Michelle Mone is launching her own cryptocurrency to back tech startups
Fresh from offering luxury apartments in Dubai to buyers with bitcoin, bra tycoon and baroness Michelle Mone is delving deeper into cryptocurrency.
Along with boyfriend and businessman Doug Barrowman, the pair are launching a venture capital firm supported by the launch of their own cryptocurrency via what's known as an initial coin offering (ICO), or token sale.
Equi Capital is seeking to raise $125m (£89m) from investors that can then be used to back innovative companies selected by the pair. The ethereum-based Equi token can also be traded separately in the same way as other cryptocurrencies like bitcoin.
The duo say the platform will open up venture capital investing to anyone.
"For the first time, everyday people, non-industry professionals, will have the change to back an investment that usually they only get to hear about in the media after the event," said Barrowman.
"Crowdfunding is very good at raising smaller sums of money. The beauty of Equi is that it's linked to a cryptocurrency, which has a value in it's own right, and the value is underpinned by the quality of the investment's we make."
Investors who chose simply to hold on to their tokens will also be rewarded with five per cent of the profits realised from gains from the investment. Investors who use their tokens to back companies are promised 70 per cent. The founders, who will hold 35 per cent of the issued tokens, will get the remaining share.
Mone, who found fame, fortune and a seat in the House of Lords with her Ultimo lingerie business, said the pedigree of the pair and their high profile names brings with it trust that is missing in many of the hundreds of ICOs to have popped up in recent years .
"This is why it's going to be one of the most successful ones when it launches," she said, adding that she expects the Equi token to be listed on the biggest cryptocurrency exchanges.
Also involved in Equi as an advisory board member is Mark Pearson, the founder of MyVoucherCodes turned investor, who with Barrowman bought UK startup Ve Interactive out of administration last year. Ve's boss Morten Tonnesen is also one of several advisors.
The pre-sale will start in March initially for those putting $100,000 into the venture which the pair have been working on since last summer. The investments will focus on early stage high tech and biotech firms from around the world when the platform launches in May following the ICO.
While doubts remain over the integrity of many ICOs, which collectively have raised billions to date, established venture capitalists are eyeing up investments in companies which have chosen to raise funds this way.
Silicon Valley luminaries Benchmark, Sequoia Capital, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers are among those said to be linked with the ICO of Telegram, a WhatsApp-like messaging app. And Jan Hammer, a partner at Europe's most active fintech investor Index Ventures, has said he would not rule out investing via an ICO.