COMPANIES: Cass Art to Zytronic

Published by Directorzone Markets Ltd on December 14, 2015, 9:00 am in News, Other


Thursday February 14th 2019


Thursday February 14th 2019




News about 16 UK growth companies and accelerators in the GRID marketplace, 6 - 12th December 2015


Yours Clothing | Long Tall Sally | Jigsaw £104.9m | Cocoon | ChartCo | Livity £4.5m | Dragon Infrastructure Solutions £18.8m | Cass Art £11.3m | Jukedeck | Metalysis £0.2m | Onfido | Vinaya | Focusrite £48m | Mulberry £148.7m | Ensor £19m - 6 months | Zytronic £21m


Plus-size payout for rag trader / Daniel Dunkley, Sunday Times. 6th December.



DZ profile: Yours Clothing Limited

Business: chain of boutiques - more than 80 stores - for plus-size women

Launched: 1994

Located: Peterborough

Founder: Andrew Killingsworth, 53, started out with a market stall in Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire

Financials: made profits of £1.9m in the year to February. It received nearly £2m from Barclays to back its expansion plans last year. Industry sources said it could be worth more than £50m.


1. Opened seven outlets in the Middle East during last financial year

2. Is considering selling a stake in Yours Clothing. The company has hired Grant Thornton to assess its options.



DZ profile: Long Tall Sally Limited

Business: retailer for larger women - taller than 5ft 8in. Opened its first store in London, now sells two-thirds of its clothes online, and has operations in America and Germany.

Launched: 1976

Investment: owned by AMERY CAPITAL, which is run by former Marks & Spencer director Maurice Helfgott and backed by retail entrepreneurs Michael and Maurice Bennett, the brothers behind brands such as Phase Eight, Oasis and Warehouse.

News: working with advisers at Financo to consider its “strategic” options. Sources said Long Tall Sally would be worth about £30m and could attract the interest of British buyout firms.



JIGSAW: Pieces fall into place as Jigsaw sales top £100m / Sunday Times. 

DZ profile: Robinson Webster (holdings) Limited

Business: upmarket fashion retailer. Runs 70 stores, including Bluebird on the King’s Road in Chelsea.

Founder: John Robinson, co-founders

CEO: Peter Ruis, who joined from John Lewis in autumn 2013.

Financials: sales grew to £104.9m in the year to October, with like-for-like sales up 12.3%. Underlying earnings almost tripled to £5.4m.

Investment: Jigsaw is owned by founder John Robinson and 13 senior members of staff. They are expected to sell a stake or seek a stock market listing in the next three years.


1. since the end of its financial year, Jigsaw’s refusal to discount its clothes on Black Friday had paid off: “We were up on the year before, trading at full price…

Jigsaw gives £493,000 to employees as part of a John Lewis style profit-sharing deal | Helen Cahill, City A.M. 2 July 2017 
2.  handed £493,000 to workers in 2015 as part of a profit-sharing deal. The retailer has set up an employee ownership deal under its chief executive Peter Ruis, who joined the firm from John Lewis in 2013. Employees who were with the retailer for over a year were given at least one share in the company, and on Christmas Eve in 2015 received a dividend of £400 per share.
3. Total dividends paid out, which were also shared out with the management team, came to £1.6m, according to accounts filed at Companies House for the year ending 1 October 2016. UK profit rose 11 per cent to £6.2m and group sales were up eight per cent to £95m for the year.
4. Jigsaw is still seeking to expand both its physical and online offering. Last week, it announced that it will be setting up shop in the new King's Cross development.


High street fashion store Jigsaw confirms it is seeking a buyer amid retail sector downturn | Lucy White, City A.M. 28 October 2017


5. has confirmed it is seeking a buyer, as the retail sector shows signs of struggling amid rising inflation. Controlling shareholder John Robinson, who was one of the company's co-founders, has appointed KPMG to gauge the interest of prospective buyers. A spokesperson from Jigsaw confirmed the news, saying there had been “a number of approaches” looking buy either a majority or minority stake. Jigsaw has a more than 80-strong store estate but is showing signs of a “cash pinch”, sources told Sky. This may necessitate a sale before Christmas.



COCOON: Aviva to back hi-tech start-ups / Aimee Donnellan, Sunday Times. 

DZ profile: Cocoon Labs Ltd

Business: harnesses technology used in the detection of earthquakes to develop home security systems. The Cocoon device, which is the size of a tennis ball, builds up a picture of homeowners’ everyday activities and then alerts them when there is a deviation from the norm.

Location: Leeds.

