Posted: Wed 2nd May 2012
Just occasionally in life, you come up with a grand idea. You may not recognise that it's a grand idea at the time, but other people do. Fund101 was our grand idea - and close to 2,000 small enterprises and tens of thousands of their supporters thought so, too.
It's over - for now - quite simply because we've run out of money to give away. We wish we had more, because what Fund101 has shown us is that there's a huge appetite for bite-sized chunks of funding among the UK's start-ups and homegrown businesses. It's a gap that's not currently being filled - not very well, anyway. We're putting pressure on plenty of people to fill it.
Overall, 1,900 businesses made a successful application to be included in Fund101
More than one in three of these were craft businesses - confirming our observation that there's a handmade craft revival going on across the UK. We're big fans. 17 per cent were cake businesses. We kind of expected this, because we know there's a cake revolution going on! We like cake, too, by the way. Around 6 per cent were tech or web businesses. EN's resident geek San Sharma reckons you can't have too much tech.
We gave Â£35,000 to 120 businesses
There were 120 successful applicants, ranging from jewellery makers to software developers. We're really pleased to say we've funded a genuinely wide range of businesses over the last six months. It's an incredible privilege to support someone's dream and we wish all of them the very best with realising their ambitions. We'll be publishing a full list of Fund101 recipients in due course. We'd like to give a special thanks to Intuit and PayPal for having the guts and the foresight to support our crazy plan by stumping up the cash. Good move, guys.
One in three applicants were seeking support with web development
If you're not on the web , you're invisible these days, and we wrote only recently about how important ecommerce is. We're not surprised that so many businesses want support with this. We've got a wide range of ecommerce content on the site and we'll be adding to it constantly. We'll also be taking everything we've learned about what small businesses want and twisting arms, calling in favours and using all our powers of persuasion to get larger businesses and policymakers to listen and act. How many camera companies, for example, are targeting their products directly at small businesses selling online and making special offers to businesses? Yet, there's a potentially huge market there. We'll be talking to them"¦ and to print suppliers, web support providers, and so on and so on.
We're stunned by what we've started
At the outset we were worried that we wouldn't have enough applicants to give away all the money we had available. Ahem! We've been swamped - and it's shown. Every time we hit our monthly target and closed the Fund, we took a breather and thought about what we needed to do to meet demand. We changed our systems, provided more information and more communications, ramped up our servers. Then we'd open up again and - it all went up yet another notch! When we re-opened the Fund yesterday, for example, we had 5,000 visitors in the first hour. Wha"¦?!! There were 25,000 through the day, as well as hundreds of social media messages and emails. Wow. That's incredible. You really surprised us there. We really, really did not expect that. We think this is the first time anyone has done something like this, so we had no precedent to look at and learn from (if you're planning to do something like this yourself, speak to us!). Like you, we're a small organisation and we had to learn as we went along. We know we've not always done it brilliantly, but we have always done our best and we've been driven by the best of intentions - to support the UK's dynamic and growing start-up and micro-business scene. We love you guys!
Well we know just how important funding is to small firms and we've now got a pretty good idea who you are and what you want to spend your money on. This is really valuable information that we can take to potential funders, suppliers and policymakers and say:
"Look, this is what micro-businesses really want. What are you going to do about it?"
That's a powerful thing. We're also going to be posting more about what we've learned and what Fund101 has told us. And we'd love to feature some of our Fund101 success stories, too. Please keep in touch with us via the forum and let us know what you've spent your money on and how your business is going. If you're new to Enterprise Nation, keep reading! We post loads of useful info and advice, carry lots of offers from big suppliers and put on events just for you. We're all about start-ups, homegrown businesses, micro-firms and growing enterprises. Whatever your product or service, wherever you operate from, whatever your ambitions for your business, we're here for you. And we'd love to help you get the funds and knowledge you need to make a success of your venture. Thank you for supporting Fund101. It's been a hell of a ride"¦ The Enterprise Nation team Photo credit: Eyeontheweb