What traits do you look for in the businesses you invest in?
We're looking for an entrepreneur who has begun to build a business. We're not looking for someone who has a great idea on a piece of paper.
We want entrepreneurs who have come up with a great idea that can change the world and have shown they can begin to build a team and begin to execute on that idea. We're looking for a clear path to execution on the growth of a business.
Secondly were looking for a business that has the potential to really scale. As an investor we're looking for a business that can scale as that's how we achieve returns, but it's also because we are looking for growth that is in lockstep with impact. This means that as the business scales, the impact will too.
In terms of the entrepreneurs themselves, what do you look out for?
Were looking for inspiring entrepreneurs who really have a passion for the business they are seeking to build. We want to know they will be able to inspire others to join their team to build up business to make the world better. We want someone or a team who are inspiring and charismatic.
Who is the competition open to?
The business has to be based in the UK, but its impact can be in the UK or international. We are looking for UK-based entrepreneurs because that's where our experience is and where we are based. We want to give hands-on nurturing advice, and that will best be done from.
Other than the prize itself, what do you hope to see as a result of the competition?
We see it as a fantastic opportunity for an entrepreneur who has a scalable idea to get our support. In addition we hope the competition contributes to a wider understanding about how hands-on investment and entrepreneurial talent can change the world for the better. Bridges believe this coming decade will see a real rise in the number of entrepreneurs who go out there to set up businesses that have a societal or environmental focus so we see the prize as a great opportunity to highlight that and inspire other entrepreneurs to get into business with that philosophy.
How do entrepreneurs apply?
The way that it works is that entrepreneurs apply through a form from our website by May 6th. Based on those applications, we will select the candidates who will be invited to a pitching day where the Bridges team and the angel investors who have funded the prize will be in the room to create a short list. From the short list, the judging panel will pick the winner.
I hope the DNA Prize will not only change the life of the winner but also inspire new ideas and raise awareness amongst the business and entrepreneur world.
Personally, when you're looking to invest, what drives your final decision?
It would be the passion of the leading team and its ability to execute. There are many great ideas but what produces results is the ability to execute on those ideas.
Is the UK a good place to start a profitable business that has a social mindset?
Policy makers and investors in the UK are showing rising interest in the idea that business and wider society are intrinsically linked. If you look at the recent Budget, there was talk of potential tax incentives for social enterprises, and Big Society capital is a wholesaler looking to invest in socially positive entrepreneurship. It's early days, but there's a growing level of interest in social entrepreneurship in the country. In addition, we have a terrific level of talent here, so if you're looking to build a management team, it is a brilliant place to do it.
Has the recession affected businesses with positive social impact as much as the wider economy?
I think all the challenges of the last few years have really shone a light on the sustainability of our business practices and made entrepreneurship which values impact more crucial than it's ever been. A lot of our investee companies are about making goods and services more widely available to the wider audiences and they have flourished in recent years as there is such a need for affordability amongst the entire population. It's a difficult time, but more than ever, we need entrepreneurs to come forward with clever ideas for how their businesses can respond to these trends. Difficult times hopefully inspire innovation and we think that one of the ways that will happen is through entrepreneurs who have clever ideas which can be profitable and help us solve some of the challenges we face.
Finally, what is a winning pitch technique for entrepreneurs?
I look for businesses where scale, commercial growth and impact go hand in hand. I will be interested in what they've achieved so far as evidence for what they can achieve in the future. I see a lot of the hockey stick in this business, where people say their start up will be gigantic next year, but I'm looking for evidence, not just laudable optimism. I need someone who can pragmatically execute that optimism.