Wednesday January 1st 2020
FiveAI | Arena Group | Biosure | Village Vet £4.2m | Charlie Bears £7.6m | Flowerbx £1m | Buster + Punch £3m | Kent Brushes £6.8m | Angel Capital Group | Alfa £54.3m | Hibob | Tokamak Energy
News about 12 UK growth companies and/or accelerators + turnover in the GRID marketplace 23rd - 29th April, 2017:
FIVEAI: Revved up for driverless | Andrew Lynch, The Sunday Times. April 23
DZ profile: Five AI Limited
Business: a Cambridge and Bristol start-up that uses artificial intelligence for software to run driverless cars.
Founder: Stan Boland, 57, has a strong track record of building technology firms. At Acorn Computers, he created a new business called Element 14, which was bought by US giant Broadcom in 2000 for $640m. He co-founded chip designer Icera, sold to America’s Nvidia in 2011 for $367m (£286m).
Investment: backers include AMADEUS CAPITAL PARTNERS
News: Plans to put driverless cars on Britain’s roads have been fired up by a government decision to support …the StreetWise project, which will receive £12.8m from Whitehall for its £23m project to test driverless vehicles on London’s roads in two years. The consortium is led by Boland’s FiveAI …and includes the TRANSPORT RESEARCH LABORATORY, OXFORD UNIVERSITY, TRANSPORT FOR LONDON and insurer DIRECT LINE. The grant underlines the commitment to supporting driverless cars and AI in business secretary Greg Clark’s industrial strategy green paper. The London trial will test a “personal mobility service” for commuters to cut congestion and pollution, improve safety and free up parking spaces.
ARENA GROUP: Olympic stands builder mulls London listing | Daniel Dunkley, The Sunday Times
DZ profile: Arena Group Limited
Business: events business behind temporary spectator stands at the London 2012 Olympics. Arena structures are a regular fixture at high-profile sporting events such as the Ryder Cup and ATP World Tour tennis. The business, which traces its roots back to 1761, has a host of other clients including the BFI London Film Festival and Lawn Tennis Association. It sets up and runs temporary stands, furniture, scaffolding and other structures, and worked on the Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations at Windsor Castle last April.
Investment: MML CAPITAL, the company’s private equity backer. Management is also understood to hold a stake.
News: Arena has hired CENKOS SECURITIES to advise on a potential listing, according to sources. The plans are said to be at an early stage and could yet choose to hold onto its stake or refinance the business instead.
BIOSURE: Investors inject new funds into HIV test | Kiki Loizou, The Sunday Times.
DZ profile: Biosure (uk) Limited
Business: developer of disposable HIV test kits, now delivering results in 15 minutes. The DIY test uses blood from a finger pin-prick to detect HIV. Bard said the kit could save time and money for healthcare providers. “HIV diagnosis can be removed from primary healthcare. The health system is so clogged up it needs to treat people who are already diagnosed.” Is running trials with 18 NHS trusts and sells its product for £29.95 online.
Founder: Brigette Bard, chief executive, 44
Investment: has raised £500,000 via VENTUREFOUNDERS - an online platform that allows high-net-worth individuals and seasoned investors to back growing businesses - to expand in Africa and South America.
News: BioSure recently launched in South Africa and plans further expansion in Africa as well as in South America.
VILLAGE VET: chain founder goes walkies in City | Ben Harrington, The Sunday Times
DZ profile: Village Vet Limited
Business: upmarket chain of veterinary clinics, which offer pet acupuncture and hydrotherapy as well as more traditional services. Robinson, who has three dogs and a cat of his own, has grown the business by targeting wealthy pet owners. He also has a specialised “academic” practice, where highly qualified “consultant” vets tend to the ailments of pedigree animals. Village Vet now has 23 sites, including several “hospitals” with clinics in London, Hertfordshire and Cambridge.
Founder: Brendan Robinson, a 57-year-old South African vet who founded Village Vet with one practice in Belsize Park, north London, having moved to Britain after qualifying at Pretoria University.
Financials: generated pre-tax profits of £979,381 from sales of just over £4.2m in 2015/2016.
