Jenny Campbell reflects on negotiating the best deal in the history of Dragons’ Den!
Look After My Bills recently passed 130,000 members so I thought I’d take this opportunity to reflect on why I invested in the entrepreneurs. In this post I share my perspective on the entrepreneurs, their product, the tough negotiation and the walk away point, but first I outline the essence of why I invested in Will and Henry in this video:
So what did I see in Henry and Will when they walked through the door? Well, I quite like it when there are two entrepreneurs because I think you tend to get a Yin and Yang. They can bounce off each other and lean on each other. I remember thinking here’s two relatively modest, intelligent, articulate guys who’ve got some history behind them. They had worked in government, worked in corporate, but they’ve also been entrepreneurs in a space which I feel quite strongly about.
I remember saying something on set, I don’t know whether it was edited, but y’know Look After My Bills are ethically bringing the energy companies to account and that’s needed. It really is needed. So I felt it was something that helps the consumer and particularly the less well-off consumer. It’s nice to have an investment in something that not only makes you money but is inspired from the wants and needs of the consumer in the marketplace.
– Look After My Bills are ethically bringing the energy companies to account and that’s needed
It’s a tech business. I’m not overly fond of making investments in tech businesses per se, I think you can burn a lot of cash before you make any money. But this is a tech business with a real product on the end of it. It’s not a new product, it’s an evolution of the comparison website at the end of the day. It was the twist about the auto renewal that I liked the most.
I liked the fact that the guys said in the Den ‘look, we’ve got gocompare, compare the market and all the other comparison websites but they haven’t innovated in 10 years’. This is why I liked the auto-switch twist so much because that showed there was innovation that sought to improve the energy industry. When Will and Henry came into the Den, Look After My Bills had been going for a few months. They already had about 15,000 users at that point so it showed there was a need for the business.
On a professional level I could also see the value I could add with this investment too. It’s essentially a finance product because it’s saving people money and I’ve had a career in banking so I saw the link I could bring from the banking world.
There is a view that when the wholesale cost of energy goes up it’s passed on to the consumer pretty fast. But when it goes down there’s a long lag before consumers benefit.
There’s a lack of transparency and I think it’s quite difficult for people, or too time-consuming to compare the market and then change energy supplier every year. We need to make things easier, more simple. And that’s what Look After My Bills does with autoswitching.
It’s always good when one dragon shows their hand first and you think: “Right okay I do like it and I’m not being daft because someone else likes it”. It warms up and I like that it gets competitive, and competitive it certainly was over Look After My Bills! Once the entrepreneurs get their first offer it pivots because then they’ve got a dragon in their hands. There’s no more pitching, it’s just negotiating the investment at that stage.
Tej Lalvani showed his hand first with all of the money for 7%. Then everyone else made an offer pretty quickly. Peter Jones and Touker Suleyman followed with 10% and 8% respectively. Then Deborah Meaden said: ‘I’d really like to be involved too, and when I really want to be involved in something I get quite competitive’. She went in at 3%.
I entered the negotiations with a curveball of 1% for ⅕ of the money to share with all the Dragons as they were all interested.
It was one of the longest negotiations in the whole series with Look After My Bills, lasting nearly three hours. I don’t think anyone else went to the wall 3 times.
The walk away point
Would I have walked away from the deal? Well, there’s always a point when you have to walk away. Bear in mind that you’ve still got to go through the due diligence process on the business. So there is a point where it goes below your appetite.
It can be a good thing if the entrepreneurs in front of you can’t agree to your offer but they have shown they’re prepared to negotiate, and negotiate hard. I like the hard negotiations because it shows the entrepreneurs’ skills. I was okay with where I landed with Look After My Bills. Of course I would have wanted 10% of business, of course! All this means is that we’ll have to make it even more valuable to make the investment worth it!
– I like the hard negotiations because it shows the entrepreneurs’ skills.
After three long hours in the den with Look After My Bills, it was the longest negotiation, with the biggest evaluation and the smallest equity. They certainly have all the accolades!
Look After My Bills after the show
The show aired in August and there’s been a lot of interest in the service since. I heard from someone on Facebook the other day who asked me:
‘Are you involved with Look After My Bills’,
And I replied yes, cautiously, because I didn’t know what they were going to ask! But anyway I said yes, and she came back saying:
‘It’s marvellous, someone in the office recommended it to me, it’s helped me save money.
Thank you very much!’
And that’s what you want to hear, isn’t it?
Tej and I visited the team in their Vauxhall offices early December 2018, when they had reached 80,000 users and the team had doubled!
They now have over 100,000 users, which just shows how far they’ve come in such a short space of time.
So for anyone who hasn’t switched their energy in the last few years I would say, you’ll know about compare the market, you’ll know there’s all these comparison websites. But there’s an alternative for cheaper energy bills and it’s called Look After My Bills, have a look at it! It’s easy to use, and super quick to sign up.
I know some people don’t like doing it year after year, you can get a bit bogged down with it. But if you give it a go you’ve nothing to lose. If they can save you money, they’ll switch you. Then they look after it for you every year. Why wouldn’t you give it a go?
Give it a go!
To watch Henry and Will’s pitch on Dragons Den then press play on the video below.
The entrepreneurs’ journey continued after Dragons’ Den and in July 2019 Look After My Bills were bought out by the GoCo Group plc.