From bras to Bitcoins
Bra tycoon Michelle Mone has turned her entrepreneurial skills to technology as she launches a new digital venture with life and business partner and Scottish billionaire Douglas Barrowman.
Scotland-born Mone rose to fame after founding lingerie company, Ultimo, but her latest business is her first move into tech.
Together with Barrowman - chairman of the Knox group of companies – she’s launched a £250 million Bitcoin-priced Dubai property development; the first international luxury property development to be priced in cryptocurrency.
“We’re not at all daunted at the prospect of this new business,” Mone tells BusinessCloud. “That’s why we’re entrepreneurs. When it comes to cryptocurrency the world needs trust.
"So hopefully the two of us together brings that trust. Doug is a very successful businessman, and I’m part of the House of Lords. I can’t think of anything better than what we’re offering with our new business venture."
Both trailblazers in their own business sectors, the couple see Bitcoin as the future of currency, bringing it into the mainstream in a move that merges property development and the tech sector like never before.
“Half a billion transactions are being made every day with Bitcoin,” Barrowman explains.
“You’ve got institutions and major players investing in this sector now more than ever. The industry has moved beyond the 5 per cent of earlier adopters, the tech people who had faith in it, to the serious businesspeople in the suits and ties eager to invest.
“Obviously there is a multitude of cryptocurrency out there, but we see Bitcoin as the gold standard and what we wanted to do was give the crypto community world out there, many of them who have made significant gains out there in crypto land, the opportunity not just to diversify digital currency but diversify conventional assets.”
The highly-anticipated selection of 1,133 studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments, is due for completion in September 2019. Apartments offer floor-to-ceiling windows with unobstructed views of the Dubai Hills and the iconic city skyline.
“We’ve taken our apartment on the top floor so if any entrepreneurs need any advice they can pop up for a chat!” Mone declares.
“The development will sit bang in the middle of the science park in a place called Dubai Hills – the Beverly Hills of Dubai - and will have a very British theme throughout.
"When you buy an apartment in Dubai it tends to just come as a shell so we have taken on famous British architects and the interiors will also be designed by my company, Michelle Mone Interiors.
“The studios start at $130,000 – which accounts to 30 Bitcoins, a one bedroom apartment is $240,000 which is 50 Bitcoins and a two bedroom is $380,000 – 80 Bitcoins.
“Once we sell 50 apartments we’ve decided to put one free apartment into a prize draw for a lucky winner too.”
Industry-leading Bitcoin payments platform BitPay will process the Bitcoin transactions, a company that already provides Bitcoin payment tools to companies such as Microsoft and Richard Branson's space venture Virgin Galactic.
“Bitcoin payments offer a significant leap forward for high-value international payments," says Stephen Pair, CEO and co-founder of BitPay.
"These property purchases can now happen in minutes from anywhere in the world with the speed of sending an email. We are pleased to partner with Lady Michelle Mone OBE, Doug Barrowman, and the Knox Group of companies on this exciting opportunity for Bitcoin and for property payments.”
So, how exactly will the business work?
“Essentially there’s a front-end acceptance of Bitcoin, a website which is an eCommerce platform,” Barrowman explains.
“So customers can go on the website when it’s launched, pick their apartment then see the transaction go through right there and then through Bitcoin.
“The business is very disruptive. It changes the way we think about things. If serious businesspeople and developers like Michelle and I are prepared to do it, then ultimately it’s a massive investment into cryptocurrency and others should follow suit.”
Not an industry either entrepreneurs have much experience in, it’s clear technology has now become a game-changer for the business moguls.
“I started off training as a chartered accountant in the mid-80s on a very old machine,” Barrowman recalls.
“Then it was the fax machine, and then I saw the advent of the internet and email. Technology for me has been an evolution. In the 90s I was investing in a manufacturer company and then in the noughties I was buying and investing in tech companies. Tech has become an increasingly major part of my business life.
“For the younger generation the internet is just part of their life and blockchain technology will soon become a part of their everyday life. Soon enough we’ll be doing conveyancing contracts through blockchain, we’ll be looking at contracts, insurance contracts, medical contracts; you name it, every aspect of our lives will be changed by blockchain technology.
"The kids of today and tomorrow will grow up with it being an everyday part of their lives and obviously the financial application of blockchain is Bitcoin. It’s the future.”
BELOW: Flick through the Q2 2017 edition of BusinessCloud's interactive digital magazine