News: Robinson is looking to sell a stake in his £50m Village Vet. He has hired corporate financiers from KPMG to find new investors for the venture. ….considering raising cash to expand. Private equity firms are likely to show strong interest in Village Vet as the animal care sector has already seen significant deals over the past 12 months. ...any deal was likely to value Village Vet at about £50m and a transaction could be finalised in the next couple of months.
CHARLIE BEARS: Teddy bears that are too good for just children | Laura Onita, The Sunday Times.
DZ profile: Charlie Bears Limited
Business: the business makes more than 250,000 cuddly bears, chipmunks and giraffes a year, selling in 37 countries. Its plush toys are made in Thailand and Sri Lanka. They sold 15,000 bears in their first year, generating sales of £138,000. Early success was followed by a contract with the QVC shopping channel, and the couple were soon inundated with orders from stockists. …most of the products’ devotees are grown-ups. Charlie Bears creates about 200 designs a year but makes only 3,000 of each character to ensure its wares remain collectable. Prices range from £20 for Anastasia, a white piglet, to £1,500 for a “6ft piece of fluff” in the shape of a bear
Location: Launceston, Cornwall
Founders: Charlie and William Morris. Charlie, 45, had run a teddy bear store before launching Charlie Bears with husband Will, 42, in 2006. As a child, she was an avid collector of teddy bears and also sold them at markets. With help from her parents, Charlie opened her teddy bear store in her early twenties. She eventually wound that down to launch Charlie Bears.
Financials: posted pre-tax profits of £1m on sales of £7.6m. Expect sales to approach £10m this year
Investment: The couple had to sell their three-bedroom house in Leeds and their car to raise the £60,000 seed capital for the venture. They even moved to Holsworthy in Devon, in an effort to keep down costs.
News: Expansion in Australia, the second-largest market outside the UK, helped lift exports to £1.8m, earning Charlie Bears a place on the latest Sunday Times SME Export Track 100 list of companies with the fastest-growing international sales.
FLOWERBX: Florist’s £1.5m arrangement | Laura Onita, The Sunday Times
DZ profile: Flowerbx Limited
Business: online luxury florist which delivers its primroses, peonies and crimson gerberas straight from growers in Holland. The average price is £40 for about 10 stems. Clients include Dior, Harrods and Christie’s.
Location: west London
Founders: Whitney Hawkings, 42, and Adam Wilkie, 34, former workers at Tom Ford’s fashion label.
Financials: aims to generate revenues of £1m this year.
Investment: The founders secured about £1m in seed funding in 2015.
News: has raised £1.5m in new investment from high-profile backers to expand its high-end service across Britain and Europe. New investors include Dame Natalie Massenet, who launched Net-a-Porter in 2000, and entrepreneur Carmen Busquets.
BUSTER + PUNCH: Fitting firm lands £3m | Sunday Times
DZ profile: Buster And Punch Limited
Business: makes quirky household fixtures and fittings. Has a showroom in east London and a store in Stockholm, where it sells its designer light switches and plug sockets.
Founder: former architect, Massimo Buster Minale
Financials: Minale said revenues topped £3m last year and profits before tax hit £1m.
Investment: has sold a stake to MOBEUS EQUITY PARTNERS raising £3m to help it expand overseas.
KENT BRUSHES: British brush maker undergoes an old-age growth spurt | Kate Burgess, FT. April 24, 2017
DZ profile: G.B. Kent & Sons Plc
Business: one of the oldest independent companies in the UK , it has supplied nine consecutive British monarchs with its handmade hairbrushes. The company’s big challenge is persuading consumers to pay for products — such as toothbrushes, shaving brushes and hairbrushes — that are designed to last years, if not a lifetime, and cost as much as £200 a piece. Has tried to shift the company’s image away from that of a traditional maker of hairbrushes to being a more forward-thinking designer of high-end grooming products. The product range has since been updated and new colours and designs introduced to take account of fashions in grooming and facial hair.
Location: Hemel Hempstead
Founder: William Kent, a Yorkshireman who moved to London to sell high-end grooming brushes to Georgian army officers.
