Meet Crowdcube’s Darren Westlake, judge and long-time champion of The Pitch

If you’re a startup, it’s quite likely you’ve heard of Crowdcube. The crowdfunding platform has seen thousands of businesses raise investment, including the likes of Brewdog, Monzo and what3words.

Darren Westlake and Luke Lang co-founded Crowdcube in 2011. Since then, they’ve scaled the business to over 170 employees and have been making leaps and bounds in helping the next generation of businesses who want to change the world.

Crowdcube has supported The Pitch for several years. We’ve witnessed many of our alumni succeed in raising investment on their platform, such as All About The Cooks and Small Robot Company. Darren also invested in the People’s Choice Winner of The Pitch 2021, YesRef.

Darren Westlake, co-founder and CEO, will be joining us again this year as a judge for The Pitch Final. Hear more about what he’s looking for from startups, how you can smash a crowdfunding campaign and why he continues to support The Pitch.

Managing a high-growth startup

Following a year of exponential growth, Darren has been focusing on leadership and people management more than ever. 

“We’ve grown from 70 people a year ago to 170 people, so there’s been some fast growth. Managing people and understanding people is a big part of being a founder and CEO. The faster you grow, the more important that is,” he explained.

The best leaders never stop learning – and Darren is no different. He’s currently reading How to Win Friends and Influence People, and also learns from newsletters and podcasts.

The power of networking

Learning independently only goes so far, though. It’s important to seek external advice and support so you can learn from the experience of others.

Darren uses peer networks to speak to leaders in similar roles and get feedback.

“We’re backed by Balderton. They have a lot of different groups that allow people to mix with other people at their level and get feedback. Amongst those people there’s always someone that’s been through the issue themselves,” he said.

Investing in a finalist of The Pitch 2021

After judging The Pitch 2021, Darren made the decision to invest in one of our finalists, YesRef. But what made him decide to choose them?

“The guys involved – they knew their product well and found a good gap in the market. It was one of those antiquated areas of the world that hadn’t been brought into the 20th century. It’s a great bit of tech that’s solving an awkward and really relevant problem.”

YesRef won’t be the last startup he invests in either. Darren enjoys the process of “getting involved very early”, so he can see them travel through the exciting stages of growth.

Want to read more about how YesRef started? From wildcard to People’s Choice winner: The story of refereeing app YesRef

Dealing with the climate emergency

New startups need to be able to cut through the noise and generate a lasting impact. In his time at Crowdcube, Darren has seen a wide variety of innovative startups with new, exciting ideas. 

A favourite Crowdcube campaign of his was Ecologi, a platform for climate action that helps individuals, families and businesses become ‘Climate Positive’.

“I love what they’re doing. It’s allowing people to offset their CO2 usage – to really understand what it is and see the good they’re doing,” he said.

An increase in sustainable startups is something that we’ve also witnessed here at The Pitch. We believe so many of these startups are successful as they are tackling a wider societal problem – in this case, the environmental crises.

A long-time champion of The Pitch

Darren has been amazing in offering advice and expertise to our previous Pitch participants, and we’re excited to have him join us for another year. 

Here’s what keeps him coming back.

“At heart, I’m an entrepreneur. I love entrepreneurialism and seeing new ideas and people be passionate about them. I want to support people in any way I can to get through that hard early stage and on that trajectory to growth. The Pitch massively helps people do this.”

Leave a lasting impression

When it comes to judging The Pitch Final, there are two key areas he looks out for. 

The most important factor is the people behind the business. He’s looking for startups with:

  • A founder who is clearly committed to the business
  • A strong business idea
  • The support of a good team

The second area is market size. He wants to see startups that are operating in a market that is on the rise.

“We want to make sure we have businesses that can grow and become 10x or 100x of what they are,” he said.

Would you like the opportunity to meet Darren and other judges from The Pitch? At The Pitch Final, you’ll get to hear exciting pitches, meet other business founders and network with our judges. 

Sign up to our newsletter and we’ll let you know as soon as tickets are available.

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