Luke Pulford of Brampton based ‘Cell Drinks’ is in buoyant mood and his enthusiasm is infectious. He and his colleagues are sitting on the kind of innovation that could really make a difference and he’s just secured some angel funding to help make it happen.
‘Cell Drinks’ is a new brand of alcoholic drink served in a re-sealable pouch – the first ever fully accredited, spike-proof drinks packaging that is also much safer than glass or plastic bottles. Cell Drinks are not yet available (launch is planned for early 2011) but when they are, they will be sold over the bar and via vending machines in nightclubs. They will also be available at festivals and from retail outlets.
The idea was triggered by the growing incidence of drink spiking and violent flare ups involving glass in licensed premises. The design of the Cell packaging means it cannot be spiked or used as a weapon. It also has a much better carbon footprint than glass or plastic alternatives. All these benefits appeal to consumers and licensees alike.
“Binge drinking is exacerbated when consumers have to queue at the bar; if they’ve waited for what they feel is a long time, they will order more to see them through and consequently get drunk faster. ‘Cells’ can be sold by vending machines or delivered by the licensee quickly and easily as they don’t need opening, pouring or mixing. This helps to minimize queues and encourages consumers to drink responsibly.”
It’s been a busy 12 months for Luke and his team. They’ve conducted research, refined the packaging and developed the drinks with the help of professional advisors and producers (see notes).
With the building blocks in place, encouraging feedback from customer and licensee research and exclusive deals signed with suppliers, Luke and his colleagues needed to take the critical next steps towards getting the product to market. They had funded all the developments to date but needed external funds and skills to take it from here.
To help with this, Luke turned to the team at St John’s Innovation Centre and signed up for ‘Understanding Finance for Business’. David Gill, managing director at St John’s, quickly saw the potential in Cell Drinks and gave Luke and his colleagues advice which helped them secure their first angel investment from Miles Templeman, Director General of the Institute of Directors, and ex Chief Executive of Whitbread Beer Company and Bulmers Cider. Miles is now the Chairman of Cell drinks (YQ Vending Ltd) and also a significant shareholder in the business. He is also still Chairman of Shepherd Neame and brings a wealth of industry knowledge and contacts to Cell drinks. He will be actively involved in promoting the interests of the business and supporting the three core directors of the company who have been working together for 2 years to bring the brand to market.
Through the ‘Understanding Finance for Business’ programme, Cell Drinks then pitched to a group of ‘friendly’ angel investors.
“We were confident we had a credible proposition and a strong business plan but we had never pitched formally to investors and needed to know that we were selling the idea well. Being able to pitch to a group of so-called ‘friendly’ investors who gave really constructive feedback was invaluable. It gave us a far better understanding of what angel investors are looking for and it cost us nothing.
“We made some small but significant changes to our pitch afterwards and have since secured the serious interest of another angel which is great news.”
David Gill, managing director, St John’s Innovation Centre and one of the angel’s in the pitch said:
“We were impressed by the pitch from Cell Drinks. They had done their homework and conveyed the market opportunity clearly but as angels who have been on the receiving end of many pitches we spotted opportunities for them to strengthen their presentation by reinforcing the team’s credentials and making more of the feedback they’ve had to date. Luke came across as a high-energy, convincing entrepreneur and I’m delighted that the team was able to draw on our advice for their next pitch.”
The future is looking bright for Cell Drinks. The company’s immediate priority is to close the funding round. With that in place, it will be full steam ahead towards product launch early in 2011.