Staff: 40. In 1932 the business was sold to Eric Cosby and his grandson Alan Cosby now runs the business with his wife, Marcia. Their son and one of their three daughters are among the business’s 40 or so employees.
Financials: Sales fell from £4.8m in 2011 to £3.7m in 2012 and caused pre-tax profits to halve to just under £250,000. Kent turned over £6.8m in 2015, against £5.8m the year before.
1. Features among the FT’s list of Europe’s 1,000 fastest growing businesses over three years, having increased revenues by more than 83 per cent in that period.
2. The fallout from the financial crisis hit hard in 2009 when the group made a £277,000 loss before tax. This was partly due to the company ending a contract with a sales agent, which caused a £200,000 compensation cost. The year 2012 was also tough, when orders from a few big customers dried up.
3. About four years ago Mr Cosby, now 67, embarked on a modernisation programme to replace machinery and update systems. He borrowed from the bank and increased staff from 30 in 2013 to 43 in 2015. Philip Cheung, recruited in 2013 as finance controller to help modernise the business, says: “When I first arrived the company still had a weekly payroll.”
4. Kent began offering its products to new markets in Asia. Exports, which were £804,000 in 2009, hit £2m in 2014 and rose to £2.7m in 2015.
6. The company has installed a new IT system and five woodworking and bristle-filling machines, costing as much as £350,000 each. The machines will help Kent bring back in-house some of the services it had outsourced, including developing new forms and shapes of brushes. The company’s manufacturing has become more flexible and faster.
ANGEL CAPITAL GROUP: Investing duo sell to Newable | Jamie Nimmo, The Evening Standard. April 24
DZ profile: Angel Capital Group Limited
Business: venture-capital firm which owns early-stage technology backer London Business Angels. LBA runs Dragons’ Den-style start-up pitching events in the capital and its venture-capital arm has backed fledgling companies such as office food delivery firm CITY PANTRY.
Location: London SW1
Founders: Anthony Clarke, who owns around two-thirds of Angel Capital and Jenny Tooth, who controls the remaining third.
News: have sold Angel Capital Group to state-owned start-up advisory and loans provider NEWABLE. The size of the deal was not disclosed, but Newable’s chief executive Chris Manson confirmed it was in cash. Newable, formerly known as Greater London Enterprise, is the capital’s economic development company, owned by the boroughs. The deal adds venture capital to its services, which includes loans, consulting, and property services.
ALFA: Software firm tests potential for £500m stock market listing | Georgina Varley, City A.M. April 24
DZ profile: Alfa Financial Software Limited
Business: Software firm which sells its products to the equipment leasing and car finance industries. Makes software to help companies with asset financin. Clients include Mercedes-Benz, Barclays, Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Hitachi.
Location: London EC2
Founder: Andrew Page, Executive Chairman and Co-Founder
Staff: employs more than 250 people in four offices around the world Andrew Denton, chief executive.
Financials: most recent Companies House accounts showed pre-tax profits rose over 25 per cent to £23.5m in 2015, on revenues up to £54.3m from £43.3m a year earlier.
Investment: Co-founder Andrew Page and chief executive Andrew Denton are majority owners of the firm through CHP SOFTWARE and will float 25 per cent of the company, the minimum needed for a premium listing. Around five per cent of shares are owned by staff
1. Alfa has hired a team of advisers from Barclays and Numis Securities for a potential £500m stock market listing. A final decision on a float has not been made and if bosses do proceed with a listing, it may not take place until next year.
A major UK tech IPO is coming as Alfa Financial Software reveals London Stock Exchange float plans valuing it at £800m | Lynsey Barber, City A.M. May 8, 2017
2. Last year the 27-year-old firm reported revenues of £73.3m and adjusted earnings before tax and interest of £32.8m, 32 per cent higher than the previous year.
Alfa shares leap 30% in largest UK IPO this year | Nicholas Megaw, FT. May 26, 2017
3. Shares leapt more than 30 per cent on its first day of trading on Friday, pushing its valuation above £1bn as investors rushed to take advantage of the UK’s largest initial public offering this year and the biggest technology listing since 2015. To help bolster its credentials ahead of the float, Alfa recently recruited a number of senior figures from the British tech world to join its board. These included Richard Longdon, who led engineering software group Aveva for 17 years, and Karen Slatford, a non-executive director at FTSE 100 software company Micro Focus. Alfa is the largest technology group to join the market since cyber security group Sophos in 2015.
