- Ultimo lingerie founder Michelle Mone and businessman partner Doug Barrowman are launching new investment platform Equi.
- The project will be funded by selling a new cryptocurrency: Equi Tokens. The pair hopes to raise a total of $75 million.
- Equi Tokens can then be used to invest in projects that Mone, Barrowman, and their team will scout for the platform.
LONDON — Entrepreneur Michelle Mone and her billionaire partner Doug Barrowman are raising money to launch a new cryptocurrency-powered investment platform.
Baroness Mone, the founder of lingerie brand Ultimo, and private equity veteran Barrowman hope to raise $75 million through a so-called “initial coin offering” (ICO) — selling newly minted cryptocurrencies online.
The pair plans to sell “Equi Tokens,” which are crypto tokens built to the same specifications as ethereum. Funds raised through the sale will be used to develop the Equi platform, an investment website that the pair hope will open up venture capital investment to ordinary people.
Barrowman told Business Insider: “Essentially what an Equi Token allows people to do is access our platform, have a look at the investment propositions that we are showcasing and form a view, and they can use the Equi Tokens to effectively invest in the projects in a project-by-project basis.”
While this idea mimics crowdfunding closely, Barrowman said Equi will allow investors greater versatility as people will be able to hold the tokens and trade them on exchanges as well as just investing.
“If you invest in a project, we give 70% of all gains realised back to our investors in the token. The ones that just hold [the token] on the platform, we give them 5% of the profit. And then there’ll be some people that chose not to make investments but just like any other ICO, they chose to speculate on the currencies rise or fall — we hope rise.”
Barrowman is the founder and CEO of private equity company Aston Ventures. He is also the founder and chairman of the Knox Group, which offers financial planning advice. He has been described as a billionaire in the press, although estimates of his net worth are hard to come by.
Barrowman said deal flow for the Equi platform would not be a problem given his investment experience. Equi will focus on tech companies, biotech companies, and cryptocurrency companies.
Mone will advise companies raising money
Michelle Mone, who is cofounder of Equi, will offer help and advice to businesses that raise money on the Equi platform.
“When Doug told me about Equi last year, I was so excited to be coming and helping the team to help the entrepreneurs,” Mone told BI. “I think that’s never really been done before with a whole board of seriously successful business people.”
Mone founded Ultimo in 1996 and sold 80% of the business for an undisclosed sum in 2014. The Glasgow-born entrepreneur received an OBE for services to business in 2010 and was made a life peer in 2015.
Mark Pearson, the founder of MyVoucherCodes.com, is a member of the Equi board and will provide advise to entrepreneurs who use it. The founder of Casino Coin, another cryptocurrency project Barrowman is involved with, will also advise entrepreneurs, as will the editor of PokerNews.com.
Mone said: “I think that we are not only helping them with funding, they’ll become probably friends of ours and the team as well because we’re working so closely together and I think that’s so special, to give that back. I mean where have you heard of that? Maybe Dragon’s Den but that’s a TV show.
“Every VC that I see, I don’t think they’ve got a whole board of entrepreneurs on it. They tend to be bankers and accountants.”
ICOs are hot — but there’s growing scepticism
Over $5.6 billion was raised through ICOs last year and over 1,400 cryptocurrencies are now in circulation. But the market is facing increasing skepticism from many, due to the proliferation of scams in the market, wild price swings, and the fact that most projects have yet to launch.
Barrowman said: “What’s interesting about Equi is that the value of the currency will actually be underpinned by the investments we make on the platform.
“People can access our platform, see what we’re investing in, what projects we’re looking to invest in, and therefore there’s actually a correlation between the value of the token and the projects underlying it.”
Barrowman and Mone insisted that they are not simply jumping on the bandwagon. Barrowman said: “I’ve been doing this for 30 years. We didn’t wake up one day in our bedroom and say, let’s put together an ICO white paper. We’ve been working on this since the summer.
“We approached it with vision, with a concept. We’ve taken our time. We could have brought this out a lot sooner.”
Barrowman has “very significant” personal cryptocurrency holdings and the pair have already launched a bitcoin property project in Dubai, demonstrating a commitment to the space.
We’ve got incredible reputations. There’s no way we’re going to do anything untoward to let these people down. We will try our utmost. — Michelle Mone
Mone said: “This whole cryptocurrency world is based on trust. People know who Doug is. They know who I am. They know who a lot of the people on the board are. I think that’s quite powerful.
“It’s very powerful. Because a lot of them [ICOs] are all smoke and mirrors. We’ve got incredible reputations. There’s no way we’re going to do anything untowards to let these people down. We will try our utmost.”
Equi will be headquartered and domiciled in the UK. The ICO space is as yet unregulated in the UK but the company is following the structure of crowdfunding, as per legal advice.
Equi will launch a “pre-sale” for investors willing to put in a minimum of $100,000 on March 1. A public sale, with a minimum investment ticket of $100, will start on March 8.
“If we raised anywhere between $25 million to $50 million we’d be absolutely delighted,” Barrowman said. “In addition to developing the platform some more, it then gives us some scope to really put the tokens back into the investments and it kick starts the whole process — they can see that we’ve invested into the very investments that we’re promoting.
“If the ICO is not to be as successful as we hope, the important thing is to get it up and running because the thing will gain momentum as people get to read about what we’re promoting. And of course, the token will be traded on exchanges as well. It will be accessible.”
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