Spotlight series: Tom Field – Equity crowdfunding & entrepreneurship

Welcome to Spotlight, our brand new series of interviews, articles & conversations with some of the very best people, organisations and businesses working in the digital & startup space. This week we’re chatting to Tom Field, founder of UV sterilisation company DentaDenta and Investment Associate at equity crowdfunding company Seedrs.

Nice photo, Tom

Let’s start with Seedrs – what is equity crowdfunding and what do you do there?

Seedrs is an online platform that is democratising investment by allowing all types of investors to purchase equity in startups and high growth companies that are fundraising through the platform. It’s all done online and allows almost anyone to sign up and invest in some fantastic companies.

If you’re the right type of business, it [crowdfunding] can bring a huge amount of value beyond just the capital investment you raise on the platform

My role at Seedrs is in the investment team, so I work with a pipeline of startups that are coming on to the platform. Helping guide them on route to market, investment strategy and managing a successful crowdfunding campaign – ensuring they meet their crowdfunding objectives.

From all the startups you’ve helped, what would be your top tips for a startup considering crowdfunding?

There are a lot of different ways you can raise finance and crowdfunding is just one of them – so I think my top tip would be that crowdfunding works for some and not all. If you’re the right type of business, it can bring a huge amount of value beyond just the capital investment you raise on the platform due to the network effects. 

I’d also recommend that founding teams look to tap into both their personal and professional networks over the course of the raise. Seedrs is also there to support that journey, for example, we cover off a lot of the legals which can be a great help to lean teams.

In which case, what makes a business a good fit for crowdfunding and what other benefits are there to be had?

There are a lot of factors to consider but one of the key ones we look at is the companies ability to leverage a network effect. At Seedrs we call this the penguin problem – penguins, much like investors, all stand by the ice and don’t jump in, even though they’ve done it a million times before and they know where the fish are. When they see a business that is progressive, has a great business model, a talented team, early traction and some initial investment already lined up, investors are inclined to “jump in”. These businesses become a really enticing proposition for crowdfunding and leveraging the network effect that the crowd brings.

Often we see B2C companies will use their crowdfunding on Seedrs to raise awareness of the product/service and engage with their customers as well.

When looking at crowdfunding it’s also worth considering what brand value can be built through the campaign. Often we see B2C companies will use their crowdfunding on Seedrs to raise awareness of the product/service and engage with their customers as well. This suits businesses that are building large active user bases and looking for ways to invite customers into their long-term growth journey. Just look at Revolut for instance!

What stage companies fundraise on Seedrs?

We have a full range of companies raising on the platform, from pre-revenue right up to businesses with proven models that are now using fundraising to fuel growth and scale up their operations. I think the most frequent we see are those who are early stage, but already have a great team in place already and are building or have built their first product.

You mentioned having a great team in place – from your experience working with lots of startup teams, what makes a great one?

There are lots of ways to rate a great team – but for me it comes down to two things. Firstly, having lots of cross-functional experience – the value in being able to bring expertise across a whole range of areas consistently seems to allow teams to progress faster and more successfully. 

Secondly and most importantly it’s seeing a whole team that is aligned to an entrepreneurial mindset. By that, I mean a team that is working quickly, iteratively and willing to step into the arena (perhaps even before they’re ready too). Sure, they take a few punches but they see the value in learning lessons quickly and adopting their approach as a result.

What are the most exciting startups you’ve seen since you joined Seedrs?

For me the most exciting group of startups at the moment are the ones working in, what I call, SWEET:

  • Sustainability
  • Wellbeing
  • Environmental / Eco-friendly
  • Tech-orientated

All the startups in this group are trying to improve something bigger than just building a company. They’re trying to have a positive impact on their customers, society and the bigger picture. They’re radically innovating the world that we’re living in! To name a few in the space to watch:

  • Mimetis, who design & manufacture naturally inspired biomaterials for bone regeneration in dental and orthopedics are doing incredible things.
  • Stay Nimble, a social enterprise providing a digital career and work performance coaching service.
  • Nova innovation, a world-leading tidal energy company; transforming the power of our seas into clean electricity.

So not only are you working at Seedrs but you also founded a company called DentaDenta – can you tell us about that?

DentaDenta is a UV sterilisation company that is allowing people to bring the power of UV light into people’s lives. Our flagship product allows you to safely store and sterilise dentures, mouthguards, retainers or any oral mouth wear without chemicals or water, just using the power of UV light. UV Light has been used for decades. It’s primarily been used in hospitals to sterilise medical equipment.

Both storing and sterilising your retainer or mouthguard can be a real pain. There is no bespoke solution and more often than not, the feedback we kept seeing was that the mouthpiece would grow mouldy, old and brittle through lack of care. Our UV Steriliser should hopefully solve that problem.

Given the current crisis revolving around Covid19, how has that impacted the business?

Hygiene has rapidly been put to the top of everyone’s agenda, so our product line has never been more relevant. We had record sales in Italy in March and continue to see that trend rise across the rest of Europe.

Have you been able to fulfil the orders?

We’ve have yes, Amazon’s fulfilment operation has been incredible at keeping up with the increasing demand and allowing us to keep building the business throughout the crisis. We also fulfil orders through our own website which has been fortunately well stocked. Our direct channel into dentist practises and wholesalers, as you can imagine, has been compromised though. 

What made you want to be an entrepreneur?

It’s a good question because rationally it just doesn’t make any sense why you’d want to be an entrepreneur. It’s economically and statistically very risky, it’s incredibly stressful and yet here we all are doing it!

I think when it comes down to it, it’s about loving what you do. It’s the idea that you’re coming up with ideas and creating things – it taps into a very innate desire to make things better and improve other peoples lives with the things you make.

I think the risks involved and what makes it hard are also what attracts people. There’s no safety net, and that makes it exciting. Seeing what others have achieved against all those odds is really inspiring as well, it makes you want to try to achieve those things for yourself.

What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced building DentaDenta?

It’s hard a hard question – I can’t think of anything specific, but achieving success and trying to grow the business is the real challenge and you’re trying to do that every day. Whether that’s trying to get the product to market or finding the right supplier – each day you’re trying to overcome different hurdles.

To overcome that, you’ve got to do your planning, take advice, be agile. You’ve got to try and make the small wins every day – if you can make small wins every day for a year you’ll find yourself making massive leaps. I find it important to remember that, and just take it step by step.

What are the tools/people/organisations which have helped you the most as a founder and as a business so far?

  • The University of Bath – they provided some amazing support in the early days and allowed us to use their labs for early testing of the product.
  • My old school helped me with some designs and early prototypes which allowed us to visualise the concept for investors

…I think the main thing to take away from that question though, is to look through your own network and see what expertise and resources you have close to you, especially in the early days! Most people are willing to try and help out new businesses if you ask.

Who would you most like to see featured on this blog next?

Felix Haffa, founder of Invisibobble!

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