Can You Build a Business Without Finance?

28/10/2013 14:14 GMT | Updated 27/12/2013 10:12 GMT

In the startup world of Tech City, Shoreditch everything seems to centre around finance. Budding entrepreneurs seem to spend as much time writing slide decks and pitching their offering as they do developing it.

A whole industry has build up around offering advice and seed funding to startups. Movie recommendation startup Tank Top TV recently placed onto the Wayra incubator program, landing themselves €40k in investment, office space in central London and mentoring and advice. "Wayra's funding comes in the form of a convertible loan, which is extremely founder-friendly," says founder Liz Rice. "And of course it's a great signal that we're a business worth watching!"

European seed fund Seedcamp offers similar amounts of money and even more support. As well as linking you with their 2,000+ mentors from around the world, they provide a "Founder's pack" that contains more than €150,000 of free or reduced rate services for successful companies.

Little wonder then that these places are hotly contested - Tank Top TV beat hundreds of other applicants to secure their place and each Seedcamp week attracts a similar number of entrants.

But the tough competition means that Seedcamp have their pick of who they can invest in, and this tends to mean that they can pick the companies who have already reached the point where they would be a viable business even without the investment. At Seedcamp London earlier this year I heard one startup remark that they had failed to place on Seedcamp when they were struggling, but that now that their business was on a firmer footing they had been accepted. They received the funding just when they no longer needed it.

As with most things in life, there is no free lunch. To get a sizeable amount of investment, you'll need to be able to demonstrate a pretty good business model and give away a substantial portion of the business. Jennifer Sheridan, founder of live sharing site Togeva recommends that you interview your investors and don't just jump to take any money that is offered to you. Her top startup tip? "Be prepared to scale back and eat beans on toast."

Many of the most successful businesses in Tech City has grown to international prominence without a penny of outside investment. Local business Mixcloud state proudly on their website that "Mixcloud is in the rare position of not having taken equity investment as a startup." And this doesn't seem to have stunted their growth - they are "one of Facebook's choice music partners" and were "named by The Independent as one of the Top 25 Music Websites in the world".

Zoe Cunningham is the founder of Tech Talkfest and is shortlisted for the 2013 Women of the Future Awards. The next Tech Talkfest event "Raising Finance: from Idea to Exit" takes place on Monday 4th November 6:30pm at the Adam St Entrepreneur's club near Charing Cross. Tickets and details are at

For further information on the 2013 Women of the Future Awards click here.

The awards ceremony will take place on Wednesday 13 November and is hosted by Real Business in association with Shell.