink.

Stay Fantastic,


Four Dimensions with John Jupe

“I’ve been working on this for 28 years. It’s my life’s work,” says John Jupe – a truly remarkable man. What he’s doing in a small office on Cardiff Met’s Llandaff campus is mind blowing. He has invented a way to show a new dimension. Perception.

The recent surge in 3D cinema has been kind of weird. Hollywood blockbusters have largely capitalised on a technology which makes things only marginally more interesting. No matter how many times you remaster Star Wars: Episode 1, no matter how close Darth Maul’s lightsabre gets to my face, it’s still only ever going to be Episode 1. 3D gave us the ability to see depth in our film experience. Specks of dust shooting out from James Cameron’s Avatar were about as good as it got though and what a pain to put 3D glasses over normal glasses to watch a feature presentation! BORING.

Jupe’s company, Perceptual Technologies, not only removes the need to wear 3D glasses but it also adds a whole new dimension to our visual experience.

He shows me a video on a slightly curved screen on a chair in his office. It’s a first person view of a man watching TV in his living room. Then a friend of his enters the room and pitches him a Coke can… our eye is, like real life, instantly drawn to the can which is moving. This is perception – the fourth dimension.

“We’re getting rid of the picture plain, the flat surface. There isn’t one in vision! We’re trying to get closer to the formations and the way that we present information within the structure and the phenomenon of vision,” he tells me.

That sounds really complicated and I must admit that it takes quite a while for me to understand what he’s actually creating.

“That’s precisely what the artist has been showing us all this time. When he stopped painting in central perspective and colouring it in very accurately. Artists stopped doing that at around the 17th century and the renaissance,” he explains. “But actually, all our forms of visual media is still doing it! We’re chucking more and more bandwidth at pictures and expecting them to become more and more meaningful. They won’t!”

Jupe is adamant that our current ways of displaying images and creating pictures are not extensive enough. He’s got a point – when painters stopped ‘colouring in’ quaint pictures of French palaces in the 17th century and started looking at the figure of a thing, they created something phenomenally expressive. Think about it: have you ever really been moved more by a painting of courtiers in middle age Europe than by Van Gogh’s Starry Night? 

But it’s not just about making better cinema images. Jupe says that’s not at all the aim – it’s an offshoot:

“When you go to investors, what they want is dynamic 3D. But that’s a by-product. Once we’ve understood what the structure of vision is, we can make things 3D. But this is about the nature of communication. There’s much more at stake than just making things 3D,”  he continues while guiding me through a presentation of his product. Perceptual Technologies will profoundly change all forms of information display. That was the MOD telling us that! There’s piles and piles of information that no-one can access properly. What it is is that none of our information systems are perceptually structured.”

So what exactly does this mean? If you don’t use it for 3D cinema, what exactly can you use it for? Well, quite a lot actually. When the team at Perceptual Technologies had the intellectual property analysed, the result was that they found 200 commercial applications across 12 industries. Even though we’re not experts in IP, we can tell that 200 is a lot. Those applications range everything from the obvious usage in cinema and television to uses in military training (flight simulators, for example) to use in advertising.

This latter is particularly interesting. Jupe pulls out a slide showing a bottle of Bombay Sapphire on a table, surrounded by tropical fruits with an outdoorsey back ground image. He tells me to look at it and then look at a second one which is slightly tilted. He asked me which one looked more realistic and where are my eyes drawn.

“The second one and to the bottle” I reply.

Knowingly, he explains that the second one is actually a composite image made up using perceptual technology and that the first is the photograph. His technique really works. On closer inspection, you can see that there’s a lot of stuff wrong with the image – it is disjointed in places and some parts seem to be repeated. But it is a more accurate image in my head and, if an advertiser were to use the tools that Jupe has created, they’d be able to direct our perception of a product. Really, really impressive.

And how do you make these images? Well, at the moment, you don’t! The company is currently looking for investment to be able to handle all of the marketing of the service and plugins which create the images. Once they get that funding, they’ll begin to encourage people to start using the software to create the images.


What Jupe has created is really impressive. Seldom have I met anyone so convinced by their work that they are willing to dedicate themselves so intensely. This man is definitely one to watch at Capital Cardiff later this month when he pitches Perceptual Technologies to a room full of people.

