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Pledge of new approach

Exclusive: top online retailer to head crowdfunder Growthdeck

Steve RobinsonA new crowdfunding company in Scotland has appointed Steve Robinson, one of Britain’s top online retailers, as its chief executive.

Mr Robinson (pictured), former chief executive of Tesco Direct and finance director at Argos, was most recently CEO and chairman of Achica.

Growthdeck recently acquired the Glasgow crowdfunder Squareknot – as revealed by Daily Business last month – and at a Glasgow reception its acting CEO and co-founder Gary Robins pledged to “raise the bar” for the sector.

Mr Robins, who runs the private equity firm Radius Equity, said the acquisition of Squareknot would allow the company to delve into sub-£1 million funding deals.

Ultimately, if crowdfunded companies show promise they can benefit from Radius’s greater firepower to fund them to the next stage.

“We pledge to do things differently to other crowdfunders,” he said. “We will also be more transparent by a considerable degree. We seriously aim to raise the bar.”

Growthdeck is half-way to raising £500,000 for itself to help fund deals in the £500,000 to £1 million range. Mr Robins said that it was “sector agnostic” in terms of the companies it will support, though it was particularly attracted to leisure, IT, telecoms and waste management.

Derek BondDerek Bond (pictured right at the Glasgow launch), who built Squareknot, approached Growthdeck because he felt it needed greater resource and manpower to compete in the sector.

Growthdeck has an experienced investment team, who were formerly with 3i, LDC, Goldman Sachs and others, and are supported by a panel of sector experts drawn from many different industries.

It is private equity backed, and comes to the market with an established network of investors, primarily in London and the Midlands.

Mr Robins has been in the private equity arena for 30 years, including half that time as an investment director with 3i.

Fellow founder James Wrighton, who is also expected in Edinburgh, has spent many years designing channels and products for the companies such as Barclays, Coutts, UBS, Credit Suisse, ABN Amro, Standard & Poor’s and many other financial institutions.

Mr Bond told those attending the launch event in Glasgow: “There are limited resources here and the key to us getting finance was to look to London and the southeast.

“Crowdfunding is fulfilling a need for early stage companies.”

However, he warned against “unrealistic valuations.

Steve Robinson

  • Update (16th): Speaking at the Edinburgh launch event (above), Mr Robinson said he was drawn towards helping start-up firms achieve their ambitions.He said Growthdeck was more of a “hybrid” between a crowdfunder and a private equity firm.  It also offered mentoring for investee companies, which marked it out differently to other crowdfunders.

    “It is exciting to help small businesses grow and we can offer a network of experts whether it is about getting their online activity right, or recruitment policy.

    “By definition entrepreneurs are driven and have a great idea, but sometimes they just need some help making it work, someone to point them in the right direction and maybe towards the right people who can advise them.”

Photos of Derek Bond and Steve Robinson by Terry Murden




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