News: £2m funding round. Insurer AVIVA VENTURES is to launch a £100m fund this week to invest £20m a year over the next five years in digital start-ups that are looking to transform the financial industry – starting with Cocoon.



CHARTCO: Historic map maker plots £100m sale / Daniel Dunkley, Sunday Times.  

DZ profile: Chartco Limited

Business: historic map printer - began providing paper charts to vessels. Now provides hi-tech nautical navigational equipment.

ICB Classification: 2737 Electronic Equipment

Launched: 250 years ago

Investment: owned by KELVIN HUGHES, the nautical navigation company named after the Victorian scientist Lord Kelvin. ECI, the private equity owner of Kelvin Hughes, wants as much as £100m for the business, insiders said.

News: Expected to be sold in the coming months. Drafted in advisory firm KPMG to listen to bids. City sources said suitors include MeteoGroup, one of the world’s largest weather forecasters.



LIVITY: Doing well by doing good / Sunday Times. 

DZ profile: Livity Limited

Business: youth marketing agency that would tap into the talents of disadvantaged young people it would help brands speak to young people by enlisting the help of the target audience. Its bread and butter became working with charities and local authorities, and that provided a test-bed for the company’s unconventional working practices. Has won many plaudits for its work, including best agency at the prestigious MAA Best awards in 2013.

Launched: 2000

Location: Brixton

Co-founder: Sam Conniff - already the founder of award-winning creative agency, Don’t Panic. Joining forces with a former client, Michelle Morgan, they funded the venture themselves for three months

Financials: revenues of £4.5m last year


1. In 15 years, more than 10,000 young people have been through its doors to do work experience, take part in workshops and learn digital skills.

2. Conniff’s next battle is to take the social enterprise message to big corporates. “They can help us take our message to the world: profit and purpose absolutely go hand in hand.”



DRAGON INFRASTRUCTURE SOLUTIONS: How I Made It: Our little Dragon connected homes to create a powerhouse / Sunday Times. 

DZ profile: Dragon Infrastructure Solutions Limited

Business: builds gas and electricity connections for more than 120 clients across Britain, including housing developments, solar farms and wind turbines. Customers include housebuilders BERKELEY (first client), PERSIMMON and TAYLOR WIMPEY.

Launched: 2004. When the market for connecting power and water to homes, offices and factories was opened up beyond the utility companies 15 years ago, the freelance graphic designer spotted an opportunity.

Location: Northampton

Co-founders: Debbie Edgar, 48, managing director - diagnosed with dyslexia at 15 - and older brother Simon

Staff: 84 people

Financials: sales of £18.8m and profits of £370,000.


1. “We’ve invested a lot in rebranding the company and training our staff,” said Edgar. Growth has come by word-of-mouth referrals and a commitment to keeping a diverse customer base. “We would never have more than 10% of our turnover from one client, no matter how big the contract is,”

2. “We’ve made a conscious effort to make this a self-sustained company . . . the first few years were quite tough.” The siblings were in no rush to hire. “We only took on our first sales person three years ago.”

3. Ten years on, she is not averse to selling out or taking on investors. “If someone came in and wanted to pay us a chunk of money for it, I’m sure we’d enjoy that.”

4. Even though Dragon has capitalised on work for solar plants and wind farms, the founder is confident that a slash to funds for green projects will cause no dent in her figures. In fact, she expects growth, and plans to open more offices in the near future.

5. She was a finalist in this year’s NatWest Everywoman awards for entrepreneurs.



CASS ART: looks outside London on mission to democratise art / Alex Lawson, Evening Standard. 7 December.

DZ profile: Art-line Limited

Business: art supplies chain.  Clients come from the art community (i.e. sculptor Marc Quinn and painter Chantal Joffe), celebrities (Jimmy Page, Ronnie Wood, Geri Halliwell and the Beckhams), students and children. The business has taken advantage of a gap in the craft market after Woolworths’ collapse and piggybacked on the adult colouring book craze.

Launched: 1984

Location: 6 London shops

Founder: Mark Cass. Essex-born Mark’s father, Wilfred Cass CBE, ran the art brand Reeves and together they worked on Craftsmith, an arts and craft retailer bought from WH Smith in 1979, before forming stock photo firm Image Bank. The sale of Image Bank to Getty in 2000 meant that financially he didn’t need to work again. Cass Snr, a Jew who fled Nazi Germany and a serial entrepreneur, set up the Cass Sculpture Foundation.

Staff: 148 people

Financials: 2014 turnover £11.3m

Investment: In 2013, he raised £3.2 million from the SME-focused BUSINESS GROWTH FUND to fund expansion in return for a stake in the business and Lord Rose, chairman to work alongside him.

