Month: March 2015

GP Bullhound announces the winners of the Northern Tech Awards 2015

Palringo, Mobica, Crisp Thinking, Missguided, Parcel2Go and Performance Horizon all walked away with awards at the GP Bullhound Northern Tech Awards, which recognise the leading technology companies in the North.

The invitation-only event took place on 26th March 2015 at Aspire in Leeds, a growing hub in the internet sector and home to a large number of successful technology companies across a wide number of sectors.

The Northern Tech Awards are owned and managed by international technology investment bank GP Bullhound, and are held every year to recognise the fastest growing technology companies in the North.

This year’s event, hosted by David Rowan, Editor of WIRED magazine, and Hugh Campbell, Managing Partner and Co-Founder of GP Bullhound, was attended by a select group of 200 CEOs, entrepreneurs, business leaders, investors and journalists.

We were delighted to sponsor the event, alongside other sponsors including Barclays, Squire Patton Boggs, Berenberg, Business Growth Fund, Crowdcube, Enterprise Ventures, Frazer John Recruitment, The London Stock Exchange, Scottish Equity Partners and Silicon Valley Bank.

The Awards winners, the final ranking of top 50 companies, and the list of Rising Stars were announced during the evening:

Fastest Growing Company Award, won by Palringo, a leading platform for mobile communities all around the world

Fastest Growing Larger Company Award, won by Mobica, a global software development and integration services company

Most Innovative Company Award, won by Parcel2Go, the UK’s leading parcel delivery comparison web service

Judges Leadership Award, won by Missguided, an international online fast fashion retailer

Judges’ Award for International Success, won by Crisp Thinking, offering a technology that helps protect brand reputation on social networks

Overall Judges’ Award, won by Performance Horizon, whose technology enables global brands, agencies and publishers to optimize and take control of the performance of their campaigns

The panel of Judges comprised leading figures from the local, national and international entrepreneurial scene, including: Adam Balon (Founder, Innocent Drinks), Martin Bryant (Editor, The Next Webb), Michael Dimelow (ARM, VP Strategic Business Development), Sir Terry Leahy (Private Investor), David Rasche (Founder, SSP), David Rowan (Editor, WIRED), Charles Sharland (Chairman and Co-Founder, Appsense), Paul Walker (Co-Founder, Sage), Phil Webb, (EMIS Group, CTO).

“The Northern Tech Awards are a celebration of the boundless energy and global ambitions of tech entrepreneurs in the North”, said Hugh Campbell, Managing Partner and Co-Founder of GP Bullhound, praising the standard of the entries: “This year the quality and quantity of nominations is the highest ever, and the whole of the North is represented” He added: “We were blown away by the talent and ground-breaking innovation of the companies who won each category.”

GP Bullhound is strongly committed to the region and since the opening of its Manchester office in 2014, headed up by Hugh Campbell, the firm has advised on a number of successful transactions such as the sale of Textlocal to IMImobile, the sale of Realise to St Ives, the sale of Great Fridays to EPAM and the sale of Sumo Digital to Northedge.

Northern Tech Map
The Northern Tech Awards also saw the release of the Northern Tech Map, a unique interactive map built by GP Bullhound, locating and describing the region’s best tech companies, to discover on

myhomemove recognised as fastest growing company

myhomemove, the UK’s leading provider of mover conveyancing services, has been recognised as one of the top 15 fastest growing larger technology companies in the North at the Northern Tech Awards 2015

The conveyancing provider, which opened an office in the heart of Manchester in early 2014, collected two awards at the ceremony, including recognition as one of the top 50 fastest growing technology companies.

After collecting the award, Paul Tennant, I.T, Director at myhomemove, said, “myhomemove strives to use the latest innovative technology to deliver its clients a modern conveyancing service. We have several projects in the pipeline that will continue to bring what is often considered a traditional service into the 21st Century. To be recognised with these prestigious awards is a testament to our forward-thinking people.”

The Northern Tech Awards, held last night at Aspire in Leeds, recognise the fastest growing companies and rising stars in technology within the region. The awards provide a unique way of celebrating the innovative technologies and businesses, and recognise those who have contributed to their success.

myhomemove is always looking for talented, professional and customer-focused people to join its growing business.

