Trio of Edinburgh entrepreneurs launch ‘Dragons’ Den’ for start-ups

Three Edinburgh entrepreneurs have set up an investment fund for smaller firms – billed as a “Dragons’ Den for start-ups”.

From left: James Longcroft, John Ross, and Sean Rollo. Picture: contributed.
From left: James Longcroft, John Ross, and Sean Rollo. Picture: contributed.

James Longcroft, John Ross and Sean Rollo are using their own personal wealth to establish Invest Scotland, aimed at “transforming Scottish businesses into game-changing global brands,” and helping those that would struggle to get bank funding.

Funding of up to £30,000 per business is available. The project was conceived during the early days of the pandemic when the trio realised there was little help for smaller companies to cope with the fallout of Covid-19. To be eligible, a business must be based in Scotland, and have a “robust” business plan.

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Longcroft, founder of packaging technology specialist Choose, said: “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.

“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 start-ups get off the ground.”

Reinvestment

In return for the funding support, Invest Scotland will take a stake in the company, most likely an equity investment, 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 start-ups.

Underpinning the initiative is the ethos of “investment, strategy and growth for Scotland,” with each partner specialising in a specific area. Ross, a multi-business owner and MD of cleaning firm CleanTec, said: “We are looking for the right individual rather than the right business plan. Our combined expertise has been gained from 30 years in business.”

Rollo is MD of building firm Rollo Developments and is looking forward to helping develop the largest Scottish-only growth portfolio. “We each have our own businesses and have had our fair share of failures and learned a lot of lessons along the way.

"A lack of finance, specialist knowledge, marketing power, technology, strategy or appropriate facilities can all be barriers. Invest Scotland looks for entrepreneurs that display high levels of passion and our own team leads by example.”

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