News: "We will open in 20 cities in the next five years — top towns that have universities.”



JUKEDECK: Jukedeck’s computer composes music at touch of a button / Robert Cookson, FT.

DZ profile: Jukedeck Limited

Business: uses machine learning techniques to analyse music data, infer patterns and generate melodies. To generate a finished soundtrack, the data produced by the composition system is sent through a production system, which plays it through virtual instruments and adds effects. Customers choose the style of music they want and how long they want it to be, and Jukedeck’s software generates a unique audio file for download. Is selling songs for £5 each on its website.

Competition: Stock audio libraries such as PremiumBeat and AudioJungle have been selling cheap, royalty-free music for years and offer large collections of songs created by musicians. This market is estimated to generate $400m a year.

Launched: 2012

Location: London

Founder: Ed Rex, a Cambridge university music graduate

Staff: 13 people. Includes machine learning experts, composers and audio engineers. Patrick Stobbs, Jukedeck’s chief operating officer.

Investment: CAMBRIDGE INNOVATION CAPITAL, the investment group led the funding round.


1. Initially, the company aims to cater for online video makers who want an original soundtrack and “Searching through stock audio libraries takes hours, it’s expensive and the copyright and royalty restrictions are confusing. Our goal is to fix that.”

2.  To defend itself against competition, Jukedeck has applied for patents in the UK and the US for its composition system, which generates songs on a note-by-note basis, rather than rearranging sections of music.

3. During a pre-launch “beta testing” phase, Jukedeck’s soundtracks were used in videos uploaded to YouTube by Google and the Natural History Museum.

3. On Monday, announced that it has raised £2m in venture capital funding to accelerate its growth.



METALYSIS: Commodities: Material revolution / Henry Sanderson, FT.

DZ profile: Metalysis Limited

Business: manufactures titanium powder — designed to be used in 3D printing for medical and industrial parts — and is working with GKN Aerospace to use the technology to supply aeroplane parts. Its technology is based on the FFC process, named after Derek Fray, Tom Farthing and George Chen who discovered it at Cambridge university in 1997. It uses electricity to reduce metal oxide to metal in a molten salt in one step. Since the 1950s titanium has been made using the Kroll process, which is energy-intensive and requires high temperatures.

Launched: 2001

Location: Wath upon Dearne, Rotherham, South Yorkshire

Staff: 62. Douglas Caster, chairman; Dion Vaughan, chief executive.

Financials: 2015 revenues £211k 

Investment: owned by miner BHP Billiton as well as investors INTEREOGO TREASURY, INTER IKEA, CHORD CAPITAL, SEVEN SPIRES, ETF and ENCORE. February 2014 - Australian mineral sands explorer Iluka Resources acquires 18.3% stake for £12.2m; has the right to increase its shareholding to between 20% and 24.9% in the event of an initial public offering. Other investors include: 3i GROUP, DRAPER ESPRIT, CAMBRIDGE CAPITAL GROUP and the COALFIELDS ENTERPRISE FUND.


1. Metalysis says it can now produce titanium from naturally occurring ores and cut energy costs by at least 50 per cent.

2. Norsk Titanium ... forecasts commercial (titanium) demand from the aerospace industry will grow by 25 per cent from its current value of $4.5bn over the next five to seven years, gradually displacing aluminium.

3. …(titanium’s) high cost of production has so far limited wider use. 3D printing could change that, as it cuts down on the waste produced for each block of titanium material used.



Europe’s start-ups attract investment / Murad Ahmed, FT. 8 December 2015.



DZ profile: Onfido Ltd

Business: identity checking start-up which automates background checks on would-be freelance staff. It is already being used by UK-based sharing-economy companies such as DELIVEROO, a food delivery group, and HASSLE, a cleaning service. It allows companies to check the criminal and financial histories of people trying to get work for on-demand platforms, giving some reassurance that those offering their services are trustworthy. Onfido name: based the Latin words for trust and confidence

Launched:  2012

Founders: 3 Oxford university graduates: Eamon Jubbawy, Ruhul Amin and Husayn Kassai, 25. Kassai was 10 years old when he moved to the UK from Iran and started his first business aged 12 selling music on eBay

Investment: has raised $5.3m to date from investors including LASTMINUTE.COM co-founder Brent Hoberman and BLABLACAR co-founders Frédéric Mazzella and Nicolas Brusson. Oxford University provided £32,000 of seed funding in 2012.


Britain can crack AI, if we put our minds to it | Kiki Loizou, The Sunday Times. November 6, 2016.