The VC’s winding road from investment to exit

Rob Toms shares the story of Smedvig Capital’s investment in Tusker

When Smedvig were first introduced to Tusker back in 2000, we were immediately impressed by their innovative web-enabled approach within the UK vehicle contract hire market.

The founding team at Tusker had spotted that the cumbersome and principally manual process for specifying, requesting and approving a company car could be moved online – so optimising the process and generating superior management information for corporate customers. Amongst other innovations they had built a sophisticated web-based customer quote engine from scratch, which remains at the core of the business today.

Back in 2000, we saw a great opportunity to put capital to work in a high potential company, and looked forward to working closely with management to scale the business. However the initial thesis was ahead of its time: internet speeds were still slow; fleet managers saw the approach as a potential threat to their jobs; and the business struggled to execute against its business plan – making slow progress towards breakeven. Other investors in Tusker were losing patience and began lobbying for an exit.

As with many start-ups, Plan A wasn’t smooth. We are lucky that our funding model allows us to continue to back businesses over the long term, and not be tied to specific exit timelines. We are also fortunate that we have a large enough fund to continue to back businesses which may be struggling for a while, but which we believe have an exciting long term future.

In 2005-6 we injected additional capital into Tusker, and took the opportunity to buy out all of the other institutional investors. We promoted David Hosking from Sales Director to CEO, and worked with him and new FD David Brockwell on a mandate to accelerate growth. A much stronger culture of customer service excellence was driven into the business, using external benchmarks. Initial progress remained slow, with Tusker just making it through breakeven before the financial crisis hit. During the credit crunch, vehicle finance for Tusker and its non-bank competitors became expensive and difficult to obtain – Smedvig worked with advisors to strengthen the balance sheet with a capital reorganisation that helped maintain banking lines. Encouraged by the non-execs, David started spending more time thinking what the Plan B growth strategy could be.

This thinking time out of the business resulted in the launch of Salary Sacrifice for Cars (SS4C) – an innovative product giving the opportunity for employees not normally entitled to a lease car to drive a brand new car for a fixed monthly amount that includes all servicing, maintenance, insurance etc. at prices that typically substantially beat high street options. Tusker continue to be market leader in this area, which is now widely regarded to be the biggest single growth engine in UK contract hire.

A new growth phase

Tusker’s innovative new proposition SS4C, its focus on customer service, and award winning technology drove rapid growth over the subsequent few years.

Smedvig worked closely with management, providing hands-on support and strategic advice as they continued to develop the SS4C proposition. It was agreed that the profits the business was by then generating would be reinvested in improving capabilities and securing growth. Smedvig worked with the team and external advisors on an internal and external rebranding exercise, and on building B2C capabilities which are new to contract hire when packaged as salary sacrifice.

In 2012 Smedvig invited Sir Trevor Chinn to take the chair at Tusker. A leading figure in the automotive industry, having built Lex Vehicle Leasing and later chaired both the RAC and Kwik Fit, Smedvig had previously worked with Sir Trevor on their investments in ITIS and Streetcar.

Tusker has now reached almost £100m revenue, with a fleet size of over 11,000 vehicles from over 200 corporate customers. Over 370,000 employees are now covered by a Tusker SS4C scheme, and rapid growth has led to strong profitability as the business reaches scale.

We are delighted with Tusker’s success to date, and to have been able to provide the long-term support which the business needed during its growth years. Tusker has been acquired by ECI, an investor that both Smedvig and the Tusker team hold in high regard, and we wish both the team and their new investors all the best with the next phase of their growth story.

The deal environment

Whilst we are very pleased with our return on the Tusker investment, there are always mixed feelings about letting go of strong businesses with proven teams. Finding new places to invest capital effectively is never easy and particularly in earlier stage growth capital opportunities.

