Cationic antimicrobial peptides have attracted interest, both as antimicrobial agents and for their ability to increase cell permeability to potentiate other antibiotics. However, toxicity to mammalian cells and complexity have hindered development for clinical use. We present the design and synthesis of very short cationic peptides (3–9 residues) with potential dual bacterial membrane permeation and efflux pump inhibition functionality. Peptides were designed based upon in silico similarity to known active peptides and efflux pump inhibitors. A number of these peptides potentiate the activity of the antibiotic novobiocin against susceptible Escherichia coli and restore antibiotic activity against a multi-drug resistant E. coli strain, despite having minimal or no intrinsic antimicrobial activity. Molecular modelling studies, via docking studies and short molecular dynamics simulations, indicate two potential mechanisms of potentiating activity; increasing antibiotic cell permeation via complexation with novobiocin to enable self-promoted uptake, and binding the E. coli RND efflux pump. These peptides demonstrate potential for restoring the activity of hydrophobic drugs.