Britain’s certainly got talent, but the sort witnessed at the National Theatre on London’s sunny South Bank yesterday was more about helping to drive economic growth than a fluffy dog that does tricks.
Mitie Group invited five entrepreneurs seeking start-up capital for their business to pitch for a share of its £5m investment fund. In a real-live Dragons’ Den, the business idea had to be for something that would enhance Mitie’s business proposition and attract new clients.
That the audience was given the power to vote on whether they’d theoretically be ‘In’ or ‘Out’ really focused the mind on whether the pitches would prove to be a solid investment case.
Mitie has said it is committed to partnering with entrepreneurs to grow British businesses and has supported over 100 start-ups using the Mitie model. In an attempt to do something a little bit different and expand the range of new businesses that it supports, it’s opened up its funds to entrepreneurs outside of the Mitie family.
As Ruby McGregor-Smith, chief executive of Mitie Group said, “Entrepreneurialism is at the heart of Mitie’s culture, and we’re as passionate about it today as we were on day one. Start-ups keep you young, fresh and innovative and the teams always bring huge amounts of energy to our business.
"We hosted the Mitie Millions event to encourage even more entrepreneurs to pitch their brilliant business ideas to us and the presentations today have been really inspirational.”
Over 60 applications were received for a slice of the £5m, ranging from exotic teashops and essential oils businesses to a 1950s vintage clothing business.
But, just five got to pitch before judges McGregor-Smith, Mitie group finance director Suzanne Baxter and chairman of small business banking at RBS, Peter Ibbetson.
These were internal talent and knowledge matching platform ProFinda.com; Mitie employee Paul Abbott and his water treatment app; web analytics and customer experience research firm, Clear Returns; Mitie employee Mike Bond and his converter for inefficient office lighting and finally Frame Medical, a patient-centred management programme for people with type two diabetes.
All the pitches provided food for thought but it was Roger Gorman’s Profinda.com that convinced the judges. Gorman, who was looking for £300,000 from Mitie, pitched ProFinda as a “disruptive opportunity” that could do “interesting damage” to the market.
Aimed at sectors including consultancy, accountancy and law, where professionals require access to a good knowledge bank of talent to build and win business for their organisation, he thought he could quickly win client traction.
McGregor-Smith told the five: “Congratulations for being brave enough to stand up and do it. For getting up and having some passion and drive to do something different. There have been some really interesting ideas and some of those will make us change direction in some of the industries that we work.
"There’s nothing more exciting than developing and helping support our start-up businesses. That’s the future, and what today shows is that innovation is here in the UK and it’s an exciting place to be.”