COMPANIES: Foster + Partners to Zyper

Published by Directorzone Markets Ltd on October 2, 2017, 9:00 am in News, Other

IMAGE: courtesy of from Pexels


News about 14 UK growth companies and/or accelerators + turnover in the GRID marketplace 3rd – 30th September 2017:


architects - facilities management - advertising technology - smart energy - gift experiences - property agency

- mental health app - lender - restaurants and deli chain - kitchenware retailer - blindness cure –

cereal bars - travel agent - energy storage


London x 8 :: Surrey :: Buckinghamshire :: Cambridge :: York :: Sussex :: Oxford


Foster + Partners £194.3m | Just Ask | Zyper | Labrador | Virgin Experience Days £45.9m | Black Brick £3.1m | Ieso | Neyber | Filmore & Union £3.9m | Steamer Trading |  Nightstar Therapeutics | Eat Natural  £25m | Ski Solutions | Redt €10.8m



FOSTER + PARTNERS: architects - London

Norman Foster's firm in final payment to 3i | Peter Evans, The Sunday Times. September 24 2017

DZ profile: Foster + Partners Group Limited

Business: architecture practice which designed Apple’s new California headquarters and the Gherkin skyscraper in the City

Launched: 1967

Location: London

Founder: Lord Foster, 82

Financials: pre-tax profit of £37.2m in the year to April 30, (£33.4m in previous year). Projects outside Britain accounted for 90% of its £194.3m revenues. Was forced to write down the value of the company by £130m three years ago amid tough economic conditions in some of its international markets.

Investment: agreed to repurchase private equity giant 3i’s stake three years ago for £108m plus interest and a deferred payment of £40m. Last week the company made a final payment of £28m.



JUST ASK: facilities management - Surrey

Impact investor Bridges sweeps up facilities management business Just Ask for £9m | Lucy White, City A.M. 19 September 2017

DZ profile: Just Ask Estate Services Limited

Business: facilities management business which provides services such as estate cleaning, grounds maintenance, graffiti removal and waste disposal for housing association and public sector clients in London and the South East. Just Ask also runs community projects and helps residents find jobs. Serves more than 50,000 homes

Launched: 2006

Location: Chobham, Surrey

Founder: Andrew Shiel, co-founder

Staff: nearly 450 people

Financials: In the last three years it has grown revenues at a compound annual growth rate in excess of 40 per cent.

Investment: £9m investment from the private equity firm BRIDGES FUND MANAGEMENT, which focuses on making impact investments. By focusing on the social side of Just Ask's work, Bridges hopes the company will stand out from its competitors and be able to win more contracts.

News: Jonathan Simpson-Dent, most recently chief commercial officer of ATM operator CARDTRONICS, joins as non-executive chairman; Paul Giuffredi, formerly at family-run ecommerce business BAKER ROSS, joins as finance director.



ZYPER: advertising technology - London

Tech backers go to Chelsea | The Sunday Times. September 10 2017

DZ profile: Zyper Ltd

Business: advertising technology start-up which allows big brands to identify and reward customers who promote their products on social media with bespoke deals. Its clients include WALGREENS BOOTS ALLIANCE, ESTÉE LAUDER and the online florist BLOOM & WILD.

Launched: 2016

Location: London

Founder: former Made in Chelsea star Amber Atherton, 26

Investment: has raised £750,000 from investment firm SAMOS, Matalan heiress Maxine Hargreaves-Adams, Moneysupermarket founder Simon Nixon and film producer Eric Fellner to expand into America.



LABRADOR: smart energy - London

Energy start-up raises £1m | The Sunday Times. September 10 2017

DZ profile: Labrador Ltd

Business: makes a device that connects with home smart meters to work out whether householders are getting the best deal on the market, based on consumption. If it discovers they are not, it will automatically switch them to the cheaper deal.

Launched: 2014

Location: London

Founder: lawyer Jane Lucy, 42

Investment: has raised £1m from investors including the banker Rupert Hambro via his investment venture HAMBRO PERKS.



