Monday, 21 August 2017

Crowdcube tell the truth, their way.

An interview we did in the Memo has allowed Crowdcube to tell its investors how well they are doing.

The article here has been sanitised to avoid any court cases but the message is plain.

Here is Crowdcube's response to the piece, which really says it all.

In response to Brown’s comments Crowdcube told The Memo:
“Independent research from AltFi Data has found crowdfunded businesses have performed ‘impressively’ and Crowdcube has the highest internal rate of return for investors in the industry.”
“We enable young businesses to raise capital to create growth, which is not short term, but judging by the 430,000 Crowdcube members and the number of businesses being funded through our platform we think our investors understand that.”
“To say that most companies never bother to keep investors abreast of events is simply not true. Over 90% of Crowdcube funded businesses have sent at least one update to shareholders since fundraising.”

So lets take these one by one.
AltFi is a well known ECF promoter, so you can take this with a large pinch of salt. Their evidence comes from looking at companies that have raised again since their first ECF campaign and taking the increase in company value as a real increase. We all know that is crap. Companies that have for instance gone bust are counted as zero - there are no negative values and not one of the companies that they say has increased its value has in fact done so in real terms.
Crowdcube do not have 430,000 active members. Their real numbers are on the slide and from anecdotal evidence we get from 'members' sending us things, they will continue to be so. If returns are not short term then why have campaigns talking consistently about 3-5 year ROIs?
This is the worst one. So what they are saying is that of the 600 odd companies that have funded via the platform, 60 have never corresponded with their investors. That's bad enough. But if you take into account the fact that CC has been going since 2012 (ignore 2011) and most of the companies have only provided one update, then that is a disgrace. Our point made. Thank you. These updates should be minimum twice a year - so a company funded in 2014 should by now have around 6 updates - not one. We know that this is the case as we get told this constantly by their members, although many rather than most would have been a better description. And of course you know that Luke would have put the best possible spin on all of this, so its guaranteed to be exaggerated in CC's favour.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Velvet buried underground

Velvet London, a beer producer, raised £45k at the turn of 2014/15, on Crowdcube and has now closed. As usual it didnt last long but it did use SEIS so no one will lose out, apart from HMRC. Yet another success for the UKplc's start up funding policy.

And we are only scratching the surface. Surely time for someone somewhere to wake up? If you put money into poor plans run by people with little or no experience, back it up with SEIS and free beer for investors, you will get funding. You will also get a business collapse. Extend that nationwide and we have a problem.

Velvet went from revenues of £12k to over £300k to £1.5m in the space of 24 months. Well the problem was, they didnt - that's what Crowdcube said they would do. Not sure they ever sold anything. The projections on Crowdcube are obviously complete tripe but so are the historic accounts. The real accounts show considerable losses mounted up and a negative BS, whereas the Crowdcube BS is in the black. 


Saturday, 19 August 2017

Crowdcube's Psonar stops the music

Cambridge has produced yet another Crowdcube flop. Psonar took £316k off 70 investors just over a year ago. It had previously raised another £1.2m. Now it has been put into liquidation with zero assets, owing trade creditors £250k. 

Dont know what it is about Cambridge but its having its share of Crowdcube cock ups.

There is no explanation yet as to the what happened. The SofA shows an estimated £11,900 of assets made up almost entirely of a VAT refund - so probably wrong if was worked out by the founders. 

The founders have what can only be described as caste iron brilliant credentials - our hats were full after reading all the big names they dropped. Makes you wonder. As does the veracity of the all the signed and pending contracts they had around the world. Is there a chance that Crowdcube checked these?

Where did the £300k plus go? It hasnt ended up creating any assets; they have none. Its just been spent. Mind you with 14 directors you are bound to have large expenses bills.

Surely someone, somewhere needs to be held accountable? This is nuts.

A new approach to S/EIS

Ask yourselves - what is the purpose of EIS and SEIS? Is it to help individuals get richer or is it to help UK plc?

