1 June 2018 Courier Weekly

Seed and Spark’s warts-and-all fundraising story

PLUS: Man-made materials – Pret – Insurtech – Doing laundry

What is it actually like to raise huge sums of cash?

Pretty damn tough, if this (funny and honest) account is anything to go by. This week Emily Best, founder of streaming service Seed and Spark, shared her fundraising story, warts and all. She’s recently closed a £1.5m round of investment – which she started raising way back in 2015 (before going through the Techstars accelerator, having a baby, letting some of her staff go and meeting with more than 40 VCs).

Increasingly, founders are turning to Medium to share what’s really going on in their heads – and receiving a welcome response from others. We recommend these frank accounts of illness, failure, mental health and acknowledgement of privilege.

Living in a synthetic world.

This week diamond giant De Beers announced it will start selling lab-grown diamonds. The announcement follows news that Lark and Berry, a brand new company that exclusively sells man-made diamonds (pictured above), will be opening its first showroom in Marylebone, London, in July.

There has been plenty of debate on whether or not man-made diamonds are as good as the real thing, but the trend to find ways to ‘fake’ natural minerals and materials shows no sign of stopping.

Bolt Fabrics has recently launched a synthetic leather made from mushroom spores, while Ryan Chetiyawardana, the mastermind behind London cocktail bar White Lyan, has made some very convincing-tasting wines by blending various alcohols and ingredients together. In the upcoming issue of Courier – which was sent to printers this week – we’ll be looking at Impossible Foods, which makes meat-free meat from heme, a compound extracted from soy plants which tastes like iron.

Pret sells for £1.5bn.

Sandwich giant Pret A Manger entered the UK business hall of fame this week, announcing a £1.5bn sale to investment group and Krispy Kreme owner JAB Holdings. All 12,000 staff at Pret, from head office to shop floor, will receive a £1,000 bonus.

This sale is the latest in a spate of lunch and coffee businesses being snapped up, some previously small or emerging, by investment companies. JAB appears to be going head-to-head with Nestle in this space, which last year took a majority stake in Californian cafe chain Blue Bottle. Nestle has also acquired eight-year-old cold brew coffee company Chameleon, which is based in Texas.

Pay-as-you-fly.

Drone insurance company Flock announced a £2.25m funding injection this week, which it will use to expand its platform internationally. The London-based company, which provides by-the-hour insurance for drone pilots, currently only covers users in the UK.

In the same week, ride-sharing company Blablacar announced a deal with insurance provider Axa. It’s Blablacar’s latest move in rebranding itself as a marketplace for drivers – last April it started allowing users to lease Vauxhall Corsas on the platform.

In 2017, more than £1.5bn was invested in insurtech companies.

Doing laundry in Williamsburg.

New York business Celsious has a new take on the traditional laundromat – providing a slick coffee bar alongside its energy efficient Electrolux washing machines. This weekend it’s offering free washing and drying services to anyone who visits the venue.

It’s not the only laundry room trying to find a point of difference. Cafe La Laverie in France serves up cocktails while you wash your clothes, while Wash & Coffee has wifi and snacks in addition to caffeine at its locations in Amsterdam and Munich. Unfortunately shuttered in 2017, Brainwash, a laundromat in San Francisco, also hosted live comedy.