A new pot of £2 million in seed finance has been released this January to fund over 300 new start up businesses in the West Midlands over the next twelve months. The cash, available through Startup Direct, a partner of the Government’s Start Up Loans scheme which launched in Birmingham last year, will help make the dreams of the region’s budding entrepreneurs a reality in 2015.
Based at the Innovation Birmingham Campus, the hub of the West Midland’s tech and start up community, Startup Direct has seen strong interest from technology start ups in particular and anticipates that this sector will account for around 30% of new businesses funded this year.
“Regional cities such as Birmingham have a major role to play in helping the UK compete in the global tech revolution”, said James Pattison, CEO of Startup Direct. “They offer cheaper office space, a good supply of local graduates and already enjoy a thriving start up scene with strong networks and support systems. This £2million to be lent over the coming year is going to have a significant impact on the West Midlands start up scene, particularly in Birmingham’s tech hub, which is brimming with talent and ideas.”
One such business that recently benefitted from a £7,500 Startup Direct loan is technology start up Petalite, which produces the world’s fastest charging external battery for smartphones. Taking just 15 minutes to fully charge, the Petalite Flux is an aesthetically designed 9cm battery which can hold an entire day’s worth of power for an iPhone 5, allowing users to recharge on the run.
Petalite founder, Leigh Purnell (27), graduated from Birmingham’s Aston University with a degree in Technology and Enterprise Management and worked in industry for 18 months before coming up with the idea for the Petalite Flux, which is unique in using fast charge technology to reduce charge time from 4 hours to just 15 minutes.
Leigh said, “My loan from Startup Direct funded product development, copywriting, materials and enabled me to rent office space. Since then I have recruited 4 electronics engineers and have raised over $45,000 through crowdfunding platform Indiegogo. Talks with retailers and mobile phone companies are progressing well and we’re on target to deliver our first advance orders in June this year. In the meantime we’re busy seeking investors for our next stage of growth.”
In anticipation of funding over 300 new West Midlands businesses this year, Startup Direct is also growing its family of mentors, who provide vital support to every entrepreneur during their first year. They are required to give a minimum of just fifteen hours of their time over the course of one year, offering general guidance and support as well as acting as a sounding board. Mentors receive formal mentor training and the opportunity to hone their skills, expand their own networks and gain valuable experience which can often lead to Non Executive Director roles.
To apply for a start up loan of up to £25,000 or find out more about becoming a mentor, visit www.startupdirect.org