Lauren Riley talks to WATC about raising funds and crowd funding

Lauren Riley-on chairHi, I’m Lauren Riley, you may have read about me before as I was lucky enough to have been named as a WATC inspirational woman in 2014. I am a lawyer, business owner, public speaker, blogger and a former BBC Apprentice candidate.

I blog regularly so really could go on a bit… but I will try and keep on topic. I have had many experiences since founding The Link App last year, some lows but mostly phenomenal highs. The latest in the long line of experiences is crowd funding. Let’s take things in a remotely logical order:

Firstly, what is my business?

The Link App is set to revolutionise methods of communication between professional firms and their clients, in a time and cost effective manner. The app has, initially, been created for those working across private client legal sectors.

The Link App is the ultimate tool for busy law firms looking to thrive in an increasingly competitive market, improve customer service, save time and money and increase productivity. This is done by keeping clients ‘in the loop’ without the need for back and forth communication, freeing up valuable solicitor’s time. The Link App offers potential savings to the law firms in real costs and that all important marketing angle.

Some days I think I am mad for starting this journey and leaving behind the comfort of such an amazing career in law

Secondly, why am I in business?

I have always loved business, even before qualifying as a lawyer I had completed a business management scheme for a global firm. With my entrepreneurial spirit I was convinced there must be a better way for lawyers to communicate with their clients. After all, this is the twenty first century.   After listening to the continued grumblings of my colleagues who work in law, I had my eureka moment and The Link App was born. Having said that, I was rumbling along rather nicely before I conceived this idea and had the technology popped upon my google search at the time I had this idea, I would probably still be in law full time now. But it didn’t and here I am. Some days I think I am mad for starting this journey and leaving behind the comfort of such an amazing career in law, most days I absolutely love it with the type of passion that physically stops me sleeping.  

Lauren Riley presenting
So what on earth is crowd funding?

Crowdfunding dawned a few years ago with reward-based crowdfunding on platforms such as US-based KickStarter. This is where the investor’s return is a tangible product. It’s a great way to get some ideas off the ground, but it’s only suited to a minority of businesses. With reward based crowdfunding investors are able to get their hands on innovative products early, such as the Oculus Rift Virtual Reality headset – which eventually sold to Facebook for $2bn – just imagine if investors had bought a percentage of equity in the Oculus Rift! This is now possible.

More recently, as crowdfunding becomes increasingly mainstream, regulated and mature, different models of crowdfunding have emerged. This is creating a new era of finance which is more accessible, transparent and democritised. Crowdfunding is now not just about getting a tangible reward but true financial returns can be available for investors. Some platforms conduct thorough due diligence on businesses raising funds, similar to the credit reviews a bank would do. This means that investors are able to build up a crowdfunding investment portfolio where good investment returns are available and investors can support businesses they love.

I can see why crowd funding appeals to investors too. Crowd2Fund offers a simple and quick platform for investors to gain insight into the business with much of the usual due diligence work done for them.

Why did I choose crowd funding?

We’ve seen phenomenal interest in the app so far, using the crowd is a modern way to raise funds for a modern company. It fit with my company ethos and I was genuinely exciting to offer equity shares in my business to the world, to see where the passion lies for my product. Would the crowd who invested be fellow lawyers, law firms themselves, techies, supporters of female entrepreneurs or just individuals who can see potential and want large returns? The possibilities were endless. The Link App has turned to Crowd2Fund to raise the £150,000 to further develop and market our new communication tool, offering equity and the business has also pre qualified for SEIS tax incentives.

I can see why crowd funding appeals to investors too. Crowd2Fund offers a simple and quick platform for investors to gain insight into the business with much of the usual due diligence work done for them. My investors also become my clients, product testers and can invest in future rounds so crowdfunding was clearly the best way to raise funds for us.

For those who are interested in seeing the campaign: (please don’t judge, I shot the video straight after a two day exhibition and I was frazzled).

Now for the serious bit I consulted Chris at Crowd2Fund as I wanted the article to be a more balanced view than just my own- “There is always risk with any type of investing and that’s why investors and savers should invest in multiple businesses to protect their portfolio, in case a business fails to make a repayment. Higher risk investments, such as early stage businesses, can offer great long-term returns. This risk can be offset with government schemes like the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS). With SEIS an investor can sometimes claim a large percentage of the investment back from the government. If investors and savers want a safer return, lending directly to established businesses is a good option.”

What is my advice for those considering crowdfunding?

There is a lot that goes on beneath the surface to these campaigns. I have been working solidly on The Link App for a year to get it to the point that it’s a truly attractive proposition to investors. It is amazing that the crowd is opening up avenues of funding to people and businesses that were perhaps previously unable to access these but it’s no quick fix. Take your time, get the necessary feedback directly from investors if possible and put the work in before the campaign to ensure your best chance of success.

I hope that delving into the world of ‘the crowd’ however briefly has been an interesting read. I have found the journey fascinating. For those of you wishing to follow my journey I can be found on twitter @misslaurenriley or via my website

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