Business pitches in 140 letters

Kathleen Brooks
EVERY budding entrepreneur dreams of meeting a Richard Branson or Alan Sugar, but for most people it never moves beyond the realm of fantasy. Not any more. Simon Dolan, an entrepreneur who made his fortune establishing accountancy firms including SJD Accounting, is investing £5m of his own money in entrepreneurs.

But, Dolan’s investing style has a twist. If you have a business idea then you have to “tweet” it to Dolan, via Twitter. He came up with the idea after initially being sceptical about the micro-blogging site. “Everyone kept talking to me about Twitter and I couldn’t understand how it was useful. It was at that point that I came up with this idea for it,” says Dolan.

For those of you thinking this is a gimmick, Dolan is resolute that it is not. “I don’t invest in anything for fun,” he says. In fact, Dolan says, if an entrepreneur can distil their idea down to 140 characters then they probably know their core business extremely well, which can make them more effective.

Of course, Dolan doesn’t make his investment decision based on Twitter alone. That is the first form of contact, after the tweet, he asks them to write a more detailed email. He can usually decide whether he wants to make the investment in a couple of weeks, which is a much quicker turn-around than venture capital funding that can take months. However, Dolan says that his unconventional technique is more in the spirit of entrepreneurialism: “A good entrepreneur doesn’t like waiting around, they have an idea and want to see it in action as quickly as possible, I can do this.”

It’s a long shot to think that Dolan’s idea will change the future of venture capital investing, but it’s an interesting platform. Not only is it less time consuming, but also, by using Twitter, Dolan says he is “democratizing” the investment process and giving access to capital to the masses..

Dolan receives about two tweets a day, and he has noticed that about 20 per cent of people are reluctant to send him an email after he has initially said he likes their idea. To reluctant entrepreneurs out there: send the email. Dolan has money to spend and he could help you.