Comms Entrepreneur Awarded £5 Million in Real Life Dragon’s Den

The UK’s young entrepreneur of the year Matthew Riley, owner and CEO of Lancashire-based Daisy Communications, was handed £5m after winning the Northern Final of the inaugural Bank of Scotland Corporate £25m Entrepreneur Challenge.

The windfall means Riley’s company Daisy has received a funding package which is free of interest and arrangement fees for a period of three years, money the firm plans to use to fund acquisitions to grow the business and pursue its objective of becoming the UK’s main alternative to BT in the business communications landscape.

Daisy fought off strong competition from other companies in Northern England and Wales to emerge victorious, with the business rewarded for its drive, determination and entrepreneurial spirit.

After passing through several phases of judging, Riley was called to present to a panel comprising of senior Bank of Scotland Corporate figures, representatives from Deloitte, and entrepreneurs David Jackson, chairman and chief executive of Redhall Group, and Brian Kennedy, owner of several businesses, including Sale Sharks Rugby Union Club.

Riley collected the award at a ceremony held at the Urbis, Manchester, last night, and wasted no time in sharing his views for how the company planned to spend the money.

“This is such a massive prize for Daisy,” he said. “We can now acquire two more companies and create 20 new jobs and the funding will provide the foundation for our acquisition strategy.

“Bank of Scotland Corporate has created a truly entrepreneurial initiative and this challenge could not have been the brainchild of any other bank.

“It’s always been our ambition to continue the company’s growth, but the £5m interest free funding means we can finance further acquisitions and look to reach that goal quicker.”

The business’ early growth was driven solely by organic expansion, but in the last two years Daisy has pursued a strategy of consolidating the fragmented telecom reseller market through acquisitions as well as organic growth. Since August 2005 the company has acquired five businesses and six customer databases.

The company’s finance director Matt Peters said: “We have a strong pipeline of potential acquisition targets as vendors are looking to extract cash prior to the increases in capital gains from April next year.

“Bank of Scotland is not only giving access to £5m of free funding but it has also bought into our longer term strategy to be at the forefront of consolidation in our market. We are looking forward to working together with them to deliver our plans.”

Panel member David Jackson explained what set Daisy apart from the competition.

He said: “Anyone could have won and the standard of all five short-listed businesses was exceptionally high, prompting a lively debate among the panel. Daisy Communications would make best use of the £5million, as it is an acquisitive business and needs the funding to grow.”

Tim Rigg, a fellow judge, added: “There were five really strong entrants, but you can only have one winner. All the companies had a great story to tell but Daisy Communications had the track record, clear vision and ability to execute their plan.”

Daisy is one of the UK’s leading independent companies for telephone, mobile, data and broadband, providing communications solutions to small-medium sized businesses. The company has experienced phenomenal growth since its inception in 2001, recently being named in Deloitte’s Fast 50 chart of a rate of growth of 8021% over the last five years.

The company now looks set to continue in that vein, and this latest accolade means daisy can drive towards its target of becoming largest independent telecoms reseller in the UK, with revenue forecast to be in excess of £200m within two years.

Daisy will now look towards the UK final which will take place on Wednesday, December 12th. Along with the winners from the other four regions, they will compete for the title of Entrepreneur of the Year, and the chance to have Arcadia boss Sir Philip Green join them in their boardroom for four days of mentoring, completely free of charge.