Have a business idea but struggling to secure funding? Angel investor Serge Bueno is offering entrepreneurs a lifeline with his Dragon’s Den-style online community.
Bright idea: Serge Bueno’s Trib-e project offers investment to entrepreneurs with top business concepts
Serial Entrepreneur Serge Bueno is passionate about start ups. He has after all helped set up around 80. So passionate is Mr Bueno, 51, that he has delayed retirement to launch a million-pound online Dragons' Den-style initiative as a way for like-minded entrepreneurs to find each other - and investment.
Disillusioned with the capitalist system, he hopes the Trib-e will enable people to share their ideas and creations and turn them into a commercial reality. By registering their details at thetrib-e.com, entrepreneurs can pitch their idea and hope investors will approve and invest in it. Funded products are sold in the Trib-e shop in London's Covent Garden.
Franco-Israeli Mr Bueno, who relaunched the SodaStream drinks maker in mainland Europe, says: "The idea for the Trib-e is very simple. I think our world is simply dying as capitalism is coming to an end. I think we are trapped.
"Since December, the answer to the financial crisis from politicians has been to exert control. Slowly but surely, they are killing the entrepreneurs. We should put humans at the centre of the system. When you are in an economy where people make money with money and not with their brains, something is wrong."
The other problem, he says, is that while small businesses provide the nation's jobs, we are not doing enough to help them. "In the UK, 45 per cent of the jobs are created by small companies and this percentage is greater in the rest of the world. They are the blood of the economy - the lifeline. They are the ones that are innovating. We have to allow small companies to set up and create jobs. There is no other answer."
Small companies are the lifeline of the economy
The Trib-e, which launched last month has more than 800 members. Mr Bueno hopes to have 50,000 by the end of the year. He is investing £1.2m into the project.
How exactly does it work? Members pay £60 to upload their details to the website. The Trib-e experts will then define the "break even point" - the amount of money needed to make the project a guaranteed success. Members of the community vote "Yes" if they like the project, committing to buy it if it goes ahead. If enough 'Yes votes' are counted to reach the break even point, the project will go ahead, otherwise, "Tribers" who have signed up to the project will be paid back.
"We are like a training platform for those looking to enter the premier league of retail, alongside the likes of M&S and Waitrose," says Mr Bueno, who holds an Israeli passport.
It was last year that the Trib-e concept was born. "I decided that I wanted to retire and write a book about how complicated it is for companies today. It should be simple: one guy wants to sell and one wants to buy. But my wife told me that I needed 'action' and that it was much better to bring it to the world, rather than write it as a book."
He is now considering launching a television shopping channel where "Tribers" can pitch their ideas to viewers, who may wish to invest.
Exciting Trib-e concepts to date include a herbal cosmetics brand and a gas-powered wireless toaster. "They are the things that you don't think of."
The Trib-e is proving particularly popular with 30 to 40 year-old women, "especially those with children who want to set up a business from home." The other main target, says Mr Bueno, are young entrepreneurs - university students in their early 20s.
Successful innovations are stocked in the Trib-e shop as Mr Bueno is wary about the future of e-commerce.
"I don't think there is a huge future for e-commerce. Too many people are the victims of credit card fraud and people are now scared to use their cards on the internet.
"More and more people go online, fill up their basket but get scared when it comes to paying in case their card gets hacked into. Also, people are not finding good deals on the web.
"They are coming back to shopping on the streets. People love to see and touch the real thing. "
French-born, Mr Bueno has been an entrepreneur since he was 24. "As a kid, I was always creating things, and aged 12 decided that I wanted to be in advertising."
He started his career working for top communications firm Young & Rubicam (Y&R) before setting up his own company Pentagone Sales promotion agency in 1984. This was sold in to Teleperformance in 1989.
He then founded ABCP, an agency specialising in launching new brands. Clients included United Biscuits and Unilever. In 1994, ABCP became the Techmark Group which developed the trade marketing system for Carrefour. Techmark was sold in 1999 and Mr Bueno has since acted as a business angel involved in around 80 start-ups.
He is well-known for his involvement in drinks maker SodaStream, which he launched in Europe in 2005 after it had merged with Soda-Club.
Serge Bueno's top start-up tips
● Define your product/service and its positioning, and your USP (unique selling point)
● The main thing is the product
● Make sure there is a market for your idea and that you know where the market is, here or abroad
● Do a small test to make sure your idea is as good as you think it is
● Do not think that being an entrepreneur means total freedom and being your own boss. You will have many bosses
● Do not assume that being an entrepreneur means you will make more money
● Never give a personal guarantee