VIRGIN EXPERIENCE DAYS: gift experiences - Buckinghamshire

New runway for Virgin Events | Oliver Shah, The Sunday Times. September 10 2017

DZ profile: Virgin Experience Days Ltd

Business: sells helicopter rides, Spitfire flying days and champagne tea at five-star hotels such as the Ritz

Launched: 1989

Location: Bourne End, Buckinghamshire

Founders: Andrew Dent and Richard Gyselynck, who license the Virgin brand from Sir Richard Branson and own most of the equity

Staff: The business will continue to be run by chief executive Paul O’Brien. Simon McMurtrie, a leisure veteran, is chairman.

Financials: sales rose 30% to £45.9m last year. Pre-tax profits increased from £1.6m to £2.1m.

Investment: New owner, private equity firm INFLEXION (investments include online travel agent On the Beach). The deal, through Inflexion’s enterprise fund, values Virgin Experience Days’ holding company, ACORNE, at about £30m including debt.

News: Inflexion hopes to capitalise on the shift in consumer spending away from clothes and towards experiences. It plans to expand the company’s gift range, which includes flying lessons and spa breaks, and to sell experience days to overseas customers.



BLACK BRICK: property agency - London

Diving into the property game was big gamble | The Sunday Times. September 10 2017

DZ profile: Black Brick Property Solutions Llp

Business: property agency for wealthy business people and foreign multi-millionaires. helps investors and companies, as well as individuals, find homes in London and southeast England, negotiates a price, and closes the deal for them. It does not own properties, or handle the listings. About 60% of customers are from the Middle East, Russia, India and America. Clients pay an upfront, one-off registration fee of £3,000. If Black Brick seals a deal, it gets 2.5% of the final price or 20% of what it manages to save customers by negotiating a lower price.

Launched: 2007

Location: Mayfair

Founder: Camilla Dell, managing partner, 39, which she set up using £20,000 of savings, after working for the upmarket estate agents KNIGHT FRANK and FOXTONS. She started hiring after six months and by the end of the year had tied up sales of £1m.

Staff: 9

Financials: made a pre-tax profit of £1.6m on sales of £3.1m last year.

Investment: Dell is the sole owner



IESO: mental health app - Cambridge

Ieso, an app for managing mental health used by the NHS, lands £18m from Touchstone Innovations and Draper Esprit | Lynsey Barber, City A.M. 12 September 2017

DZ profile: Ieso Digital Health Limited

Business: app for managing mental health used by the NHS. Digital health startup Ieso makes cognitive behavioural therapy available via a smartphone, making it more widely available than face-to-face therapy which is used to create conditions such as anxiety, depression and panic disorders. Nearly 17,000 patients have been treated in 100,000 hours of therapy with the app and evidence that it can reduce treatment time by 50 per cent.

Launched: 2000

Location: Cambridge

Staff: chief executive Dan Clark.

Investment: £18m in fresh funding from Neil Woodford-backed TOUCHSTONE INNOVATIONS and DRAPER ESPRIT, will help Ieso grow in the UK and expand in the US market. Touchstone, with WOODFORD INVESTMENT MANAGEMENT is one of its biggest shareholders, first invested in Ieso in 2013. Draper is a new investor.



NEYBER: lender - London

Goldman Sachs backs UK fintech startup Neyber with massive £100m | Lynsey Barber, City A.M. 12 September 2017

DZ profile: Neyber Limited

Business: “the leading player in the UK salary deducted lending market" provides loans via employers with the staff benefiting from competitive rates. Customers include BUPA and LONDON CITY AIRPORT as well as public services such as the NHS and police.

Launched: 2013

Location: London

Founders: two former Goldman executives, including chief executive Martin Ijaha

Investment: A new £115m round of funding comes in the form of debt and equity financing and an additional £15m comes from existing investors Gael de Boissard and Henry Ritchotte, former top executives at Credit Suisse and Deutsche Bank respectively. Wall Street's GOLDMAN SACHS joins POLICE MUTUAL and WGC to create a group of core strategic investors with a £100m investment. WGC - Wadhawan Global Capital - is an Indian financial services group which has also backed Zopa earlier this year.



