I heard about Virgin Money last week and I finally got the chance to take a look around last night. Basically, Richard Branson’s Virgin US investment firm acquired a majority stake in CircleLending, a venture that helps manage loans between family and friends.
In typical Virgin fashion, they re-branded CircleLending into a cheekier (their adjective, not mine) version of the U.S. banking industry. However, Virgin Money is quick to point out that they are not a bank, law firm, real estate professional, tax advisor, lender, or loan broker. Virgin Money handles real estate, business, and personal loans.
So I went to Virgin Money’s US website to check out the business lending program and see how it might work for an entrepreneur seeking startup funding. There’s not a whole lot of information on the website but you are immediately directed to obtain their “Business Builder” guide.
I had a junk email address lying around, so I filled out a very short form and registered. I was then given a link to download the guide. The Business Buider guide is a 17 page PDF that attempts to walk you through the process of getting a startup or business loan from a friend or relative. The guide highlights general considerations of getting funding like how to pitch, loan terms, and the benefits of being a borrower or lender.
I would like to tell and show you more, but Virgin Money slapped a “thou shall not reproduce or redistribute” commandment on the front of the guide. And as a professional courtesy, I’ll respect the work of Virgin’s legal team. So if you want to find out more about the Business Builder guide, I guess you’ll have to download it yourself. But you wouldn’t be missing much if you didn’t.
However, I will talk about the spelling mistakes, both in the guide and in an email I received this morning from a Virgin Money representative. I’m not a card carrying member of the spelling or grammar police (and believe me this blog isn’t intended to be Strunk & White compliant), but witnessing such obvious spelling errors gives me the feeling this whole thing was put together too quickly. So maybe it’s a good thing they don’t draft any documents for you.
Thus, for the entrepreneur seeking startup funding, Virgin Money probably won’t work. You still have to find an investor, obtain the legal documents, and (hopefully) seek various professional advice. All you get from Virgin Money is help managing the repayment of the loan.
I think the name is somewhat misleading and don’t see any real value using Virgin Money. Of course, a 3rd party can help facilitate a loan agreement, but keep in mind Virgin Money isn’t going to solve any problems between you and your friend or relative if things turn bad.