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Branson sinks funds into four small start-ups

Thursday, 17 May 2012 | By Michelle Hammond

British entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson appears to be on a start-up investment spree, sinking funds into four small start-ups, including Codoc, following his backing of Square, Path and Tumblr.


According to a report by UK newspaper The Telegraph, Branson provided funding to four start-ups earlier this week, one of which was London-based Codoc.


Codoc, founded by filmmakers Guy Gunaratne and Heidi Lindvall, is a documentary company
“dedicated to creating spaces for critical thought through media”.


In essence, Codoc is an online video player than can overlay additional information – such as links, text or location data – and content over web videos.


Branson awarded the company £750 (about $A1,200).


Branson said he wanted to use Codoc’s technology across several Virgin web properties. He said while he did not take an equity stake in the business, he would continue working with it.


The funds were the result of a business pitch competition titled Pitch to Rich, linked to Virgin’s entrepreneurs’ network, Virgin Media Pioneers.


The winner of the event was Dan Watson, who received £3,000. Watson founded SafetyNet Technologies, which designs equipment to make commercial fishing more sustainable.


Branson and his fellow judges also awarded £750 to mumpreneur Maria Albertsen, who founded toy business Jack and Jill’s Wooden Toys and Gifts.


Student entrepreneur Jacob Hill also received funds. Hill founded The Lazy Camper, which provides an entire camping kit in a single bag.


Last month, it was revealed Branson participated in a Series B funding round for mobile personal network app Path.


The round, which came to more than $30 million in total, was led by Redpoint Ventures and featured a number of prominent investors alongside Branson.


The news came less than six months after Branson invested an undisclosed sum in mobile payment start-up Square, following a $110 million funding round.


Square, founded in 2010 by former Twitter chief Jack Dorsey, enables consumers and businesses to accept credit card payments on mobile devices.


Square said Branson took an interest in the company’s “rapid growth and novel technology, in particular its free hardware that allows anyone to accept credit card payments”.


According to a Square spokesperson, Branson’s involvement in Square is a “personal investment”. In a statement released by Virgin, Branson explained his interest in the company.


“I’m very passionate about helping people start and grow successful businesses, and Square is an incredible technology that inspires and empowers everyone to be an entrepreneur,” Branson said.


Square and Path aren’t the only well-known start-ups Branson has invested in. Fellow US start-up Tumblr, a micro-blogging platform, also caught Branson’s eye last year.


According to Branson, there could be further investments on the horizon.


“I’m interested in a variety of sectors,” he told VentureBeat.


“In recent years, thanks in part to Virgin America, I’ve learned more about tech in general and social media in particular, and always look for companies that use business as a force for good.”