FILMORE & UNION: restaurants and deli chain - York

Filmore & Union boss Adele Ashley has appetite for delis | Peter Evans, The Sunday Times. September 3, 2017

DZ profile: Filmore And Union Limited

Business: chain of 14 restaurants and delis based in the north of England - mainly in Yorkshire. Specialises in selling local produce and gluten-free desserts.

Launched: 2012

Location: York

Founder: former recruitment consultant Adele Ashley, 54, after a career in recruitment with £250,000 from savings and the sale of her house.

Financials: made revenue of £3.9m in the 12 months to March

Investment: has received a £3.5m investment from the Business Growth Fund (BGF) …which has also backed the restaurant brands BARBURRITO and GIGGLING SQUID. Raised £865,000 through the crowdfunding platform CROWDCUBE two years ago.


1. Ashley, said the company planned to expand into the northwest and Midlands. As part of the BGF investment, Kevin Bacon, the former managing director of restaurant chains Frankie & Benny’s and Jamie’s Italian, will become chairman.

Cafes leave top investor BGF spluttering | Peter Evans, The Sunday Times. June 2 2019
2. the business collapsed last week, blaming cashflow pressures and challenging trading. Part of Filmore & Union, including 10 restaurants, was saved and sold to a rival. However, it is understood that BGF will lose its entire investment. ...scores of crowdfunding investors have also lost their money.
3.  Britain’s biggest backer of small businesses has written off £3.5m after a cafe chain it invested in less than two years ago went into administration. ...the loss is a blow for BGF, which is backed by high street banks and has a £2.5bn fund to invest in small companies.
4. ...had 17 sites in Yorkshire and northeast England. It employed 230 people.



STEAMER TRADING: kitchenware retailer - Sussex

Kitchen boss out of the frying pan | Oliver Shah, The Sunday Times. September 3 2017

DZ profile: Steamer Trading Limited

Business: kitchenware retailer with shop portfolio of 42

Launched: 1985

Location: Lewes, Sussex

Founders: Liz and David Phillips

Staff: 550. Ben Phillips, 49, who took over Steamer Trading Cookshop from his parents 16 years ago, has moved to a new role as creative director and handed the chief executive’s job to Mark Saunders, a former Cath Kidston and Habitat executive. Alastair Kerr, a former managing director of The Body Shop, joins as chairman.

Financials: Phillips stepped down after the company refinanced with CABLE FINANCE …a specialist lender took the company’s assets as security for a loan.

Investment: Phillips remains the sole shareholder

News: Last year bought DIVERTIMENTI, a shop and cookery school in Knightsbridge, and Kitchens, which had three stores in Bath, Bristol and Cardiff.



NIGHTSTAR THERAPEUTICS: blindness cure - Oxford

Oxford’s Nightstar to join biotech rush to US | Sabah Meddings, The Sunday Times. September 3 2017 

DZ profile: Nightstar Therapeutics Plc

Business: biotech start-up which has developed technology that could cure blindness; research includes using gene therapy to treat diseases of the retina

Launched: spun out of Oxford University 2014

Location: Oxford

Founder: founded by ophthalmology researchers at Oxford. One, Professor Robert MacLaren, developed technology to treat choroideremia, a disease that kills the light-detecting cells at the back of the eye. This affects one in 50,000 people, mostly men, who start to lose their vision in late childhood. Without treatment, patients suffering from the rare inherited retinal disease eventually become blind. MacLaren, who is also a consultant ophthalmologist at the Oxford Eye Hospital, developed a cure over 20 years in his laboratory at Oxford.