Equity Crowdfunding relies almost entirely on the Government tax rebate systems SEIS and EIS. Without these there would be little investment. So from that standpoint, it is working - it is releasing private cash into companies as an alternative to the banks and VCs etc, where money has largely dried up or is too difficult to access for start ups and small SMEs.

So the next question is what happens next? What does this money achieve? Well the answer is a little more disappointing. The end goal of Government intervention into private funding of UK start ups, has to be the long term benefit of UKplc. You simply cant have Government handing out money from the public purse, to allow punters to go on a Saturday One Arm Bandit Spree - risk free. That wouldnt make any sense. And if further fallout was such that other SME's suffered as a result - because these newly funded, poorly run businesses went bust owing them money, then that would be crazy, right?

Well this is pretty well what Vince Cable set up. Investors openly tell us that its only because of SEIS or EIS that they take a punt. Some take an interest in the business, but many we have spoken with dont - some even admitted not reading the plan at all, they just like the rewards and with the rebate it makes sense even if they lose their principle. Is that helping UKplc? 

I have sat through numerous meetings and conferences on ECF, where the main speaker isnt an entrepreneur, but a lawyer. His is the most listened to section of the event and gets the most queries. He isnt talking about marketing, product development or cashflow. He's talking about how to maximise your S/EIS benefits. 

When a small business raises £250k on an ECf platform for their plan, and within a year has gone bust owing trade creditors that again, something in the system is wrong. Crowdcube now have around 60 failures (closures, so not accounting for the 100 plus that are zombies) to 3 dubious successes - the best exit being by sale to an overseas company, thereby taking any future benefit out of the UK. In fact 2 out of the 3 'successes' have been sales to overseas companies. 

It might all work better if the companies applying on the platforms were better chosen, or in some cases were actually chosen. A simple new director's course and test might help? If you havent passed it you cant access S/EIS. I am constantly staggered by the naivety of most plans and they never fail to back me up. If we really want to help these start ups we need to start at the beginning. The money so far wasted on tax rebates for 'investors', better described as punters, in businesses that never had a prayer of lasting 2 years let alone 10, could have helped fund this course and test. We'd be in a much better position now. It would allow easy access investment, help to protect investors, benefit the platforms and the businesses and most importantly benefit UKplc, which is where we started.

It's not instant, so wont be liked but it has to make more sense than HMRC pouring yet more tax payers money down the drain. 

All comments welcome. 

Friday, 18 August 2017

The Pressery has been squeezed dry.

The Pressery squeezed £143k out of 60 Crowdcube investors in March 2015. By November 2016 they had filed for closure with unpayable debts of another £80k plus. It's one we missed.

The company is still in liquidation nearly a year later.

Why are these stories never covered by any of the ECF or Altfi press and why do Crowdcube never even attempt to explain what went wrong? It may well have been an authentic business that just tried to scale and failed - but we dont think so looking at the pitch and its claims. 

Trade creditors were owed £99k. That is not helping anyone.

Yet another one for the growing list. Come on Crowdcube either try harder or push off.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Rentify reviews are bad

Rentify took £1m plus off investors on Crowdcube in 2016. Now reviews on Trust Pilot are nothing short of a disaster.

You just have to spend a few seconds on TP on the Rentify page. Page one of the reviews - so the most recent - has twenty reviews. Of these, 7 are one star or would be negative if the the option was afforded. They come with copious notes on the complaints. One other review is two and one three stars, neither recommending the service. So that's pretty half of the most recent reviews telling people to stay away. 

Rentify is a customer service business. Or that's what they sold the punters who invested. Accounts due out next month. 

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Cornerstone lose £2.4m and secure investment of £3.5m

Cornerstone raised £845k on Crowdcube in 2015 and another £3m since. Now on the back of 2016 results, showing losses of £2.4m, they have secured £3.5m from Calculus Capital.

And all of this against a CC projection for 2016 of a profit.

Well somebody is wrong.