Designing Services with Design Wales

The term ‘service design’ is so unsexy – unless you know what it is. The image that immediately springs to mind is the design of manufacturing assembly lines to ensure that more toothpaste caps are fixed onto bottles.

But that’s not at all a fair assessment and Paul Thurston, Service Design Programme Manager at Design Wales, the government funded organisation are making the unsexy very sexy.

We meet at PDR, a research building on the Llandaff campus of Cardiff Met (formerly UWIC). The centre is full of light and great space – there are rooms of manufacturing equipment. Paul shows me the 3D printing machines that they’ve got and skulls of various colours of silicon that are printed their as a way to show the medical sector how they can innovate on their procedures.

In Holland, I tell him, there’s a hospital that projects a whale swimming on the sea onto a wall. Children who are there to get CAT scans are told that when the whale goes under the water, they have to try and hold their breath. Then they’re put into the scanner and told to try and hold their breath for as long as the whale can – that way they lie still enough for the doctors to get an accurate scan. The hospital used to be able to do 10 scans a day because the kids were so fidgety. With this new whale game, they can do 40. This is service design – innovating on a process to make it better.

“Service design is fairly new in the design sector. As an independent offering. You can trace it back to Live Work – who celebrated their 10th anniversary this week. Even the most established companies aren’t that old,” Thurston tells me, “The whole practice has developed massively over that time. There’s obviously a lot of interest from designers because it gives them an opportunity to work on bigger projects. Clients don’t always see traditional design agencies in that way. They might see them as a service provider who delivers their marketing, their literature, their communications… most companies don’t have an research and development team unless you’re making products.”

He’s right. Many businesses don’t really bother to think about how they can work better unless it’s to do with cost cutting – which isn’t a bad thing by any means.

“So, the way that you see it, service design is a paradigm shift from creative design to something new?” I ask him as we sit in a room which is wired with CCTV to allow focus groups to feel more at ease when they’re critiquing a project.

“I’m not so sure.” he says, “Service design isn’t radically new – it’s just been defined differently. Good, user centred design is what you need to create good products or good communications or good marketing material. You need to understand what you’re going to do with it or how you use that product. It’s the same principle with services although it’s a bit different because it looks holistically at all the different elements someone might interact with when they’re using a service. If you’re going to the supermarket, a designer might typically look at the interface on a self serve machine whereas a service designer would look at the experience of queuing up, how you use your back, the feedback mechanism on it.”

Design Wales itself is an organisation which is helping Welsh creative businesses and manufacturing companies to be sleeker and more slender in two ways. Firstly, the team help manufacturing companies who might not normally have a big budget to employ a consultant to find holes in their services. They offer businesses a ‘service assessment’ which suggests easy things that they could do to make everything gel a bit better. Secondly, they’re giving their knowledge away to design agencies in Wales to allow them to do the same thing. This is a very forward thinking approach to be government funded:

“The Welsh Government has been quite brave. They need to be applauded. Typically innovation is supported by government if there is a product or technological advantage being developed,” says Thurston who has worked for an impressive list of companies and also lectured at The Royal College of Art, “For instance, a new bit of kit that does something that no-one else can do or something to do with chemistry or medicine. That gets funding. But innovation isn’t just about products but also services as well – there’s not really funding for services. The R&D sections of companies tend to focus on product. There are a few examples that don’t conform to the rule: Xerox have a service innovation centre and the NHS.”

He says that around 73% of the UK GDP is service. That’s a big big number. That’s why what Paul is talking about is so important for all of us – even if we’re not involved in design, we’re all involved in services in one way or another: from the way that I pay my gas bill to the way that you suggest ideas to your boss to the way we both check out at Sainsbury’s or Lidl.

“The case study that really stands out for me is a small design agency based in Blackwood, Rose Innes Designs. They are a great little company and they first came onto the service programme and attended a workshop that we ran in Newport, the director went off and read a load of books, called me up saying ‘I want to get onto this programme’. They went through that,” he says of the SD4D programme – service design for designers, “Then they went off and started talking to clients, running workshops. They’ve recently won three new projects on the back of that because they’re talking to their clients differently, offering something new and talking to their clients in ways that demonstrate they know about their business, the challenges, rather than ‘we can sell you some design services’. What could you help your clients do differently within their business that’s going to have real value to it.”

