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Kissing Frogs And Angels

Biography > Other Organisations
Kissing Frogs And Angels

Did you ever read a fairy story where a beautiful girl kisses a frog and it turns into a prince. Well, no neither did I. But translate the idea to business and the principle remains that you take on a business and it turns mega. It’s called being an Angel.

It was 2007 and for the 1st time in my life I wasn’t working day to day. I wanted to bring my talents to bear such as they were to help other companies.

There is/was a TV show called “Dragons Den” and I got involved with the real life version of it – only ours was way more fun.
So the idea was that a bunch of rich people got together and had a very nice morning watching presentations from companies who wanted investment and then we had a rather nice meal.

It all took place in one of the poshest local hotels, once a month and was run by a company who actually did this for profit. The owner of the hotel was a member and so the standard of service was amazing. I vaguely remember that there was a membership fee of about 1K a year.

So we’d all roll up in very nice cars and go into a very nice boardroom with copious coffee and biscuits and two or three nervous people would pitch their company and we would then discuss it and decide to invest singly or together.

I learnt that before I joined they had made a major investment in a Scottish brewing company, who despite due diligence had robbed them blind.

Little Blue Pills

The month before I came along they’d had a presentation from a couple of guys who were going to sell blue pills from vending machines in the toilets in pubs. It appeared that there was a company that owned most of the vending machines that dispensed condoms in pubs and that company wanted to sell them all. It was costing as much to repair the vandalism and keep them restocked as they were making. Our guys had the idea of dispensing little blue pills from them which would enhance your sexual performance.

The guys gave out samples of the pills for the group to try and in the first meeting I attended there was much sniggering from both the men and women who all agreed the pills had worked wonderfully.

There was universal agreement that this would be a wonderful investment but the snag was that by this time the company was fully funded and we couldn’t invest.

Training Providers

Almost immediately I joined I spotted an opportunity that I liked – it was in the training sector for the public sector.

I went over to see the lady who was running Training Providers and whot was looking for an investment in her business, to take it to the next level.

I was super excited about the business and proposed a zero risk (for her) expansion plan based on my money with a nice pay day for us all, if she succeeded. Like many of the other businesses I went near it turned out that what she wanted was for someone to give her some money and then leave her alone. I wanted to invest heavily, drive the business forward and get rewards for everyone. The discussions fell apart when I insisted that for my investment I would require a formal board meeting at least once a month.

I’ve just googled the business – it struggled on for another 4 years but never went anywhere.


I read the prospectus and it read something like:-

“Wonderboxes Ltd have developed “the blackbox solution” to all communication needs. The unit provides the core communications functionality required by a business including a network server for data backup, a web server for company web sites, an email server for handling incoming and outgoing emails, security software for protection against virus and hacking attempts and communications software for remote access to data and access to emails by mobile phone. In addition it provides a full function telephone switchboard for handling telephone communications including wireless telephone handsets, land lines, voice over IP lines, message taking, call forwarding and automated call answering.”

Before you dash out and try to buy one I should point out that this was 2007 and the company no longer exists. Sorry.

But the proposition with a price of £500.00 was stunning. How could it fail? But first how did it work? The idea was to build a Linux box on to a solid state chip and then load it with communication programs to put it all together. It needed some other components such as a modem but in essence that was it. Since all of the software was open source and free then the price could be amazing.

So I went up to see these people and their Wonderbox. They were in an office block facing a gothic cemetery – hence the address. It was all very nice and plush. They showed me the unit which was not quite ready yet, but given that it was all open source it would be ready really soon now.

The issue that they had identified was that no matter how amazing this piece of kit was that selling it into a fragmented business market was going to be challenge.

I produced a report for the Angels group and I wrote:-
“These are intelligent people and if they chose to hide information or lie by omission I am sure they could do so. I believe they are minimising the hurdles to be overcome and exaggerating the state of progress. However I also believe that they will deliver a working product within months.

I believe they have found a niche product for which there is a demand. Effectively it is making open source software easy for the small office.

I would buy one if I was convinced it worked and I would be convinced by reading an editorial review.
This product will either fly off the shelves and the company will be a major success or it will not. I do not see any middle ground here.

David Hill
November 22 2008”

After a brief dicsussion at the next meeting of the group the consensus was not to invest. Given that the idea never achieved commercial success it's probably as well.

Angels Meetings

I’d been going to the Angels meeting for about a year. We had watched many presentations and we had discussed them all in a thoughtful way and dismissed them.

There was a guy who had decided that Cokane (as in cocaine spelt wrongly) would be a great name for a brand. He’d designed a logo around a razor blade. He’d had a company in China make up a load of merchandise based around this brand. So he now had a house full of Cokane merchandise and he just needed help to sell it. Not surprisingly we said no.

There was a lady was going to transform the tea market with ….tea. The pitch was along the lines – I have tea for sale, people buy tea, give me some money.

There was a guy who had bought some battery powered bikes and now wanted us to buy some more and then he’d be able to make some money some how.

A very compelling guy came along and said he had a new micro retailing concept. He would rent tiny units in Market Halls and run a convenience store selling tobacco and papers from them. Stall holders would then make him rich by paying him rent. In fact it was so good that he already had 2 stalls going in Sutton and 2 elsewhere. It turned out that he’d blagged his way into getting these stalls and he very rapidly got thrown out when the rent failed to materialise.

There was a gentleman that ran a card shop in the Mailbox, the up scale retail mall in Birmingham. He’d received a subsidy from the mall owners to occupy the space, but now that had run out. His plan was to open lots more stores across the UK in shopping malls and pocket the subsidies before closing the shops and moving them to other malls.

We had a lot of pitches from medical companies developing wonder drugs and devices, which for all any of us knew might be brilliant but we could never bring ourselves to invest in anything we didn’t understand. They were generally pitched by Doctors who hadn’t got a clue about business.

Ad Flyer

Come September 2009 it seemed about time we actually invested in something when a couple of bright young men came and pitched a website called AdFlyer.

It was a website that would compete directly with Ebay. Their pitch was that they knew secret juice that they could pour on to the website to make Google think it was better than it really was. As evidence of this secret juice they told us to refer to a website ranking tool which showed their website as a far higher ranking than it really should have been.

So, based on this secret juice, we all decided to chip in. The project struggled on for a couple of years, it was all going to get better real soon, but never did. And they went bust and we claimed our tax relief.

The End

It all ended rather with a whimper rather than a bang for me. I missed a few meeting because I was doing other things, like holidays and then it didn’t feel that there was a way back. It had been great fun - the meetings were brilliant convivial company, great food and way, way, way too much to drink. But I had other things to do – especially my new phone company Cloud Net.

I had joined one of the syndicates of the Birmingham based company that ran the Angels events. As of 2021 they are still going raising funding and making it happen. Their website claims they have backed 200 projects, since 2003 when they started and raised 30m. About 1.5m per year.

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