‘Dragons’ Den for ideas’: Dave Stewart launches web innovation contest

Eurythmics star hopes Ideas Britain will open doors for people with no business experience or contacts

A quiet sort of international rock star, Dave Stewart has spent much of the time since he found fame and fortune with Eurythmics behind the scenes, honing the talents of others.

Now also a screenwriter, author and composer, he remains a powerful figure in the music industry – working with Stevie Nicks, Gwen Stefani, Bryan Ferry and Katy Perry – and this weekend Stewart announces another unexpected departure.

He is to become the creative director of a new online game designed to find valuable new ideas and give inventors the chance to make it big. Called Ideas Britain, the game aims to break open the closed world of investment to a wave of fresh business concepts, by simply allowing their ideas to compete for attention and prizes.

Stewart, 62, wants Ideas Britain to function like a more supportive, virtual version of the BBC’s Dragons’ Den – giving professional advice and financial backing to new thinking across the widest range of fields, from technology to social care and the creative arts.

Arriving in London from Nashville last week he explained his enthusiasm for the venture to the Observer. “There are so many brilliant ideas that don’t get anywhere,” he said. “It is one thing having a good thought, but then getting it into some form of presentation that will eventually enable you to execute something, this is what this idea is all about.” Britain, Stewart argues, is wasting untapped talent.

Those who post the most appealing ideas on the site in as few as 140 characters score points by attracting “likes”, “comments” and “shares”. Each month a winning contender receives development cash and free dedicated professional mentoring, including legal advice.

“Ideas in themselves are not copyrightable,” said Adam Shaw, the former television executive who founded and runs Ideas Britain, “but help from a professional is not copyrightable and we will make that very clear. It is a gift.”

In the 1980s, together with Annie Lennox, Stewart put on a suit to convince a bank manager to fund their song Sweet Dreams, later recording the whole thing in a makeshift studio in a warehouse.

He remains convinced that true innovation comes from outside the corporate world. Ideas Britain, Stewart said, was a way to counteract a tendency for big business to shut its doors to new thinking.

“What happens in most industries is they stagnate when the same people have been at the top for a while. There are lots of internal pressures that don’t help and in the past I have called it ‘the pyramid of the powerless’ because you often have lots of underlings at the bottom who have great ideas but to get the idea up to the top is complicated because there are people that want to block it because it wasn’t their idea or are scared to pass it on in case the CEO says it is a stupid idea.”

The new mobile platform claims to be the first to use a game to unearth business talent. Stewart believes, that unlike Dragons’ Den, it will keep the focus on the new talent, rather than on its panel of professional advisers.

“What we are offering is quite intense and you would take it seriously unless you were crazy,” he said. Ideas can come from young people “or from a 75-year-old in Aberdeen,” he said. Examples might range from an app to help people design their garden using a smartphone’s geo-location technology, to something that gives extra life to the soles of shoes.

“An example of the way it can work is that when I was working with Stevie Nicks on her album I asked her to do a competition and get somebody to design her a shawl, because she is crazy about that kind of thing. Well, it went ballistic and when Stevie chose a winner she decided to wear the shawl all through her tour. Now the winning designer’s whole life has changed because everyone wants a shawl and her home has become like a mini-factory to cope.”

Last week Stewart used the Hospital Club, the creative venue in London he set up with Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, to tell a group of potential mentors about Ideas Britain.

Headline competitions will be run several times a year and until 27 March new ideas can be submitted using video, pictures or short descriptions. The Ideas Britain Facebook page and YouTube channel will play host to the submissions and #444ideas will be used on Twitter to monitor the ideas that are gaining the most support.

The four most popular ideas submitted will be announced as finalists in the first week of April.

“It is a question of confidence,” said Stewart. “The web has allowed lots of bad, random things to happen, with trolls slamming everything, but this is the reverse. It means that someone on the Isle of Arran can put up an idea that will reach people who can help.”

Contributor

Vanessa Thorpe

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Dragons' Den: Why I turned down Touker Suleyman's £70,000 investment
The investor offered the capital in return for 35% equity in the Blue Badge Company. Director Ellen Green explains why refusing was a smart move

Kitty Dann

23, Aug, 2015 @7:39 PM

Article image
No regrets for Biotiful after leaving Dragons' Den empty handed
Natasha Bowes pitched her product Kefir to the dragons on the BBC Two programme

Kitty Dann

03, Jan, 2016 @9:00 PM

Article image
Dating app Double wear their hearts on their sleeves in Dragons' Den
The app for double dates secured £75,000 investment from Moonpig founder Nick Jenkins

Kitty Dann

27, Dec, 2015 @10:22 PM

Article image
New money for new businesses: where to find the cash for your start-up

More people want to be entrepreneurs, but need start-up funds. Here are some avenues to explore

David Prosser

05, Jan, 2014 @6:59 AM

Article image
Ian Beale gives entrepreneurs a bad name, say viewers
Long-suffering EastEnders character blamed for portraying entrepreneurial characters in a negative light. By John Plunkett

John Plunkett

14, Mar, 2011 @12:24 PM

Article image
Red card for Open Goaaal after founder fails to win Dragons' Den investment
Jonathan Cowan’s confusion over margins during his TV appearance leaves the dragons on the sidelines

Suzanne Bearne

21, Feb, 2016 @9:00 PM

Article image
Investors take a crack at boiled egg business
When The Crackin’ Egg Co appeared on Dragons’ Den founder Rob Shaw left with no investment but this hasn’t broken his resolve to make his business a success

Kitty Dann

10, Jan, 2016 @9:00 PM

Article image
'Peter Jones: 'The government needs real business advice'
The original Dragons’ Den investor talks enterprise training, Brexit, and a rumoured move into politics

Emma Sheppard

12, Jul, 2017 @10:00 AM

Article image
Sarah Willingham: 'It flabbergasts me how much I don’t know'
The Dragons’ Den star and entrepreneur on why she’s inspired by the TV show’s hopefuls and how it feels to lose a business deal at the 11th hour

Kitty Dann

12, Jan, 2016 @7:45 AM

Article image
Will summer school for entrepreneurs uncover the next Richard Branson?

Course will feature Martha Lane Fox, Luke Johnson – and Dragon's Den-style contests in front of top businesspeople

Mark King

18, Jul, 2011 @5:30 AM