There are a few reasons why this is the case. First, the universe of companies that fulfil the sort of criteria most VCs look for is not huge. Second, many of these transactions are not intermediated so having visibility of a significant portion of those companies is not straightforward. Lastly, whilst at one time there was felt to be a ‘funding gap’ for development capital, there are now a number of credible possible capital partners in the marketplace.

Fortunately there are a few mitigants to these challenges.

There is understandably a strong correlation between the state of the entrepreneurial market, and the number of capital providers. Hence one of the drivers of the increased number of VCs in the London market is the thriving early stage market place here. Over the last few years there has been a dramatic growth in the community of early stage businesses in many sectors and in some, such as fintech, London is genuinely one of the global leaders. This means there are many more businesses that are attractive to the VC community. This relationship is clearly self-reinforcing. Moreover, the strength of the different entrepreneurial hubs makes it easier to connect with a greater number of relevant companies than in the past.

In terms of the number of capital providers, the important thing for getting deals done is a legitimate point of difference. Different companies, quite rightly, look for different things when seeking a capital provider over and above the basic economic deal. Chosen well, the right partner can materially improve the chances of, and scale of, success – and that may well dominate any basic economic differences in financing offered. In Smedvig Capital’s case, unusually, we seek only to do 3 or 4 deals a year. This allows us to get deeply involved in investee companies providing hands on support in multiple areas, in a way that is not possible with much larger portfolios. Not all entrepreneurs want that level of involvement from their capital partner but where they do it provides us with a compelling proposition.

So whilst we are sad to let a great company like Tusker go, we are excited about our remaining portfolio – including our recent new investments such as Quill, Vive Unique and Profile, along with what lies ahead.

Smedvig Capital leads £1.3M investment in Profile Financial Solutions

Funding round to accelerate growth of Profile’s technology-led mass-market independent financial advice service.

Smedvig Capital, today announced a £1.3M growth capital investment in Profile Financial Solutions, a high growth and tech-enabled financial services advisory firm.

The initial investment will enable Profile, which offers affordable independent financial advice to the mass market, to advance its technology-led service and consolidate its position as one of the UK’s leading pension advisors. The funding from London investment house, Smedvig Capital, will also support the expansion of Profile’s operations, including a move to a larger office to accommodate its growing team.

Founded in June 2013, Profile already manages over £125m of pension assets on behalf of its customers. Profile has developed a proprietary technology-based, process driven model, allowing its team of FCA regulated advisors to provide high quality, independent and personal financial advice at an affordable price. Unlike many financial advisory institutions, Profile has an exceptionally low minimum threshold for investment, making IFA advice available to lower and medium net worth individuals.

The market opportunity for independent financial advisory firms such as Profile was recently boosted by an announcement from Chancellor George Osborne that the government plans to introduce wholesale changes to the pensions market in April 2015. With millions of people nearing retirement age granted the freedom to spend their pension pot as they please, demand for pensions advice is set to increase as up to 18 million will be faced with new choices for managing their pension.

Profile’s founding team is led by CEO Ian Floyed. Ian is an experienced entrepreneur and previously founded myhomemove, the technology enabled legal services provider that is now the UK’s largest conveyancing firm.

The initial Series A funding from Smedvig Capital is part of its long-term commitment to investing in high growth and innovative consumer-facing businesses. Smedvig has worked previously with Ian, injecting growth capital into myhomemove.

Ian Floyed, Managing Director at Profile Financial Solutions commented, “Consumers are currently under serviced by the traditional IFA market, meaning that millions are unable to receive independent advice. We hope that by combining accessible technology with great customer service we can fix this problem. The investment from Smedvig will enable us to improve our digital capability and fund our expansion to meet the increasing demand for our services. With major changes to pensions just around the corner, we’re looking forward to welcoming many more clients to Profile and helping make their money go further for them.”

Jordan Mayo, a Managing Director at Smedvig Capital commented, “We are delighted to be backing Ian and Steve for a second time. As with their previous business myhomemove, they are using technology to transform a poorly served industry. Profile is only 18 months old and is already growing rapidly with more than £125m assets under management. By applying a proprietary process-led approach, Profile is able to provide the mass-market with affordable and genuinely independent financial advice which they have not had access to up until now”