Investment: has raised three rounds of investment. The most recent, $45m last June, came from new backers including WELLINGTON MANAGEMENT COMPANY and REDMILE GROUP, a San Francisco-based hedge fund, as well as existing investors. Earlier shareholders include OXFORD UNIVERSITY and SYNCONA, a biotech investment fund backed by the WELLCOME TRUST, which owns a 46% stake. Hopes to float on the American stock exchange Nasdaq with an estimated $250m (£193m) valuation. …plans to raise $86.3m and use the proceeds to fund the final stage of clinical trials for its therapy, known as NSR-REP1.



EAT NATURAL: cereal bars - London

King of nut bars can’t wait for Monday morning | Peter Evans, The Sunday Times September 3 2017 

DZ profile: Eat Natural Limited

Business: one of Britain’s biggest-selling cereal bar brands. From a production base in Halstead, Essex, the company makes 2m bars a week in flavours from almond and apricot to cocoa and ginger. At first they were producing only about 20 bars a day. For several years they sold only in individual batches to niche health food shops, alongside a small exporting operation. Their break came in 2001 when SAINSBURY’S started stocking their products. Customers include HOLLAND & BARRETT.

Launched: 1997

Location: London

Founder: Praveen Vijh, 50 – who studied mechanical engineering at Brunel University in London, then started importing rice from India - and his childhood friend Preet Grewal in the mid-1990s …. with support from Bill Porter, a nut importer they had met while they were running their nut and seed cleaning business. They stumped up £30,000 of their own cash to buy rudimentary production equipment, which included a rotator blade that would normally be used by butchers to cut through animal bones.

Staff: nearly 300 people

Financials: last year reported pre-tax profits of £1.1m on £25m of revenue

News:  The company sells to Germany, France and the Nordic countries, and Vijh is planning to expand Eat Natural in the rest of Europe, which he said is following Britain in its demand for healthy snacks.



SKI SOLUTIONS: travel agent - London

Travel business Ski Solutions skates off with more than £6m from Mobeus Equity Partners | Lucy White, City A.M. 3 September 2017

DZ profile: Ski Solutions Limited

Business: Luxury winter sports travel agent which was the first independent travel agent dedicated to skiers. Has grown at a rate of more than 20 per cent each year over the past three years. Wants to further expand its winter programme and also break into the summer activities market.

Launched: 1985

Location: London

Investment: managing director Craig Burton led a management buyout in 2010. Private equity firm MOBEUS EQUITY PARTNERS has taken a majority stake with investment of more than £6m.


1. Acquired BSPOKE TOURS in October 2014 and CYCLING FOR SOFTIES a year later to establish its summer activities.

2. John Wimbleton, a travel industry executive with more than 35 years’ experience at businesses such as TUI TRAVEL and Scott Dunn, joins as chairman.



REDT: energy storage - London

Small-cap focus: green energy companies eye expansion | Nathalie Thomas, FT. September 8, 2017

DZ profile: Redt Energy Holdings (uk) Limited

Business: energy storage company which has developed technology that allows electrical energy to be stored in liquid form. Says its storage machines can be used from the “farmhouse level” up to large grid-scale projects and allow electricity to be stored for more than four hours. Renamed from Camco Clean Energy in 2015. Customers include British Gas owner CENTRICA. The storage market is forecast to increase in importance as homes and businesses aim to put aside excess electricity from solar panels and wind turbines when weather conditions are favourable and release it during periods of high demand. Storage is also being used at the grid level to absorb excess wind and solar power and help balance the electricity system.

Launched: born out of various sustainable energy businesses in Kenya back in 1989.  It started as a research project called E-Fuel in 2000 which looked at refuelling vehicles with vanadium electrolyte and later focused on the larger stationary energy storage market.

Location: London, Wokingham, Livingston, Bathgate, St Helier + Melbourne + Johannesburg

Financials: revenue of €10.8m in 2016, down from €11.1m a year earlier, while it made a loss from continuing operations of €5.6m, up from a loss of €700,000 as it continues to invest in developing its products and hiring.

Investment: Listed on AIM in 2006. Raised about £18m in 2016 to help develop its next generation of storage products and provide working capital.