4. ...£254m windfall from the company’s IPO. The vast majority of that sum — more than £227m — will go to Mr Page, who wrote Alfa’s first programme from his bedroom after helping to found the company as CHP Consulting in 1990. When taking his remaining stake in Alfa into account, its £975m valuation catapults him on to the list of the 200 wealthiest individuals in the UK, according to the Sunday Times Rich List. Alfa’s journey from bedroom beginnings to stock market success could be taken straight from the Silicon Valley playbook, but Mr Page does not share the same love of publicity of some of his tech industry peers. The 54-year-old’s low-key leadership matches Alfa’s focus on the less glamorous side of tech, but his slow and steady approach has helped the company avoid some of the pitfalls of start-ups that struggle to grow. Mr Page stepped down as chief executive last year, after six years in charge but as executive chairman he maintains responsibility for setting Alfa’s “strategic direction and goals”. He has also held on to a majority stake in the company, with little intention of letting go.
HIBOB: London HR startup has raised $17.5m (£13.6m) in a Series A funding round | Shruti Tripathi Chopra, City A.M. April 25
DZ profile: Hi Bob Limited
Business: HR platform, whose main competitor is the Excel spreadsheet, is trying to help firms ditch outdated HR systems
Founder: Ronni Zehavi, co-founder and CEO
Investment: has raised $17.5m (£13.6m) in a Series A funding round. The latest round is led by US-based BATTERY VENTURES with additional participation from EIGHT ROADS VENTURES, the investment arm of Fidelity International and Arbor Ventures, as well as BESSEMER VENTURE PARTNERS, which led the company’s seed round of $7.5m in June last year. The latest announcement brings Hibob’s total funding to $25m.
News: Hibob will use the funding to expand its operations globally by the end of 2017 …are already in Israel and are looking to expand further into the US, more countries in Europe and Asia-Pacific.”
TOKAMAK ENERGY: wants to put fusion power on the grid by 2030 - and now it's one step closer | Courtney Goldsmith, City A.M. April 28
DZ profile: Tokamak Energy Ltd
Business: private energy venture established to design and develop small fusion reactors. Grew out of the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy. Tokamak Energy's new reactor, the ST40, aims to produce plasma temperature of 100m degrees by 2018, which is the temperature required for fusion and seven times hotter than the centre of the sun. The firm's plan is to put the clean energy into the grid by 2030.
Location: Oxford, Oxfordshire
Staff: Chief executive, Dr David Kingham
1. The boss has said fusion power is achievable in "years, not decades" as the company announced the UK's newest fusion reactor has been turned on for the first time and has officially achieved first plasma. The new reactor marks off the third stage of its five-stage plan. Next steps include producing first electricity by 2025 and making commercially viable fusion power by 2030.
Small UK company gets one step closer to nuclear fusion breakthrough as it heats plasma to hotter than the sun | Lucy White, City A.M. 6 June 2018
2. ...backed by hedge fund has managed to heat plasma to more than 15m degrees Celsius – hotter than the centre of the sun. Tokamak called the process a "significant milestone" in its plan to have cracked the production of energy from nuclear fusion – the reaction which powers stars – by 2025. Tokamak achieved the new heat in a device called ST40, which was commissioned in 2017 and built by the firm itself. It is the third machine in a five-stage plan. Tokamak's technique involves "merging compression", which releases energy as rings of plasma crash together and magnetic fields in the plasma reconfigure. This process, known as "magnetic reconnection", is achieved by putting high electric currents through internal coils of the tokamak device – which requires power supplies to deliver thousands of amps in a matter of seconds. ....chief executive Jonathan Carling.
3. The firm received a new multi-million pound investment from WINTON GROUP, the firm founded by David Harding, over the course of 2017. It has so far received a total of £30m from investors who also include OXFORD INSTRUMENTS, LEGAL & GENERAL CAPITAL and the INSTITUTE OF MECHANICAL ENGINEERS.