Scaling up for business: what you need to know from the den of a Dragon
“You’ve got to be clear about what you expect — and your investor needs to do the same,” Deborah Meaden explains. “When you’re looking for funding, it’s not just about selling yourself — you’re picking your investor too. Don’t miss this opportunity. Understand the gaps in your knowledge and consider whether the investor has contacts that you need, or experience in your area, to fill those gaps and stop you making mistakes.”
Meaden is one of more than 60 business leaders and entrepreneurs speaking at the Evening Standard’s SME XPO, where she will be answering questions and giving advice on building a planet-positive business as part of two days of keynote speeches, panel discussions and networking. She expects to be pitched with ideas at SME XPO — she is, Meaden smiles, met with proposals wherever she goes.
So how does she pick from the many, many start-ups out there? “It’s simple,” she says. “It needs to be a decent idea, with a quick route to market, where I trust the founder. It doesn’t matter if someone is nervous, as long as they are honest, and know their stuff. I’ve got confidence that firms I invest in will get in touch when they need me, but not every five minutes. They always know more about their business than I do on a day-to-day basis, but I can help on strategic stuff.”
What about on the other side of the coin? Andy Jefferies started quick- drying towel business Dock & Bay, which Meaden backed to the tune of £75,000 in 2017.
“When we had our first meetings after the Den, Deborah quizzed me and made me realise I simply didn’t have a deep enough knowledge of my own business to answer,” Jefferies admits. “She quickly showed me my gaps. I had to work hard to avoid those future awkward conversations.” Dock & Bay has grown 17 times bigger since and is valued at some £13 million.
Charlotte Morley, founder of kids clothing rental firm thelittleloop, bagged £140,000 from Meaden and Steven Bartlett in January 2022. “I was worried the celebrity investors would all be for show, and then after TV they’d be onto their next thing. But Deborah is at every board meeting. When looking for investment, it’s tempting to just take money because you need it, but you need to have the same values — we’re trying to completely rethink the clothing business, and Deborah is passionate about innovating for the planet so we work well together.
“You have to like your investor, too — if you didn’t get on, it would be really miserable.”
SME XPO is the UK’s leading event for ambitious start-ups and scale-ups. London’s top founders and decision-makers will meet for keynote talks, workshops and networking at ExCeL London, 25-26 April 2023. Join them for FREE by booking at: smexpo.co.uk