ENTREPRENEURIAL types and their brave backers packed the Institute of Directors yesterday for the fifth bi-annual Entrepreneur Country conference, hosted by BBC Dragon, Ariadne Capital chief executive and City A.M. columnist Julie Meyer.<br /><br />Meyer was proud to introduce her new protégé, Warren Cole, to the investors in the room, after he became her third investment to date on her stint as one of the two new online Dragons in the TV den.<br /><br />Cole, an acoustic guitar player, managed to wheedle £25,000 from the bubbly blonde on the show in return for just over half of the profits from the next England World Cup football song he is writing – though he didn’t do the gathered guests the honour of getting out his guitar in any of the coffee breaks, more’s the pity.<br /><br />But back to Meyer herself, and The Capitalist hears rather exciting developments are afoot in her TV career. She’s currently filming for a televised version of the online show along with fellow Dragon Shaf Rasul, to be aired in September – and there are also plans underway to mix up the line-up of online and TV Dragons for shows in the near future. Watch this space.<br /><br /><strong>SCHOOLBOY PRANKS</strong><br />Also speaking at the Entrepreneur Country forum was Mark Blandford, who is best known for founding online betting company Sportingbet, though he now runs a venture capital fund called Valhalla Investments.<br /><br />It’s fair to say Blandford had to cope with a number of setbacks during his time with Sportingbet – not least when the firm’s then chairman Peter Dicks was arrested at New York’s JFK airport in September 2006. (Dicks, you may remember, was set free soon after when a NY state governor refused to extradite him to Louisiana, where the charges of illegal computer gambling were brought.)<br /><br />But it appears Blandford’s famous ability to keep his cool stemmed from an incident back in his school days, when he was very nearly expelled for setting up a sort of betting venture between the pupils.<br /><br />“The school wanted to expel me but luckily, my father had other views,” he laughs. “He managed to convince them that I was just entrepreneurial.”<br /><br />Crisis averted.<br /><br /><strong>SWINE FLU STRIKES</strong><br />Speaking of crises, that blasted swine flu has struck the City again – this time at the heart of accountancy firm Ernst & Young, where a senior chap is seriously ill with a confirmed case of the disease.<br /><br />“We can confirm that one individual from our More London Place office has been diagnosed as having swine flu,” say the EY spinners. “The individual is now being treated at home. We have long-established policies and procedures in place to deal with these incidents and safeguard our people and clients.”<br /><br />Naturally, the incident has caused a bit of a melee in the office, where the victim’s team and clients are scurrying around anxiously as they await their own test results. Looks like the threat is still well and truly alive.<br /><br /><strong>TWO’S COMPANY</strong><br />As if cycling 300km from London to Paris wasn’t enough effort, Nick Bone and John Sarsfield from Penrose Financial have decided they’re going to attack the challenge this weekend on an old-fashioned tandem bike.<br /><br />The pair are joining colleague Louise Whitlock and a trio from Wildnet – Piers Winton, Richard Curtis and Rachele Mauro – on the ride, which is in aid of deaf and blind charity Sense. Let’s just hope the pair don’t come to blows somewhere between Bexley Heath and the Champs Elysées…<br /><br /><strong>CELEBRITY BACKER</strong><br />Word reaches The Capitalist that Big Issue co-founder John Bird is up to his old tricks again. Bird, who is currently starring in a BBC programme “Famous, Rich and Homeless”, is in the process of preparing to launch the magazine in Lahore, Pakistan. India and Bangladesh are also in the pipeline, I hear, but it’s the backing of one high-profile supporter that is getting things off the ground in Pakistan rather quicker than expected.<br /><br />“James Caan is interested in helping out in Lahore,” Bird tells me. “It’s really important to have someone on board with connections to the country, so his experience will be invaluable.”<br /><br />The Big Issue in Pakistan will be based on the UK model, though it’ll be launched first as an e-magazine and then, early next year, in hard copy.<br /><br /><strong>FOOD, GLORIOUS FOOD</strong><br />Mention the words “City eat-off” and bankers and brokers all over the Square Mile start salivating like there’s no tomorrow.<br /><br />A good job, then, that just such a challenge has been organised for Friday 3 July, courtesy of Winterfloods trader Charles Borman, otherwise known as “Gigantor” for his phenomenal ability to stuff huge quantities of food down his gullet.<br /><br />So far, the brave contestants include David Mitchell, also of Winterfloods, Eden Group’s Andy Gardner, Brewin Dolphin’s Lee French and Ross Johnston from Otkritie. Their challenge? To successfully conquer the famous £10 “big breakfast” down at Mario’s Café on Warren Street, which includes a trayful (yes, really) of ten eggs, ten sausages, ten slices of bacon, ten slices of toast, five black puddings, tomatoes, beans and mushrooms – and all with not a drop of liquid to wash it down.<br /><br />Yet bizarrely, for all the free publicity, I hear the restaurant itself has started having reservations. “We’ve had the café on the phone and they aren’t sure they want to go ahead with it,” a bemused insider tells me. “They don’t want hundreds of raucous City workers packing in.”<br /><br />Hmmm. Hundreds of extra thirsty customers and a rush of free publicity. What on earth’s not to like?