He's 33. Raised £25m for 23 companies. Won investment on Dragons' Den. Meet Lex Deak

The serial London entrepreneur you’ve never heard of

Three reasons you should be watching Lex Deak

1. He’s the co-founder of QVentures - a private investment company who have raised over £25m for 23 companies since 2013 and have 60 satellite offices around the world.

2. He won a £20,000 investment from Julie Meyer for Family Fridge, a website aimed at making life easier for busy families. The company went on to grow to over 20,000 users and was listed as one of the hottest start-ups in 2010.

3. He co-founded Tinder-style crowdfunding start-up mobile app OFF3R that’s already had over 500,000 interactions across 47 countries.

 

VITAL STATISTICS

· Company:  OFF3R

· What it does, in a sentence:  Aggregates crowdfunding platforms via a Tinder-style mobile app

· Founder/s:  Lex Deak

· Size of team: 5

· Your name and role: Lex Deak - CEO

 

What problem are you trying to solve?

Investors face an overwhelming volume of choice when looking for alternative investments, there are hundreds of online platforms in what is quickly becoming a fragmented market. OFF3R was built to create a single channel for the discovery and tracking of exciting investment opportunities across multiple sources.

How big is the market – and how much of it do you think you can own?

Global crowdfunding volume in 2015 was circa $34bn, this figure is expected to double for 2016. It’s a large market that is growing at a staggering rate. In terms of what we think we can own of the market it’s not a calculation we’ve done however I can see OFF3R being a £100m+ company over the next few years. 

How do you make money?

Our model offers a number of revenue streams, the key channels are referral fees, data sale and broking services. Although we are post revenue our short term focus is on user acquisition, distribution and improving our product offering.

Who’s on your team that makes you think you can do this? 

Our team comprises a founder that has already built an online investment platform for super angels that has raised over £25m, we’ve also partnered with one of the world’s largest networks of high-net-worth-individuals with offices in over 60 countries. Our COO is ex-Deloitte and led a number of complex multi-million pound technical projects. Elsewhere in the team we have academics specialising in the crowd economy, a dual PhD data scientist and an Advisor who was ex-CEO of T. Rowe Price Global Investment Services.

Who’s bankrolling you?

We’ve raised funding via QVentures, the premier super angel investment club. we have some well know entrepreneur investors, a family office and senior finance professionals that we look forward to announcing soon following the close of our current round.

What advice would you give other entrepreneurs trying to secure that kind of finance?

Our route to funding involved the leveraging of a network and relationships that had been built over a period of years. The late seed/early A gap is a difficult space to fundraise in, your options may be limited to smaller funds and more liquid angels (which are not that numerous). Generally I would suggest a multi-pronged approach, speaking to as many people as you can in as short a time as possible. You need to move quickly as otherwise your deal will be viewed as stale or shopped. There are a small number of quality networks that can connect entrepreneurs to serious, sophisticated investors, an approach to these networks should be via personal recommendation.

What do you believe the key to growing this business is? 

The key to our success will be in the partners we work with and the distribution strategy we implement. Being based in London gives us an ecosystem advantage as we’re in the centre of the world for crowdfunding and much of alternative finance. This provides the best launchpad possible for global expansion. Education of the market is also a key component, for investors looking to make alternative investments it is important that there is transparency and trust. This will take time and represents something of a cultural shift in how people invest and assess risk.

What metrics do you look at every day?

Downloads, engagement and the number of investors we are driving to our partner platforms. We are obsessed with data and metrics, as with many start-ups we’re checking metrics every 10 minutes.

What’s been the most unexpectedly valuable lesson you’ve learnt so far? 

It’s been wonderful to see how much interest and engagement we’ve had from the entrepreneurs behind the campaigns. They understand we’re here to increase their exposure and so we get a lot of support from them which is a such a stimulating and worthwhile channel of engagement.

What’s been your biggest mistake so far? 

When we launched we were called ‘tendr’ I was not aware that there was a web business in the US that owned the trademark for the name in the US. The response we had was overwhelming, particularly so from the US where we had not gone live initially…as a warning shot this other company sent a cease and desist letter. The only options we had if we wanted to operate in the US was to change our name, so 2 months after launching we had to change our name and rebrand. It was not something factored in but these curveballs are what makes the day to day so exciting.

What do you think is on the horizon for your industry in the year ahead? 

2016 is going to be the year that crowdfunding goes mainstream. We’re all so close to it there’s a feeling that it already has but the truth is we are just one minute past midnight, the average retail investor is still quite disconnected from the industry and that’s such a huge opportunity. I would expect to see some mild consolidation with some of the less well executed platforms falling by the way side, I’d expect to see a proliferation of niche platforms focussing on particular sectors, stages, causes or localities. I expect OFF3R to play a significant role in helping to shape the industry next year.

Which London start-up/s are you watching, and why?

There are a number of very exciting start-ups working on Blockchain, AI and AR/VR which I have on my watch list. There will be huge value created in these sectors. 

 

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