‘Dragon’s Den’ fund to help Scottish businesses

THREE entrepreneurs have set up an investment fund aimed at transforming Scottish businesses into game-changing global brands.

Successful Edinburgh businessmen James Longcroft, John Ross and Sean Rollo are using their own personal wealth to establish Invest Scotland, a unique business growth initiative.

Described as a ‘Dragon’s Den for start-ups’, the project was conceived during the early days of the pandemic when the trio realised there was little assistance available to help smaller companies cope with the fall-out of Covid-19.

Funding up to a maximum of £30,000 per business is available.

To be eligible, a business must be based in Scotland, be registered at Companies House as a public limited company and have strong growth potential thanks to a robust business plan.

“We want to take the best small businesses in Scotland and transform them into industry leaders across the globe,” said James, founder of Choose, a packaging technology company.

“Our criteria is not as extensive as banks and that was a key aspect of setting up the fund.

“When the pandemic struck we struggled to get banks to lend to us as businesses and it made me think what was out there for companies taking their first steps. There was a lot of support for established businesses with bounce-back loans while the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan was there to assist the bigger ones.

“Banks aren’t really looking at new businesses or small businesses in the same way as they were before the pandemic. The landscape has never been more challenging for startups or small businesses and we wanted to help.

“We are open to any small business or startup that is based in Scotland. We are using our own money to help Scottish businesses and are offering investments up to £30,000 per application.

“We’re not looking to become a huge equity house and drum up millions of pounds for existing businesses. We are here to help Scottish startups get off the ground. It’s almost like a ‘Dragon’s Den’ for startups but it’s the three of us helping and successful applicants don’t have to pick just one!

“We would like some active trading already but it’s not a necessity. We’re happy to help with ideas.”

In return for the funding support, Invest Scotland will take a stake in the company with the aim of selling it back to the business or other interested investors at a later date. Any profits will then be reinvested into helping other Scottish startups.

“It is most likely to be an equity investment,” said Mr Longcroft. “Depending on what the company does and how we envisage the growth, we will stay in the business for as long as we feel we can benefit it.

“Once we have grown it to a point where it can run well by itself, we’ll look to the company to buy back the shares from us at a new valuation or sell them on to other investors who want to become involved. We don’t want to stay involved for longer than is necessary as we want to take our profits to reinvest back into more Scottish businesses starting out on their own journeys.”

John Ross is a multi-business owner and managing director of industry-leading cleaning specialists CleanTEC. Sean Rollo is managing director of building firm Rollo Developments.

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