1. ... 1,000 companies, including TESCO and new bank MONZO. 
2. 125 staff in London’s West End plus 10 in San Francisco
3. has raised $30m from backers, including  WELLINGTON PARTNERS and CRUNCHFUND in California.
Entrepreneurs: London’s young bucks with the credentials for investors to check out their identity | Michael Bow, The Evening Standard. 3 July, 2018.

4.  The 170-strong company has just moved into brand new offices near the UBS building by Liverpool Street

5. Ever taken a selfie or a photo of your bank card to open an online account? If you have, chances are it’s probably Onfido’s software humming away behind it. REVOLUT, POCKIT and NUTMEG use it to recruit new customers and sharing economy companies like ZIPCAR and DELIVEROO also have it, paying Onfido a fee every time someone is “onboarded”. Onfido software uses machine learning to check for patterns on IDs and facial recognition. If something questionable is found, it’s referred to a human who does another check. Around 5% of checks are referred. More than 1500 businesses make use of the software and regulators — keen to clamp down on online fraud and money laundering — are big supporters of this new “regtech” sector. However, the High Street banks were originally slow to see the brave new world of online banking
6. Kassai and Jubbawy had done investment bank internships — Kassai at Merrill Lynch and Jubbawy at Credit Suisse — but decided to set up their own venture. They recruited Amin, who had done his thesis on coding a machine to spot wildlife in a series of 25,000 photos of the jungle applying his tech to ID authentication.

7.  last year it raised a further $30m from MICROSOFT and SALESFORCE, taking total fundraising to $60 million.



DZ profile:

Business: formerly called Kovert Designs, this company is trying to bridge the high-fashion, high-tech divide. It's ambition is to create “wearable technology” in the form of items of jewellery, fitted with sensors, which allow wearers to receive emergency notifications when their phones are out of reach.

Location: Shoreditch, London

Founder: Kate Unsworth

UPDATE: London wearables company VINAYA has gone into administration | James Cook, Business Insider. December 29, 2016
Documents filed with Companies House show that VINAYA has split into two companies: Vinaya Limited and Vinaya Technologies Limited. Vinaya Technologies Limited, the original company, was placed into administration on December 12.

The company raised $3 million (£2.45 million) in seed funding in November 2015 and went on to raise over $272,000 (£222,000) in an INDIEGOGO campaign launched in June. Backers of the crowdfunding campaign have started complaining about a lack of communication from the company.

CEO Kate Unsworth told Business Insider in June that she hoped to raise a £10 million Series A round in the first quarter of 2017.

Investors in Vinaya included

·       Net-a-Porter cofounder Carmen Busquets,

·       Tech City UK chair and Passion Capital partner Eileen Burbidge

·       Bebo founder Michael Birch,

·       LOCALGLOBE partner Robin Klein


Documents filed with Companies House show that other shareholders in the company included:

·       former Decoded Fashion CEO Liz Bacelar

·       Samos Investments partner Shan Drummond

·       PASSION CAPITAL partner and former chairman Stefan Glaenzer

·       former Index Ventures associate Sofia Hmich

·       Love Home Swap CEO Debbie Wosskow

·       angel investor Jeremy Yap

·       Been There LLC

·       Jumpgate Ventures

·       ZCP Holdings.


FOCUSRITE: charts stairway to success / Peter Campbell, FT.

DZ profile: Focusrite Plc

Business: Music technology group. Started off making sounds desks for recording studios and now produces professional-quality recording kits for home enthusiasts. When Mr Dudderidge took on the company in 1989, Focusrite was a failing maker of consoles. But he broadened the company’s range with synthesisers, pre-amplifiers and audio hardware. 

Founder: Phil Dudderidge, who was Led Zep’s sound engineer and driver during its 1970 US tour.

Financials: Sales during the year rose from £41m to £48m, with pre-tax profits climbing from £5.8m to £6.5m.

Investment: listed on the AIM market last December, valuing the company at £80m.


1. ..has marked its first year as a public company by announcing a maiden final dividend of 1.2p, taking its total payout for the year to 1.8p.

Focusrite bangs the drum for a progressive rock story | Kate Burgess, FT. January 7, 2019

2. Since floating on Aim four years ago, Focusrite’s revenues and earnings have doubled. In the 12 months to August, pre-tax profits rose 22 per cent to £11m on revenues of £75m.
3. Tim Carroll, chief executive, has appointed someone to look at acquisitions, whether it is software, applications, more hardware or in a related area such as online gaming. He is also keen to expand into Asia and emerging markets.

4. Currently, about 40 per cent of sales come from the US, another 40 per cent from Europe and 20 per cent from the rest of the world.....the group sources all its products from three suppliers in Shenzhen, China.



MULBERRY: Online sales help Mulberry return to profit / Andrea Felsted and John Murray Brown, FT.

