Dragons' Den star James Caan: All it takes is a few grand to build a unicorn

Dragons' Den star James Caan this week urged people to go out and start a business, adding that it's possible to create billion pound companies with as little as £3,000.

"In my opinion you can start a business with between £3,000 - £5,000," he told Techworld in London. "When I started my business I had £9,000. [Alan] Sugar had a couple of grand, [Richard] Branson had a couple of grand. When you look at it the numbers are not huge.

"If you look at your business and it's service sector based like recruitment you don't need premises and stock. In a lot of cases, the money you need generally is what you need to live off."

Caan, the founder of Hamilton Bradshaw private equity firm in Mayfair but best known for his investor role on the BBC TV-series, added that the UK is on the brink of creating a widespread entrepreneurial culture, possibly similar to the one seen in the US.

Speaking over dinner with Techworld and other media, he said he witnessed a rise in UK entrepreneurship while at the helm of the government-backed Startup Loans organisation, which gives people up to £25,000 to start a company.

"I think we are on the verge of creating entrepreneurial culture where innovation and creativity is becoming more of the norm," he said.

But Caan, who has also funded a new property tech accelerator in East London called Pi Labs, warned entrepreneurs not to get ahead of themselves when first getting into business.

"They should be focusing on making sure they get through the next six months," he said. "The reason why the majority of startups fail is because they run out of cash."

He also said people need to focus on the running a business just as much as developing an idea.

"Unfortunately what happens is because you're the entrepreneur, you're so passionate about your idea," he said. "Your entire focus is about the idea and not how to convert it into a business."


Sam Shead

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