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Meet the team – Damon Bonser, BDF co-founder

Date: Oct 11 2019
Meet the team – Damon Bonser, BDF co-founder

Damon Bonser is co-founder and CEO of British Design Fund (BDF), a company he launched in 2017 with the aim of supporting innovative and ambitious early stage product businesses.

Here, Damon reveals all about why he’s so passionate about British product design and entrepreneurship, and the exciting businesses BDF supports.

Have you always been an investor?

I’m an entrepreneur at heart! Before moving across to the investment and mentoring side, I had a couple of product businesses which sourced, designed and sold homewares, gifting and fashion accessories.  The first business was a huge learning curve, I had no experience in dealing with factories, negotiating with suppliers, or selling into retail.  Upon exiting my last manufacturing business I decided I wanted to use my experience and passion for British start-ups, to help other entrepreneurs in the UK successfully fund and launch their products.

Why did you decide to set up British Design Fund?

BDF was launched from a simple belief – that for our country to survive and thrive, technology alone is not the answer. We need to be supporting the entrepreneurs behind well designed British product businesses. Enabling the brands of tomorrow.

There are currently very few funding mechanisms that are specifically dedicated to early stage product businesses, so we decided to do something about it.  We built an amazing team who all shared an unswerving belief in not only British design ingenuity, but the power that design has to impact a business’ success.

As well as providing funding, BDF offers early stage product businesses expert mentoring, to ensure they grow and reach their full potential. This support covers everything from sales and marketing, to international distribution, IP, legal, licensing and contracts, financial planning, stock control, design management and manufacturing.

What is your role at BDF?

As CEO, I have overall visibility of the Fund. I will oversee the fund raising, as well as finding ambitious product businesses that have true potential – both as marketable products and an investment opportunity.

We have a stringent selection process and only work with extraordinary entrepreneurs who have scalable products, which solve real problems, and who are ready to be accelerated. These products need to be on track to building long term value, as thriving, stand-out businesses.

What type of businesses has the Fund invested in?

While the business is based in London, we work with start-ups across the UK and have invested in some fantastic businesses to date, from across a range of different market sectors. For example:

Calla Shoes is an exclusive range of heeled and flat shoes that have been specially designed with the support of podiatrists for those who suffer with bunions.

Kokoon offers the world’s first intelligent headphone and app that adapts to your sleep patterns by measuring brain activity through EEG sensors, to help users relax and switch off.

Eiger standing desks encourage users to stand up and move more during the course of the day. This can have many health benefits and is generating a lot of interest from schools.

What makes an investable product?

In a nutshell, we’re looking for quality ideas that are well thought through and have potential to scale.

Our top priority is ensuring the founders behind the start-ups the Fund supports have developed products that will last the test of time. So, products that fulfil a clear long term need, as opposed to simply jumping on short term trends.

The idea also needs to be adequately protected and to meet other core criteria, in order to make it through our selection process.

What criteria do product businesses need to meet?

  1. Protection – Firstly, and vitally, is the strength of the IP in the product. How defensible is it, where is it protected and what competitive products exist?
  2. Strength of market – How well do the teams understand the competitive landscape for their product? Have they done their homework and do they understand what it is that makes their product different?
  3. Solution – Another key question is what is the problem that the product solves and how important is it?
  4. Need – Is there a demand for the product? Have any orders already been secured. Have any commitments been made from retailers or wholesalers, etc? If the product hasn’t already launched, we will be looking at a window to launch being within the next twelve months.
  5. Chemistry – We also look for winning chemistry within the founding team. We will be working closely with them, so it’s important that we believe in them and feel confident they have the ambition needed to move forward.

What type of investors does the Fund work with?

What we are finding is that investors like the unique opportunity we are offering, which gives them access to unique, early stage product companies who have strong potential. The investment raised for the first British Design Fund came from more than 140 individual investors, many of whom were looking to diversify their portfolio.

What does the future hold?

We will continue to fly the flag for British product businesses!

We’ll be seeking out investors and product businesses who wish to be considered for future Funds. And of course, we keep supporting the amazing businesses we have supported to date, to mentor them and see the progress they are making.

I personally get a real buzz from seeing someone’s idea turned into a profitable and successful business. In this country we have some fantastic, innovative and determined entrepreneurs who are really going for it and making a difference. That ambition is infectious and I’m very privileged to be playing a part in their journey.

Want to find out more?

Entrepreneurs – If you have a well-designed product that fulfils a distinct need, or solves an important problem, then BDF wants to hear from. Applications for funding through the British Design Fund can be submitted here, or for more information email enquiries@britishdesignfund.co.uk.

Investors – If you are interested in learning more about how you can invest in future British Design Funds, then please visit https://growthinvest.com/investment-opportunities/fund/british-design-fund-2/