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Indy Lifestyle Online
HOW ANGELIC are you feeling? Back in March a new website, the Development Capital Exchange (DCX) was launched, calling itself a "stock exchange" for investment in unlisted businesses. The concept of a clearing house for investment opportunities for so-called business angels is not a new one, but using the Internet as a conduit is.

Now the site has been up and running for a few months I have taken another look at it. All the opportunities listed on DCX have been put there by professional advisers of the firms looking for funding. You do not have to be a millionaire to be a business angel. While some of the companies are looking for sums of more than pounds 2m, most of the funding requirements are between pounds 10,000-pounds 200,000.

If you fancy taking a look at the investment opportunities on offer, it will cost you pounds 15 for a trial three-month subscription or pounds 50 for 12 months. The site lists about 200 businesses ranging from health products, property developments, car traders, gazebo makers to Internet-based businesses.

Do remember that it is up to you to check out the prospective investment or, as they say in legal-speak, "the onus of due diligence rests squarely with the investor". Which is all very well but how do you begin to weed the wheat from the chaff?

Perhaps your starting point should be to check the names involved in the business. We have all become accustomed to investigative reporting in print and on TV exposing directors with multiple corporate failures behind them. How can you make sure that you will not be entrusting your money to a rogue? Head straight for the Department of Trade & Industry's new website, launched this month by Companies House.

Companies House is the DTI agency responsible for keeping track of corporate Britain and, as such, it maintains a register of those directors who have been disqualified by the courts. This rogues' gallery is now available on the Internet. It lists details of each person, including their name, address, date of birth, period of disqualification and the legislation under which the disqual- ification order was made.

For anybody wanting to play angel to a fledgling business venture this is one of the most immediately useful websites on the net. It allows you to search by surname through the list of disqualified directors. Thus you may make sure that none of the people involved in the business you want to invest in have been barred from acting as a company director. This is, of course, only the first step in what should be an in-depth investigation.

It never ceases to amaze me how willing people are to hand over money. This willingness apparently explains the growing success of Internet gambling. It is, in fact, illegal to run an online casino in the UK although there is nothing, other than common sense, to stop a punter placing a bet with an online casino based offshore.

Anyone who really wants to give their credit card details to an Internet casino would probably be as well advised to stand on the corner of their street with a wad of used fivers and start tearing them up and throwing the pieces into the gutter.

Several of these virtual casinos are run by the kind of people that even Las Vegas gets alarmed by and you have no way of knowing what kind of odds you are facing or, indeed, whether you will get your winnings should you actually win. If you really must play games on the web, stick to the apparently more socially acceptable "shoot-'em ups" which allow you to blast seven kinds of hell out of aliens, zombies or whatever.

Development Capital Exchange: www.equity-invest. com

Companies House: www. companieshouse.gov.uk

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