Paul is taking a one hour seminar at Capital Cardiff about his work and how it applies to business in Wales.

“It’s basically an hour about getting practical stuff that you can use as part of your business strategy and planning that will help you understand what your customers need and then help you develop new services and new innovations about that. Companies go through a period of writing a business plan, it goes a bit wrong so they start to adjust to fit with the market and then three years later they write another business plan,” he explains, “This will help you understand which tools are available in the design sector which many companies might not have looked at when doing this activity. If you work in one of the sectors that we work within, we can follow up and perhaps continue the conversation. There will also be case studies around that as well.”

The People’s Supermarket

“It feels like it’s what Cardiff wants right now,” says Rebecca Clark, green entrepreneur. “Lots of people we’ve spoken to are crying out for these different things and I think the idea of putting them all under one roof and creating this hub would be so beneficial to Cardiff.”

Clark, who runs Green City Events, is working with Gwion Thorpe and a big group of like minded people to start Siop y Bobl, a people’s supermarket where everything is run by a community of shareholders.

The idea of a co-operative is not a new one. Other examples of companies running on a model like this are the ever popular John Lewis and, strangely enough, the Co-Op. More recently, the idea’s been gaining attention from the Channel 4 series The People’s Supermarket. 

A lot of us here saw it and Dewi the Ethical Chef put the call out online to say ‘This would be cool in Cardiff: who’s interested?’ Becca and I and 50 other people turned up and said let’s do it,” explains Gwion, “So we set up a small team and here we are nine months later hoping to pitch for some cash.”

While the duo doesn’t quite know exactly how much cash they’re hoping to win after pitching their business to a room full of people at the Capital Cardiff conference on 29 February, they’re sure that they don’t want to be seen as a not-for-profit kind of business.

“How much cash though?” I asked Thorpe.

“150K-500K. We’re aiming high because we want this to be impressive,” he goes on.

Businesses like Siop y Bobl can often give off the wrong kind of feel to investors. An ethical supermarket which is run by the people doesn’t immediately scream PROFIT like, say, a high-impact social network with an integrated advertising network. On that point, Rebecca chips in,

“Something important to mention is that while we’re asking for a decent sum of money, we don’t expect to depend on grant funding,” she says. “The aim of Siop y Bobl is to be economically sustainable as well as environmentally.”

That’s one of the key differences between Siop y Bobl and similar projects. The original People’s Supermarket in London was run entirely by volunteers but Cardiff’s own will be run by shareholders of the company,

“We will be offering a public share. We’ll be setting up as an industrial provident society… a co-operative. So people will buy shares from £5 to £500 and it will be a community owned store. That’s what we mean: by the people. For the people means that it’s run as a community,” explains Gwion, “The one in London started off as totally volunteer run. We don’t necessarily think that’s a viable option so we’re looking for a balance or a mix between them. If we create a place where people really want to work and get trained, then how good is that?!”

He’s right. The days of the far off ish shareholder are coming to an end. Increasingly, we’re seeing businesses starting up that are owned by their employees. Just take Facebook as an example: in the early days of the company, many of the employees took share stock instead of salaries and when Facebook announced its public float, instantly, Silicon Valley had thousands of new millionaires. But it’s not just about the money, part of the power of a company owned by its staff is the incredible motivational factor behind the business – your share becomes more valuable the more business you get.

Another really key difference between this and other ethical supermarkets is the idea of a community space.

“We want to create a place where people can come and be really sure of what they’re buying. The majority of what we stock is local. We’re also giving them an option that is in a price range that they can afford as well,” Becca says, “We want it to be a place where people are engaging with each other – more of a community place that builds on coming together as a community and getting people excited over food.”

“Yes. We’re looking for something no smaller than 2000 square feet. You can compare that to a medium sized Waitrose or Tesco. It’s pretty big,” Gwion continues. “Also, we want different levels: shop, cafe, community with co working and meeting space, organisation space for offices for rent. You’ve got to have a lot of levels, impacts because it’s all good for the community, environment and the economy because we’re creating jobs and training. There are a lot of spin offs from this idea.”

That’s a big win for Cardiff and a sign of real innovation. A place not only where you can work but a place to meet and a place to shop. If one of the floors in the building is quiet for some reason, there’ll still be people down on the ground floor picking fresh lettuce from the veg section or other people meeting clients in the Siop y Bobl cafe.

