Peterborough pioneers primed to raise business finance

Two local entrepreneurs behind Peterborough’s ground-breaking social network, Plugin2Peterborough, plan to roll-out their innovation across the UK having secured the backing of two angel investors with the help of a free business support programme.

Stuart Whaley and Simon Osborne of Nichetalk, based at Thorpe Wood, were primed by EEDA’s Understanding Finance for Business programme throughout their successful mission to secure £120,000 of investment.

With their investment now in place, the Peterborough pair – who piloted Plugin2Peterborough in September 2010 – plan to launch similar networks across the UK, helping local people and businesses tap-in to the ever-growing potential of social networks. With high demand from across the country, Nichetalk plan to launch a new network every week, starting with Norwich and Cambridge in early July.

“Plugin2Peterborough is a traditional local marketplace, re-created in the virtual world,” explains Simon Osborne of Nichetalk. “The likes of Facebook, Twitter and Ebay have all revolutionized the way people interact in the 21st Century. Companies across the globe are finding new ways to do business and engage their customers. However, all too often, local businesses lacking multi-million pound marketing budgets or consultant Twitter ‘gurus’, get lost in cyberspace.

“Plugin2Peterborough harnesses the power of social networking, making it more relevant and accessible to local communities. By integrating all the best functions of social networking – forums, photo and video sharing, online trading and instant messaging – we provide local people and businesses with a digital platform from which to connect like never before.”

Like many businesses, having self-funded two years of development work, Stuart and Simon needed significant investment to take their product to market. Referred by UKCEED, they enrolled on the Understanding Finance for Business programme in October 2010. Delivered by St John’s Innovation Centre on behalf of EEDA, Understanding Finance for Business sees a dynamic team of entrepreneurs, experienced investors and former bankers helping local businesses secure the funding they need to start and grow.

Stuart Whaley said:

“Having developed a concept with clear market potential, Understanding Finance for Business came at just the right time for us. Cutting through the minefield of jargon, red tape and small print associated with business finance, the team helped us to identify which funding options best suited our business’ needs. As a pre-revenue business, angel investment gave us the opportunity to bring a combination of funding, experience and connections into the company via hands-on investors who understand our sector.”

Throughout the programme, Nichetalk worked alongside a dedicated mentor, Martin Rigby – founder and managing director of ET Capital, and a venture capital investor for over 20 years, specializing in innovative technology businesses.

“Martin’s wealth of investment experience and his expertise in our own sector have been invaluable – he really spoke our language,” explains Stuart Whaley. “The thought of pitching to investors was nerve-wracking, but Martin and the team at St John’s gave us the confidence to sell our business proposition.

“As part of the programme, we had the opportunity to hone our pitching skills in front of a panel of experienced, but ‘friendly’ investors. Feedback from them enabled us to strengthen our pitch, which ultimately helped us to secure two local angel investors. We also have a host of prospective investors lining-up for a second round of funding, all of whom we met through the Understanding Finance for Business programme.”

Martin Rigby said:

“Simon and Stuart were a pleasure to work with – they immediately understood the need to communicate their business ideas in a way which is easily absorbed and analyzed by investors – who are invariably time-pressured.  To my mind this is the central benefit of the Understanding Finance for Business process: helping talented entrepreneurs hone their proposition so that potential investors can assess the strengths, as well as the things that need development, quickly and accurately.”

“We look forward to helping many more entrepreneurs over the coming months to secure finance and unlock their potential.”