DZ profile: Mulberry Group Plc

Business: affordable luxury bag brand

Staff: Thierry Andretta, a non-executive director who became chief executive in March; Godfrey Davis, chairman; Johnny Coca, new creative director who joined from Céline, the French fashion house

Financials: earnings before tax in the half-year to September 30 rose to £100,000, compared with a loss of £1.1m for the same period last year. First-half sales rose 5 per cent to £67.8m, helped by a 20 per cent increase in digital sales, which now make up 12 per cent of total revenues. Wholesale revenues fell 11 per cent.Year ended 31 March 2015: Revenue, £148.7m; Operating Profit, £1.7m; Profit Before Tax, £1.86m"


1. Mulberry moved back into profit over the past six months after reversing its strategy to take the brand upmarket and introducing lower prices, putting a tumultuous couple of years behind it.

British brand Mulberry looks to Asia to boost sales | Camilla Hodgson, FT. June 13, 2018
2. hoping international sales will drive profits going forward as UK sales waver. The group said profit before tax was up 36 per cent to £11.3m in the year to March 31, from £8.3m last year, excluding start-up costs relating to the group’s expansion into Asia. Accounting for the costs relating to Asia, Mulberry’s reported pre tax profit was down 8 per cent to £6.9m. Revenue edged up 1 per cent to £169.7m, while retail sales were up 3 per cent, driven by international sales which rose 20 per cent compared to broadly flat UK sales. The UK market makes up around 70 per cent of the group’s total sales. 
3. Over the year the group expanded its presence in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan, with new stores and partnerships. In a separate announcement, Mulberry said it had agreed a joint venture with SHK Holdings to operate and expand its operations in South Korea.



Small-cap Week, December 12 / Bryce Elder, FT.


ENSOR: switches tactics and looks for piecemeal sell-off / Kate Burgess, FT.

Business: building materials group, whose divisions range from supplying automated doors to packaging and steel cages

ICB Classification: 2353 Building Materials & Fixtures

Location: Wythenshawe, Manchester

Financials: reported an increase in profits to £2.2m from £1.3m on turnover of £19m in the first half of the year to September. The shares, which have quadrupled in five years to 85.5p, have a market value of £25.6m.

Investment: was first listed in 1989 and joined Aim in 2002. Chairman Ken Harrison, 85, with his family, controls the board and owns 54 per cent of Ensor shares.

News: Shares fell a fifth after it said it was no longer seeking a buyer for the whole group, but because of “the varied nature” of the markets in which Ensor operates, the company’s divisions, will be sold off piecemeal. The revised process started in October with the sale of Ensor's roofing division to management for £1.4m.

UPDATE: JANUARY 2017 "On 27 May 2015 we announced the commencement of a formal sale process to dispose of the activities of the group and return value to shareholders. That process has resulted, to date, in the sales of three of the five businesses which then constituted the group.
The activities of the two remaining businesses comprise the distribution of electric motors and access control automation equipment and distribution of packaging, supported by our representative office in China.
On 4 January 2017, the company de-listed from AIM pending the anticipated sale of the remaining businesses and the distribution of accumulated disposal proceeds to shareholders."


ZYTRONIC: record revenues lift shares to all-time high / Chris Tighe, FT.

DZ profile: Zytronic Plc

Business: maker and global exporter of touch sensors for electronic displays. Develops and manufactures all its products on Tyneside in north-east England, has this year exported more than 90 per cent of its output to 32 countries, from Finland to the US, China and Australia. The EU and Asia Pacific each account for about a third of its exports. But South Korea is its largest single export and growth market. The company has carved out a specialist niche in markets including bank ATMs, gaming and vending. 

Location: Tyneside

Financials: 39 per cent rise in pre-tax profit, to £4.5m, on sales of £21m. Last year, 93 per cent of revenues were from exports. Spending on R&D and capital equipment more than doubled to £1.3m last year.

Investment:  floated on Aim in July 2000 at 110p a share


1. shares hit an all-time high this week - closed on Friday at 419p - following news of record annual revenues and profits

2. positive outlook for 2016 - Zytronic said its focus on relatively specialist, low-volume products should help it withstand competition from Asia.

Small-cap focus: regional businesses look beyond EU for growth | Andy Bounds and Chris Tighe, FT. September 2

3. In the half-year to the end of March, pre-tax profit rose to £2.5m, from £1.8m in the previous first half. Revenue was £11.3m, up from £9.9m.
4. With its global export orientation, Zytronic could benefit if Brexit brings down some barriers beyond the EU. But some materials import costs could rise. Like all exporters, it wants certainty.