Smart stuff. If I had 50K, I’d be investing it in this group of people… either that… or you know… Facebook.

Finding Funding

So you’re getting bored of working in your bedroom, tapping away at your laptop and thinking to yourself, “If only I could employ someone to do these tasks for me, I could spend a lot more time focussing on building my idea.”

It’s a smart thought to have and it all seems great – all your problems will be solved and you suddenly feel an overwhelming sense to break out in joyous song (most likely the chorus of this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S9gq-ANfjc0).

But there’s a catch. You’re comfortably making £15K by selling your super cool iPhone apps, but if you employ someone, you’ll have to make twice that amount to pay both of you.

You might not quite be able to do that just yet but you’re pretty sure that you’re going to be able to by the end of the financial year. The good news is that you’ll probably be able to get a bunch of funding for that – especially if it involves training someone to do it.

Show me the money!

Finding funding can be a really tricky business. It’s not all that hard to find someone offering funding of some kind, but the tough part is finding a fund that matches your business pitch.

For example, here’s one of the offers of funding from Finance Wales – one of the better known agencies in Wales. “Micro loans 5k – 25k loans. Repayment terms range from one to five years and can be used alongside funding secured from other investors.”

That might sound appealing to you – and it should, it’s a good fund – but if you read on, the eligibility requirements are sectors including energy and environment, electronics and engineering, ICT and life sciences and businesses employing up to 250 people with an annual turnover not exceeding €50 million. For most new businesses, this isn’t an easy task.

The offers of funding in Wales are phenomenal – it’s just that even if you Google for several hours a day, it’s pretty hard to find one that suits you.

We’ve picked a couple of funds that might interest you in building your startup.

Finance Wales

We’ll start off with some really big funds. As we’ve already mentioned, Finance Wales are one of the principal funders of business. The process is pretty standard: you find a fund you like and get in touch to start the dialogue.

The aforementioned micro loans option is probably the most attractive of their offers. Recently, they’ve given £20,000+ to an architects firm, a sign writer and the wonderful Halen Mon (sea salt company – http://www.halenmon.com/).

Cardiff Council

There’s also a lot of support given to businesses by Cardiff Council. Everything from loans to grants or even offers of space for startups are available.

The startup grant that the council offers is probably the best fund available in Wales right now. The grant is for anything between £500 and £5000 to help companies startup. You’ll need to have a project that’s twice as large as any amount that you ask for because the grant is only available for 30% of the project. But that’s totally achievable for a fund this size.

So, if you need to go on a marketing campaign to promote your innovative new creative  industries project, you can get £500 of the £1500 total cost of the project. That’s pretty good – especially if you’re going to get a lot of business from the project.

Another option from the council is the Capital Cardiff fund which is a big investment of up to £50k is available for companies that have a good capacity for growth. Pinning your business down with one of these funds would be a huge coup.

UK Steel Enterprise

If your company is not in the creative industries, you immediately open yourself up to huge bouts of funding from organisations like UK Steel Enterprise. Like Cardiff Council, the UK Steel Enterprise offers everything from grants to premises.

These funds can get really really big (up to £750K) but can also be quite small so there’s a pretty good scope for finding your footing if you’re a technology business.

Cardiff Credit Union

Here’s the funding source that time forgot. No body ever talks about Cardiff Credit Union when they’re trying to work out where to get funding from. A credit union, if you’re not familiar with it, is kind of a bank owned and operated by ‘the people’ (people like you and I). Members pay in money and it earns money – kind of like interest in a standard bank. However, they also offer really good rates on loans. For example, if you need to get 5000 flyers printed, that might cost you about £150. You could get that money from the credit union and repay it over a year. That breaks down to a payment of £3.25 weekly – very manageable.

They’ve even made a nice loan calculator so that you can weigh up your options:


Pulling it all together

Here we’ve done a quick summary of some of the funds available to startups in Cardiff. But we’ve also got a much bigger collection which you can browse on Google Docs by clicking here.

There’s going to be an entire session on finding funding at the Capital Cardiff conference at the end of this month. If you’re confused about it, come along and get some advice from the people who administer the funding – straight from the source!

To see that document, go HERE


So come on, now that you know where to get funding, you can work towards hiring that super staff member to do half your work for you… and… you know… sing the chorus of this along with me.